Before ski season had even begun, we challenged you to "Show Us How You Ski Skyward." Today we’re stoked to share the adventures that our contest winners had with their Skyward Kit over the winter—and to stoke your inspiration for trying out your very own set next season.
The final few days of 2018 were ticking away. Perched in bed on a dreary morning, scrolling through the less-than-inspiring forecast for Vancouver, I was yet to be graced with any remotely exciting plans for New Years. I flipped through every nearby area I could think of, hunting for that sweet combination of sun and perhaps a little snow—of the safe and stable variety—to play in. The Kootenays. Mt Baker. Just about everywhere else in Washington. Heck, even Idaho. As a last-ditch effort before throwing in the towel, I pulled up a forecast of what looked like it could tentatively be brimming with sunshine—in South-Central Oregon. The ideas started pouring in. I had visited Crater Lake in the summer a couple years back, the air thick with hazy smoke from the forest fires at the time, and I wondered how it might look in the winter. There was no turning back once the seed was planted, as it always goes. Less than 20 hours later, with skis and gear packed for a multi-sport weekend, we threw the sleeping bags in the back of the truck and hit the road on an impromptu jaunt in search of blue skies and a change of scenery.
After a stop in Smith Rock to hike through the high desert and point out all the climbing routes we would come back to get on in the spring, we meandered down toward Crater Lake. With only four days on the road before we were due back at our desks in Vancouver, we had all of a single day for a speedy attempt at snagging a glimpse of Crater Lake. Between winter conditions, the government shutdown, and road closures, simply getting to the rim for a view of the crater, let alone continuing past that, was 14 miles roundtrip. While we knew there’d be some extra skinning involved to get the goods this time of year, we hadn’t quite realized we would be starting from the highway that morning. No matter, a few extra miles wouldn’t be the end of us. Clicking into our skis, we ducked into the morning light and started skinning up toward the crater. While everyone we passed made light work of the road up with cross country skis or snowshoes, lugging our pow-centric backcountry setup redeemed itself as we left the road and wove our way through the trees on the final approach. No doubt about it, this was one of those mostly tedious, basically-no-turning days. But what we saw as we popped over the meadows was nothing short of breathtaking.
The Skyward II kit is surprisingly soft to the touch, supple enough that you don’t even notice you’re wearing technical gear. It easily cuts the icy gusts, but still moves with you. There’s no crispy material feeling to be found here; it stays out of your way while adjusting gear, ripping skins, buckling boots, rummaging around your pack for snacks—you know, the important things. Ample venting zips have you sorted for those sweaty uphill endeavours, with the entire side of the jacket able to zip down for quick cooling - although I’ve rarely felt the need to use them, as the breathability of the material alone is impressive. From Nalgene-icecube temps and frigid bowl-you-over winds to damp days in the South Coast mountains (we have heaps of those around here), backcountry powder sessions and everything in between, the Skyward II kit has breezed through it all. And there’s sure to be plenty more play days still to come.
Crater Lake, kissed by winter, revealed itself as we drew closer to the rim. Snow clung to the steep slopes of the caldera, icing the surrounding peaks, everything glistening around a shimmery lake of navy blue. If there was ever the picture-perfect day to see this place, I reckon we got it. While this park is a bustling, hectic one in the summertime, the bit of extra work required to access it in the wintertime meant we had the place almost completely to ourselves. Besides the biting wind whipping around us and the crunching snow beneath our skis, it was pure, blissful silence.
There’s something curious about Crater Lake that inspires wonder, especially in the stillness of wintertime. Maybe it’s the incredible history of Mount Mazama’s enormous volcanic eruption and the series of natural events that occurred to create the lake and its little islands as we experience it today. Maybe it’s the dizzying depths, clarity, and colour of the lake, being the deepest in the United States and among the top ten in the world. But as our worn-out legs slowly made their way through the final mile back to the car, the last sundown of 2018 painting everything above and around us in dusty pink, I couldn’t help but smile that our spontaneous plans to see off another year had so serendipitously played out.
Photos by Matt Lane.