Be Prepared for Your Winter Mountain Adventures!

By Sue Rimkeit, NWSCC Vice President

With high anticipation, you head off for a fun day in the mountains. However, one mishap could sink your plans. The slogan of the Scouts can save the day: Be Prepared. The following are tips for preparing your car for winter, things to pack in your car, driving tips, and what to do for you and your sports equipment.

Check your snow chains.

Get your car ready for winter. The tuneup should include checking the heater, battery/cables, antifreeze, window washer fluid (below zero, -25º), and winter wiper blades. How are your tires and chains? There are now two kinds of snow tires: studs that can be used in some states, and studless. If your tires have a snowflake, they are snow tires. Your tires need tread – check them. Be sure your chains/cables are in working order, with tighteners. Practice how to install them before you are marooned on a snowy road in a snowstorm! A ground cloth and gloves are handy, and a snowsuit you can shed when you get back in the car. Some other tools that should be in your car are a shovel, jack, lug wrench, Leatherman or similar tool, jumper cable and tow rope. You could end up helping another driver. The following are important safety items: first aid kit, flashlight, flares, bottle of sand/kitty litter (be your own sander), lighter/matches, candle, de-icer, ice scraper, cell phone/charger, whistle, blanket, reflective clothing/vest, long coat/boots, hand and toe warmers, water and food/protein bars.

On the road. Before you depart, have a new map and check road conditions. Be sure to tell a friend where you are going and a timeline. Fill your tank with gas, not you with alcohol. When you are on the road, the following are some safety tips: Leave early or late to avoid the rush, even consider taking a bus. Defense is the offense; others could be out of control. Some potential surprises lurk: ice, black ice, sloping icy pavement, drifts of snow, whiteouts.

The temperature matters. Outside temperature gauges (even after market) are very useful. At 32 degrees and above, mushy wet snow can give you a spin, while your tires will bite better on drier snow at colder temperatures. If you ride the center of your side and the edge, sometimes you get more bite with less fright. The tires of the cars in front of you can give you information; if spraying water it means wet, whereas snow sticking to the tires means it is drier. Leave tailgating for football, not the road. If stopping, be sure to be in full view of other cars and off the road. Use your flares if needed. Do not stop in an avalanche area. Treat the other drivers like you would like to be treated. Remember speed can kill, and also throws gravel and blinding snow. If you are a slow driver, let others pass in a safe place. The story of the tortoise and the hare can apply on the road. An accident or crash costs money, time, pain, suffering, and even death, with no re-do. If there is a traffic stop and blocked road, trying to go around could cause more problems. Waiting your turn is best.

You and your equipment. Your own body and equipment need pre-season preparedness. Have you worked on stretching, strength and cardio? Is your equipment in safe working order and still fits? Your local pro may need to do detail checks. Your outside clothing should be water repellant. You should wear a helmet which fits and has had no previous blows. Hand and toe warmers sure help. Sunglasses and goggles are a must to save your eyes from UV’s, stinging snow, and even low branches if you are in the trees.

Make sure you have helmets that fit you properly.

On the hill. So, you made it to the hill with all of your tuned equipment, fit body and mind. Skiers, like hikers and people who float on water, should have a handy whistle. Your voice does not carry and three blasts means help. In case of an accident or crash on the hill, the involved skiers and witnesses should exchange contact information.
Sooo, with preparedness and consideration of others, all should enjoy the winter...Think Snow!

Why Do We Ski?

By Asit Rathod

I thought my two hundredth ski down from the 11,239 foot summit of Oregon‘s crown jewel, Mount Hood, would have been a little different. It was a peaceful day with no wind, and the sun was shining down on me. Walking towards the summit I broke down and began to cry from the flood of emotions. I started thinking back on the years since my first summit and was amazed at what surfaced.

Sitting on the summit I could only remember less than a dozen epic ski descents out of two hundred. So the question hit me hard .... “Why have I kept coming back to this place so often if it wasn‘t about the skiing?” The tears slowly began turning into uncontrollable laughter as the memories of all the wild and special times came flooding back. In that moment it all made sense: it was never about summiting or the skiing.

The fact is I must have over five to six hundred times skiing from high on Mt. Hood. I have always followed two cardinal rules in the alpine: (1) safety, and (2) fun and happiness.
If neither of these rules are met, I‘m back at my car heading home to spend time with my loved ones.

Good friends enjoying two feet of fresh snow from the summit down Leuthold's Couloir (Photo: Asit Rathod)

Soaking in the sun that special day, I remembered the first time a climber was really mean to me for bringing my skis to the summit, because he felt it was dangerous and he would have to rescue me if I got hurt. I remembered skiing the north side naked for the first time just because I could. I remembered bringing up a stuffed Boobie Bird for the son of my love because he wanted his Boobie to get to the summit. I remembered watching a boy named Bryce become a man before my eyes while spreading the ashes of his father Mark Cartier, one of the greatest climbers I've ever known, on the summit. I remembered spreading the ashes of too many friends taken before their time. I remembered every smile of every friend who came with me to the summit for their first time. I remembered the faces of every friend who told me while standing on the summit that this was one of the greatest days of their lives.

We all go to the mountains for many different reasons. It can be to escape the humdrum of day to day life. It can be we are searching to understand ourselves just a little better. It can be to feel, just for a moment, like a superhero. It can be that we need to find a bit of happiness when it feels like the darkness of life is winning the battle.


Black McCoy coming through the Pearly Gates just shy of the summit (Photo: Asit Rathod)

What I know is the evolution of skiing and mountaineering has led us to this moment. It is no longer about being the first, the fastest, or who's done it the most often. It is about being like an artist entering the mountains with fluidity and harmony – matching the vibrations of this moment in our life with the alpine. We must respect the time we have been given by pushing the human spirit into places that once lived in our dreams. The Dali Lama has been asked many times “What is the meaning of life? He has always smiled and said “Happiness.” So what I do know now on my two hundredth summit that I did not know on my first is that we go to the mountains to find our happiness, because the future is beautiful, my friends.

About the author:
Asit Rathod grew up skiing on Mount Hood from the age of 5 He is a “suit” by day, but a big mountain athlete at heart. Asit spent 5 years skiing and climbing 200+ days a year between Chamonix, France and Las Lenas, Argentina. Having skied from Mt. Hood’s 11,239 foot summit over 210 times, he can be considered the snow sports ambassador to the state of Oregon. Asit works for Findlay of Wilsonville. He is a product ambassador for Volkl skis, TREW clothing, Zeal Optics, IceBreaker, and Naked Winery.