Ski season is officially upon us! Last weekend was the Mt Baker Beacon Rally, and currently (as I sit here and type this on a Tuesday watching both rain and the temperatures fall) it is absolutely nuking snow at the resort. Some sources are saying up to 22 inches will be dumped... before 4pm, but we'll get the full report from our friends tonight who were lucky enough to escape to the mountains.

Anyway, back to the original point... Winter is surely here. There's a high pressure front coming in after this storm, so we'll be getting loads of snow followed by clear and cold days - and as snow consolidates and layers bond, we'll be venturing back out of the resort and into the backcountry. Here are a few of the easy-access zones to sneak in a tour, whether it be quick or long, steep or full of hippy turns.  

Also, just for fun, we'll pair each zone with a Stones Throw beer. Because beer is a darn good personality indicator. 

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Swift Creek: The SMASH of Backcountry Skiing

The simplest of the local spots for the one the simplest (in theory) styles we brew. With only one hop and one malt, you know exactly what you are getting with your beer, just like Swift Creek: while the skiing is nothing overly-spicy or exciting, you'll find fun and casual turns. It is an easy approach, as you just need to skin up along the cat track on the edge of the resort from the Heather Meadows overflow parking lot. It only takes about 20 minutes before you pop up and over (through the backcountry gate) and then the drainage to your left is Swift Creek. And just like a lot of our SMASH brews which are on the lighter side (such as SMASH 004 with a Pilsner Malt), it is just easy to session lap after lap after lap in Swift Creek with short skins back up to the drop in. As every SMASH is different, the swift creek drainage skis differently depending on where you drop in, but it overall is the same, fun, hippy turns you're looking for. 

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Mazama Bowl: Vienna Via Skagit to Lagers is what Mazama Bowl is to Backcountry Tours

Most Lagers are classic, yellow, and light - just as most skiers in the Bellingham area head up to Artist Point and beyond. However, the amber tones in our Vienna Via Skagit Vienna-Style Lager differentiate this Lager from the pack - just as Mazama Bowl has skiers heading off in the other direction. But while the initial journey is a bit longer (getting out of Bagley lakes and up over the saddle between Table and Herman can take a little more than an hour), the laps up and down while you are skiing the bowl are easy. So since it isn't hard to drink 3-4 of these Vienna Lagers, it it is fairly easy to sneak in 3-4 laps in Mazama Bowl. And my-oh-my, when you have Mazama Bowl to yourself, it is some of the best turns to be had. It is this writer's favorite tours in the local area, because of what makes Mazama different than the surrounding area, which is exactly why this same writer enjoys the Vienna Via Skagit so much. 

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Ptarmigan Ridge: Bitter Safe Than Sorry, In Every Way Possible. 

You can't (and don't want to) slam the Bitter Safe Than Sorry ESB. You just can't. This is a malty beer you sip and enjoy fruit tones, herbal aromas, and whirling haziness from the nitro tap. Just like Ptarmigan Ridge is a long day, out past Table Mountain, but worth every second. Take the skin track slow and enjoy the views, especially on a clear day. The longer approach occasionally scares away skiers, just like the name Extra Special Bitter can scare away drinkers who aren't aware that an ESB is in fact not very bitter. But those who take the time to spend a day poking out around Ptarmigan Ridge always come back with a smile, just as those drinking the Bitter Safe Than Sorry rarely settle for just one. 

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And AS ALWAYS when in the backcountry, make sure you know the snow conditions, assess avalanche danger, and ski prepared! Please don't venture out in the backcountry without an avalanche education, and always be sure to be skiing with someone who is educated as well! 

The American Alpine Institute puts on fantastic avalanche courses, and the wonderful Northwest Avalanche Center provides important daily forecasts  --  A big thank you to both of them! 

Happy turns, everyone! Stay safe, and see you in the taproom talking about your great days and planning even more! 

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