Found another newbie friendly ski touring spot, and it’s perfect timing, because we’ve got to talk about more problematic Ski Bro behaviors courtesy of a guy on the internet named Ben.
Ben follows my friend, Kaelee, who posted a video comparing her skiing when she feels really confident vs. when she doesn’t, with a dash of self-deprecating humor. Ben commented “You’re still so backseat even in the ‘good’ part. On less steep stuff, try putting too much weight on the tips to feel more confident leaning forward.” I hate these sorts of comments. In under 150 characters, commenters can say “you’re a shitty skier” and wrap it up in a package that they can argue is kind and helpful with a few words of vague advice. How could it possibly come from a place with bad intentions when they’re clearly trying to be helpful? But the only part that comes across clearly to the OP is that even their best is bad. And what it actually does is uphold elitism in skiing and put newer skiers (who are statistically more likely to be women and people of color) in their place. And for women and non-white skiers, almost no level of progression will prevent this sort of scrutiny. Women throwing 360s, sliding rails, and working on their backflips still get dozens of tips, insults, and crafty comments that manage to do both on their posts. (I asked Ben if he had any examples of him giving this sort of advice to men and if he would tag me in those comments. He said “of course” and tagged me in 6 comments where he gave compliments to women, as if that makes up for the fact that he publicly belittled someone. Ben devolved into further sexist comments about how he doesn’t do that to men because men only post videos where they look cool.)
So here’s some good rules of thumb: if someone posts pics and videos of their skiing to the internet, it’s because they’re proud of it. If you want to help them progress, say the things that motivate them to get more time on snow. Even the best advice is worthless if it’s not paired with practice time on the slopes. And if you really want to give them advice, ask if they’re open to it and do it in a private setting (in person, DMs) instead of announcing to the world that their skiing could use some work. Even better, get to know them and their goals and see if it’s actually going to be useful advice to them.
In dishonor of all the Bens out there, I’m naming this next beginner friendly ski tour Get Bent Ben (shoutout to Kaelee for the name inspo). This tour is on the lower slopes of Jim Hill Mountain, east of Stevens Pass, and about a mile past the Nordic center. Logging in the area has clear cut a few ~400 ft. runs near highway 2 that make for extremely beginner friendly practice zones.
The scariest part of the tour is getting to the forest service road where the tour begins, as parking is less than ideal. There’s a dirt road 0.4 miles west of the tour, and a small pull out for cars 0.2 miles west. A small building in the area has barred recreational parking (fun fact, it’s an acclimation center for nursery-born endangered fish), so please respect their space. Both permissible parking spots involve either a short walk on the shoulder of highway 2 or finding an accessible spot in the snowbanks to climb up and skin beside the road. I parked at the dirt road and took the snowbank option, which seemed less risky, but there was a section that started to snowbridge over running water and crossing it involved a lot of low, thick tree branches. Your mileage may vary based on the time of year.
Take the first road you see on the right and skin through a short wooded section before it becomes an open clear cut. You can keep following the road up long, winding switchbacks through the clear cut and wooded zones, or the slopes are mellow enough to cut them. In the map below, look closely for the forest service road, and the lighter green patches are the clear cut zones:
I only skied the west-most clear cut since I spend most of the day touring up higher on Jim Hill, but there are several others on the east side of Henry Creek. I especially love this spot because skiers can start out skiing and skinning the road before moving on to the open slopes or even dabbling over in some of the remaining tees. The road also serves a “bail” option if snow conditions are challenging. The road skis like a bunny slope with only a few “push” spots, and the slopes ski like ungroomed greens and blues. This pic is our group skinning across the most northern clear cut, which was the steepest one and one with the most obstacles/jumps.
A note on timing: this tour should definitely wait until there are 3-4 feet of snow on the ground, likely in mid- to late January. The clear-cut area is all stumps and brush (seriously, this pic is from a November trip report). If you’re looking for reports on conditions and aren’t able to find anything for the area (reports will likely be for Jim Hill or Arrowhead, the two peaks above the clear cut), the Yodelin area is also comparable since it’s just a few miles west and a bit higher elevation. Over the weekend, even most of the pines were fully buried.
If Get Bent Ben is a piece of cake, keep Jim Hill in mind for a bigger tour. The approach is more complex (a fair amount of side-hilling and kick turns), and the terrain has some steeper pitches, but overall the terrain is akin to an ungroomed black with a few short double black sections and the terrain is mostly open. (Don’t let the “difficult” rating in the Volken guide scare you – that’s more for the Arrowhead lines that the tour combines together).