Surf & Snow: A dirtbag’s guide to chasing the fun stuff.

It’s no secret that the west coast has some of the best ski­ing and surf­ing in the Unit­ed States. Year round you can find snow high up in the glaciat­ed peaks of the Cas­cades and Sierra’s, along with waves break­ing from North­ern Wash­ing­ton to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. I have been ski­ing since the age of 3 and start­ed surf­ing about 9 months ago after mov­ing to Port­land, Ore­gon. Life used to be sim­ple when all I had to think about was chas­ing win­ter storms, but now when the snow and swell hit at the same time it leaves me with a tough deci­sion: head east to the moun­tains, or west to the coast. With the first win­ter storms already bring­ing heavy snow and pow­er­ful swell into the Pacif­ic North­west, I decid­ed to for­go the all or noth­ing approach. Instead, I’ve been doing my best to pack in both ski­ing and surf­ing adven­tures every week­end. Head­ing direct­ly from the coast to Cas­cades and vice-ver­sa. Here are a few of my tips on catch­ing waves and snow in the same day.

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The Go-Bag

When a storm is hit­ting and you are try­ing to squeeze in two out­door activ­i­ties on the same day, you don’t have time to wor­ry about mak­ing sure you packed all of the right gear. Have a bag ready with all of your camp­ing essen­tials, a bag with your ski gear, and a bag with your surf gear. This way whether you’re dip­ping out of work ear­ly on a Fri­day or play­ing hooky dur­ing the week, you’ll be ready to quick­ly hop in your car and hit the road. Try to keep it min­i­mal with camp­ing gear. You don’t want to wor­ry about unpack­ing and repack­ing unnec­es­sary items. A sleep­ing bag, sleep­ing pad, camp pil­low, down jack­et, head­lamp, spork, small stove, jug of water, and a few dehy­drat­ed meals is real­ly all you need to make it through the night and morn­ing.

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Mois­ture Man­age­ment

Coastal and high-ele­va­tion weath­er can be very tem­pera­men­tal. It’s often a fine line between snow and rain. Dress in tech­ni­cal lay­ers for the moun­tain and bring along your neo­prene booties and gloves to go with your wet­suit. At some point you are going to have a damp wet­suit along with sweaty out­er­wear and base­lay­ers. My rec­om­men­da­tion is to bring a large wet/dry bag or a cheap plas­tic bin with you on all of your trips. After you are done surf­ing or ski­ing toss your dirty, wet, and stinky items into your bag/bin so they don’t drip in your car or all over your dry gear. Rinse, wash, and dry your gear right when you get home to pre­serve its lifes­pan and so it’s ready for your next trip.

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Tech­nol­o­gy Is Your Friend

At some point you need to make the deci­sion whether to head to the coast or moun­tain first. Yes, fore­casts can be a flop and weath­er can unex­pect­ed­ly change, but there are a lot of weath­er apps and web­sites ded­i­cat­ed to surfers and skiers. I use OpenSnow.com and PowderChasers.com for snow fore­casts. I use SurfLine.com and MagicSeaweed.com for surf­ing. Tides, snow lev­els, road con­di­tions, swell direc­tion, and winds are just some of the impor­tant fac­tors when decid­ing where to head first. It does­n’t hurt to edu­cate your­self on some mete­o­rol­o­gy terms either.

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Choos­ing Where To Camp

If you’re any­thing like me you get your fix of city life dur­ing the week. Get out of the city for a few nights and sleep at either the moun­tain or coast the night before you plan to ski or surf. There is noth­ing worse than being stuck in traf­fic on a pow­der day, and in my opin­ion noth­ing beats wak­ing up, hav­ing a quick cup of cof­fee, and being the first one into the water or on the moun­tain. There is no point in pay­ing for a camp­site (if they are even open), espe­cial­ly when you don’t plan on hang­ing around in the morn­ing. If you are car camp­ing at the coast your best bet is to come in late and leave ear­ly. Whether you choose to park on an old log­ging road, in an aban­doned park­ing lot, or chance it in a state park park­ing lot is up to you. At the moun­tain you have few­er options. Your best bet is prob­a­bly to sleep in your car, and sur­pris­ing­ly there are a grow­ing num­ber of ski areas that allow overnight park­ing. That being said, one of the best sun­ris­es of my life was the morn­ing after sleep­ing halfway up Mount Hood. I’ve also slept in a jan­i­tors clos­et and a cafe­te­ria at var­i­ous ski areas. Be cre­ative and remem­ber, igno­rance is bliss.

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Bring A Friend, Or Two

I do not rec­om­mend ven­tur­ing out on a sea to sum­mit adven­ture by your­self. Friends will make it a more mem­o­rable and safer expe­ri­ence. Long dri­ves by your­self can get lone­ly and dan­ger­ous when you are exhaust­ed after a long day of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty. Try to lim­it the group size to 3 or 4 so you can main­tain some lev­el of stealth when camp­ing and so you can fit into one car. Before extend­ing an invi­ta­tion to a friend, make sure they are ready and will­ing to take on the adven­ture. Inclement weath­er camp­ing, alpine starts, and cold water are not for every­one. Final­ly, make sure they have the right gear. You don’t want them to slow down the group or get injured. It’s an added bonus to take a friend with you that is a skilled pho­tog­ra­ph­er.

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In Sum­ma­ry

These are just a few things I have learned dur­ing my trips between the coast and moun­tains. Do your research on where you plan to stay and know the risks asso­ci­at­ed with ski­ing, surf­ing, and camp­ing in inclement weath­er and the back­coun­try. You don’t need to spend a lot of mon­ey to have an epic week­end of ski­ing and surf­ing, you just need ded­i­ca­tion and the abil­i­ty to go a few days with­out show­er­ing. If you haven’t already skied and surfed in the same day, I high­ly rec­om­mend it. Just remem­ber to have fun, the rest will work itself out.

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Writ­ten by Kyle Mag­gy     |     Film Pho­tog­ra­phy by Nate Duffy