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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.