Backcountry skiing is always demanding and often dangerous, but its the only way to really get to know a mountain personally, says Tim Neville
The Cascade Lakes highway runs southwest out of my hometown in Bend, Oregon, for about 20 miles, climbing out of the high desert and into the mountains before it ends rather abruptly at a place where winter begins. The transformation is shocking. It can be a sunny, almost warm day in town and, 3,000ft and 30 minutes later, a raging blizzard. Ponderosa pines give way to hemlocks and spruce. The land buckles into great volcanic welts. The snow on the ground can swell from nothing to a cushion 12ft deep.
I hopped out of my truck at a small parking area at the end of that road. It was still dark out, a little before 6am, and the crisp air felt like needles in my nose. Soon the chairlifts would begin spinning at Mount Bachelor, a ski resort just across the road, but wed be far away by then. I put climbing skins on the bottom of my skis, clicked in and glided off into the woods.