Gliding at Gold Creek Pond: Advice for First Time Nordic Skiers


By Kendell Tylee
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

Recovering from a sprained wrist. Snowfall in the Cascades. What’s a lifelong snowboarder to do?! Well, readers, I decided to go Nordic. While I didn’t move to Copenhagen and take up Hygge (though wonderful ideas), I did don two skis. For the first time in my life. After having a wonderful time getting back into snowshoeing, I delved into cross-country (nordic) skiing, and took off to the “Gold Creek Pond” trail at Snoqualmie Pass. Below are a few things I learned. I hope they can help you in your journey!

Can I rent or purchase cross-country skis from Mountain to Sound Outfitters?
You can do both!  Find rental information here and retail skis here.

How do I know my size? And how old do I have to be?
Mountain to Sound Outfitters has quick and easy charts and even an Alpina color scale to get you sorted. And we have set-up 6 year olds, 70 year olds, and every age in between with x-c skis.

What do I need?
You will need cross-country boots that clip into cross-country skis, and cross-country poles. We can help you make sure that your boots and skis are compatible. We generally carry “NNN” boots and skis. And your cross-country poles will be about armpit high (we will also get you set with the right size for your frame).

Remember hydration! It’s easy to forget about while playing in snow. I wore the Helena 20 CamelBak, which we sell at Mountain to Sound Outfitters. 20 liters is a great size for a day hike. It holds plenty of water and has space to pack away layers.

It even has compartments in the waist belt, where I stored dog bags, lip balm, and a snack. Lastly, it features pole loops, for when you want to store your poles away.

Depending on where you go, you may need a Sno-Park pass for the parking lot.

And lastly— bring a very happy snow dog.*



I have snowshoed before. Is that similar to cross-country skiing?
Yes and no. You can use similar trails. But, it is all about the “glide and slide” locomotion. Having snowshoed before, I found myself picking up my foot and ski off the ground. I got tired pretty quickly. All I needed to do was keep the ski on the ground and slide forward, while only slightly lifting my heel off the ski. The latter was much less work. Phew!

At Gold Creek Pond, we were the only cross-country skiers on the trail. We created our own route to the side of the snowshoe tracks, for a smoother glide.

How are cross-country skis different from downhill (Alpine) skis?
Cross-country skis are more spindly. They do not turn like downhill skis. Sometimes I felt like I was on ice skates. And occasionally I chose to “step” diagonally when going up and down little slopes.

What if I fall?
Turn to your side, make your poles into an “X” on the ground, and push on the “X” to get yourself up.

Can you cross-country ski with a dog?
If the dog is ready and willing! My K9 nephew loves the snow. But he does not love his booties. So, I applied paw wax (found at a pet store) in and around the pads of his paws. This prevents ice from forming. A dog leash harness and bungee leash can also keep your hands free for poles. This is called “skijoring”! Given that it was my first time ever on skis, I was thankful that my co-worker, who has skied before, was happy to wear the harness. Otherwise I suspect there would have been a lot more falling on my part!


Where to go?
Decide whether you want to take a pet and whether you want groomed trails, or want to go off on your own. When starting out cross-country skiing, I recommend groomed trails. Our classic Alpina Control 60 cross-country ski rentals are great for that. If you want to explore some, we sell a hybrid Alpina Control 64 Edge Ski, with metal edges. And if you really want to go off-path, our wider Alpina Discovery 68 Ski is the one for you.

Some trails do not allow dogs. We went to Gold Creek Pond, near Hyak, which is dog-friendly. It is a gorgeous, accessible trail for beginners. On the backside of the pond, the path is more wooded. It made for a fun adventure, but was probably more suitable for snowshoeing.

We saw dogs of all sizes out enjoying the snow. Just know that even if you have your dog on a leash (which is required), others may be off-leash and approach your dog. Given its proximity to Seattle, Gold Creek Pond can get very busy on the weekends and holidays. And the trailhead is accessible by a narrow road, so plan accordingly. We went on a Tuesday and only a few other groups were on the trail.

Pack it in. Pack it out!
This goes for whatever your dog may leave behind, too.  There were porta potties but no trash cans at the trail head.

Lastly, have fun gliding away!

For more information, visit the Washington Trails Association guide to cross-country skiing in Washington State.

Gliding at Gold Creek Pond: Advice for First Time Nordic Skiers

Top Staff Picks for the Holidays

By Staff
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

‘Tis the season for making holiday wish lists.  We asked the Mountain to Sound staff what they would pick if they could have anything they wanted from the store.  This is what they had to say.  If you need more recommendations for the skier or snowboarder in your life, come see us.  We love to talk about skiing and snowboarding.

Heather & Blizzard Sheeva 11 Skis
Heather demoed the Blizzard Sheeva 11 Skis on an epic powder day at the industry demo at Mission Ridge last year and fell in love. She describes the Sheevas as super playful and very responsive.  If you’re a lady looking for skis that are the perfect mix of powder ski and groomer cruiser, then you should consider adding these to your holiday wish list.

Richard & Smith 4D MAG Goggles
Richard has the Smith 4D MAG Goggles on his wish list because when he tried them on, they fit his face spectacularly.  He wears contacts and he loves how the bend at the bottom of the goggles expands his field of view.  He jokes that, “I’m all about seeing … what I’m about to crash into.”

Adam & Lib Tech T. Rice Orca Snowboard
According to Adam, you should have the Lib Tech T. Rice Orca Snowboard on your holiday wish list if you want the apex predator of pow surfing and all mountain versatility in your quiver.  He demoed the Orca at Mission Ridge on an epic powder day and thoroughly enjoyed it.  He also appreciates that the Orca is made in Washington using eco-friendly practices.

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Kendell & Lib Tech Cortado Snowboard

Kendell has recently moved back to Seattle after living overseas and is looking forward to getting back into the groove of snowboarding on the Lib Tech Cortado Snowboard.  She has the Cortado on her list because it excels all over the mountain and because she appreciates the extra grip of magne-traction.  She also feels great about supporting a business with environmentally friendly practices.

Matt & Hestra Army Leather Heli Gloves

Matt bought his first pair of Hestra gloves in 2001 and he’s still wearing them today.  He says that the Hestra Army Leather Heli Gloves are warm, durable, and that, “they keep your hands warm at apres when you’re holding a beer.”  He’s also a fan of the leather balm that makes them supple and waterproof, the wrist straps that keep him from losing his gloves on the chair lift and and the pre-curved fingers that help with articulation.

Lena & SHIFT Bindings

According to Lena, the Salomon S/LAB Shift MNC Ski Bindings are on her list because they are the best of both worlds for uphill and downhill travel.  She loves that they have pin compatibility as well as the stability of a traditional alpine toe piece.  It’s a lightweight binding for the backcountry but still burly enough to handle the hard pack snow we get sometimes while skiing inbounds.

Top Staff Picks for the Holidays

4 Things to Do to Prepare for the Ski-Son

By Lena Shafer
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

1. Show your gear some love
Memories of sticky slush haunting you from spring? Rust forming on your edges? Nothing’s worse than being slowed down on the first run of the season because you forgot to wax or realizing that your edges won’t hold. Bring your equipment in to get your edges sharpened, bases smoothed, core shots filled and a hot wax to top everything off. Our full tune includes a base grind, side and base edge sharpen and a hot wax.  Pick up a wax card for 4 waxes at the price of 3 to be prepared for the whole season.


2. Customize your boots
While wearing boots that feel like torture devices was once a rite of passage, having work done on your boots makes this a thing of the past. Most ski and snowboard boots these days are built with heat moldable liners and shells to achieve maximum customization. Adding insoles specific to the shape of your foot means that you get unmatched support lap after lap. Call to schedule a boot fitting consultation with us to figure out your unique foot needs.


3. Dial in your layering system
The weather in the Cascades often feels like spinning a wheel, you never really know what you’re going to get! Storm systems shift rather swiftly up in the mountains so wearing clothing that is breathable and warm even when wet is instrumental to enduring anything that gets thrown your way. Wearing base layers means that your core temperature is regulated through moisture wicking fabrics, and heat is held against the skin. Neck tubes and balaclavas make for a wind resistant barrier for your neck and head that fit comfortably under a helmet. Stop in to check out all the new styles that have filled our shop.

Pictured: Smartwool Merino ¼ Zip, BlackStrap Tube, Dakine Juniper Jacket

4. Get the family geared up
Not ready to commit to owning your own equipment or have growing groms at home? Come in to get set up with rentals, available for the season or for a day or so. Renting is a great way to get into the sport without having to invest so much in equipment upfront. Most of the new skis and snowboards we have in our store are also available to be demoed, meaning you can try a variety of styles and know what’s right for you, and put the cost of the demo towards the purchase of new equipment.


4 Things to Do to Prepare for the Ski-Son

Line Up Your Powder Alerts Before the Storms Hit

weather photo

By Adam Heintz
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

What’s the deal with the snowfall (or lack thereof) this year? If you’re like most powder junkies you’ve been busting out the early snow dances and keeping a keen eye to the local forecast. Your skis and boards are waxed and tuned, your boot liners have been molded and your new roof rack has been installed but aside from some early season flurries the entire West Coast has been quiet on the storm front.

The best part about living in the Northwest is that storms can roll through in a hurry. When cold air from the North converges with precipitation from the West, things tend to get pretty wild. For the vast majority of the autumn season this year we’ve been plagued by a persistent high pressure system. While the sunny days have been nice; let’s be real. We’re looking for 40 degree days and rain in the city.

Luckily, the El Nino weather pattern we saw last year is over, and we typically only need 3-5ft of snow to open. That means the most anticipated day of our year is only one storm away. You never know how the storms will roll in, so you want to jump on the powder train when they develop. That’s where powder alerts come in. There are myriad resources for checking the forecast, so how do you decide which ones you can trust?

Start local. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington professor with a penchant for accurate forecasting. He correctly predicted last years “Snowmageddon” weeks before it happened. His blog is a reliable source for those wanting a deeper and more scientific look at current weather, weather prediction and climate issues.

Sign up for Powder Alerts. If you want the latest scoop on mountain conditions sent straight to your inbox, look no further than the Powder Poobah. AKA Larry Schick, the Poobah delivers witty and engaging content that’s relatable to anyone chasing the white room. Larry has been humbly serving NW skiers and riders for decades with accurate powder forecasts. You can sign up to have powder alerts sent directly to your inbox so you never miss a deep day again.

Do your homework. The Pacific Northwest is a mecca for progressive forecasting and avalanche preparedness. One of the most valuable resources we share as skiers and snowboarders is the Northwest Avalanche Center website. NWAC is a critical resource for anyone who wants to travel safely into the backcountry. Their mix of accurate forecasting, telemetry data, education and avalanche danger is second to none. Check out their website for some valuable insight before the season kicks into high gear.

Line Up Your Powder Alerts Before the Storms Hit

Three Kayaks that are Great for Beginners

By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

Interested in getting into kayaking, but not sure what kayak to buy? There are many options to consider.  Design and material type will cause prices to vary widely, and repairability is also a consideration.  The whole decision making process can feel overwhelming. The most important question to ask yourself when buying a kayak is: where am I going to paddle?

For Lakes

Old town sorento 106sk lifestyleIf you are looking to go kayaking on lakes and smaller bodies of water where you are always close to shore, then the Old Town Sorrento is a great choice. It comes in two sizes: 10’6 and 12’6. It is extremely stable with a comfortable seat and a drop down skeg to improve its ability to track straight over longer distances. Its roto-molded construction makes this kayak extremely hardy, and reparable.

For Families

defaultIf you’re looking to get into paddling with your little one, the Old Town Dirigo Tandem is a great choice. It has roomy cockpits, adjustable seats and a rudder to help steer the longer boat. A hatch in the back allows for storage, so that you can take snacks and extra clothes out on the water with you. This kayak is designed for use on lakes and smaller bodies of water. At a little over 15 feet long, it is a great choice if you want to get out on the water with your kids.

For Puget Sound

If you are looking to get out on Puget Sound, you will want a slightly longer kayak with a double bulkhead to help keep you afloat in the event of a capsize and to allow enough buoyancy to assist in a self-rescue. The Wilderness Systems Tsunami series offers ample stability for new paddlers, with the responsiveness needed to take a beginner from their first paddle strokes all the way to overnight adventures and open water crossings. With two bulkheads for storage, a rudder to assist with steering, and bombproof roto-molded construction, these kayaks are great for beginners to start their adventures out on Puget Sound. The Tsunami series comes in several different sizes to accommodate paddlers of all sizes.WS_16_17_Tsunami_Mango_Paddle_Female_1_EXP_20161231 (1)

These kayaks are a great place to start your paddling career and are all available for sale at Mountain to Sound Outfitters. If you would also like paddling or self-rescue instruction, classes are offered at Alki Kayak Tours.

Three Kayaks that are Great for Beginners


By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

Want to get out of town but don’t want to drive hours through holiday traffic to get away? Here are three amazing overnight paddling adventures that don’t involve a huge drive from Seattle.

Blake Island

The closest camping experience you can get to from down town Seattle is Blake Island, which is one of the most unique camping experiences in Puget Sound. It is the nearest state park to the city of Seattle, and can only be reached by watercraft.

To get there you can launch from Manchester, Bainbridge, Vashon, or Alki Beach, depending on your comfort level crossing open water. Campsites are available on a first come first serve basis. If you’reblakeisland2 looking for a “glamping” experience you can camp near Tillicum Village and stroll over to the longhouse for a salmon dinner and Native American Dancing (you can sign up on location up to an hour beforehand). If you’re looking to rough it, the Cascadia Marine Trail location on the west side of the island has primitive campsites and beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains to the west.

Agate Passage to Port Madison

Want to check out the north shore of Bainbridge island from the cockpit of your kayak? This route starts at the Squamish Museum and Tribal Center on the Kitsap peninsula. From there, you can paddle north through the Agate Passage on the way to Fay Bainbriagate passagedge Park, where you can choose from one of 14 campsites for the night before returning. On the way you can check out Haleelts Rock at Agate Point. The rock features petroglyphs thought to be between 1500 and 3000 years old. In addition, the high tide lagoon at Point Monroe is worth exploring.


Whidbey Island: Keystone to Hastie Lake Boat Ramp

This point to point paddle adventure passes by three parks. You can see the historic lighthouse above Admiralty Head, check out the estuary at Ebey’s Landing, and explore miles of empty beaches and vertical bluffs. Launch from either Admiralty Bay or Fort Ebey State Park and work your way north along the shore until you reach your campsite at Partridge Park. From there, you can hike up to a World War II observation bunker. After that, continue traveling north to Hastie Lake boat ramp, where you will take out. On clear days this stretch boasts amazing views of the Olympic mountains.

whidbey island

More detailed trip itineraries can be found on Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands by Rob Casey. This book and the rest of the equipment you need to go kayaking can be found at Mountain to Sound Outfitters located in West Seattle.


Of Orcas and Men

By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

When people come to visit the Pacific Northwest, they frequently come in search of wild orca. Although the indiorca close to kayaks_luhm72genous people of the area have had an intimate relationship with the largest member of the dolphin family for millennia, very little is known about these animals by the general public.  Often, their only exposure is through SeaWorld shows and movies like Free Willy. In Of Orcas and Men, David Neiwert presents cultural history and scientific research that dives deeply into the lives of these cetaceans, examines the collapse of wild orca populations, and delves into what humanity’s relationship with these whales can tell us about ourselves.

David Neiwert is a Seattle based investigative journalist specializing in of orca and mendomestic terrorism and disputes along the border, who has had a long interest in Killer Whales. In Of Orcas and Men, he examines the thorny relationship humans have had with whales, from the dramatic and often deadly capture of juvenile whales in Puget Sound as recently as the 70’s, to the response to the 2013 documentary Blackfish. Well researched and beautifully written, his book flawlessly mixes scientific research and personal narrative. He focuses on the whale populations of the Salish Sea, giving context to their collapsing populations, while offering solace and hope through stories about several specific whales.

This book is a fantastic examination of how we exist in the world with other fascinating species and how our relationships with them can define who we are. Similar to The Soul of an Octopus and Into Great Silence, Neiwert’s book is a fast paced, hard to put down treatise that is highly recommended. This book is available for purchase at Mountain to Sound Outfitters.

If you’ve already read Of Orcas and Men, there are events taking place in the Seattle area for Orca Month where you can learn more about the creatures we share the Sound with, and the challenges they face.

Of Orcas and Men