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

Gifts for Dad

By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

If your Dad is the adventuring sort, chances are he already has all the stuff he needs. This makes it extremely hard to find the right gift on father’s day. If he’s not one for big gifts, here are three small ones that will show him how much you care.

On Celtic Tides Cover

  1. On Celtic Tides, by Chris Duff. Our fathers used to go on grand adventures before we were born. Give him some inspiration with this travelogue about a man who decides to paddle around Ireland over the course of three months.
  2. If your dad likes music, give him the gift of music out on the water. Speaqua waterproof speakers suction onto your paddle board or kayak, and use Bluetooth to connect to your favorite music. If singing in the shower is his thing, they also work well on tile.
  3. It is a fact of life that our dads are getting older, and sometimes those aches and pains can lead to a lack of comfort on adventures. If this is your dad, the Thermarest Lumbar Pillow is what you need. He can use it for added lower back support in his boat or lawn chair, and it’s extremely compressible for easy storage and transport.


Some Dads like big gestures. If you want a big gift to give to your father this father’s day, here are three good options to show him how much you care.

  1. Get him a boat. Something that’s comfortable to sit in, with the stability, length, and safety features to go paddle on the sound! The Wilderness Systems Tsunami is a great boat for getting him out and about, if he wants something easier to load onto the roof of the car the Eddyline Sitka’s are his jam!
  2. A paddle board! If he prefers to stand on his adventures, or if his hips give him trouble in a boat, a paddle board is a great gift for dad. You could get him one he could fish from, or take his dog out with him. Great for both relaxing at the lake, and big adventures in the Sound, a paddle board is always bound to put a smile on dads face.
  3. If you aren’t sure what your dad needs, a gift card is a good way to go! At Mountain to Sound, the gift cards never expire and he can use it on any equipment he needs!SitkaST_2489

If your dad doesn’t like gifts.

  1. If your dad doesn’t like gifts, give him the gift of your time. A tour through Alki Kayak Tours would be a great way to spend time with him on the water, while taking in the local sea life and beautiful views. Stress free trips with the joy of each other’s company, giving your dad and experience he will never forget is a great way to go on father’s day.
Gifts for Dad



By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

SOCKS – “One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. Skiers and snowboarders can never have enough socks. Whether you ski every day or you’re a once-a-month rider, socks are a necessity. Whether the pair is made by Bridgedale, Smartwool, or Wigwam, you can be sure your family will love the gift of ski socks.

FACE TUBE – Everyone needs some kind of face protection for those cold days. Why? Because chapped lips and cold noses can be no fun, and snotsicles can be painful. Face masks and neck tubes can help prevent these occurrences. Whether your loved one likes the bright patterns of Blackstrap or the subtle hues of Seirus, we have face masks for every style that will help keep you warm.

BOOKS – Every skier and boarder dreams of the slopes when they’re at home. A book provides them with a visual aid and ideas for future adventures. For those who love skiing on-piste, Powder: The Greatest Ski Runs on the Planet offers beautiful full color pictures of the most memorable ski runs around the world. For those who like to earn their turns, Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes of Washington is a wonderful gift. It showcases 80 touring trips in Washington State, with adventures from the Olympic Peninsula to the volcanoes.

EAR CHIPS – If you have a family member who loves skiing and music, you can give them the joy of riding while listening to their favorite jams. Ear chips come in both Bluetooth and corded varieties, and are designed to slide smoothly into your helmet, giving you a comfortable fit and good sound quality. Giro and Smith both offer options that are compatible with most helmets.

LONG UNDERWEAR – It’s cold outside, and layering in the Pacific Northwest is a must. Long underwear makes a great stocking stuffer that is sure to get used. Whether it’s Hot Chillys or Smartwool, zip front or boat neck, this gift is sure to keep them warm throughout this ski season and many to come.




By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

After an unseasonably warm and dry start to the season, the white flakes have begun to fall. The jet stream is set up for dump after dump. Another system will move in Tuesday, December 11th in the evening to deliver more snow, followed by another front on Thursday night, the 13th. The freezing level is predicted to drop to 3000 feet with each storm, and is predicting 5 feet to fall at the end of this week.

So put some wax on your skis and pull them out of the closet!

With 7 inches of new snow, Crystal Mountain has opened the Green Valley lift, and will be opening more terrain as snow accumulates. Stevens Pass and Mt. Baker will be opening Wednesday the 12th. Stevens Pass hopes to have four lifts running: Hogsback, Daisy, Skyline and Brooks. With 6 inches of new snow, it should be a great opening. Mt. Baker is boasting 12 inches in the past 24 hours, and hopes to have both Heather Meadows and White Salmon open by Friday the 14th. Summit West at Snoqualamie will be opening on Friday the 14th, with 11 inches in the past 48 hours.

Even with the new snow the base is shallow, so if you go beware of rocks. If you happen to core shot your skis, Mountain to Sound Outfitters does repairs. Bring your skis on by to get them ready for the next powder day.

Here are links to local ski areas so you can visit their sites for the most up to date information. If you had a great day on the mountain, come by Mountain to Sound Outfitters and let us know how your trip was or feel free to post in the comment section.

Crystal Mountain Resort
Summit at Snoqualmie
Stevens Pass
Mt. Baker Ski Area
Mission Ridge Ski Area
White Pass Ski Area
Loup Loup Ski Bowl

Make sure you check the WSDOT Pass Reports for driving conditions.


Skinny Skis on a Powder Day


By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

It happened. The weather had called for sun and blue sky, but when I arrived at Stevens Pass that morning a foot and a half of snow had fallen and it was still dumping…and I had skinny skis.

It was the first time I had taken out a pair of the Nordica Enforcer 93‘s. Hailed as being the groomer king of the Enforcer series (the 100 and 110 have routinely won ski of the year), I was excited to take it out for a day of serious carving. Nature had other plans.

We warmed up on runs that had been groomed that morning. A half a foot had fallen on top and was rapidly being turned to chop by the other skiers on the hill. The Enforcers did fantastic bouncing up and over the chop. Quick under foot, their turned up tips helped them float over the wet heavy chop.

Then nordica_enforcer_93_flat_skisthe crew headed to the backside. Snow was stacking up in the trees, and was the heavy and wet that if the norm here in the Pacific Northwest. We dropped in, and I was expecting to flounder and swim. The way the ski handled surprised me. While I didn’t float, I didn’t sink to the bottom. The tips cut well through the snow, and while I wasn’t exactly fast or graceful,  I was able to link long flowing turns through the trees, and keep all my friends on fat skis in sight.

I was extremely impressed. I was able to ski powder and trees as it dumped all day and never once felt bogged down. Its a mark of a good ski when it does well even in a situation that it is not meant for. The Enforcer 93’s were lively through the chop, and graceful and easy to use in the powder. While I would still highly recommend Nordicas wider skis for those true dump days, the 93’s are a wonderful choice if you are a big groomer skier who occasionally gets socked in.

Skinny Skis on a Powder Day

Rubber Ducky, a Book Review

By Jaime Cary
Mountain to Sound Outfitters

What do great white whales and bath toys have in common? More than you might think. When Donovan Hohn hears the story of 28,800 bath toys that were lost at sea, he found himself on anMoby Duck Cover epic adventure searching for the infamous toys. In Moby-Duck, he recounts his search from the factories of China all the way to the shores of Greenland to find the elusive specimens, and finds that the search for these toys effects far more than just the bottom lines of the companies who made them and the beach combers who search for them.

Moby-Duck starts with the feeling of a travelogue. A new father goes off on a grand adventure to reconcile the notion that plastic toys are safe and the idea that plastics are harmful to the planet that he is leaving his son. Hohn’s witty humor drives an adventurous narrative and makes bad news a little harder to swallow all while delivering an extremely hopeful message. He boards bush planes in Alaska and cargo ships crossing the Pacific Ocean, all in search of his own white whale, the innocent rubber ducky.

Along the way, he interviews everyone he can find who has had a connection to the bath toys. He searches high tide lines with beach combers and uses what they find to predict ocean currents with oceanographers.  He also meets with scientist to discuss how plastics effect our planet, and what we can do about it.moby duck

Witty, informative, and extremely heartfelt, Moby-Duck is a fantastic book about how we interact with the world, from when we are small children imagining rubber ducky’s in the wide ocean of the bathtub to adults searching for our very own white whale. Whether you live next to the ocean and witness plastic pollution, or are a land lubber whose kids play with the infamous bath toy, Hohn’s book is a fantastic read that offers a deeper look into one of the most cherished and mundane toys of our childhood.

This book is available for purchase at Mountain to Sound Outfitters.

Rubber Ducky, a Book Review

Ravenous Raccoons of the San Juan Islands

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats… Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.” -Wind in the Willows

By Taylor Parsons


Whether you’re out braving tempests in the open sea, out for a cruise through the bay or floating down a local river, there’s something special about being able to simply mess about in boats. I’d like to take a minute to talk about one boat in particular, and how great it was to mess about in the San Juan Islands over Labor Day weekend 2018. I had the privilege of taking the Tempest 170 out for a three-day tour this year and I only have good things to say about it.

I have never been to the San Juan Islands before. Though I’ve messed about in boats for my whole life, on trips ranging from 1 to 28 days, I’m always excited to experience something new. Being able to grab your kayak, head to a water body of your choosing, and just be “out there” is such a freeing way to be. So when a friend invited me on my first overnight sea kayak trip I couldn’t turn down the offer.

Now, my girlfriend and I may have what some people would call “a problem.” Between the two of us there are a total of 9 boats hanging out at our home, but none of them are sea kayaks. Of course, our problem is not the large number of kayaks, rafts and canoes we use almost every weekend, but the lack of sea kayak in our floating quiver. Enter the Tempest 170: a boat that has been the winner of the Sea Kayaker Magazine Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Day and Weekend Touring Kayak,” and named “Best Beginners Sea Kayak” by OutsideOnline. Our local paddle shop, Mountain to Sound Outfitters, along with Alki Kayak Tours, let me take it for a spin over my three-day tour.

Our small crew packed our things and rolled our boats out behind the cars and bicycles headed to Friday Harbor. My first impression of the boat was how much gear it can store. Between the two hatches in the stern and single hatch in the bow, there is no shortage of space for all of your overnight essentials. As we reached the harbor and started packing the last of the gear, I found myself asking my friends if they had any gear or food they wanted me to carry. I grabbed some extra food, shoved some extra water into the easily-accessible hatch behind my seat, and still had room for more. With that, we were off. As motor boats streamed in and out of the harbor and two float planes landed within 100 feet of our route I was also glad the three hatches in the boat led to separate compartments. These compartments are separated by bulkheads that, if something happened and a hatch started to fill with water, would still allow me to float.

Ferry Image

Our journey involved paddling north from the harbor, stopping at a couple islands along the way, and camping for the night in the wind- and human- power only camp sites found on Jones Island. We found a fantastic camp that you can only use if you own a sail boat or kayak. Best of all, even with the three-day weekend, my friends and I got first pick of our site. Once again, the Tempest showed it’s worth as a great touring kayak, as I found all of my gear was still dry.

I spent the night sleeping under the stars and waking up to the tamest raccoons I’ve ever met trying to get into our food. Note for next time: bring a bear can or figure out a better way to seal hatches. These guys can pry open even the hard-to-open hatch covers on this boat. After waking up to over half a dozen eyes staring at me with apples and crackers in hand, I had to get creative. Strapping a paddle tightly across the hatch pretty much did the trick. Lesson learned. Luckily, if you own your own boat you can buy hard plastic hatch covers that go over or replace your watertight neoprene ones.

boats on shore

The next day, we tooled around the islands some more as we headed south to Blind Island, another wind- and human- power only camp. With motor boats out en force, the Tempest braved all the wakes and wind thrown at it. When the larger wakes passed by at the right angle, I found myself paddling hard and catching longer and longer surfs on these waves. I’ve been sea kayaking before in more expensive boats and never felt more comfortable surfing than in the Tempest.

After another great night spent sleeping under the stars, we made the journey back to Friday Harbor without a hitch. The biggest open-water crossing of the trip was no match for this boat. Back on shore, we stripped off our wet gear, grabbed some ice cream, and waited for the ferry to start loading; a fitting end to a great trip off “roughing it” without frozen treats. Though I’m sure you could keep things frozen in this boat with a good flexible cooler and some ice…


Bottom line: If you’re looking for a fantastic touring kayak to weather any storm and take you to your next big adventure, the Tempest may just be the boat for you. It handles well, surfs waves easily, tracks well with the skeg engaged, and stores all the gear you’ll need. I hope to take it out again on my next flat water adventure!

san juan map

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 is available at Mountain to Sound Outfitters for $1319.00. Charts, maps, books, paddles, PFD’s, and safety equipment also required for this trip can also be purchased at Mountain to Sound Outfitters.

Ravenous Raccoons of the San Juan Islands