My favorite parts of going to the mountains are the scenery, the action and the friends. My least favorite parts are long drives and bad conditions. When the stars align and the Nino stays at bay, there are good odds that one can find the good without the bad. The closest mountain pass to my home in Seattle is Snoqualmie Pass. At an elevation of 3,000′ it has problems staying cold during many of the balmy winter storms that roll through the Pacific Northwest. But, when the freezing levels are low and the precipitation is consistent, the terrain that exists between this modest pass elevation and the summits rising three thousand feet above is some of the best in the West. The holiday season brought the gift of cold stable powder to the Pass area, and I was fortunate to get out for a few tours with great friends to sample the goods. Here are some highlights.

Drew Tabke and Erik Wherly on approach to the Slot Couloir on Snoqualmie.
Drew Tabke and Erik Wherly on approach to the Slot Couloir on Snoqualmie.
Colin Haley opening the Slot Couloir on a powder morning before packing for his annual pilgrimage to Patagonia.
Colin Haley opening the Slot Couloir on a powder morning before packing for his annual pilgrimage to Patagonia.
Drew Tabke moving at a characteristically not slow pace through the Slot.
Drew Tabke moving at a characteristically not slow pace through the Slot.
Skinning across the Thunder Creek basin to find some more goods after an amazing powder lap through the Slot Couloir on Snoqualmie.
Skinning across the Thunder Creek basin to find some more goods after an amazing powder lap through the Slot Couloir on Snoqualmie.
Making toward Avalanche Peak for deep tree skiing on the west faces above Snow Lake.
Making toward Avalanche Peak for deep tree skiing on the west faces above Snow Lake.
Fog at pass level and dark clouds above, but perfect visibility in the alpine terrain around Chair Peak as seen from Guye Peak.
Fog at pass level and dark clouds above, but perfect visibility in the alpine terrain around Chair Peak as seen from Guye Peak.
Kameron Harris and Drew Tabke reach the summit of Guye Peak.
Kameron Harris and Drew Tabke reach the summit of Guye Peak.
Brian Fletcher goes full commitment in one of his favorite backyard playgrounds.
Brian Fletcher goes full commitment in one of his favorite backyard playgrounds.
Ashley Feerer heads for a grove of old growth near the summit ridge of Kendall Peak.
Ashley Feerer heads for a grove of old growth near the summit ridge of Kendall Peak.
Brian Fletcher dropping in to a world full of nothing but cold snow and big smiles.
Brian Fletcher dropping in to a world full of nothing but cold snow and big smiles.
The spectacular summit of Mt. Thompson makes a dramatic appearance through swirling clouds.
The spectacular summit of Mt. Thompson makes a dramatic appearance through swirling clouds.

Hopefully this cold and snowy beginning is a harbinger of things to come, but even if that proves not to be the case, the good times sure were good.

As always, fine art prints of these images are available. For a nearly daily digest of art through adventure follow @scottrinck on Instagram and Scott Rinckenberger Photography on Facebook.

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