The powder, the bird and the photographer

As a wonderful article comes out in Powder magazine about the valley our friend Michael Bird Shaffer grew up and prospered in, we wanted to better understand the emotions experienced by one of the article’s creators, photographer Scott Rinckenberger. Alongside journalist Kade Krichko, he explored the wonders of the Methow valley, nestled on the fringes of the Cascade Range, revealing the terrible fires that have ravaged the area in the last few years. The article entitled “In a Fire-Ravaged Washington Town, Skiing Breathes New Life”, he set out to connect with the skiing community- including Michael Shaffer- who learned to ski on the pistes of Loup Loup Ski Bowl, a little resort put directly under threat by the recent fires.*

*Thanks to Scott and Powder for the use of these photos.

Scott Rinckenberger
Michael Shaffer in the Methow Valley

Black crows : Had you heard the Methow valley before this article ?
Scott : Like Bird, I’m a native of Washington State and a lifelong enthusiast of the Cascade mountains. Twisp and the Methow Valley has been a regular haunt for me in the spring, summer and fall when the North Cascades Highway is open and provides an incredibly scenic drive over Washington Pass and into the incredible Methow Valley where the ski touring, alpine climbing and mountain biking are all world class. The different thing about this visit was that we visited the Methow in the middle of winter when the pass is closed and the tourist traffic is at an absolute minimum. This, and the local access provided by Bird, made for a very new and unique experience in this strange little slice of heaven.

Black crows : What are your impressions of the area and the Loup Loup Ski Bowl ?
Scott : The Methow Valley in the winter is a spectacular place. There is a deep sense of small town community to be found at the ski hill, out wandering the mountains and in the small towns that are scattered along the valley bottom. The skiing at Loup Loup is generally fairly basic, but it has that local ski hill vibe that is so endangered in this world of mass consolidation. It also accessed some mind blowing side country that dropped thousands of feet through perfectly spaced and beautifully scorched trees. Beyond the resort, the skiing options are limitless, from the hippy pow outside of Bird’s house, to endless ridge tours to granite spires that would be right at home in the Dolomites.

Scott Rinckenberger

Black crows : Have you seen small resort like Loup Loup before ?
Scott : I have had the good fortune to visit some other small resorts similar to Loup Loup and I always end up having as much or more fun there as I do at the sprawling world class resorts that get all of the attention. Sometimes the best version of resort skiing is casual runs, chili fries and cheap beer with your friends and neighbors.

Black crows : Were you shocked by the fire consequences ?
Scott : It really was incredible to learn about the size, scope and impact of the fires that have plagued the Methow. The greater Methow area is a massive landscape that links the arid Columbia River Basin with the dizzying heights of the North Cascade mountains. There is not a single region across this massive area that hasn’t been affected in one way or another by wildfires over the course of the last decade or two. And the fact that the size and frequency is only increasing is a startling and frightening proposition.

Scott Rinckenberger
Michael Shaffer in the Methow Valley

Black crows : Is the rise of temperature taken seriously in this region ?
Scott : While I haven’t spent a summer living in the Methow, I expect that temperature (and it’s consistent rise), wind conditions and rain (or lack thereof) are the single largest topic of conversation for more months of the year than not.

Black crows : Do local people relate this fire to climate change ?
Scott : As with most mountain communities, the Methow is home to a mix of people ranging from left leaning, tree hugging nature lovers, to old school fiercely independent farmers, ranchers, hunters and loggers, who have tended to lean toward the conservative end of the political spectrum. But despite the disparate backgrounds, you get the sense that everyone has had to stand together to save homes, businesses and other meaningful places from fire, and have seen the effects of the long, dry seasons getting increasingly dire. I think that most locals here have come to recognize as a whole that there is a large, systemic root to the problem.


article  in Powder magazine
photographer Scott Rinckenberger
journalist Kade Krichko


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