What is the Washington Glacier Ski Project?

The Washington Glacier Ski Project is a decades-long mission to document, photograph and ski all 263 named glaciers in Washington State.

There is a glacier list and a glacier map above showing all the glaciers I have completed (yellow), and those remaining (red).

How many glaciers are there?

The answer to this question is years in the making. Technically a glacier is, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “A large body of ice moving slowly down a slope or valley or spreading outward on a land surface.” By this definition there are thousands of glaciers in the mountains of Washington State. However, only a fraction of these are named. They generally include the most major, popular or unique examples.

The history of named glaciers is complicated. Guidebook authors, photographers, explorers and governments have long battled for naming rights. Between them hundreds of glaciers have been named, but only those that are recognized on the USGS maps are officially named.

My list includes more than just the USGS officially named glaciers. It also includes unofficially named glaciers. These are names that were mined from guidebooks, old maps, photographic documentation, and word of mouth.

Between officially and unofficially named glaciers there are a few dozen of them that have become recently extinct.

In total, while my list is always in flux, I have come up with 271!

Why Glacier Skiing?

Glaciers are the cumulation of winter’s past. They are nestled throughout the peaks I grew up among. They are where I learned to enjoy winter and, in turn, backcountry skiing.

After decades exploring the Washington Cascades, I began to find myself in places I’d become comfortable with and that sense of ‘newness’ I craved was becoming stale. To refresh my sense of adventure, I needed a goal.

One day I was browsing the internet, researching a climb, when I happened upon a list of glaciers. Out of curiosity, I began to check off those I’d done. In the end, I’d only checked off around half! Having thought I’d seen much of what my backyard had to offer, I was in for a rude awakening!

Ultimately, the Glacier Project has grown into something more than a personal goal. I’ve been able to see our glaciers, many of which have disappeared since I first skied onto a glacier, and document their health with photographs and on-site observations. Moreover, I’ve been able to write about backyard adventures and share stories of remote places few if any have ever skied. My hope is to inspire the adventurous spirit in each of us, even among those that will never see these places. Every one of us can appreciate and value natural wonders we may never see. It’s nice to know that they are still there, or exist at all.

How many glaciers do you have left?

Currently I have 55 glaciers left.