October 7, 2012 – Palmer Snowfield, Mt Hood

Depending on the year, October can be the leanest of months for those looking to make turns all year.  Such was the case this year as Dan, Cindy, Joe and I headed to Mt Hood after what may have been the driest fall on record for western Oregon.  After a brief stop in Damascus for a quick McDonald’s breakfast, we cruised up Highway 26 towards the mountain, with hopes to hike the Palmer and see if the snow above the White River would go.  When the mountain came into view however, it became obvious getting turns above the Palmer wouldn’t be happening this October…..it was really melted out and what snow was left was riddled with hideous suncups.  At the parking lot, we packed up, met Ron who’d driven up to make turns with us, and started up the Mile Canyon…

Hiking the Mile Canyon on Mt Hood

Hiking the Mile Canyon on Mt Hood

The resort was closed, though the Palmer lift was spinning for a few private hard boot snowboard racers.  Other than that, we didn’t see anyone around most of the day.  The climb up was pleasant, with a slight breeze that kept it from getting too warm.  We found a nice place for lunch a little bit beyond the top of the lift shack, and as usual, the views looking back to the south from 8500 feet were breathtaking.  Mt Jefferson and the Three Sisters were visible through the smoke and haze…

Central Oregon volcanoes through the smoke and haze

Central Oregon volcanoes through the smoke and haze

I tended to a blister on my heel, the result of not hiking in my snowboard boots in over a month, while Joe and Dan checked out Ron’s ski’s which he handmade himself.  Once the basic first aid on my foot was complete, I took the camera out for a few pictures, including the one below of Ron looking out over central Oregon…

Ron looking on from the top of the Palmer

Ron looking on from the top of the Palmer

After lunch, everyone stepped into their bindings for some well deserved turns.  The snow on the Palmer was in really nice shape for early October, and I think we were all thankful the area had done some grooming in the previous few days, given the fact that in the few areas they hadn’t groomed there were some decent sized suncups.  Partway down, I pulled out my camera and snapped a few photos of Dan and Ron ripping turns…..

Dan loving the October turns!

Dan loving the October turns!

Ron cruising on the Palmer

Ron cruising on the Palmer

For Dan, October marked 17 years of consecutive turns all year, while for Joe it made 8 years of skiing every month.  At the bottom of the run, after some quick discussion, it was an easy decision to head back up for one more lap given how good the snow was.  Ron decided to skin while Joe, Dan and I booted.

Hiking back up for one more run

Hiking back up for one more run

The lift stopped running just as we reached the top for our second run as the area closed down for the day.  Standing atop the Palmer with absolutely nobody around, having a groomed ski area all to yourself at the end of a long summer is a pretty cool feeling!  Run two was just as good as run one, as I dropped first making nice quick turns down the soft snow.  Joe ripped by me next, while I attempted to snap a few photos….

Joe ripping turns at the top of the Palmer

Joe ripping turns at the top of the Palmer

Ron and Dan followed shortly, and this time we rode down into the canyon a few tours below the mid-station where we found Cindy waiting.  After a short break there, we continued down the canyon, the snow continuing to hold up well and provide excellent turns.  Dan grabbed the camera from me and snapped a few photos while I rode by…

Cruising down the Palmer Canyon

Cruising down the Palmer Canyon

October turns on Mt Hood

October turns on Mt Hood

Riding past Silcox Hut, we continued down into the Mile Canyon, finding soft snow with each turn.  Near the bottom, the snow got a bit dirty, and I took my first spill of the summer season, finding a really filthy patch that caused me to go from 15 mph to 0 mph in about two feet.  A bruised tailbone and nice raspberry on my forearm left me no worse for wear.  Within a few minutes we were back at the parking lot, enjoying the sun and a cold one – there’s nothing quite like cold beer, shorts and flip flops at the end of an excellent ski day.  To top it off, the beers were extra cold, since Dan packed some snow down in his jacket to stuff the cooler with!

The drive home down I-5 went quickly, as stories of previous ski trips were relived and new trips were planned.  One thing everyone was super stoked on as we parted ways was that with a little luck, if we get out together in November, there’s a good chance there will be some powder to be had!

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