December 2, 2012 – Willamette Pass

“There’s almost too much snow” Dan said as we headed up our well established skin track for our third run of the afternoon.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard him say that and wouldn’t be the last either – and for good reason.  Earlier that morning, I’d met up with Joe, John and Dan and carpooled up Highway 58 with John’s vintage snowmobile’s in tow, hoping to use them for access to some remote terrain off the Waldo Lake road.  The snomo’s hadn’t been used in several years, but the previous day’s work spent replacing parts and providing a little TLC appeared to pay off as they started right up in the snowpark.  With all signs pointing to go, we headed up the road with fresh snow flying in our faces.  However, the 5 inches of snow at the snowpark quickly turned into more than two feet, all of which was unconsolidated and quite heavy.  After getting stuck a few times several miles in, we realized there was just too much fresh snow for these old machines.  With a bit more elevation to gain and a few more miles to go, we cut our losses and head back to the car.

Time for plan B – cranking some turns at Willamette Pass, which had yet to open for the season.  Finding a parking spot was a bit of a challenge since the snowpark on the southside of the highway hadn’t been plowed, but after about 30 minutes of shovel work we were good to go.  Skinning up Sleepy Hollow there was only about 10 inches of snow at the base….

Skinning above Sleepy

Skinning above Sleepy

The weather was warm enough that I soon found myself skinning in just a base layer to keep from overheating.  At the bottom of Eagle’s Flight, we ran into a couple of folks who’d made a few laps there.  One of them was alpiner named Tim who joined up with us to head over to the backside.  The snow depth at the base of Eagles was considerably deeper than at the base of the mountain…

Skinning up Eagle's Flight

Skinning up Eagle’s Flight

It was slow going from the top of Eagles to the summit ridge due to the large amount of unconsolidated snow, which made breaking trail difficult.  The views from the top more than made up for it however.  Being a ski patroller at Willamette, it’s easy to take the scenery for granted when you’re up there every weekend, but after being away from the hill for several months, it was nice to see some familiar landmarks like Maiden Peak and Odell Lake.

John and Odell Lake

John and Odell Lake

With the final push to Peak 2 complete, I was amazed to see a whopping 43 inches of snow at the snow stake.  A quick guess was that over half that amount had fallen in the past couple of days.  Before we ripped skins to drop into the backside runs, I pulled out my camera and snapped a few pictures, including the one below of Joe skinning up to Peak 2 with the EPA lift terminal in the background…

Heading for Peak 2

Heading for Peak 2

We headed straight down Northern for the first run, and though the snow was heavy, it was still plenty fun.  Joe and Tim headed down first, and I followed looking for a decent place to setup and snap a few photos.  When I stopped, I sank below my waist!  Skinning back up was gonna’ suck.  After taking a few photos, I continued down, finding several snow covered stumps to cruise off of. Below are a couple of shots of Dan and John making turns down Northern…..

Dan dropping into Northern

Dan dropping into Northern

John enjoying the untracked

John enjoying the untracked

We managed to put in a decent track back to the top, partly by using one of the tracks we made while cruising down.  Standing back on top getting ready to drop in again, we refueled with food and frosty beverage.  Our second run would be the best of the day, on the steepest pitch off the backside – the trees between Northern & Junes.  I found some really nice turns and even managed a few face shots!

Cruising down the backside

Cruising down the backside

Skinning back up took less than half the time than that of the first run, and we tackled June’s Run next.  The snow was good, but definitely not quite as nice as the previous run.  With the hour getting late, we skinned over to the EPA summit and checked out the frontside runs for our exit.  Thought they looked tempting, we made the call to ski Eagle’s out due to sketchy coverage.  A crust had formed on the southside runs, and though the skiers in the group had a bit of trouble on it, I had a blast on Eagles.  All that was needed to produce a face shot was to slightly weight the back of the board and whamo!  Cruising down KP was fun jumping in and out of the skin track, and we even managed to ski Sleepy’s in the dismal coverage down low, making turns right to the pavement!  After the interesting start to the day, everyone was more than pleased to have made 2500 feet of turns in the afternoon, even if the snow up top was almost “too deep.”  Here’s a parting shot from the day….

Enjoying the face shots

Enjoying the face shots

 

5 comments to December 2, 2012 – Willamette Pass

  • Raphael

    Hey,

    cool report for a cool trip.

    how is the snow condition in OR actually? I will be in Eugene for a month at the end of the month and hesitate to take my splitboard and snow gear ( i will travel from switzerland).

    Cheers,
    r.

  • Thanks Raphael. Conditions are starting to shape up nicely. The base is starting to build and things are looking good. Coming from as far as you are though, check in on local resort conditions before you leave. You can always find a place or two to rent a board while you’re here, depending upon how much it costs to bring your board and how long you’ll be in town. Cheers,

    Matt

    • Raphael

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the info. I will check the weather and resort conditions before leaving.
      Any thought on place where i can rent splitboard? Tactics? Berg’s?

      Cheers,
      r.

  • I’ll check with my friend at Bergs and see if they do. I know the UO outdoor program rents splits, you can check there, though there closed until the 6th of January….here’s a link:

    http://outdoorprogram.uoregon.edu/rentals

  • Raphael

    Thanks for the tips.

    I will check with Bergs and the UOOP (it was closed last year when I checked).

    cheers.
    r.