January 11-12, 2014 – Willamette Pass Pow!

For the first time in over a month, snow was in the forecast!  The timing couldn’t have worked out better, either.  I was headed up to Willamette Pass on Saturday morning for a chairlift evacuation practice, and it looked like the storm was going to be rolling through on Saturday and Sunday, potentially dropping up to two feet of snow.  So, Joe, Dan and I made plans to meet up at the Pass on Saturday afternoon and get a few laps in, and stay the night at the cabin to take advantage of Sunday.  Joe and I headed up early to take part in the patrol activities, and arrived at the Pass around 9:30 to find a base of about 6 inches with lots of rocks and brush showing on the hill.  It started snowing a few minutes after we arrived however, and spirits were high with the thought of afternoon pow turns.  During the chair evacuation training, it snowed 4 inches and it was coming down hard.  Dan phoned around 12:30 and was on his way, and planned to meet us on the hill.

By 1:15, I’d completed my obligations for leading the chair evacuation, and grabbed my split from the car.  Fellow patroller Matt Carson joined me for the skin up, and the snow depth had increased to about a foot.  Dan would be following about 45 minutes later with Joe just behind him.  As Matt and I skinned up, the wind howled and it continued to dump.  Upon reaching our intended destination a half an hour later, the snow depth was around 15-18 inches and we were ready to rip.  Before we dropped in, we met up with Brian who skied the run with us.  I dropped in and made nice pow turns down the slope, then stopped to snap a few pictures of Matt…

Saturday afternoon pow turns

Saturday afternoon pow turns

At the bottom, Matt had to head down due to family obligations, and Brian and I headed back up for another lap.  In short order we were at the summit, ripping skins and ready for another lap.  We met up with Dan and Joe on the way down, and all had a great time surfing the fresh snow.  We eeked out a third run before dark, then made turns all the way back to the car.  It was snowing hard when we left the pass, and the wind was blowing so hard that I had trouble seeing the road at times.  We stopped in at Crescent for a quick take-out dinner from Casetta di Pasta, and their ravioli hit the spot – I definitely recommend stopping there if you’re passing by.  Once at the cabin, we got things in order for the following day and it was time to warm up by the fire and enjoy some well earned beers.  After numerous stories and a whole lot of bs, we hit the sack while it continue to snow outside.  The next morning everyone awoke by 7:00, eagerly anticipating more powder runs.  After a quick breakfast, we arrived at the Pass to find it still snowing, with the base now around 20 inches!

The lodge on Sunday morning

The lodge on Sunday morning

Joe, Dan and I headed up the hill in the fresh pow, with Dan a bit worried about his dog being able to keep up all day given the deep snow – she was pretty tired from the day before.  To our delight, a few minutes later, Israel came by on the cat and laid a fresh cat track down in front of us which not only made for easy skinning, but allowed for much easier travel for our four legged friend.  Within about 45 minutes, we reached the top of Willamette, elevation 6,666 ft and prepared for the first run of the day.  Prior to dropping in, Joe snapped the below photo of me….

Atop the Pass

Atop the Pass

The snow was sweet as we made our first few turns off the top, albeit a bit more wind impacted that the day before.  At the top of Charlie, we ran into a few other enthusiasts, including Adam from splitboard.com and his pal Ethan – nice to meet you guys.  Eagle’s flight was our choice for the first run, and it didn’t disappoint.  Below are a couple of shots of Dan and I from our first run down…

Enjoying the freshies

Enjoying the freshies

 

Dan and his pooch

Dan and his pooch

At the bottom, skins were stripped and we headed back up for a second lap.  This time, we skinned directly up KP, which allowed for very quick access since the cat had laid down a track less than an hour ago.  Even so, it still had a couple of inches of fresh snow on it and it was still coming down hard, which stoked all of us out given the Sunday forecast was only for 1-3 inches of new.  Back at the top of Eagles, run 2 was equally as nice as run 1……

Scoring more powder turns

Scoring more powder turns

 

Dan enjoying lap number 2

Dan enjoying lap number 2

Heading back up for the third lap, we were passed by two more snowcats, and all of us had a feeling the Pass might get enough snow out of this storm to open the next weekend (turns out they are opening on January 16th with a limited opening on Peak 2).  On our way up, we passed the snowcats wrestling a large tree that had fallen, likely the night before during the wind storm, off the run…

Joe skinning up KP....

Joe skinning up KP….

We skinned up past Eagle’s, back to the top of the Pass and over to Peak 2, where the wind was howling and the snow was still really coming down.  Breaking for lunch at the lift shack was a welcome rest, and I refueled with a turkey sandwich and powerade, both which hit the spot.  Joe and I decided we wanted to check out the snow on Peak 2, and bid Dan farewell as he headed back to the frontside (out of concern the snow would be too deep for his dog, which turned out to be a good decision)…

Dan's pooch

Dan’s pooch

Joe and I figured Northern would probably ski the best, given it’s aspect and slope angle, so Joe grabbed my camera and headed down, disappearing into a powder cloud with each turn.  A few seconds later, he whistled for me to drop in, and snapped several photos.  My first upper turns were smooth and nice, and then I decided to open it up for the camera.  It took until the following lap however to get the below photo, as I got a little too eager, ripping down the slope at high speed, catching a decent amount of air coming out of a turn right in front of the camera and just burying my nose in the wind consolidated snow – which of course caused me to go over the handle bars!  Not to worry, we skinned back via Escalator and decided to try it again.  The second lap turned out much nicer, at least from the photography perspective…..

Powder turns off Peak 2!

Powder turns off Peak 2!

The upper half of Northern was really nice snow, however the lower half was extremely wind consolidated, and skinning back up Escalator was so windy that I thought the exposed parts of my face might get frostnip!  The firm wind swept surface on Escalator made for quick skinning though.  Below is a shot of Joe heading up…..

Joe skinning up Escalator

Joe skinning up Escalator

Back at the top of EPA around 3:00 pm, we prepared to drop in for one last run on what was definitely the best 30 hour period of snowfall this winter in the southern Oregon Cascades.  Before we headed down, Adam and Ethan joined up with us and we chatted for a bit.  Then, almost as quickly as it had started (and kind of telling for this winter), the storm that dropped 24 inches of snow in 30 hours turned to rain as we stood there at 6,666 feet.  All of us were like, “what just happened?”  The last run down skied ok, but a definite crust was starting to form on the snow, and the drizzle accompanied us all the way back to the car.  Even so, it couldn’t put a damper on what turned out to be an excellent weekend.  With the high pressure ridge that’s been so persistent this winter already building back up and locked in place for another several weeks, this storm might be the one that saved the season so to speak, or at least keeps us touring for awhile longer this winter.  I guess the moral here is you gotta’ take what you can get, and I’ll be ready the next time the snow falls!  Here’s a parting shot from early Sunday morning…..

Freshies on Eagle's at the Pass

Freshies on Eagle’s at the Pass

 

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