November 23, 2014 – Willamette Pass

Warmer weather was in the forecast following the weekend, so several of us decided to take advantage of what snow there was in the mountains and head out to Willamette Pass for some Sunday turns.  I wasn’t overly encouraged the night before, with 5 inches of snow at the Cascade Summit snotel site, but hopeful more snow would fall overnight.  I pulled into Dan’s house early Sunday morning, and soon Joe, John and Gordon arrived and we headed down the highway.  An hour or so later, we pulled up to the snow gate at the Pass and met Todd and Neil, who were planning on skiing with us for the day.  It’d snowed a couple of inches overnight, but the coverage wasn’t exactly excellent at 5,000 feet, and our hope was for more snow up high.  After sorting through gear, we shouldered packs, donned skins and started off…

Morning light on the lodge

Morning light on the lodge

The snow was fairly light, and it appeared there was a couple of inches of wet snow underneath the fresh stuff (apparently what hadn’t been rained off from the previous week’s rainstorm).  Every once in awhile, the clouds would part and we’d get great views of Diamond Peak to the south, but I could never get my camera out in time to snap a shot.  I did manage to get a few shots skinning up KP….

Skinning up KP

Skinning up KP

At Eagles Flight, we veered off of KP and put in a skin track.  Coverage on Eagle’s was decent — probably about 16-18 inches, and I knew we’d at least find some fun turns here if nowhere else.  From the top of Eagles, it was a short skin to the top and then over to the backside to check out the conditions.  The Peak 2 snow stake read 20 inches, and Northern looked skiable, so we ripped skins and headed down.  I dropped in first, making some sweet pow turns, before turning rider’s left to navigate through dense trees between Northern and Down Under.  The skier’s followed, and I snapped a few photos, including the shot of Todd below dropping a knee on Down Under…

Todd dropping a knee

Todd dropping a knee

The snow was pretty good on the lower angle slopes, and difficult but manageable on the steeper stuff (given the Christmas tree farm that’s growing on the backside), so we continued down to a hundred vertical feet of so above the top of the Peak 2 lift before stopping.  Once back in skin mode, we elected to put a track in up June’s run, to check out conditions and make another run.

Climbing up June's

Climbing up June’s

Having not skied the backside of the Pass with this minimal amount of snow coverage in a couple of years, I was really surprised at how fast the trees were growing on the runs — it’s definitely time for some clearing to occur.  Back at the top, we fueled up with a quick snack, deposited some cold beverages in the snow so they’d be even colder after our next run, and dropped in to ski June’s.  The snow was good, albeit thin, and we enjoyed several hundred feet of turns…..

Joe skiing June's

Joe skiing June’s

After our run on June’s, we utilized our previously placed skin track and were back on the top in short order, enjoying ice cold beers.  Looking down Boundary, a lower angled slope, the coverage looked really good, so it was an easy choice for our 3rd run of the day.  I dropped in and made nice surfy turns, followed by Joe and the others….

Cruising down Boundary

Cruising down Boundary

After nice pow turns on Boundary, we decided to ride Escalator, which was a bit wind blown, somewhat challenging, but quite fun.  This time the skiers headed down first, and I followed while Dan snapped a few photos of me on the board.  At the bottom, John, Dan, Joe and I skied the run all the way to the bottom of the Peak 2 lift, while Neil and Todd headed back up Escalator….

Turns on Escalator

Turns on Escalator

Peak 2 Chair

Looking up the Peak 2 Chair

As the four of us skinned up lower Boundary, the snow looked pretty darn nice, so at the top of the headwall, we decided to drop in for a quick run before heading back up to meet up with the others.  Dan grabbed my camera again, and snapped shots of John and I as we came down.  All the numerous Christmas trees dotting the run made for fun gates and jibs…

John making turns

John making turns

Tree jibbing

Tree jibbing

Down at the bottom, we donned skins once more and headed back up, joining up with Gordon near the top, and eventually working our way to the top of Eagle Peak for a needed rest and food break.  While we were sitting up top, the clouds started to clear, the sun came out and provided a bit of warmth, and the views to the south of Odell Lake and Diamond Peak opened up…..

The top of the Pass

The top of the Pass

The view

The view south

With the sun finally out in full effect, we were stoked to rip some more turns as we strapped in for yet another run.  This time, with tired legs, we headed back down the frontside, enjoying turns on the toothpaste tube and Eagles.  I found several nice features to jump off of, and stopped for long enough to catch a a few pics of Dan with my wide angle lens.

Dan on Eagle's

Dan on Eagle’s

At the bottom of Eagles, though we were tired from over 4000 feet of vertical on the day already, the snow was too good to pass up, so we headed back up for one more run.  The second lap on Eagles was as good as the first, and Dan was all grins at the bottom….

Eagle's

Eagle’s

We skied back to the car and enjoyed a cold beverage and good food to end the day.  Reflecting back on the day during the drive home, all of us were quite stoked on the skiing and glad we made it out, especially give the rainy forecast for the coming week.  Here’s to hoping for a return to powder conditions soon!

 

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