December 4, 2016 – Willamette Pass Opener

It was only lower mountain, but the Pass was open for what would be one of the earliest opening days in several years.  I was on duty for patrol, and was excited to head out for the first weekend of what is anticipated to be a great season.  Pulling into the parking lot, the mountain looked good.  The weather wasn’t so hot in the early morning, with wet snowflakes falling, but it was supposed to get cold and snow a bunch during the day.

Patrol getting ready to head out

It was good to see the aid room full of familiar faces as everyone was gearing up for the day, and to catch up with old friends.  After a quick morning meeting, we set out towards the Twilight lift to open the mountain.

Patrol 2

The skiing in the morning was so-so, and after a few runs a couple of us told the hill chief we were going to skin up to the top to check out the snow conditions as well as the runs.  So I grabbed the split and headed out from the top of Twilight, breaking trail in about a foot of fresh snow.  As we worked our way to the top, the weather turned cold as predicted, and it started snowing heavily.  We toured over to the top of Peak 2 to check conditions out, and found plenty of snow at the snowstake…

Peak 2 Snowstake

After checking out Peak 2, we skied over to the top of Eagle Peak before dropping in for our first lap.  John snapped the below picture of me a few moments before we ripped a super sweet run down High Lead…

Standing atop Eagle Peak

The snow had definitely turned the corner, and we were stoking when we ran into Dan and Joe at the bottom of High Lead.  Since it was so damn nice, it was definitely worth hiking back up for another lap.  On run number two we headed down Timburr and I caught the below pic of Dan enjoying the pow…

Dan on Timburr

With two laps in the bag, John and I headed back down to the aid room to grab some lunch.  Refueled, I headed back out for a bit more patrolling before heading back up for a bit more fun with Joe.  The cool thing about being on the upper mountain with only the lower mountain open was that I could easily respond if needed to any incidents down below, but could take advantage of the untracked snow above.  A short time after I started, I was up top again and hooked up with Joe for a run down Eagle’s.  Joe grabbed my camera and snapped a few pics of me heading down in the blower snow…

Riding Eagle’s

Blower snow in early December

I couldn’t believe how good the snow was, and quickly converted back to ski mode to skin back up to get one more lap before sweep.  Back at the top, I chose to make a run down Success, which was probably one of my best runs of 2016.  Every turn produced a huge face shot, and a whiteroom blast that seemed to last forever.  What started out as a wet, heavy day had definitely turned into cold blower.

Joe on the skintrack up

I made it back in time to help out with sweep, and the first day of the 2016 ski patrol season was in the books.  After the evening meeting, it was time for a well deserved beer and BS session, and it was a pleasure to just hang out in the patrol room.  Hopes were definitely high for the new season, and I can’t wait to get back out for some more great powder turns this December.

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