May 22, 2010 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

Due to a variety of factors, including the weather, it had been awhile since I’d been out for some turns, and I was jonesing. Dan had been up to the Pass a few days earlier, and said the snow was holding, so we made plans to head out after work for some dusk patrol turns. We met up at Dan’s house around 4:30 pm, and headed up to the Pass shortly thereafter. The weather started to sour on our drive up, and a few miles past Oakridge it was raining pretty hard.

Gearing up at the snowpark

The rain turned to a light drizzle as we pulled into the snowpark to gear up, and by the time we reached the pass there were only intermittent rain drops. We set out on foot, with the southside of the Pass looking pretty sparse. The weather felt more like March than May, but we weren’t complaining — it was nice to be hiking in the cool temps.

Heading out for some turns

Dan hiking up By George

We worked our way up the snow-less By George, finding a rental ski along the way, which we placed near the road in case management might be out later in the week. After 20-30 minutes of hiking, we found snow at mid-mountain, and were able to switch to skins at the base of Amber’s Way.

Patches of snow on By George

A short skin later, we were standing at the base of RTS, looking up the run at what was pretty damn nice coverage for the end of May! The weather was holding and we were stoked. We put in a nice bootpack up the run to the top in the near perfect snow. There’s just something special to me about climbing and skiing RTS — it’s probably my favorite ski run in the world and a place that’s defines me a person…

Looking up RTS

Dan approaching the top

As we approached the top, there was a thin ribbon of snow that went up along skiers left that had a couple of spicy sections in it. We followed it to the top, which was the end of the snow and only a short distance from the top of EPA, and decided it was good time to enjoy a cold beer. I pulled my beverage of choice for the afternoon out from my pack and buried it in the snow…

Light Me Up Lager

A few minutes later, the beer was cold, and so were we after sitting around in the wind up top. We drank half the beer, leaving the rest for a second lap, and dropped in. Dan dropped first, and negotiated through the cruxy section of small trees and stumps. I came down next while Dan shot a few pictures. You know what RTS stands for…..Rocks, Trees, Stumps…

Sliding down through the crux

Turns down RTS

We made turns back down to our packs at the bottom of the run, and the snow quality was excellent. Halfway down the run, I grabbed the camera back from Dan and fired off a few shots of him enjoying the turns….

Dan skiing RTS

Post work turns on RTS

At the bottom, we were stoked, and quickly put the boards on our backs and booted back up for another lap. Halfway up, the weather, which had held off for the duration of our trip, moved in and started to rain. At the top, we drank the rest of my beer and enjoyed turns back down for a second lap…

Turns in the fog

Evening turns on RTS

Back down at the bottom, we shouldered our packs, and made turns out via Amber’s Way, which brought back fond memories from earlier in the year during patrol. We had to cross a patch of dirt, and them were able to link turns down to skier’s right on ByGeorge and the haul road.

Dan ready to head out

A quick boot across the haul road led us to High Lead, where we were able to link turns on a thin ribbon of snow down to the intersection of Timburr Glades.

Skiing down High Lead Glades

The end of the snow

At the end of the snow, we threw the boards on the packs and made the short hike down Timburr Glades to the base area just as it started to get dark. Back at the car, we changed quickly into dry clothes, grabbed a quick bite, and headed down the road. Although we ended up home late and had to work in the morning, it was definitely worth the effort for an evening of good corn!

Jones Solution Split

The Solution Split atop Mt McLoughlin

The Solution Split atop Mt McLoughlin

The Solution from Jones Snowboards is a split which performs admirably in all types of terrain and conditions.  I’ve been riding the Solution for three seasons now, and I’ve really appreciated it’s reliability and predictability in all snow types from powder to ice.  Although I recently upgraded to custom Chimera Mace for riding on the volcanoes, the Solution still holds a place in my quiver and gets used several times each winter.

General Impressions: The Solution is marketed as an “all conditions” board, but one of the first things I noticed was how well it performs in powder.  The blunt nose and directional rocker definitely make a difference and slashing through the deep stuff on this board is a cinch.  The overall weight of the board is right in there with similar boards from other companies, and the 161 cm length handles my 175 lb frame plus pack and gear without issue.  With the same specifications as the Flagship (the solid version of the Solution that I use for ski patrolling), it’s no wonder the board feels so nice under my feet.

On the Skin Track: The Solution is a solid split.  It tours exceptionally well with the Karakoram SL bindings, and I’ve used it with Spark Burner’s with similar results.  The combination camber/rocker profile of the base provides more than adequate purchase while skinning, and the width of the skis aren’t too wide, which means you don’t have to break trail even when you’re following a skier.

In Ride Mode:  I’ve been very pleased with how the Solution rides.  As indicated above, powder performance is great, and the board definitely excels in corn, crud and other conditions.  The 9.1 m sidecut (on the 161 cm) allows for quick turn initiation in firm snow, and the camber underfoot coupled with the directional rocker at the tip and tail make the board nice to ride in less than optimal conditions.  Mellow magenetraction along the edges add a bit of stability in icy conditions (at least theoretically), and the blunt design of the board’s nose keeps you floating through the pow.  One extra nicety with respect to riding is that the board comes equipped with split clips from Karakoram, which really keep the board halves clamped together.

Bottom Line:  After some initial quality control concerns during the first year or two of production, Jones has righted the ship and is producing one of the finest all conditions splits on the market.  If you want a board that can handle everything, check out the Solution!

More Info:  More information about the Solution Split can be found at Jones Snowboards

Jones Hovercraft Split

The Hovercraft at home in the deep powder of the Three Sisters Wilderness

The Hovercraft at home in the deep powder of the Three Sisters Wilderness

Jones created a winner in the Hovercraft Split.  Marketed as a quiver board for powder and soft snow, it definitely excels in those conditions.  Surprisingly, it also performs remarkably well in many other soft snow conditions, including crust, crud and chop.  This is my second season on the Hovercraft Split, and it’s the board I grab on a powder day.

General Impressions: The over sized blunt nose and 26 mm waist width on the 156 cm split provides more than enough float for my 175 lb frame plus pack and gear on even the deepest of days.  I must admit, at first I was a bit skeptical about riding a board several centimeters shorter than my normal powder board, but after the first run on the Hovercraft, I was sold.

On the Skin Track: The Hovercraft performs solidly while touring.  I’ve used it with both the Karakoram Split 30’s and Spark Burner’s, with no real noticeable difference between the two.  The board provides plenty of grip while skinning due to both the camber underfoot and the wide width of the ski’s.  One minor thing to note when following skiers – it’s easy to feel like you’re re-breaking trail since their skis are narrow in comparison to the board halves of the Hovercraft.

In Ride Mode:  This board is fun to ride in soft snow, period!  Part of the reason the board floats so well, besides the blunt nose and wide waist, is due to directional rocker at the tip and tail of the board – you literally feel like you’re hovering over the top of the snow!  Camber underfoot provides stability when the snow firms up, in combination with the mellow magnetraction.  To be honest though, I’m not sure the mellow magnetraction adds anything substantial to the ride.  The shorter length of the board makes it a pleasure to ride in treed terrain, providing quick and nimble turns.

Bottom Line:  If you’re looking for a powder specific split to add to your quiver, look no further than the Hovercraft!

More Info:  More information about the Hovercraft Split can be found at Jones Snowboards