September 2, 2018 – Mt Hood, Zigzag Snowfield

“I wonder how much snow will be left in September” was the question Dan and I were discussing over the phone a few weeks prior to the month arriving. With August being a scorcher of a month, we were both curious to see if anything would be left on Mt. Hood after our visit in early August. We made plans to head out over Labor Day weekend and find out. Joe was game to go as well, so after meeting at the cop shop in Albany we headed up I5 and arrived at the mountain a few hours later. Significant melting had occurred over the previous month, but it looked like there would still be plenty of turns to be had, so we loaded up our gear and headed up the trail.

Hood from the Climbers lot

Dan on the approach

The temperature was warm as we started climbing, and it didn’t take long for the convertible pants I had on to be put into shorts mode. An hour or so after we started climbing, we came up on ridge overlooking the White River Glacier. The glacier had looked pretty paltry in August when we observed it, and it looked even smaller now.

Joe, Dan & the White River

After a quick snack, we continued climbing the ridge, eventually making our way to the top of the Palmer, where we met a few other TAY folks who were riding lifts. After a quick chat, we headed for our intended destination — the Zigzag snowfield. After 20 minutes of scrambling, we made our way to the snowfield. It looked pretty good so we stashed a couple of beers in the snow, and kept climbing…

Climbing up the Zigzag

Around 9200 feet, we reached the top of the snow and were ready to drop in. The last couple hundred feet was a bit roughneck, but we figured it would be worth it. Dan dropped in first, and Joe and I followed. After we made our way through the rough patch, the snow surface smoothed and became premium September corn…

Dan skiing the upper patch

Skiing down the Zigzag

We worked our way down towards our beers, and snapped a few pictures along the way. After about 800 vertical feet of sliding, we arrived at our spot, and paused for a quick break to enjoy our chilled beverages.

September turns on the Zigzag

Our beverage of choice for the afternoon

Once our brief beer break was over, we headed on down for more fun. The lower half of the snowfield was in excellent shape, and Dan and I took turns with the camera and snapped photos along the way…

Joe skiing by Illumination Rock

Matt cruising on the Ziggy

As we worked our way a little lower down on the snowfield, I setup to snap a few photos of Joe and Dan. One spot in particular caught my eye…it was overlooking Mt Jefferson, and there was also a very large boulder in the canyon that had melted out of the snow. I wasn’t able to get setup to get both features in one photo, so I settled for a couple of different shots….

Dan with Mt Jefferson

Joe skiing next to the boulder

It was striking how much snow had melted on the Zigzag since we were there a month earlier, and the canyon was really showing. Dan and I estimated as much as 10 feet of snow had melted over the past month. We were able to ski down to within a hundred vertical feet or so from where we did in August before the snow yielded to rocks, but had to stop short of the rollover that Dan likes to ski…

Looking back at our turns

At the end of the snow

When there were no more turns to be made, it was time put skis on the packs and start the boot out. Hiking up, I saw what looked like a few remnant crevasses in the ice up towards Illumination Rock. It made me think of how big the glacier used to be — I remember reading about mules being lost in crevasses that were a couple of hundred feet deep while packing fireworks out to Illumination Rock back in the 1880’s…

Remnant ice on the Zigzag

Eventually we worked our way back to where we’d stashed some of our gear, stuffed it in our packs, and headed back towards the Palmer. It was around 2:30 or so when got there, and the lift was shut down for the day. One of the best things about the summer season on Mt Hood is having the Palmer all to yourself after the lift shuts down. We snapped a few pics, strapped in and headed down…

The view from the top of the Palmer

Joe skiing the Palmer

We skied down to the mid-station, and the snow was great. Wanting 4000 feet for the day, and having skied a couple thousand on the Ziggy, we made the decision to head back up for another lap. This time, we took a longer break at the top, enjoying the views to the south and the warm sunshine. A bit later, it was time to ski again.

Climbing back up the Palmer

Dan in the Palmer Canyon

We ripped turns down the main Palmer, and skied until our legs burned. We didn’t pull the camera out until we were in the Palmer Canyon, and Dan and I both snapped a few shots 0f the action…

September turns in the Palmer Canyon

Dan skiing down to Silcox

We enjoyed the turns down the Canyon until the snow stopped, just a short ways from Silcox, and then it was a long hike down a dusty road back to the car in the parking lot. Like the month before, it felt good to change into shorts and flip flops, pull out a cold beverage, and enjoy a fresh garden salad along with chips and freshly made salsa. As we sat back and reflected on the day, the three of agreed that it exceeded expectations, and was probably one of the better September ski’s in recent memory!

December 31, 2017 – Willamette Pass

It seems like 2017 was the year of Willamette Pass I thought to myself as I made plans to head up that way Dan for the final day of 2017.  There had definitely been some good days up there over the past year, most filled with bottomless powder even into the month of May.  On this day however, Dan and I both were trying to think of other options for turns, but given the extremely thin snowpack we just couldn’t come up withe any good options.  So, after driving around looking for options, then stopping at the Gold Lake backcountry shelter for a bit, we ended up at the Pass.

The Pass from the Highway

We loaded our gear and skated across the parking lot, and worked our way up the hill.  Conditions were looking pretty meager, and the snow was firm.  It was still cold, but our hopes were that the snow would soften in the afternoon sunshine…

Looking up George

Diamond peeking thru the trees

Within an hour or so we were at the top and skinned over to Peak 2 to check out conditions.  Unfortunately the snow stake was only reading 18 inches — the lowest total for the season since early October.

Dan at Peak 2

Atop Peak 2

After milling about for a bit, we decided to ski Upper Rosary, which had been getting morning sun and looked soft.  It was, and we made fun turns all the way down to the big corner.  Skiing Rosary in such low snow conditions reminded me of a previous trip Dan and I made a few years ago in early November.  At the bottom, we decided to boot back up to Eagles to have a break for lunch and to enjoy a beverage before taking another run.  I snapped the picture below of one of my new favorite beers on my most recently completed splitter….

Copperline Amber Ale and my Jamie Lynn split

After our snack, we peered down Eagles. It looked good, but we decided to give it a bit more time and booted up for one more run on Rosary.  There’s nothing quite like being able to boot up a firm ski run with 6 inches of total snow on it on the last day of the year….

Looking out over Odell and Lakeview Peak

On our second run down Rosary, I decided to snap a few photos of Dan to document the conditions.  I’m pretty sure the pic below makes the snowpack look deeper than it really was….

Dan skiing Rosary

With two runs down Rosary in the bag, we headed backup to our half drank beers at the top of Eagles, finished them off, and strapped in for a run down the super deep snowpack on Eagle’s.  Dan snapped a few photos of me shredding the deep stuff….

Riding down Eagle’s

All kidding aside, at least the snow was soft.  It was somewhat difficult skiing, but still fun.  We definitely had to be on our toes though, because the rocks and trees were thick…

Dan skiing upper Eagles

Skiing lower Eagle’s

Once at the bottom, we traversed our way over to George, and made scratchy turns all the way down to the base.  For whatever reason, probably the inversion, the lower mountain never corned.  Not to worry though, the turns were still fun and all in all it was a good day.  It just need to snow more…..soon!  Here’s a parting shot from the day….

Dan skiing the deep stuff

 

December 17, 2016 – Peak 2 Opener

Blue sky was in the forecast, at least for the morning, and it shaping up to be a great Saturday at the Pass.  A significant amount of new snow had fallen in the previous days, and the stoke was high at the morning patrol meeting.  It was unclear if Peak 2 would open, given that nearly three feet of new snow needed to be cleared from both the top and bottom of the lift, and the avy routes would need to be run as well.  Nevertheless, the first ride up the EPA chair yielded the sweet scenery the Pass is known for…

Toby atop Eagle Peak

Diamond out yonder

The morning light was perfect, and I didn’t waste anytime snapping a few pics, including the shot below of Kerstin at the top of Eagle Peak…

Kerstin

After a couple of runs on the front side, I headed in and grabbed my new Amplid Miligram split to take it out for it’s maiden voyage.  The first two runs on the board, on both steep slopes and firm groomers blew my mind.  The board rocks, and is the first split I’ve ridden in a resort that rides as good or better than a solid!

By 10:00 or so, Brian and I hiked over to the backside, with the intention of running a couple of avy routes to get Peak 2 open if possible.  Several other folks were digging out the ramp at the top, so we headed over with Dan to Dragon’s Back to do the control work.

Dan & Brian above Dragon’s

We setup the rope and belay, and Dan ski cut the slopes above the cliffs while Brian belayed and I snapped a few photos….

Dan on the avy route

I was surprised that with all the fresh snow we only got surface sloughs to run and nothing deep.  Regardless, we finished the upper route and then dropped in for a few turns before skinning back out to run the lower route….

Brian surfing the steeps

Pow turns in the meadow

We made short work skinning out from the meadow back up June’s, and I definitely happy with the performance of the Miligram on the skin track — the board was much lighter underfoot than I was used to.  Back at the top, we completed the lower avy route, with the bonus of dropping into Gravity chute on the way out….

Brian below Gravity

After running both avy routes on the splits, we headed down to the base of Peak 2 and were able to catch a lift ride back up.  Shortly thereafter, with both avy routes complete and the top and bottom of the lift dug out, Peak 2 opened for the season at 1:30.  There was no shortage of stoke, pow turns, or skiers waiting to rip up all the fresh snow…

Brian blasting after Peak 2 opened for the season

Enjoying the new snow

Everyone made lap after lap in the fresh snow.  I spent the whole time on the Amplid and was too stoked to head in for lunch.  Some of the best turns were had in the trees between Down Under and June’s….

Toby dropping a knee

Shannon getting some pow action

Towards the end of the day, I ventured out towards the meadow again with Brian, and we found one last powder stash.  This time, Brian grabbed the camera and snapped a few pics of me enjoying the fresh snow…

Last run powder slash

Enjoying pow on the Miligram

At 3:40, it was time to sweep Peak 2, but the stoke was high knowing that the lift with some of the best terrain on the mountain was now open for the season.  Frontside sweep followed, and then it was time for apres beers after a great day.  Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Peak 2 pow

 

December 10th, 2016 – Willamette Pass

The great start to the winter was continuing, and Dan and I were up for some Saturday turns at the Pass.  As it turns out, Saturday was the first day EPA would turn for the season as well.  Neither of us were on patrol for the day, but ended up helping P3 get the hill open as none of the gear had been deployed to the top of the mountain yet.  After an epic run down Timburr, we hauled tower pads and sleds for a couple of runs before setting off to Peak 2 with Brian and Toby to check out the snow.  I snapped a couple pictures at the top before he heard Peak 2 wouldn’t be opening for the day and thus no need for us to do an avy route…

Cornice work

Toby atop Peak 2

Bummed that Peak 2 wouldn’t be opening, we dropped into SDN and found some good snow up high.  I captured a couple photos of Brian and Toby slashing through the fresh snow…

Brian dropping in SDN

Toby getting some in SDN

After a couple of lift-assisted runs, Dan and I headed out to one of our side-country stashes to find some more fresh pow.  John was already ahead of us, and had dug a pit by the time we skinned out to him.  The stability was looking good, so we dropped in for a sweet run through the glades.  The snow was deep, and the face shots plenty, and all three of us were stoked at the bottom.  A quick skin brought us back to the top, and it was time for a cold one…

IPA Time

We dropped in for two more runs, each one as good as the first.  Dan grabbed the camera from me on the second run and captured me in a couple powder slashes in the cold smoke…

December blower

Roosting through the trees

After our third lap, we headed back to the area for another run before I had a 2:00 appointment for leading the make-up chair evac session.  Overall it was a pretty sweet early December day, one of the best in recent memory.  Here’s to hoping it happens again soon!  A parting shot of Dan is below….

Dan getting some of the action

 

April 17, 2016 – Mt Bachelor

April was a busy month.  Work was hectic, budgets were due, and I took a week long vacation to Southern California to visit the mouse with the family.  And, we bought chickens, so several days were spent building a coop and run to house our new feathered friends.  I found myself needing a break from snowboarding after a grueling winter of ski patrol, and was really enjoying working around the house and property, getting the yard in shape and the garden in.  I did manage a couple days at both Willamette Pass and Mt Bachelor, but didn’t pack the camera with me.  Being able to free ride lifts in the corn snow without the weight of a pack and camera was pretty dreamy.  I actually only took one photo of snow the entire month of April, from the summit of Mt Bachelor on a perfect sunny morning.

Oregon volcano lineup

Oregon volcano lineup

Spending a couple days making runs with a few close friends down the likes of SDN and White Russian at Willamette, and the Cirque Bowl and the Southside at Bachelor, in great April corn snow, reminded me of great days from past years.  With the month of April past, and the busy season at work wrapping up, I’m definitely ready to head back out again for some more riding.  Conditions are shaping up to be an awesome May and June!