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!

March days at the Pass

Winter decided to make a return to the northwest, and Dan and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for powder at the Pass, especially since neither of us were on duty on Sunday.  We hit the road early, and made it to the Pass before the lifts were spinning.  8-10 inches of fresh snow greeted us, however it was warmer and heavier than expected.  Nevertheless, we made a couple of fun runs on RTS, with ample face shots the reward for our efforts.  Due to all the new snow from the previous day and night, we headed over to Peak 2 to help out with opening.  The run down Northern was nice, and then after a bit of avy control, shoveling and fencing work, Peak 2 was open to the public.  We made pow runs until it became tracked up around 11:00, then headed down for lunch.  After lunch, I grabbed the split and we headed out for the backcountry, with it still snowing hard…

Patrol Room

Patrol Room

We skinned out to our destination, and discussed which line to drop first.  We decided on a line near the trees in case there was any lurking wind slab avalanche danger.  The turns were fun, albeit a bit heavy.  Dan and I took turns on the camera snapping photos…

Pow surfing

Matt surfing the pow

Dan

Dan on the uptrack

After our first lap, we elected to skin rather than boot given the depth of the new snow.  Back at the top, we enjoyed a cold beverage before dropping in for laps number 2 and 3…

Dan

Dan getting some

Matt

Matt slashing the mank

We skinned out to the area around 3:00, and were just in time to enjoy a nice pow lap down SDN.  Our timing wasn’t too great however, as we ended up getting roped in to a search with patrol for a lost party.  Dan and I ended up with the assignment of breaking trail along the cross country trails towards Gold Lake since we had our backcountry gear.  Around 7:30, after several hours of searching and wading through waist deep snow, the lost skier was found (he’d somehow skied out of the area to the Waldo Road, then walked out to Highway 58 and hitched a ride back to the area).  A snowcat from the area picked Dan and I up and gave us a heated ride a couple of miles back to the lodge, where cold beer was waiting.

Dan

Dan skinning out through the woods

The following weekend I found myself back at the Pass for a Level 2 avalanche class.  The weather was nice on Saturday, so we toured out to West Peak with the group and charted the area, testing the snowpack with various snow pit tests, and generally had a good time.

Avy 2 Class

Avy 2 Class atop West Peak

The snow was deep, and in one place I lost a 230 cm probe and had to dig down 4 feet to find the top!  We skied a few lines on West Peak in marginal snow conditions, and generally enjoyed touring outside the area.

Brian & Moth

Brian & Moth in the pit

The remainder of the class went well, with beacon drills and organized rescue scenarios on Sunday.  It’s a relief that the training is finally over, and the end of the lift serviced ski season is in sight.  While it may be bittersweet, I’m already looking forward to my most favorite season of all — volcano season!  Here’s to a great spring!