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

 

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!

February 17, 2011 – Willamette Pass (epic pow)

Andy, Todd and I had watched the weather forecast all week with the intention of taking Thursday off to ride at Willamette Pass.  Things were shaping up to be awesome by Thursday morning when I met Andy and we headed up to the pass.  After a stop in Oakridge for some breakfast, we arrived at the Pass and it was deep.  The pass doesn’t operate on Monday-Wednesday, so the 35 inches or so of new snow that had fallen over the past three days was untracked and unconsolidated.  There was already a line of powder hounds forming at the bottom of the EPA lift, and we strapped in to join them.  We ended up being seven or eight chairs back from first chair, and made our first run down High Lead.  It was DEEP!  I couldn’t find the bottom on my K2 Gryator and the snow was very unconsolidated.  I ended up having to wait down at the flats for some others to break a trail so I wouldn’t get stuck.  After a few more runs of epic pow, we joined up with Todd who drove up separately.  Several patrolers were up playing hooky as well, and we spent the morning making runs with Dan on the frontside.  After a very quick hasty lunch, we headed back out for some more pow.  It took Patrol 4 awhile, and it was a lot of work, but they finally got the backside open around 12:30, just as things on the front were getting tracked out, which worked out perfectly.

Andy getting face shots on the backside!

As soon as the backside opened, the three of us hiked to the top of Peak 2 and dropped into Northern, which yielded excellent deep powder and more face shots.  After suffering through a long dry January, this was the kind of relief we were in need of.  On the next run, we headed over to June’s, and snapped a few pictures of the action.

Andy on June's w/Todd in the background

We ended up making several thousand vertical for the day, all in over your head powder!  As the backside started to get a bit tracked, we made three or four laps on Destiny, which for some reason, wasn’t getting pounded too hard.  Destiny yielded nice turns and face shots on the steeper pitch, but I had to straight line it at the bottom to not get stuck.

Matt riding on Destiny

After a few more runs, Todd headed back to the front to get ready to leave.  Andy and I made some more runs on the back, finding some nice untracked powder near the cliff.  For our final run, we headed back through SDS directly off the top of the Peak 2 chair.  By the time we made it down Swoosh on the front side and were back to the car, my legs were feeling pretty worked.  The drive back was uneventful, and we made it home around the same time as people were getting off work.  It was an excellent way to spend a day, and when the powder’s fresh and deep, you do what it takes to get to the slopes!  here’s a parting shot of Todd riding on the backside…..

Todd tele-ing in the deep stuff

 

 

Month 1 – December 2005, Willamette Pass

This was the month that started my passion for making turns all year.  Willamette Pass was open and rumor had it that the snow was in pretty good shape.  So, my buddy Andy and I headed out to see what was up.  I was just coming off a minor back surgery due to a herniated disc (which is why I didn’t get November turns) and didn’t want to hit it too hard, so we stuck mostly to the  groomers, which were in nice condition.  We did manage to get down SDN a time or two though, as the snow was in decent enough shape that I didn’t jar my body around too badly.  It so happens that this was also the day I met Todd, whom I knew from work, but had never rode with.  Todd and I would later become good friends and backcountry partners as a result of this meeting. Overall, it was a good day, and very refreshing to be back in the winter environment after another long hot summer (which was made longer by injury).  It was also the start of something special…..month one of Turns All Year….

Note: I only have one photo from the day which survived my computer crash from a few years ago, and it is of the ski run from the bottom of SDN .  Due to it’s unimpressive nature, I substituted this shot of me in the very same place from a few years ago, after a 30 inch powder dump in March.  Photo taken by Andrew Sahalie.

 

Hitting a nice kicker at the bottom of SDN