May 15, 2020 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

After having such a good time in March and April on after work dusk patrols at the Pass, Dan and I decided a May after work dusk patrol was in order. I left work around 4:00 pm, and headed out highway 58 to the Pleasant Hill school. Dan arrived a few minutes later and we piled gear into his Tesla and headed up to the Pass. The frontside was looking pretty bare as we shouldered packs and started out…

Willamette Pass & Lodge

Hiking up Swoosh

Our sights were set on RTS, so we headed over towards Twilight and worked our way up Swoosh. The lower portions of the runs were gone, but as we started climbing we hit snow a few hundred feet up the slope. It wasn’t much — only a sliver, but it would go, and we were stoked that we’d be able to ride quite a ways down the front on our exit. Continuing up, we soon made our way up to the top of Twilight, and coverage on Duck was looking pretty nice…

Looking down Duck

From Twilight, we booted up Amber’s and onto RTS, and then punched a boot pack up RTS to the top. The snow wasn’t quite as set up as we’d hoped for, but the lighting made for some nice pics as we headed up the slope….

Approaching the top of RTS

At the top of RTS, we decided to head on to the top of EPA, to soak in the views and see if we could link turns all the way from the summit. We lounged around for a few minutes at the top, soaking in the views and snapping a few pics, and then it was time to drop in. As luck would have it, we were able to link turns down from the lift shack, through the trees with a vegetation belay, onto the Success Patch….

Up top on EPA

Skiing the Success Patch

We had to take our skis off for a short 15 foot walk to get onto RTS proper, and then we skied the upper section. I dropped in first, and Dan snapped a few pics of me coming down to the crux section, which was only a few fee wide and littered with rocks and sticks….

Dropping into RTS

Above the Crux

We skirted through the crux without damage to ourselves or our gear, and resumed skiing down the run. I snapped a few pics of Dan as he enjoyed the evening turns….

Skiing the top of RTS

Dan ripping down RTS

Even though the skiing was slushy, the turns on RTS are always fun, and we enjoyed weaving around the rocks and stumps down to the bottom, where we found a nice log to take a well deserved break. After refueling with a quick snack, it didn’t take us long to decide that another run was in order.

RTS in the evening light

A quick break at the bottom

The snow seemed to be firming up a little bit on our hike back up the bootpack, and once we reached the top it was time to pop open those beers we’d been lugging around. The beer of choice for me was a heavy handed Fantastic Haze Imperial IPA from Sierra Nevada. It was super smooth, but at 9% it packed quite a punch. I drank half of it up top, and decided to drop in and enjoy the rest of it at the bottom of the run…

Imperial IPA from Sierra Nevada

2nd lap on RTS

Making turns with a beer in hand wasn’t a problem on the steep run — the snow had firmed up some and rode pretty nicely. One of my favorite things about late season riding is skiing on a few inches of snow, next to rocks, dirt, stumps, etc. As we headed down, Dan snapped some more shots of me enjoying the evening turns….

Matt enjoying turns on RTS

At the bottom of RTS

At the bottom, we skied out on Lois Lane, and over to Duck. The skiing down Swoosh was great, and we had a couple of short carries up top, but were able to ski back down to within a few hundred vertical feet of the lodge. From there, it was an easy walk down the run to the lodge and over to the car.

Dan at the end of the snow

There was still a bit of light by the time we made the car, and both of us were looking forward to heading down to Gold Lake snopark for an additional beverage and some brats. Sitting there by the grill, in the dark of night, reminded me of hanging out by the fire earlier in the year at the Pass after patrol with the parking lot crowd.

Brats at Gold Lake

A few minutes after we pulled out the grill, the brats were done, and they definitely hit the spot. With the beers drank and the food eaten, it was time to hit the road, and enjoy the conversation on the road home about the turns from the evening, as well as turns from past trips. We made it back to Pleasant Hill without incident, and I bid Dan farewell to both him and another season of excellent dusk patrol turns at the Pass.

 

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May 3, 2020 – Willamette Pass

The days on the calendar have been flying by, and it seems time is moving even more quickly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first weekend of May brought with it the promise of some fresh snow in the mountains, so Dan and I made plans to head to the Pass in search of some soft turns. We met at Dan’s early in the morning, and drove the Tesla up 58, stopping off at the Gold Lake Snopark to gear up before hitting the Pass.

Gold Lake Warming Shelter

Dan ready to head out

There was a couple inches of fresh snow that had the mountain blanketed in white, and it was nice to be able to skin right from the parking lot. We followed Joe’s skin track at the base (we’d planned on meeting Joe on the hill), and worked our way up KP. The skinning was nice on the cool morning, but the sun was beating down as we worked our way up. Given the lack of snow on Eagles, we continued on KP and up Lower Rosary to Peak 2.

A little fresh at the Pass

Joe had a nice track down Northern, but there were plenty of turns left so I dropped in on the soft snow. It was pretty good on skier’s right in the shade, so I set up to shoot a few shots of Dan as he descended….

May turns on Northern

Fresh May snow

We skied the soft snow to the bottom and found Joe, who’d just completed a run on Destiny. It looked good, so we headed up the skin track on Escalator for some more turns. Destiny looked to have the right aspect, so we did a quick lap there, and Dan snapped photos with my camera….

Smooth snow on Destiny

May turns at the Pass

After tracking up Destiny, we skinned back up to the top of Peak 2 with our sights set on making a run on Waldo. A quick break was in order, and then we dropped into Waldo, which turned out to have the best snow of the day due to it’s westerly aspect.

Dropping into Waldo

Turns on Waldo

The snow was super smooth, and skiing down the run reminded me of the many days I’ve spent patrolling at the Pass, enjoying fun turns on Waldo. The snow got even better as we cruised down the headwall, and we milked the run clear to the bottom…

At the bottom of Peak 2

From the base of Peak 2, we decided to skin back up under the lift and rejoin our previous skin track. From there, we headed to the top of Peak 2 and then over to EPA for our final turns of the day.

Looking up at Escalator

At the top of EPA, it was time for another quick break to enjoy a cold beer. This day’s choice was a very tasty Hazy IPA from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Hazy IPA by Sierra Nevada

Up top on EPA

Once our beers were gone, we stepped into bindings and dropped into our favorite run on the hill. The snow was a bit on the manky side, and in fact Joe had slid it earlier (he left Peak 2 before we did), but it was still pretty nice.

Matt dropping into RTS

Dan skiing RTS

The lower half of the run on skier’s left was quite nice, and we worked our way down and then out via Lois Lane. At the intersection with Duck, Dan needed another beer, so we took a quick break before heading down Peekaboo for a final ski out..

Matt at the top of Duck

Dan on Peekaboo

We were able to link turns down Peekaboo for quite a ways, with one or two carries. The snow extended down to just above the intersection with Swoosh, and then we finished with a very short ski under the Twilight lift before a final short walk back to the parking lot…

Crossing a short patch on Peekaboo

Matt at the end of the snow

When we reached the base, the mountain looked quite a bit different from the morning, and was definitely taking on a more Spring like look. We loaded our gear into the car, and headed back down to Gold Lake for some well deserved brats and another cold beverage to celebrate the day.

Dan at the base

Grillin’ brats

The brats cooked up quickly, almost faster than we could change out of our boots, and they tasted excellent after a day of turns. The chips and salsa hit the spot too, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day. All things considered, it was another good day in the mountains, with good snow, good company, and good food!

April 10, 2020 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

After a productive day at work that started with an early public meeting, I left the office a little after 1:00pm and headed up to Pass for some dusk patrol turns. The plan was to meet Dan, who was leaving town shortly after me, and search for some fun April turns. With COVID-19 restrictions still in full effect, I pulled into the Waldo Lake pullout and readied my gear.

At the Waldo pullout

From there, it was a short drive up to the Pass, and I was able to begin skinning within a few minutes of parking at the gate. Coverage at the area was still holding up pretty well, and it looked like a few snowmobiles had visited the snow as well. It was warm as I started out, and I was happy when I rounded the corner on KP and was able to find some shade….

The Lodge

Looking up By George

I followed KP up to Good Time, and noticed some ski tracks and sno-mo tracks on the run, so continued on to Eagles. Eagles also had several sno-mo tracks on it, and was quite soft on the skin up. Before too long, I was up top and back on KP, enjoying the views out over Odell Lake…

The view out over Odell Lake

At the top, I called Dan, who was on his way up and had left the car a few minutes earlier. To kill time, I headed over to Peak 2 to check out the conditions. There was over 60 inches at the snow stake, and it looked like the sno-mo’s had hammered the backside as well. I toured back to EPA, and snapped a few pics while waiting for Dan to arrive.

Diamond through an EPA chair

SkyRyze Red from Pelican

A few minutes later, Dan arrived and we enjoyed a few lazy minutes at the top of EPA. Given the social distancing protocols in effect, we took appropriate precautions by masking up and staying 6 feet apart:)

Social distancing atop EPA 🙂

We decided to try a run on the frontside first, and dropped into Success. The snow was rather soft, and after a few turns, we worked our way through the trees over to High Lead. The snow wasn’t a whole lot better there, but the turns were still fun and we skied down to the glades before stopping to switch to skins and head back up….

Turns on Success

Dan approaching the Glades

Back at the top, it was time to crack open our beers, which had been chilling in the snow during the previous run. Sitting at the top of EPA, kicking back a cold one, and admiring the scenery never gets old. Once the beers were finished, it was time to drop in to RTS. As we suspected, it was soft as well, but still skied nicely given the slope angle.

Matt riding RTS

From the looks of things, it had been skied several times during the week, but we still had a blast ripping turns down the slope. Dan set off a decent side wet slide up top, but other than that, we had great turns….

April turns on RTS

Looking back up RTS

At the bottom, we paused for a second to discuss options, and both of us felt like By George would probably ski pretty well. We headed down Amber’s Way and out onto George, and after a couple of turns it was obvious we made a great choice. The snow was really nice corn.

Looking out to the west from the bottom of RTS

Matt at the bottom of George

I figured eighted Dan’s turns all the way down, and we were both stoked on the run at the bottom. We skied down to the lot, made the short walk to the cars, and both agreed that even though the conditions weren’t all-time, it was definitely nice get out and stretch the legs for some after work tuns.

 

March 30, 2020 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol Redux

It was continuing to snow in the mountains, and with the COVID-19 pandemic having everything shut down, it was a good time to head back to the Pass in search of some late season powder turns. Like a few days earlier, I left work a couple of hours early, hoping to score a few runs on the backside before meeting up with Dan who was leaving his job at 4:00 pm. Upon arriving at my parking spot, it was snowing and there was 2-3 inches of fresh snow at the highway elevation…

The Suby at the Pass

I skinned up the familiar route of Timburr Glades and High Lead, and headed straight over to Peak 2 to check it out. The snow stake read 79 inches, up an inch from 5 days prior, but there was easily 8-10 inches of new snow on top of the previous new snow. I would later learn that by Wednesday morning (two days later), the stake would read 102 inches! I was stoked that nobody was on the back side, and dropped in to Northern for what was probably one of my top 5 runs of the season.

Ready to drop in

The decision to bring my Amplid Millisurf was a good one, and I floated on top of the pow, cranking face shot turn after face shot turn to the bottom. The fat skis on the Millisurf kept me floating on the skin track as well, and soon I was back on top ready for another lap. Lap 2 was equally as good as lap one, and I was super thankful to have the whole place to myself. I skinned back up one more time, and debated dropping in again, but needed to head to EPA to meet Dan before it got dark. Before I left, I snapped a pic of my beer of choice for the afternoon, as well as my board looking down from the Peak 2 chair…

Love Potion by Block 15 Brewing

Parting shot from Peak 2

I skinned over and met up with Dan at the top of EPA, and it was snowing, blowing and downright cold. We figured about 20 degrees or so. I had to add my puffy jacket under my shell to keep from freezing, and by the time we finished our beers and were ready to drop in, the daylight was waning pretty hard. We ended up skiing Success (RTS was blown off), and I didn’t snap any pictures since the light was so flat, which I regret. Nevertheless, the turns were sweet, and we ripped Success and By George all the way to the bottom. The skiing was so good, that we decided it was worth skinning back up for one more lap on the lower mountain.

Skinning up by headlamp

We headed back up, and by the time we got to the top it was still snowing hard. The skiing by headlamp on this evening proved to be more difficult than a few days earlier, since in was snowing so hard — kind of like driving with the high beams on during a snow storm. Even so, we managed to have a good time and navigate our way to the base area below. Back at the car, we were both stoked on another sweet powder day at the hill, and thankful for the opportunity to get out and enjoy it! With the gear put away, we dug out the car, and headed down the road. It would be another late night, but well worth it for another fun day at the Pass!