January 12, 2019 – Sun and Sleds at the Pass

The sun was out and the mountain was bathed in early morning light, and I knew it would be a good day as Dan and I pulled into the parking lot and unloaded our gear at the patrol room. After donning 0ur gear, we had a quick morning meeting and set out to open the mountain. The ride up EPA went quickly, and when we arrived at the top the sun was shining brightly and the east wind was brisk. Before opening any runs, I snapped a couple of photos, including the shots below….

Morning view over Odell Lake

Rescue sleds in the morning sun

I dropped in on RTS, and though it was a bit icy up top, most of the run was in pretty good shape. A few runs later, it was time for some sled work with the sled candidates, and I agreed to work with Jon, a fellow snowboarder, on Peak 2. After a couple of runs down Where’s Waldo, Jon was pretty comfortable in the handles, so we worked over to Escalator for a few runs before heading in for lunch.

Jon bringing the sled up the Peak 2 lift

Lunch was a welcome break, and served up courtesy of the social committee, but we were back out on the hill by 1:00pm  to do a little more sled work. In between runs, a couple of photo opportunities presented themselves, and I was stoked to test out my new fisheye lens…

Patrol working hard

Kyron at the top of Peak 2

An hour or so before sweep, I was stoked to ride alongside Hannah while she took a sled out for the first time in a couple of years after a nasty leg injury. Hannah was solid in the handles – and picked up right where she left off.

Hannah on Waldo

Running sleds on Waldo with Mt Ray in the background

Given the amount of effort we’d put in training for the day, Hannah and I bailed on Peak 2 sweep and skied a couple of runs on High Lead and Eagle’s to get some late afternoon corn before it was gone. We were able to make two runs and still catch the last chair at the bottom of EPA before 4:00.

Hannah skiing Eagles

We unloaded at the top of EPA and found a gaggle of patrollers preparing for sweep, so I orchestrated a quick photo with the fisheye lens. The sun was just getting ready to set over Diamond Peak as the shutter released…

P2 before sweep

At the base after closing lower mountain

I swept RTS and then down George, and then it was time for the evening meeting, followed by beers courtesy of Oakshire. Sitting back and enjoying the bs with fellow patrollers, I was stoked on another great day at the Pass.

12/22/18 – All mountain opening weekend at the Pass

The whole mountain was open for the first time in two seasons, with the exception of one meager weekend last February, and I was looking forward to a great day of turns and my first day as hill chief on Patrol 2. I met up with Craig and Ed in Pleasant Hill, and we made the drive up Highway 58 to the Pass, arriving a bit before 7:30 am. I got my gear on quickly, grabbed a radio, and headed out to test fire a few shots with my new Canon 8-15 mm Fisheye lens. I was pretty stoked on the lens, and snapped a few photos around the base area, including the shot below in the early morning light…

Early morning at the Pass

After shooting a few pics and leading the morning meeting, we headed out to open the mountain. The snow conditions were fast with a few inches of fresh snow over the previous day’s groomers. I opened RTS, and was stoked to make turns down the run after all the work we’d put in earlier in the year cutting. It skied great, and the little tree island we left was clearly visible.

Kory, Joe, Laurie & Andy atop Peak 2

Around 10:00 am, several of us met up on Peak 2 for sled checkoffs. I ended up in the handles on the first run of the day with Joe loaded in the sled, and headed down June’s Run with Todd on the tail rope. Halfway down the run we switched positions and then ran the sled down to the bottom of Peak 2. We kept running laps on the backside with the sleds, and I pulled out my camera and snapped a few photos along the way…

Jody and Todd hauling Kerstin down Waldo

Telephoto shot of Jodie in action

Around noon, I headed in for a quick lunch, supplied by the social committee. EPA was having some technical difficulties, but I chanced it after lunch and made another trip down RTS, and it was just as good as in the morning. I worked my way back over to Peak 2, and we continued sled training into the early afternoon.

Kory and Ed atop EPA with the Fisheye

Given that none of the patrol had run sleds in a couple of year’s, it was nice to knock the rust off and get folks back in the handles again. I snapped a few photos of the afternoon action, including the shots below….

More sled training at the top of June’s

Craig working down June’s Run

Before long 3:30 pm rolled around, and it was time to sweep the backside, something I’d been looking forward to for the past two years. The quiet of sweep after everyone else has left for the day is quite surreal.

Riding the chair after sweep

Patrol heading up after sweep

Once Peak 2 sweep was complete, it was time for upper mountain sweep. I stayed up top with Jodie while the rest of the patrol swept runs, and once everything was clear, we vacated via RTS. Twilight sweep was next, and then it was time for a quick evening meeting followed by beers from Oakshire and chips and salsa. Hanging out with the rest of the patrol, after signing duty cards and clearing the area with management, I was pretty stoked the season was now in full swing, and looking forward to more patrol days to come!

December 8, 2018 – Opening day at the Pass

The previous week’s storm and subsequent cold weather was enough to get the Pass open for the 2018-2019 season, and the stoke was high among the patrol after a non-existent season the winter before. Even though it was only the lower mountain that would be opening, I was pretty stoked to be able to get in some lift-served turns. I made plans to head up with Dan on Saturday and patrol with P1, given a conflict with my regularly scheduled P2 day on Sunday. We arrived in the parking lot to a base of about 12 inches, and set about getting ready for the day.

Dan, Quin & Jody outside the patrol room

After the morning meeting, we headed out to spin a few laps on the lift. My first few runs on Timbur Glades were pretty nice — the snow was dry powder and the run only had a few tracks on it. A little later, Dan and I decided it was worth it to hike over to High Lead glades and ski that run, too. I snapped a few photos on the way with my new Canon 5D Mark V, including the shots below…

Dan at the top of By George

Hiking out to High Lead Glades

After our runs, we headed in for some lunch, courtesy of the social committee.The brats and vege chili hit the spot, and I devoured it quickly. When lunch was over, Dan headed out with skins to check out the conditions on Peak 2, while I was tasked with some training for the make-up refresher. A few patrollers who weren’t able to make the regular refresher, along with the mountain hosts, needed to do chairlift evac, so we spent some time on EPA practicing skills.

Evac practice on EPA

Around 3:00 pm or so, our work was complete, and I made a couple of final runs before it was time for sweep. Brian and I hiked over to the upper portion of Lower Timbur Glades and found some decent conditions. Sweep commenced at 4:00 pm, and we were treated to a spectacular view of the sun setting into the fog…

Brian on Timbur Glades

Twilight Closing

After sweep, we gathered in the patrol room for a quick evening debrief, and then it was time for some beers courtesy of Oakshire. Hanging out in the patrol room catching up on the bs at the start of the season is one of the things I look forward to most about patrolling. Hopefully there’s many more days ahead, with a long and powder filled season!

Cutting at the Pass – 10/21, 27 & 11/18

October 2018 was quite different from October 2017, so with no new snow to ski and warm temperatures dominating, Dan, Joe and I were looking for some exercise. We decided to take advantage of the weather window to do some cutting at the Pass in the hopes that it would pay dividends later in the winter. Prior to heading up on the 21st, I checked in with management to make sure they were ok with us doing some work in the area, and they gave us the green light. The following morning, we headed up, with the goal of doing some work on RTS.

Stopping for a quick break on the drive up

Dan’s truck made short work of the rough road, and we soon had ‘er parked most of the way up Amber’s Way. Heading out to cut with saw and pack almost felt like we were going out for a ski, but not quite…

Ready for a day of work

As we rounded the corner we got a good look at the run and what we’d be in for. The trees were thick, especially in the middle part of the run.

RTS before our work

The morning was spent working on the lower part of the run cutting shorter trees that had been lopped off the previous year about two feet from the ground.  After running through a few tanks of gas and oil, we started gaining ground on skiers left and began working up the run.

Joe working on some smaller trees

My Stihl on RTS

Wallowing around the steep slope with a chainsaw in one hand and pack in the other was somewhat challenging. The three of us cut until about 3:00 pm, and then worked our way back down to the truck…

Joe cutting near our high point for day 1

Matt laying waste on RTS

I snapped a few photos from the bottom of RTS, including the one below that shows our progress for the day. We made it about halfway up the run, as well as about halfway out.

RTS after day 1

With the work over for the day, it was time to relax and enjoy a cold beer and some fresh garden salsa. Sitting in the 65 degree sunshine was a start contrast to the cold deep powder we were enjoying a year earlier (almost to the day) a few miles from our present location.

The three essentials — saw, salsa and beer

Dan and Joe after a hard day’s work

With the day’s work done, we decided to take a drive around the area to see how it was looking — we’d heard that management had done quite a bit of work to the runs. As we headed up the haul road and got a look at the frontside runs, we were stoked. Timburr, High Lead, Charlie’s and Eagles were all baby butt smooth, with not a tree in sight. From the looks of it, they would be skiable much earlier than in year’s past. We eventually worked our way up to Peak 2 for a view, and were surprised and happy at the sight of new chairs at the top. The pic below was taken at Peak 2, with some of the new chairs on the lift and the rest on the ground. 

Peak 2

Satisfied with our work for the day, we left the area, but made plans to come up the next weekend to try and finish cutting a swath all the way to the top of RTS. After posting a picture on Instagram, Liam was interested in helping us out, and John was also game, so we made plans to head up on Saturday the 26th with a crew of five for a second day of cutting. Like the previous weekend, we drove up towards the top of Amber’s Way and set out to work. The weather was a bit cooler, and it had rained the day before, so the cutting conditions were definitely a bit on the wet side.

Dan way up on RTS

With five people, we made more progress than we were hoping for. It didn’t take long and we cut our way to the top of the run, and even made some good progress on skier’s right.

Liam cutting over some steep boulders

After running through about 5 tanks of gas, it was time to call it quits, and we trudged down the run which was now littered with cut trees. Going down was harder than going up, but we were all pretty stoked on how the run looked when we got to the bottom…

RTS after day 2

Like the previous week, we enjoyed some more fresh salsa and a couple of beers, before heading home for the day. Our third and final day of cutting occurred on November 18th, and was a partial day after working the patrol room cleanup. Once our patrol obligations were done, Dan, John, Jeff Kerr and I headed out for a couple hours of cutting.

John cutting on a nice November afternoon

The weather was sunny and beautiful, and by the time we were done, we estimated that only 15-20% of the run remained to be cut. Satisfied with our work on RTS and with how well the Pass was looking overall, we all agreed that all we needed now was a couple feet of fresh!

Dan examining a tree before cutting on 11/18


November 18, 2017 – Patrol Room Cleanup

The weather window for Saturday was lining up nicely with a scheduled work day for the patrol room cleanup, and Dan and I made plans to get to the Pass early to try to take advantage a couple of runs before the work started.  I got to Dan’s around 5:15 am, and we hit the road quickly.  By 6:45 am, we were gearing up at the base and enjoying a nice sunrise.  It was cold – around 22 degrees, and looked like 8-10 inches of cold, fresh snow had fallen.  Conditions were definitely going to be great.

Early morning at the Pass

Looking down from By George

The area had laid down a couple of tracks with the machine, which made for easy skinning not having to break trail.  Soon, we worked our way off of KP and onto Eagle’s.  At the top, we made the decision to ski Eagle’s before heading back up for a second lap from the top…the snow was just too good to pass up.

Dan at the top of Eagle’s

Coverage was excellent, and Dan grabbed the camera and headed down.  After he set up, I ripped some primo turns down the gut of run, exploiting the cold smoke.  Later, I returned the favor for Dan on the lower half of the run…

Ripping Eagle’s

Turns above Odell

After checking our watches and confirming we had time for another lap before needing to be down to the base, we skinned back up Eagles and then to the top of EPA.  The temps were staying cold, and the views were excellent as usual.

Atop Eagle Peak

We stashed a couple of beers in the snow in anticipation of returning in the afternoon, strapped in, and dropped into Success.  The coverage was great, and we ripped the steep slope all the way to the bottom.  The ski out via George down to the Patrol room was awesome as well…..nice, fast powder all the way.

Turns on upper Success

We skied right to the patrol room door, and met the rest of the small crew that was up for the day to help with the annual patrol room cleanup.  The rest of the morning consisted of checking out all the lift evacuation ropes, organizing the avy gear, prepping the rescue toboggans, making sure the radios were functioning properly, and a host of other patrol prep related activities.  Around 12:00 pm, we broke for lunch, and with the work mostly done, Dan, Todd and I geared up to head out for the afternoon.

The Cleanup Crew

An hour or so later, we arrived at the top of Peak 2.  There was about 42 inches of snow at the snow stake, and we agreed to ski a line on the left-hand side of Northern.  The snow on the northerly aspects was still light and fluffy, and the turns were great.

Todd skiing Northern

Dan getting some fresh pow

Halfway down the run, we worked our way through a choke point full of tall scrub trees, and continued on.  Everyone agreed on the skin up that Northern, and many other runs, are long overdue for a cutting party.

Todd skiing lower Northern

We were thinking of heading back to ski out the front and to the car, but Todd wanted to get one more run in, so we headed over to Destiny for one more on the backside.  Dan snapped photos of the action…

Destiny pow

Fresh tracks on Destiny

At the bottom, we donned skins and headed up Escalator one more time, with Todd nursing an injury (which turned out to be a broken rib) from a fall on the previous run.  We reached the top of EPA a few minutes later, dug out the beers we’d stashed earlier in the day, and enjoyed the views and a couple of cold ones.

The day’s offerings

Dan & Todd enjoying a cold one

Once the beers were gone, it was time to ski.  We’d been wanting to ski RTS all day long, and figured it would probably go given the snow conditions.  So, we strapped in and eased over the edge.  It looked thin, but doable, so we sent it…

First run down RTS

The snow was excellent.  There were quite a few obstacles, including rocks, trees, stumps, etc., but it was a damn nice run.  I even sent a small rock drop that is normally under several feet of snow.  At the bottom, I snapped a few pics of the guys enjoying the run…

Dan on lower RTS

Looking up RTS

We skied out Amber’s Way, and popped out on Rough Cut below.  Rough Cut looked excellent, so we continued down.  The two skiers went first, and I followed with the camera…

Todd taking a break halfway down

Skiing lower Rough Cut

We milked turns all the way back down to the car, and were pretty stoked on a 5000 foot day of powder skiing with a half day of patrol work thrown in.  All that’s needed now is a few more good storms, and it’ll be game on for the season!