Cutting at the Pass – 10/21 & 27

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. 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!

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!

November 12, 2017 – On-hill refresher

After spending all day Saturday practicing various outdoor emergency care scenarios in town, it was time for the patrol’s annual on-hill refresher at the pass.  This year was a bit different for me than previous years.  Since I’m going to be co-hill chief this year of Patrol 2, I didn’t spend the entire day leading the lift evacuation scenarios, which was cool because I got to spend some time doing rope work and other useful refresher activities.  Nevertheless, lift evac is the primary purpose for having the on-hill refresher, and Patrol 2 had our crack at it around mid-morning.

The first step is having the tower climber, Donny in this case, place the rope over the haul line.  I snapped a few photos of Donny looking small at the top of the Twilight lift with my wide angle lens. Lots of blue sky in the frame….

Donny on Twilight

With ropes placed and ready to go, we set about lowering everyone out and making sure all had a chance to get refreshed.  I snapped a few photos of the patrollers at work during our session….

Flipping the rope over the chair

Coming down

Once the lift was evacuated, the remainder of the day was spent reviewing avalanche, radio and search and rescue protocols.  Even though it was supposed to rain, the weather didn’t disappoint, with mostly sunny skies overhead all day…

View from the lodge steps

By 4:00pm, the day was nearly complete, and after getting all the gear put away, the refresher weekend was complete!  Now it’s just a matter of Mother Nature providing a few feet of needed snow, and the 2017-2018 season will begin!

Willamette Pass Lodge


April 1, 2017 – Willamette Pass, 80’s Day

April fools day at the Pass also happened to be long anticipated 80’s day, and it didn’t disappoint.  After meeting Dan early and making the quick drive up highway 58, we arrived at the patrol room around 7:45.  The great powder snow I’d found a couple days earlier with the family during spring break was gone, replaced with the typical spring mank.  Nevertheless, it was going to be a good day, and we set out to open the mountain.

Dan and I found some good tree skiing after opening for our first couple of runs in the trees between High Lead and Good Time Charlie.  It was soft enough for enjoyable turns, not having froze the night before.  After a few more runs, we took a quick break and checked out the scene at the base area.  I arrived in time for the snowball toss contest, and snapped a few photos of the players in their 80’s gear….

Some of the 80’s Crew

I had an 11:00 bump at EPA, and headed up a few minutes early to get there on time.  The weather, although overcast, was pretty warm, and it was pretty nice hanging out up top.  I snapped a few pics and them made myself comfortable for a few…

Top of EPA

Living the easy life

While lounging in the sled, I kept watching folks spinning laps off of EPA.  One group in particular caught my eye — some folks I’ve seen up at the pass over the years.  Their clothing was spot on for 80’s day…so I snapped a picture of them standing up top with Ed.  Right after that, Kerstin got off the lift, so I snapped a few shots of her too….

Ed and the 80’s crew


When bump was over, I made a quick run down RTS, which was in deceqnt shape.  The shenanigans were still happening at the base when I pulled up for lunch.  DJ Toby was spinning records and the beer garden was open, and people like Quin (below) were hanging out…

Quin at the base

DJ Toby

I headed in to eat some food, and then wandered out to listen to some music for a bit before hitting it hard the rest of the day.

The aid room door

I linked up with Dan for the remainder of the day and we headed out to Peak 2.  We skied a couple runs on Waldo and Junes, and the snow was sticky.  A quick rub-on was helped quite a bit.  Below is a shot of Dan looking into SDN…

Dan contemplating SDN

Matt atop Waldo

We finished the day running laps on Timburr with Peter, as well as a couple runs down RTS.  Timburr had been groomed a few days earlier, and the terrain park with the modest jumps provided some entertainment for me on the board.

Making turns on Where’s Waldo

Dan skiing above Odell Lake

The day ended with a fun sweep down the lower mountain, and then beers in the patrol room after the evening meeting.  It must be close to the end of the year, because everyone was enjoying the apres ski for sure, with the usual bs and talk about spring mountaineering objectives still to come.  One thing is for sure, it’s been a great year so far, but it’s not over yet!

February 25, 2017 – P1 Fun

It was a couple days before our annual hut trip to Tam McArthur Rim, and the conditions at the Pass were as good as they had been all winter.  I was up for a Patrol 1 day, having switched with another patroller so I could spend Sunday packing for the huts.  After carpooling with Brian and Shannon to the Pass, we arrived at the patrol room greeted by fresh groomers and a healthy base.  The morning meeting went quickly, and soon we were out in the sun opening the mountain.  Brian found some gnar on the backside and decided to drop in while Shannon snapped pictures…

Brian going big

We spent the remainder of the morning enjoying some of the powder stashes left on Peak 2 as well as the Big 4 on the frontside before heading in for an early lunch.  John was grilling burgers and brats, which hit the spot after a morning of fun turns.

John grilling — photo by Brian

After lunch, we spent the remainder of the day before bump and sweep enjoying the cold snow on the backside.  Brian grabbed my phone and snapped a few photos of me surfing some of our favorites spots riders left of Where’s Waldo run…

Afternoon pow at the Pass

Untracked Willamette Pass snow

All in all, it was an excellent day and a great primer for the upcoming hut trip to Tam McArthur Rim!