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!

Level 1 Avy Class, WPSP

It was hard to believe the first week of February was here, but it was, and it was time for level 1 avalanche class at Willamette Pass.  This year’s class had 6 students, and we had several instructors to cover the large quantity of material required by NSP to meet the 32 hour requirement.  With the classroom sessions already in the books, our group met on Saturday the 4th at 8:00 and headed to the top of EPA shortly thereafter to begin fieldwork with beacon practice.  We staged off of Boundary, and I snapped a few photos of the action, including patrol heading by us to open Peak 2…

Patrol heading back to open Peak 2

Students learning to follow flux lines

After a couple hours of beacon work, including small group rescue, we skied down Boundary to the back of Lighthouse Knob for some stability tests.  Students dug pits and performed shovel shear, compression and extended column tests.  We even threw a Rutschblock test in for good measure.  The tests yielded some interesting information.  With about 6 inches of snow on top of a crust layer, we found failures on the compression tests after 6-8 taps.  Extended column tests failed, but didn’t propagate…

Stability testing

After the snowpit tests, the students did some more beacon work and I slipped away for a few runs in the fresh snow during lunch.  The turns on Peak 2 were excellent.  Below is a shot of Laurie on Boundary after we finished the stability tests…

Laurie on Boundary

After lunch, it was time for spot and formal probing.  Laurie, Matthew and Joe had setup a nice simulated avalanche, and the students spent some time tromping around the slide, probing clues and likely catchment areas.  After they’d exhausted spot probing, it was time for an organized probe line….

Marking clues

Organized probe line work

Once the probe work was done, we finished the day off on the frontside doing small group rescue.  Working our way down Eagle’s Flight, the students alternated hiding beacons, then finding them and digging them up.  Looking out from Eagle’s, I noticed Odell Lake was starting to ice up, something I haven’t seen in the last several years…

Looking out to Odell Lake

Back down at the aid room, it was time for a well deserved beer.  Dan and I headed out around 5:30 and made our way to the cabin.  There was over 3 feet of snow on the cabin roof, and the weight of snow on the roof made it difficult to close the cabin door:)  After starting a fire and getting our gear drying, we made the short drive down 58 to Manley’s for dinner.  A cheeseburger and margarita hit the spot, and then it was time to head back to the cabin for the evening.  The next morning came quickly, and we took the class out to do an actual avy route on Peak 2.  Here’s a shot of the students and instructors before dropping into Dragon’s…

The class and instructors

After showing the students the ropes (literally) and ski cutting some of the sketchier slopes on belay, we skied the meadow and broke out into small group for touring, which included route selection, stability testing, beacon searching, etc.  I was tasked with getting the final scenario ready, so I hit up a few runs out of bounds with Dan before getting to my duties.  Around 10:30, we geared up to get the scenario ready.  Here’s a shot of Dan and Matthew, who helped set up the scenario, at the top of EPA…

Dan & Matthew atop EPA

Setting up the “scenario” includes trampling up some of the best snow on SDN, about 70 yards long and 25 yards wide.  Trying to simulate an actual avalanche, we stomped out a crown, flanks, and a big toe at the bottom.  Then we put out several “victims” including two deep burial beacons, and three other buried carpeted boards in various places in the slide to be found by either spot probing or probe line.  Several clues complete the scenario.  Around 1:00, we met the class at the top of Peak 2 and it was game time.  Laurie led the scenario, and an hour later, the class had found all the victims using the skills gained over the weekend.

The final scenario

We were done by 2:45, including debrief, and it was time to finish the weekend off with some turns down through some of the best tree runs in Oregon.  Brian joined me, and we made 4 or 5 laps in the soft snow of SDN.  Each run was excellent, and I snapped a few photos of Brian in action….

Brian ripping the trees

Last run

Our last run right before sweep was the best of the day, and a perfect way to cap off a great weekend of training and riding.  I’m already looking forward to more pow turns at the Pass!


December 4, 2016 – Willamette Pass Opener

It was only lower mountain, but the Pass was open for what would be one of the earliest opening days in several years.  I was on duty for patrol, and was excited to head out for the first weekend of what is anticipated to be a great season.  Pulling into the parking lot, the mountain looked good.  The weather wasn’t so hot in the early morning, with wet snowflakes falling, but it was supposed to get cold and snow a bunch during the day.

Patrol getting ready to head out

It was good to see the aid room full of familiar faces as everyone was gearing up for the day, and to catch up with old friends.  After a quick morning meeting, we set out towards the Twilight lift to open the mountain.

Patrol 2

The skiing in the morning was so-so, and after a few runs a couple of us told the hill chief we were going to skin up to the top to check out the snow conditions as well as the runs.  So I grabbed the split and headed out from the top of Twilight, breaking trail in about a foot of fresh snow.  As we worked our way to the top, the weather turned cold as predicted, and it started snowing heavily.  We toured over to the top of Peak 2 to check conditions out, and found plenty of snow at the snowstake…

Peak 2 Snowstake

After checking out Peak 2, we skied over to the top of Eagle Peak before dropping in for our first lap.  John snapped the below picture of me a few moments before we ripped a super sweet run down High Lead…

Standing atop Eagle Peak

The snow had definitely turned the corner, and we were stoking when we ran into Dan and Joe at the bottom of High Lead.  Since it was so damn nice, it was definitely worth hiking back up for another lap.  On run number two we headed down Timburr and I caught the below pic of Dan enjoying the pow…

Dan on Timburr

With two laps in the bag, John and I headed back down to the aid room to grab some lunch.  Refueled, I headed back out for a bit more patrolling before heading back up for a bit more fun with Joe.  The cool thing about being on the upper mountain with only the lower mountain open was that I could easily respond if needed to any incidents down below, but could take advantage of the untracked snow above.  A short time after I started, I was up top again and hooked up with Joe for a run down Eagle’s.  Joe grabbed my camera and snapped a few pics of me heading down in the blower snow…

Riding Eagle’s

Blower snow in early December

I couldn’t believe how good the snow was, and quickly converted back to ski mode to skin back up to get one more lap before sweep.  Back at the top, I chose to make a run down Success, which was probably one of my best runs of 2016.  Every turn produced a huge face shot, and a whiteroom blast that seemed to last forever.  What started out as a wet, heavy day had definitely turned into cold blower.

Joe on the skintrack up

I made it back in time to help out with sweep, and the first day of the 2016 ski patrol season was in the books.  After the evening meeting, it was time for a well deserved beer and BS session, and it was a pleasure to just hang out in the patrol room.  Hopes were definitely high for the new season, and I can’t wait to get back out for some more great powder turns this December.