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May 17, 2017 – Willamette Pass Redux

A few days after some of the best May powder of our lives, Dan and I were hoping for a repeat.  The forecast looked decent, so we decided to take a day off mid-week with the intention of heading to Bachelor and riding lifts.  We threw the skins in just in case, and by the time we got to the Pass around 7:15 we decided it wasn’t worth fighting the crowds and it could be just as good at the Pass.

Gold Lake Shelter

We started skinning around 7:30, and it was clear it had been windy in the past couple of days since we were last there.  And, for the first time since November, the snow base was finally starting to diminish on the southside, with a few trees and bushes starting to poke through on George as we skinned up.

Looking up ByGeorge

The haul road

Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much fresh snow as we’d hoped for, with most of it blowing away in the heavy winds.  But by the time we reached the top of Peak 2, the backside looked inviting…

Peak 2 Chair

Dan dropped into Northern, and although it wasn’t deep, it still provided for some fun turns, with about three to four inches over a firm crust…

Dan skiing Northern

Since the conditions were marginal, we elected to tour out of the area a bit and see if we could find better snow.  That proved to be more difficult then it should have been however, as the wind had really done a number on slopes facing all directions with the only unaffected areas on the flats…

Tait’s Loop Trail

We toured out towards Rosary Lakes, making a few turns along the way and found a nice spot with a view to break for lunch.  Looking out across the lake, it still felt like mid-winter, even though the calendar said it was mid-May…

Rosary Lake

Lunch break above Rosary

With our urge to tour satisfied, we skinned back to the area and back up to Peak 2 for a few more laps on the backside.  This time Dan grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots of me cruising down Northern before we hung a left and cruised over to Down Under….

May turns on Northern

Skiing Down Under

We skied down below Down Under and onto Junes nearly to the Peak 2 lift.  The snow was pretty nice, and appeared to be getting better as the temps warmed in the afternoon. Rather than skin back over and out to Escalator, we put a new skin track in up Junes.

The skintrack out…

Of course, we couldn’t put a track in and then not use it, so we made one more run down through the trees between Northern and Junes, and then out onto the run.  It was pretty nice….

Turns down June’s

Back at the top, both of us were getting tired after several thousand feet of vertical, so we skinned over to the top of EPA for a finishing run down RTS.  RTS skied very nicely, and was the cap to a great day.  We skied Swoosh out all the way to the lodge — not bad for mid-May at the pass!

Dan skiing Swoosh

Willamette Pass Lodge

Back at the car, we enjoyed a cold beer while drying out our gear.  And then it was time for something I’d been looking forward to all day — heading into Oakridge for a burger and beer at the Brewer’s Union.  As it turns out, this was my last trip to the Pass for the 16/17 season, and I can say without hesitation that it has been one of the best in recent memory!  Here’s to an equally good season for 17/18!

At the car


May 13, 2017 – May Powder at the Pass

The weather forecast looked promising, and with luck would be a repeat of a magic day a few weeks earlier in late April.  A storm front was moving through the Oregon cascades, and it looked to be cooling down mid-day with Saturday evening being a potential game winner.  The only question was whether or not conditions would actually develop. Dan and I had made plans to leave mid-day, so as to get a few things done around the house in the morning.  I met him at his place around noon, and we loaded gear quickly and headed up the highway.  As we did a few weeks earlier, we pulled off at the Gold Lake Shelter to gear up.  Conditions looked to be shaping up nicely….

At the snowpark

Gold Lake Shelter

With skins on and packs ready, we made the short drive up to the Pass, where we were greeted by a few inches of fresh snow.  We wasted little time, and started skinning under the lifts.

Highway 58 at the Pass

As we worked our way up to the top of the Pass, it became apparent that a group of snowmobilers had made there presence known.  When we crested the top and got a look towards Peak 2, all the visible runs had been thrashed.  Irked, we decided to skin over to Peak 2 to see if anything was left, with a backup plan of skiing out of the area in steep terrain not accessible to the sleds.  To our surprise, they laid a track down Northern, so we were in business…

Dan dropping into Northern

Matt getting some action

I dropped in first, and the snow was really good.  Dan dropped next, and I snapped a few photos of him slashing through the May pow.  We made turns down to the bottom of Escalator, which had several snowmo tracks, and put in a skin track back to the top.  With one run in the books, we decided to crack a Good Life at the top of Peak 2…

Skinning up Boundary

The Good Life

For our second lap, we elected to drop in skiers left of Northern in the steep trees, which is one of my favorite spots in the area.  The conditions were equal to or better than our first run, with about 12 inches of fresh snow.

Matt dropping in

Dan skiing down through the trees

We utilized our skin track back up Escalator, as the wind picked up a bit and the temps grew colder.  The snow was so good in fact that we would utilize the skin track another three times, for a total of five laps on Northern.

Skinning up Escalator

Cold smoke in May

As the hour neared 7:00, we dropped in for what would be our final lap of the afternoon on Peak 2.  Dan had the camera, and snapped a few pics of me riding, including the shot below which is by far my favorite May powder shot ever…

May powder!

With five laps on Peak 2 in the books, we skinned over to the top of EPA for an exit run on RTS.  Prior to departure, we iced down a cold beer in the fresh snow and snapped a summit selfie for John before strapping in.

Cold beer atop of EPA

Summit selfie

RTS skied great, perhaps as good as it had all season.  The light was getting quite flat as it was about 8:30, but I was still able to snap a few photos of Dan enjoying the goods….

RTS Powder

After skiing RTS, we headed down with huge grins via Rough Cut, enjoying sweet fresh May pow turns right down to the parking lot.  Pulling out onto the highway, both Dan and I agreed this trip was special, and one that would not likely ever be forgotten!  May powder is rare, but May powder at the Pass is even rarer!