February 25-27, 2019 – House Ski

An unusual winter storm rolled through the southern Willamette Valley at the end of February, and stalled over the Eugene area for a couple of days. I’d spent the weekend enjoying a couple days of pretty epic conditions at the Pass, and was ready for work on Monday when my family and I woke to 13 inches of snow in the driveway. A few hours later it was 16 inches deep! Needless to say, I didn’t make it into work, but enjoyed getting out and playing in the white stuff with my wife and kids.

Skinning down the road to the neighbors

We suited up and decided to sled and skin down the road to the neighbors to let the kids play in the snow, while the adults enjoyed some warm coffee in the house (well, the rest of the adults – I was outside helping the kids build the biggest snowman ever). The remainder of the day was spent shoveling in the driveway and various other spots around the house. The following evening, another 6 inches of snow fell, for a combined total of 22 inches in two and a half days – pretty unheard of for these parts. Somehow we managed to not lose power, and with this much snow on the property we all agreed it was time to go skiing.

The kids with sleds

The kids brought the sleds out to the driveway and made several runs down our hill, packing in a run quite nicely. I busted out the shovel and spent 30 minutes or so building a small kicker, which brought back memories from my earliest days riding with my buddy Andrew at Mary’s Peak and Willamette Pass. Once the jump was ready, I hit it a couple of times and then the kids decided they wanted to try it too…

Snowboarding at the house

Shaun wanted to go first, and was super excited to get his skis on. The track was kind of narrow, but he did great. Carson followed, and they both skied off it several times…

Shaun skiing off the “house” kicker

Carson getting in on the action

I couldn’t resist hitting it a few more times either, and Julie was good enough to keep snapping some photos of me. By the time we were done, everyone was tired, but stoked to be able to ski on our own piece of dirt. Snowstorms  this deep are pretty rare in the Willamette Valley, and only come around every 10-20 years or so. My hope is that the kids remember this one for years to come…..I know I will. There’s just something special about being able to take your board or skis off the rack in the garage, step into your bindings, and drop in. Until next time…

Parting shot from the “house” kicker



February 14, 2019 – Willamette Pass

I wanted to get some February turns in outside of ski patrol and Dan was game to take a half day off of work to head to the Pass for a little out-of-area play. The weather was looking iffy after a few days of decent snow, but we decided to head up anyway to see what we could find. When we arrived around 1:00, we were happy to see it was “snowing” although the flakes were pretty wet.

The Pass

We donned our gear in the patrol room and chatted a bit with Laurie and Kip, who confirmed the snow was pretty sticky. After a quick bite of lunch, we headed out to catch the lift, and made a quick run down Peak 2 before heading out to the sidecountry. The snow on Peak 2 was decent, and soon we found ourselves on the skin track. It didn’t take long and soon we were standing at the top of our first objective of the afternoon.

Matt at the Pass

Dan getting ready to drop in

Dan wanted to dig a quick pit to check out the conditions, so we did that and didn’t really find anything too interesting in the snowpack. With our curiosity satisfied, it was time to step into the bindings and make a few turns. The sun came out as we descended, and I snapped a few photos of Dan skiing….

Dan getting some February turns

Taking a brief rest on the descent

The snow actually skied really well, compliments of the steep slope we had chosen. Lower down, we eventually worked our way back to the resort boundary and down to the bottom of the lift. The snow became super sticky at the base, to the point of barely being able to slide, so we went in for a quick hot wax before heading back out. With a freshly waxed base, it was time to hit the lift again and make another run.  Within minutes, we were on the skin track again, and soon dropped in for lap number two. At the bottom, it was time to enjoy a well deserved cold beverage…

Cumulus IPA from Coldfire Brewing

The snow was holding well, so we skinned back up for another lap, with the hope of maybe hitting the Peak 2 lift before it closed at 3:30. This time on the descent, Dan grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos of me ripping down the slope…

Matt slashing a heelside turn at the Pass

In the whiteroom

Our second run was pretty sweet. At the bottom, we drank the rest of our beers we left from the previous run, then skinned up and out. Looking at our watches confirmed we wouldn’t make the final chair at Peak 2, but another run was still in the cards. We phoned Mindy, the P4 Hill Chief, to let her know we’d be down late and not to worry, then set out for one more run.

On the skintrack

Before we dropped in for our last run, the skies cleared just as the sun was setting above the clouds. I snapped the below shot of Dan before we headed down…

The sun above the cloud bank at Willamette Pass

Our final run down through the trees was really nice, as the snow was starting to sublimate as the temps cooled down. We worked our way back to the ski area, and headed down the empty runs towards the base. Skiing in a ski area after it’s closed is always a great treat. At the base, we headed back into the warmth of the patrol room, and found a couple of beers courtesy of P4 waiting for us. As we enjoyed our brews and snacked on some chips and salsa, both Dan and I agreed that taking the afternoon off from work was the right call!

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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.

January 6, 2019 – Willamette Pass

Sunday’s forecast looked to be promising earlier in the week, but that changed on Saturday, and neither Dan or I had real high expectations of a great day. Since we’d already made plans to head to the Pass, we figured it was worth the short drive up highway 58 to see how the day would develop. The snow phone was reporting 5 inches overnight, which was better than the snotels, so the morning was filled with cautious optimism. It was snowing hard when we arrived at the area, and continued to snow all morning long.

Dan heading out to a local stash

We ended up catching the first chair with Jensen and a couple other locals, as well as Joe who we met up with in the patrol room. The turns were pretty sweet, with about 8-10 inches of fresh on both the upper and lower mountain. We continued to pound out runs on both the front and backsides of the hill until about 11:30, then headed down for a quick lunch and to grab the skins for a little sidecountry action.

Turns outside the ski area boundary

Joe had to leave a little earlier that we did, so he stayed at the Pass, and Dan and I headed out on skins to check out one of our favorite local spots. Switching over to skins is always a good feeling after riding the lifts for a few hours, and the snow was light and deep underfoot — around 16-18 inches deep. A short time later, we were in position to drop in. After making a couple of ski cuts, it was time to open in up for some untracked powder turns…

Dan ripping the pow

Matt about to enter the whiteroom

The powder was some of the best in recent memory, and we both were stoked at the bottom of the run. It didn’t take long to change over to skins and head back up to do it all again…

Dan on the uptrack

Skinning outside the area during a snowstorm is always so quiet and serene. Less than a mile away hundreds of skiers are ripping it up and the lifts are noisily spinning, while outside the area the pace is calm, steady and quiet. We reached the top in short order, and enjoyed a quick break to drink a beer and transition before dropping in for more turns.

Matt back up top

Beverage of choice for the day

Our second line was as good as the first, and faceshots were had all the way down. We ended up making a third lap before it was time to head back to the car, and it continued puking on us all afternoon. By the time we worked our way back to the area, there was 20 inches of fresh snow on the ground.

More early January pow turns

Parting shot

We had enough time left to make a couple more runs in the area before the lifts shut down for good, and both of our legs were pretty burned by the end of the day. Sitting in the car in the parking lot, munching on chips and salsa, it continued to snow heavily. Neither of us could believe how good the day turned out to be, and it just goes to show, you never know what it’ll be like unless you go!