May 3, 2020 – Willamette Pass

The days on the calendar have been flying by, and it seems time is moving even more quickly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first weekend of May brought with it the promise of some fresh snow in the mountains, so Dan and I made plans to head to the Pass in search of some soft turns. We met at Dan’s early in the morning, and drove the Tesla up 58, stopping off at the Gold Lake Snopark to gear up before hitting the Pass.

Gold Lake Warming Shelter

Dan ready to head out

There was a couple inches of fresh snow that had the mountain blanketed in white, and it was nice to be able to skin right from the parking lot. We followed Joe’s skin track at the base (we’d planned on meeting Joe on the hill), and worked our way up KP. The skinning was nice on the cool morning, but the sun was beating down as we worked our way up. Given the lack of snow on Eagles, we continued on KP and up Lower Rosary to Peak 2.

A little fresh at the Pass

Joe had a nice track down Northern, but there were plenty of turns left so I dropped in on the soft snow. It was pretty good on skier’s right in the shade, so I set up to shoot a few shots of Dan as he descended….

May turns on Northern

Fresh May snow

We skied the soft snow to the bottom and found Joe, who’d just completed a run on Destiny. It looked good, so we headed up the skin track on Escalator for some more turns. Destiny looked to have the right aspect, so we did a quick lap there, and Dan snapped photos with my camera….

Smooth snow on Destiny

May turns at the Pass

After tracking up Destiny, we skinned back up to the top of Peak 2 with our sights set on making a run on Waldo. A quick break was in order, and then we dropped into Waldo, which turned out to have the best snow of the day due to it’s westerly aspect.

Dropping into Waldo

Turns on Waldo

The snow was super smooth, and skiing down the run reminded me of the many days I’ve spent patrolling at the Pass, enjoying fun turns on Waldo. The snow got even better as we cruised down the headwall, and we milked the run clear to the bottom…

At the bottom of Peak 2

From the base of Peak 2, we decided to skin back up under the lift and rejoin our previous skin track. From there, we headed to the top of Peak 2 and then over to EPA for our final turns of the day.

Looking up at Escalator

At the top of EPA, it was time for another quick break to enjoy a cold beer. This day’s choice was a very tasty Hazy IPA from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Hazy IPA by Sierra Nevada

Up top on EPA

Once our beers were gone, we stepped into bindings and dropped into our favorite run on the hill. The snow was a bit on the manky side, and in fact Joe had slid it earlier (he left Peak 2 before we did), but it was still pretty nice.

Matt dropping into RTS

Dan skiing RTS

The lower half of the run on skier’s left was quite nice, and we worked our way down and then out via Lois Lane. At the intersection with Duck, Dan needed another beer, so we took a quick break before heading down Peekaboo for a final ski out..

Matt at the top of Duck

Dan on Peekaboo

We were able to link turns down Peekaboo for quite a ways, with one or two carries. The snow extended down to just above the intersection with Swoosh, and then we finished with a very short ski under the Twilight lift before a final short walk back to the parking lot…

Crossing a short patch on Peekaboo

Matt at the end of the snow

When we reached the base, the mountain looked quite a bit different from the morning, and was definitely taking on a more Spring like look. We loaded our gear into the car, and headed back down to Gold Lake for some well deserved brats and another cold beverage to celebrate the day.

Dan at the base

Grillin’ brats

The brats cooked up quickly, almost faster than we could change out of our boots, and they tasted excellent after a day of turns. The chips and salsa hit the spot too, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day. All things considered, it was another good day in the mountains, with good snow, good company, and good food!

April 19, 2020 – Willamette Pass

In what should have been the first weekend that the Pass was officially closed, Dan and I decided to head up in search of some corn snow, knowing if was going to be pretty warm. After hitting the store in the morning to buy a 6-pack and some brats for the apres-ski, I headed to Dan’s and we carpooled up Highway 58 in his Tesla, making good time to the Waldo pullout for a quick pit stop, and then to the Pass, where we shouldered packs and headed out.

The Tesla at the Waldo Rd

Looking up at the Pass

The frontside was holding, but the snow was going fast, and bare patches were starting to show on ByGeorge. It was warm on the skin up, and we worked our way up George and over to High Lead under the relentless sun. Once at the top, it was a quick skin over to Peak 2 for a run down Northern.

Skinning up George

Dropping into Northern

Coverage on Peak 2 was holding on quite nicely, and I snapped a few photos of Dan as he dropped in. The snow quality wasn’t as good as we were hoping for, closer to mashed potatoes than corn. Even so, it was a fun slide down the marquee run on Peak 2…

April turns on Peak 2

Dan skiing Northern

We skinned back up Escalator, then Boundary back to the top of Peak 2. We contemplated another run on the back, but elected to hang out at the top of SDN and enjoy the views while putting a beer on ice. Sitting there in the sun, looking out over Diamond Peak, Fuji Mtn and Waldo Lake, it was hard to deny the beauty of this part of the cascades, and how easy is is to take it for granted during the season.

Looking out to Diamond

Contact Haze by Elysian

Once the beer was good and cold, it was time pound it down, and then make a few more turns. Given the conditions on the backside, we elected to head back over to the front and make some turns there. I snapped a few pics of Dan skiing the Peak 2 cornice before we headed over….

Skiing the Peak 2 cornice

Matt & Dan on top of EPA

Once on the front, we strapped/stepped into our sliding gear, and headed over to RTS. I handed the camera off to Dan, who snapped a few photos of me making turns. The snow was soft, but the run is so steep, it usually doesn’t matter.

April turns on RTS

Working down RTS

We skied down to the bottom of the run, and decided to head out via Amber’s Way and try ByGeorge, which turned out to be a good idea. The lower mountain was holding the best corn of the day, and we made big, fun, sweeping turns down to the bottom. It was so nice that we decided to do another lap, and donned skins and headed back up. Once we made it to the top, we decided to try Rough Cut, which was just as good as George. I snapped a few pictures of Dan heading down…

Dan on Rough Cut

Skiing down to the car

We skied down to the parking lot, and made the short walk across the lot to the car. From there, we headed to the Gold Lake snowpark to take a well earned break, drink a cold beer, and grill up some brats. Dan’s Coleman grill cooked up the brats quickly, and coupled with some bread and mustard, they hit the spot!

Afternoon Brats

Hangin’ at the Gold Lake snowpark

 Five brats to a package meant two and a half apiece, along with some chips and salsa for the side, and the beer to wash it down. Not a bad way to end a good day of skiing in the mountains.

 

April 10, 2020 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

After a productive day at work that started with an early public meeting, I left the office a little after 1:00pm and headed up to Pass for some dusk patrol turns. The plan was to meet Dan, who was leaving town shortly after me, and search for some fun April turns. With COVID-19 restrictions still in full effect, I pulled into the Waldo Lake pullout and readied my gear.

At the Waldo pullout

From there, it was a short drive up to the Pass, and I was able to begin skinning within a few minutes of parking at the gate. Coverage at the area was still holding up pretty well, and it looked like a few snowmobiles had visited the snow as well. It was warm as I started out, and I was happy when I rounded the corner on KP and was able to find some shade….

The Lodge

Looking up By George

I followed KP up to Good Time, and noticed some ski tracks and sno-mo tracks on the run, so continued on to Eagles. Eagles also had several sno-mo tracks on it, and was quite soft on the skin up. Before too long, I was up top and back on KP, enjoying the views out over Odell Lake…

The view out over Odell Lake

At the top, I called Dan, who was on his way up and had left the car a few minutes earlier. To kill time, I headed over to Peak 2 to check out the conditions. There was over 60 inches at the snow stake, and it looked like the sno-mo’s had hammered the backside as well. I toured back to EPA, and snapped a few pics while waiting for Dan to arrive.

Diamond through an EPA chair

SkyRyze Red from Pelican

A few minutes later, Dan arrived and we enjoyed a few lazy minutes at the top of EPA. Given the social distancing protocols in effect, we took appropriate precautions by masking up and staying 6 feet apart:)

Social distancing atop EPA 🙂

We decided to try a run on the frontside first, and dropped into Success. The snow was rather soft, and after a few turns, we worked our way through the trees over to High Lead. The snow wasn’t a whole lot better there, but the turns were still fun and we skied down to the glades before stopping to switch to skins and head back up….

Turns on Success

Dan approaching the Glades

Back at the top, it was time to crack open our beers, which had been chilling in the snow during the previous run. Sitting at the top of EPA, kicking back a cold one, and admiring the scenery never gets old. Once the beers were finished, it was time to drop in to RTS. As we suspected, it was soft as well, but still skied nicely given the slope angle.

Matt riding RTS

From the looks of things, it had been skied several times during the week, but we still had a blast ripping turns down the slope. Dan set off a decent side wet slide up top, but other than that, we had great turns….

April turns on RTS

Looking back up RTS

At the bottom, we paused for a second to discuss options, and both of us felt like By George would probably ski pretty well. We headed down Amber’s Way and out onto George, and after a couple of turns it was obvious we made a great choice. The snow was really nice corn.

Looking out to the west from the bottom of RTS

Matt at the bottom of George

I figured eighted Dan’s turns all the way down, and we were both stoked on the run at the bottom. We skied down to the lot, made the short walk to the cars, and both agreed that even though the conditions weren’t all-time, it was definitely nice get out and stretch the legs for some after work tuns.

 

March 30, 2020 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol Redux

It was continuing to snow in the mountains, and with the COVID-19 pandemic having everything shut down, it was a good time to head back to the Pass in search of some late season powder turns. Like a few days earlier, I left work a couple of hours early, hoping to score a few runs on the backside before meeting up with Dan who was leaving his job at 4:00 pm. Upon arriving at my parking spot, it was snowing and there was 2-3 inches of fresh snow at the highway elevation…

The Suby at the Pass

I skinned up the familiar route of Timburr Glades and High Lead, and headed straight over to Peak 2 to check it out. The snow stake read 79 inches, up an inch from 5 days prior, but there was easily 8-10 inches of new snow on top of the previous new snow. I would later learn that by Wednesday morning (two days later), the stake would read 102 inches! I was stoked that nobody was on the back side, and dropped in to Northern for what was probably one of my top 5 runs of the season.

Ready to drop in

The decision to bring my Amplid Millisurf was a good one, and I floated on top of the pow, cranking face shot turn after face shot turn to the bottom. The fat skis on the Millisurf kept me floating on the skin track as well, and soon I was back on top ready for another lap. Lap 2 was equally as good as lap one, and I was super thankful to have the whole place to myself. I skinned back up one more time, and debated dropping in again, but needed to head to EPA to meet Dan before it got dark. Before I left, I snapped a pic of my beer of choice for the afternoon, as well as my board looking down from the Peak 2 chair…

Love Potion by Block 15 Brewing

Parting shot from Peak 2

I skinned over and met up with Dan at the top of EPA, and it was snowing, blowing and downright cold. We figured about 20 degrees or so. I had to add my puffy jacket under my shell to keep from freezing, and by the time we finished our beers and were ready to drop in, the daylight was waning pretty hard. We ended up skiing Success (RTS was blown off), and I didn’t snap any pictures since the light was so flat, which I regret. Nevertheless, the turns were sweet, and we ripped Success and By George all the way to the bottom. The skiing was so good, that we decided it was worth skinning back up for one more lap on the lower mountain.

Skinning up by headlamp

We headed back up, and by the time we got to the top it was still snowing hard. The skiing by headlamp on this evening proved to be more difficult than a few days earlier, since in was snowing so hard — kind of like driving with the high beams on during a snow storm. Even so, we managed to have a good time and navigate our way to the base area below. Back at the car, we were both stoked on another sweet powder day at the hill, and thankful for the opportunity to get out and enjoy it! With the gear put away, we dug out the car, and headed down the road. It would be another late night, but well worth it for another fun day at the Pass!

March 25, 2020, Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

With the Pass shut down due to COVID-19, and fresh snow on the ground, Dan and I couldn’t hold out any longer and decided to head to the Pass for an evening dusk patrol. I headed up early, leaving work around 2:00 pm, and enjoyed the easy drive up Highway 58. I pulled off the highway, finding a parking spot out of the way, and it looked like a decent amount of fresh snow had fallen – probably 8-10 inches along the highway.

At the Shelter Cove entrance

I shouldered my pack quickly, and crossed the highway, skinning up through Sleepy and Timburr Glades. There were a few tracks on the frontside runs, and after an hour or so, I made it to the top of EPA. Wanting to check out Peak 2, I headed over, and was super surprised to see about 15 tracks down Northern, and an equal amount headed over to June’s. Finally, it dawned on me that the lifts had spun earlier in the day, probably for employees. Nevertheless, there was still good snow on Northern, so I dropped in and enjoyed an excellent run down.

Fresh pow in some fresh pow

I was surprised to see Escalator freshly groomed, which made for an easy skin back out. So easy in fact, that I decided to drop in for another lap on Northern. Following that lap, it was time to snap a picture of my beer and head over to EPA to meet up with Dan, who was skinning up the frontside. Sitting at the top of EPA, I pulled out the tripod and snapped a few pictures of the clouds over Diamond and a self-portrait while killing time waiting for Dan…

Clouds over Diamond

Self portrait at the top of EPA

A few minutes later, Dan topped out on High Lead, and joined me at the top of EPA. We enjoyed a beer while transitioning into ski mode, and snapped a photo with the tripod before dropping into some of the best powder we’d both skied in awhile….

Enjoying a beer atop EPA

Dropping in off the top of EPA, we rolled over towards Success, and into RTS. It was untracked, and had about a foot of fresh snow blanketing it — it doesn’t get much better. I rode down a little ways, and then pulled out the camera to snap some shots of Dan on the skis. As is usual for dusk patrols, I had to crank up the ISO due to the low light, but the shots still came out nice….

Dan ripping the pow

Skiing RTS

We ripped the snow on the steep slope, and it felt really good. Halfway down, we stopped for a moment, and continued on, completely enjoying the moment and the conditions….

March pow on RTS

Skiing the lower half

We exited out via Amber’s and headed down Swoosh, which skied flawlessly. It was almost dark by the time we got to the bottom, but given how good the conditions were, we had to head back up for another lap. The skin up George took about a half hour, and at the top we pulled out the headlamps to make the changeover to ride mode. We skied down Swoosh by headlamp, enjoying each turn illuminated by the light of our mini-suns. As we made our way down, I realized that these were the types of moments I live for! At the bottom, we skied to the parking lot, and booted across the parking lot in a foot of new snow. It took about 15 minutes to dig out Dan’s car, and he gave me a lift to my car just down the road. After digging it out, I followed him down the highway in a snow storm, thoroughly happy with another great day of skiing at the Pass!