Finding time for turns this summer has almost been as challenging as finding a place to make turns. On the same weekend my family and I moved into a new house for the first time in 11 years, I headed out with Dan on Sunday the second day of August to try to find some skiable snow to keep the streak alive for another month.
Given the meager snowpack everywhere, we elected to head up to Mt Hood and ride the White River Snowfield. I called the Timberline snow phone on the way up to the mountain, and it looked like this would be the last day of lift served riding for the season as well. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be Timberline’s earliest closing day in some time — maybe ever since they started summer operations. In the poor snow year of 2005, closing day was August 18th. Nevertheless, we arrived in the parking lot and found the mountain pretty naked with respect to snow…..
We set out on the trail from the climbers lot, and it was already warm. I hiked in shorts and a t-shirt, one of only a few times I’ve hiked and made turns in shorts while snowboarding. After an hour or so up the trail, we came to the overlook of the naked White River Glacier…
With the lack of snow, we were able to keep trail shoes on until we reached the White River Triangle, at which point it was easier to switch to snowboard boots for the climb. The snow on the White River Snowfield looked fairly decent, but was starting cup out a bit. Clouds had been forming all morning, and by the time we reached our high point at 9400 feet it started to drizzle.
We took a brief break, and the cloud that had been following us cleared enough that some sun broke through for the descent. I dropped in first, then snapped photos of Dan as he skied down.
The best turns were on the east side of the snowfield, and we skied as close to the crevasses as we dared. With all the stress of moving the past few days, it felt good to let my Lib Tech run and make fast turns on the dirty corn snow…..
We found a connector patch of snow and skied down to the dry road bed along the top of the Palmer, before hiking over to sit at the top of the lift shack and enjoy the view and a cold beer.
At the top of the lift, we me of a couple from Idaho who were at their first or second year of doing turns aanll year, and talked about volcano skiing for awhile. Sitting at the top of the Palmer, eating lunch and enjoying a beer and the view, I reflected back on all the great seasons of riding at Timberline and enjoying the same view in September and October. I was saddened briefly at the prospect that there might not be any snow on the mountain this year in September, but the thought only furthered my resolve to find snow in this leanest of years and continue the streak.
With lunch eaten and beers consumed, we dropped in and skied the Palmer to the mid-station. The snow was really nice, so we headed back up for one more lap from the top. Arriving at the top, it started drizzling on us — somewhat ironic given the fact that this has been one of the driest and warmest years on record. Pushing off in the rain, we enjoyed great turns down to the mid-station, ducked the rope, and continued down to within about 300-400 feet from the top of Silcox Hut to where the snow turned to ice and then rock, and hiked the rest of the way back to the parking lot.
Sitting back at the car, eating chips and salsa and pickled herring, I was stoked just to get out for a good day of turns in the middle of summer. Whatever September brings, what will be will be. I just hope there’s a patch of snow left out there where a few friends and I can have fun and continue this crazy thing called snowboarding year-round.