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!


  1. Alex
    April 10, 2019

    I follow your page regularly and I think what you’re doing is awesome! That’s why I’m reaching out. I’ve acquired all the gear I need to get into the backcountry over the last year and a half or so and I’m finally ready to get out there. There’s so much info out there but I’ve had a hard time finding folks to talk to consistently about where to go, what training to take (if any), etc. Do you have any tips for someone looking to get in the backcountry for the first time? A couple notes: I live west of Portland, I haven’t convinced any of my normal riding group to buy into getting out in the backcountry, I’ve done lots of “sidecountry” or “off-piste” riding at resorts, and I don’t care to ride anything overly extreme but instead more playful riding.

    Would love to hear back from you & any info helps!

    1. Matt
      April 13, 2019

      Hi Alex, thanks for reaching out. I sent you an email on the address you provided. Cheers, Matt

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