January 4, 2020 – Willamette Pass

After a dismal start to the season, things were finally starting to move in the right direction. It looked like Saturday had potential to be good at the Pass, and Dan, Joe and I weren’t going to miss the first possible pow turns in over a month. We agreed to check the snotel site in the morning, and make a decision based on how much new snow had fallen.

The Patrol Building at the Pass

When we woke, the snotel wasn’t reporting properly, but the snow phone at the Pass was reporting 4 inches so we agreed it was worth heading up. We met at Dan’s house, and Joe and I headed up in his truck, while Dan went in his truck since he was patrolling on Sunday and would be staying the night at the Pass. When we pulled into the parking lot, the Pass was looking a lot better than the previous week. We said hello to P3, who was on duty for the day, and quickly loaded packs and started out on the skin track.

Skinning up Timburr Glades

With the area being open (lower mountain only was what was planned per the website and snow phone), we headed over towards Sleepy and worked our way up towards Timburr Glades, and then to High Lead Glades. The snow on the skin track was about a half a foot deep. As we worked further up on High Lead, we had to put the skis on our packs and boot the last few hundred feet up to the top of EPA due to a stiff crust.

Booting up High Lead
Looking towards Peak 2 from EPA

We skinned over to the top of Peak 2, and were delighted to see 36 inches at the snow stake. We were even more stoked when we peeled skins and dropped in for our first lap on Northern. The top half was excellent, with about 8-10 inches of fresh, cold snow.

First turns on Northern

Lower down the run, the wind had hammered the bottom section, but the turns were still good. We made a quick changeover and then skinned up Escalator and back to the top for another lap. This time we decided to hit the trees on the left of Northern. I made a few turns while Dan shot photos, and could feel the cold smoke plastering my face, and it felt good….

Powder turns on Northern
Exiting the whiteroom

We continued on down, and decided a lap on Down Under was in order. I went down in front of the skiers and made some fun turns through the trees, then shot pics as they came down.

Joe enjoying the pow
First turns down Down Under

We skied down to the intersection with June’s and then kept going, working our way to below the rollover below the cliff. The skiing through the trees was even nice, and we soon popped out below Escalator and Destiny, and punched in a skin track through the wind driven snow back up to Escalator.

Skinning back up
Matt on top of Peak 2

On top for a third time, we decided to head over and put some tracks on June’s. This was a good choice, as the snow on June’s was the best of the day.

Joe skiing June’s
January Turns on June’s Run

Like before, we skied down below the cliff, and worked through the trees back to our skin track. This time we took a well deserved break up top, and replenished with some food and a cold beverage. This day’s beverage of choice was a Bandon Dune’s pale ale, as well as a Pelican cream style ale.

Beverage of choice for the day

After enjoying our beer and a nice break, we headed over to harvest some more of the good snow on June’s. Dan snapped pictures of me heading down, and a couple of the ones below turned out pretty nice…

Matt enjoying the pow
Cruising down June’s

Down at the bottom, we again put the skins back on, and on our fourth lap up our legs were starting to feel the burn. We made it back to the top of Peak 2, and looked over to see EPA turning. Dan and I agreed that we needed one more lap before heading back to the front, so we headed over to June’s again while Joe stayed put.

Dan ripping the pow
Skinning up Boundary

The snow didn’t disappoint, and by the time we left we’d put 15 tracks down the backside. To finish our day, we skied back down Southbound, and dropped into the trees before the gate closure, and rode through SDN and into RTS. RTS skied pretty nicely, in large part due to our efforts with saw work over the past couple of years.

Dan skiing RTS
Skiing RTS

We finished the day with a run down Swoosh, and skied right to the patrol room door. Changing our gear in the warmth of the patrol room, we all agreed it was nice to hit such good conditions after several days of riding nothing but the lower mountain. And, little did we know, this weekend would be the start of a pretty epic storm cycle that would kick the mountain into full operations for the season. Nothing like ringing in the new year right! Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting shot