12/12/20 – Willamette Pass Season Opener

Word came on Thursday morning that opening day at the Pass would be on Saturday, and since Patrol 2 was on the schedule, I was eager to head up. Since I was hill chiefing for the day, I left the valley early to get a head start on the day’s activities, which would also be challenged by the new protocols in place to deal with COVID-19 precautions. I pulled into the parking lot around 7:30 am and soon after a few others pulled in as well.

Getting ready for the day

After booting up at the car, a change from year’s past where we were able to gear up in the warm patrol room, I talked with Hutch about the needs for the day, and then headed over to chat with Tim about his thoughts for the day. As it turns out, he was hoping to have all the lifts spinning as soon as possible, so we had some work cut out for us. P4 had been up earlier in the week and taken care of most of the lower mountain, so that left us to take care of gear and tower pads on EPA and Peak 2.

Dan & John loading gear
Patrollers organizing Peak 2 tower pads

The morning was a frenzy of loading tower pads, sleds and medical gear onto EPA and taking it to the top. We got the runs off EPA open, and the coverage on the hill was looking great. A short time later, we deployed a crew back to Peak 2 to get it setup, and help get tower pads on. I pulled out the camera to take a few shots of Dan and Joe checking out the new bump shack at the top of EPA, placed there so we wouldn’t have to bump in the actual lift shack with the lifties, as well as Joe and Anna demonstrating the proper space for social distancing…

Checking out the new Cove bump shack
Demonstrating proper social distancing

I took a few runs off of EPA while some of the crew worked behind the scenes on Peak 2, and spent quite a bit of time setting up fencing as well as being on the radio directing traffic.

Kerstin sorting through some rope

Sometime around 11:30 am, the crew on Peak 2 was ready to go, and it opened to the public. I was at the top of EPA at the time, so I decided it was worth a hike up to the top instead of riding down and then taking an 8 minute chair ride up. At the top, I arrived about the same time that Dan was getting off the chair. Looking down the lift line, I could quite a few public loaded on the chairs, ready to tear it up. Dan and I wasted little time at the top, and headed over to make some turns down June’s Run, which was covered with about 8-10 inches of fresh, dry snow.

Dan pausing at the top of June’s
Scoring some pow on June’s

June’s was awesome, and we ripped turns down to the bottom, and skied the roomer out under the lift to the base of Peak 2. As will be the norm for this season on patrol, we rode the chair individually on the way back up, and were soon ready for another lap.

Dan & Diamond Peak

After a couple of more runs on Peak 2, we headed back over to the front to set up the last of the fencing at the Sleepy headwall, and since it was nearing 2:00 pm and I was getting hungry, we took a break for lunch.

Dave & Kerstin in the parking lot

Lunch breezed by, and I headed back on the hill for some more work. All of the runs except RTS and Success were open, but some of the public was poaching into Success, so we needed to get the last few tower pads put on the upper towers. I had a blast making turns down Success with the heavy pad that acted like a sail, and after that final bit of work, it was time to head back to Peak 2 for closing.

Peak 2 closing crew

Peak 2 sweep went off without a hitch, and then it was time to head over to EPA for closing. Dan was running upper mountain sweep, and since we had enough folks, I stayed up with him at the top. My intentions were obvious — I wanted to exit via RTS — and being hill chief has it’s privileges. Plus, I wanted to check out a couple of large trees that had fallen across the run a few weeks earlier, and see what level of effort might be needed with the saw to take care of them. Once all of the upper mountain runs were called in clear, we stepped into our bindings and headed down…

Matt atop EPA
Soft turns down RTS

RTS skied really well, and we enjoyed turns down the steep slope. The two large fallen trees were still well out of the snow, or rather at least their branches were, and I made a note to pass that info along to Patrol 4 for some possible saw work later the next week. We skied out the rest of the run in the waning light, and it reminded me of good times from dusk patrols in seasons gone by. At the bottom, we skied out Louis Lane, and then down Swoosh to the base. A quick evening meeting outside the patrol room ensued, and then it was time to call it a day.

P2 evening meeting

At the car, after changing out of my boots, I joined Dan for a beer at the fire ring with a few of the motor home crowd. It was nice to shoot the breeze after a fun day of work and turns, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Fresh Haze IPA from Deschutes Brewery. Since it was dark, I did the logical thing and snapped a photo of the can during my lunch break earlier in the day, although I suppose I could have resorted to a tripod and flash, but that seemed like too much work:)

Fresh Haze IPA from Deschutes

After a half hour of enjoying the company around the fire, it was time to hit the road and head for home. I was pretty stoked on the day, happy to be riding lifts again, and looking forward to another good season of patrolling at the Pass. Until the next time, here’s a parting shot from the day…

Skiing RTS after closing