April 2, 2021 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

With the arrival of April, the Pass was moving to a weekends only schedule, and Dan and I were eager to get some turns in early in the month. Friday looked to be pretty warm, and we were hopeful that an after work dusk patrol would yield some smooth turns later in the evening. I made plans to meet at Dan’s around 2:45 pm, after a presentation to Congressman DeFazio on wastewater infrastructure, where he was promoting his national infrastructure package to people from around the state. Our timing worked out perfectly, and we hit the road right at 2:45 pm, and pulled into the Gold Lake snow park a few minutes before 4:00 pm.

At the Gold Lake snowpark

We set about organizing our gear, getting boots on, skins on, etc. I pulled out the camera and took a few shots of a 6-pack of Bavarian Lager from Goodlife Brewing that I’d picked up earlier in the day. I handed one to Dan, and set the others aside to enjoy after our evening ski session.

Bavarian Lager from Goodlife

From the snow park, we made the short drive to the Pass, parked the car, and headed out. With the week of warm temperatures, the snow was looking pretty smooth as we started skinning up George…

Matt ready to head out
Dan starting up George

We worked our way up KP, then Eagles, and then to the top of EPA. Although there were still a couple of weekends left for lift serviced operations, the afternoon definitely had the feel of skinning up a closed ski area. Once up top, the first order of business was to get the beers on ice. I pulled out my offering for the afternoon, a classic that I used to enjoy back in college — a super tasty Hammerhead Ale from McMenamin’s.

Topping out on Eagle’s
Hammerhead Ale from McMenamin’s

After a few minutes, the beers were cold, and we were enjoying them along with the views from the top. I pulled out the tripod and snapped a few pictures of Dan and I. As I was taking the pics, I reflected on the fact that it was just over a year ago that we began the COVID-19 pandemic. Like last year, the Pass provided a space to leave the pandemic behind, if only for a little while.

Matt & Dan up top

We dropped in around 6:00 pm, and headed over to RTS. The snow was soft, but somewhat inconsistent. Still, RTS rarely disappoints, and we enjoyed the ski down in the evening light.

Dan cranking turns on RTS
Evening turns on RTS

Halfway down the run, we stopped to exchange the camera, and Dan skied down to setup to snap a few pictures of me cranking turns.

Matt on RTS
After work turns at the Pass

At the bottom, we discussed options, and decided that we’d head out to George via Amber’s and maybe do a repeat lap on the lower mountain, which was looking pretty smooth earlier.

Looking back at RTS

We stopped at the top of Twilight and split a beer, before shoving off and riding some of the smoothest corn snow of the whole season. The turns down skied like butter, and we laid down some big sweeping carves under the chair and then off to skiers right.

Dan heading off towards George
All smiles at the bottom

At the bottom, we were beyond stoked with the quality of the run, and it was a no brainier to head back up. We quickly donned skins, and headed up George in the soft evening light…

Headed up for another lap

A short time later, we arrived back at the top of Twilight, and ripped skins in anticipation of our second run. This time, we decided to head down Rough Cut, and it was equally as smooth as George. The light was starting to get a bit flatter as we got towards the bottom, and it felt rather satisfying to make turns in the fading light.

Cruising down Rough Cut
Skiing it down to the base

We milked the turns right down to the base, and headed across the parking lot to the car. Both of us were looking forward to grilling up some brats, so we made the short drive back down to Gold Lake snow park.

Headed to the car

At Gold Lake, we found the parking lot crowd sitting around the campfire, in anticipation of hitting the chairs for the weekend. With the area closed, RV camping wouldn’t take place until Saturday night, so Gold Lake would have to do. It was fun hanging out with Toby, Mike, Dave and Matt, and the grilled brats definitely hit the spot. I finally enjoyed one of those Bavarian Lagers from Goodlife as well, which made for a fitting end to an excellent day. A few minutes before 9:00 pm, we bid the parking lot crowd farewell, and headed down the highway, capping off what I hope to be the first of several late season dusk patrols at the Pass. Here’s a parting shot from the day of Dan skiing RTS…

Sliding down RTS on a nice April evening