December 4, 2021 – Refreshing & Cutting

December had arrived in the mountains, and it was time to head to the Pass for the annual candidate/make-up refresher. I met Dan around 7:00 am, and instead of loading snow gear into the truck, we loaded saws instead, hoping for a little time in the afternoon to work on clearing a few saplings on the runs. We made the drive up highway 58 without incident, and soon found ourselves at the Pass ready for the day’s activities.

Early morning at the Pass

Since there was some wind forecast for the afternoon, we decided to move up the chairlift evacuation as the first order of business for the day. I ran through the evac plan with the candidates, and then we headed over to Sleepy to to practice. After explaining how to belay, lower, communicate, etc., we got to it. I did manage to snap a few pictures of the veterans who were there for the day as a make-up, including John, Stefan and Chris below…

Stefan lowering John on Sleepy
John lowers Chris while Stefan communicates

Next up was a talk about the avalanche gear and the routes we run on the hill, followed by me organizing some of the lift evacuation equipment for deployment on the hill. Then, the rest of the group went on an area tour, while Dan and I had a quick lunch and then started off up the hill with the saws for the afternoon. After clearing our activities with the owner, we headed up to the top of Twilight to check on whether we wanted to start at the bottom of RTS, but ultimately elected to head up top.

Looking down Duck

The drive up the road, through Tait’s and onto Boundary went smootly, and there was just a little residual snow left in the area. The area was looking really good, although it looked more like early October than December. Nevertheless, we made our way up top, where Tim was doing some work on the EPA top shack.

Heading up Boundary
At the top of EPA

After giving Tim a hand moving some concrete blocks, we donned chaps and safety gear, and headed over to the top of RTS to continue the work we started a few weeks prior. We cut for a couple of hours, making good progress on the hemlocks and grand firs that were surprisingly much bigger than the past year. Even with all the cutting we’ve done on RTS over the years, it seems like there is always plenty more to do each year.

Dan ready for some action
Working on a small sapling

After a couple of hours we’d had enough fun, and decided it was time to head down and get off the hill before dark and time to get some food. Looking back to the south, I snapped a photo of Dan with Diamond in the background, while he took a picture of me looking west…

Dan and Diamond
Matt and RTS

We worked our way back up to the top and loaded our gear back in the truck. I pulled out my beer of choice for the day, a really tasty Squeezy Rider IPA from Deschutes Brewery. Instead of drinking it up top, I decided to enjoy it down at Gold Lake with the brats we were planning to grill, so back in my cooler it went.

Squeezy Rider IPA from Deschutes

On the way down, we decided to take a look down Escalator and over to Northern to see if there was any snow at all left on the runs. Escalator was looking pretty poor, but there were actually a few small skiable patches on Northern. As Dan joked, “we should have brought the skis.”

The view down Escalator

On the way down, we stopped at the big corner and cut a tree down that was right in the middle of the run that we’d identified on the way up. With Dan’s electric chainsaw, it’s super simple to make a quick cut, and then we were on our way.

Dan near the big corner
A quick stop to remove a tree from the middle of the run

From KP, we headed down to the base, and then after locking up, headed down to Gold Lake snowpark for some dinner. We had the brats on the grill, and were enjoying our beers, when Bill pulled up from down the road. We had a good chat with him, opined on whether or not we were going to get any snow this season and be able to get open, and talked about the challenges of hiring lift ops this season.

Grillin’ at Gold Lake

A few minutes later, Bill and his wife headed down the road, and our brats were done. We scarfed them down, finished off the rest of our beers, and headed down the road ourselves. As we turned out onto the highway, both Dan and I agreed we were probably done cutting for the year. The only question remaining was, how much would it snow and would we be able to capitalize on any of our efforts this winter? Only time will tell….