Having missed my regular patrol day on Christmas, and knowing P3 was looking super thin for the 26th, I was looking forward to heading up to the Pass to give them a hand and also hopefully score some fresh snow in the process. The forecast was calling for 8-10 inches overnight, and I was shocked when I called the snow phone while heading down the road from my house to hear the report of 24 inches overnight and still snowing heavily. Traveling up the highway to the Pass was a bit slower than normal, with snow on the valley floor, but I managed to pull into the parking lot around 7:30 am. Toby and a few others pulled in shortly thereafter, and everybody was pretty excited for the day.
It didn’t take me long to gear up, and soon I made my way to the patrol room. It was clear a significant amount of new snow was present, with at least two feet of fresh, on top of the several feet that had fallen over the previous three to four days.
While we got ready for the morning meeting, I set about clearing the snow off the patrol room roof, and Ian happened to catch a photo of me from under the roof — the pic below reminds me a bit of being on the back side of a waterfall, or in this case, snowfall!
By 8:00 am, we had the morning meeting, and discussed plans for the day. It looked like there would be a significant amount of digging to start with to get the base area dug out, as well as a bunch of tower pad work in addition to other deep snow related activities.
After the morning meeting, we headed out quickly to help the area dig out from the significant overnight dump. Our first task was to dig out the EPA ramp, and then we gave the lift operators a hand digging out and setting the fencing around EPA. It was difficult work, but eventually we found all the fencing and were able to reset it, and we had the ramp looking good.
The next priority was to dig out under the chair at the base, since a significant amount of snow had fallen/blown in overnight there as well. Sam, who was back for winter break, donned a sled vest and gave us a hand…
By 9:40 or so, things were looking good, and the lift started spinning to the delight of the significant number of folks waiting in line. Below is a pic of Toby and Sam showing our nearly finished shovel job….
As soon as the lift started spinning, patrol hopped on and headed for the top to gear up for opening the hill. Toby and I donned our avalanche gear and headed over to RTS to do control work, and it was deep. Thankfully, Ian closed the run while we were working, and even though it was super deep, we only saw minimal movement. It did look like a small natural release had occurred earlier, but for the most part we were able to control it without incident. Then it was time to call the run open, and head down to get some of the goods. I dropped in first, and then snapped a few pictures of Toby tele-skiing through some of the deepest snow I’d seen in awhile.
We worked our way down the run, skiing one at a time for safety, and then headed over to Amber’s to see if we could work our way through the deep snow to exit to Twilight. Fortunately for us, several other folks joined us after about 5 minutes, and we gang skied the run (which wasn’t groomed) to get a track in for an exit. It took about 10 minutes with about 8 of us, including Jensen and a few others, but we finally made it out.
I headed down George, and then loaded EPA to make one more run, this time on Timburr, after checking on a stuck skier up top. After riding the deep blower pow, I saw Toby working on tower pads on Midway, and decided to give him a hand. It was ridiculously deep on Midway, and getting to the tower pads presented a significant challenge, but eventually we got them done. I snapped a few photos of Toby “skiing” between the tower pads, as shown below….it was literally waist deep with skis on.
After working my ass off for most of the morning, I caught up with Dan for a few runs in the early afternoon. We spun a couple of laps on RTS, and Dan was kind enough to take a few photos of me getting into the white room, even after the area had been open for over half the day…
After skiing RTS, I grabbed the camera back and returned the favor of shooting a few photos of Dan on Timburr, and then we worked our way back to RTS for one more lap before heading down to the base to get some well deserved lunch.
It was really refreshing to enjoy a hot microwaved lunch of leftover Pad Thai on a cold day, and I wolfed it down quickly. The snow was great, and there was still work to do, so I headed out to the truck to drop my lunch box back off before we headed out. While there, I grabbed a quick pic of the beer I’d brought for the day, a super tasty Dark Star stout from Fremont Brewing. Although I would enjoy this beer after the day was done (and I did), I can say without a doubt that this is one of my favorite stout’s of all time.
With lunch over, Dan and I headed back out on the hill, and headed up to RTS. Our plan was to get a crew together to work on tower pads on Twilight, and to take care of fencing that was still up at the bottom of RTS (from earlier in the year when the area got a cat stuck). We were successful in getting the fencing picked up before it was totally buried, as well as getting some good turns in the process. When we got to the bottom of RTS, I took my board off to work on the fencing and immediately sank up to my chest!
Next up, Dan and I fielded a crew and headed down Rough Cut to work on tower pads. This was easier said than done, since Rough Cut hadn’t been groomed, and also hadn’t seen a skier all day. We started down, and it was brutal. Our crew consisted of myself, Dan, Mike, Ken, Stefan and Jan.
I ended up having to walk down the entire run (turns were impossible) in chest deep snow. After me, Dan was able to keep his skis on and basically skin in waist deep snow. By the time the third or fourth person came down, they could (slowly) ski in our track. This system worked pretty well, and allowed us to be as efficient as we could given the super deep conditions.
By the time we reached the groomer at the base of Twilight, all of us were dog tired, and super happy to get out of the deep snow. I must admit, after 12 years of being on patrol, that was probably about as hard as I’ve ever worked.
After the brutal tower pad work, I had time for one or two more laps before heading up to help with sweep. I got to share a ride with Jen on one of the rides up, and it was really nice to get to chat with her since she’d been out for quite awhile with health issues. I snapped the below photo of her on the ride up, and it puked on us while we visited, like it had done all day long…
By 4:00 pm, I worked my way to the top of EPA to help with sweep, and it was starting to get dark. I drew a closing run of Timburr, which meant more work to take care of the fencing around the snow gun, as well as the race shack. No worries though, I still had a little energy left in the tank, and was just super grateful for all the new snow.
We swept the mountain clean without incident, and took care of the fencing at the gun and the race shack, then gathered around the patrol room for the evening meeting as it was getting dark. Everyone was beat after working like dogs all day, but it was super nice to be able to score such deep powder and to take advantage of the lifts that I don’t think we even cared.
After the evening meeting, we headed to the cars, and I enjoyed that super tasty Dark Star stout while changing out of my patrol gear. My truck had over a foot of snow on it, which made for over 36 inches of snow in the past 24 hours, and probably 60 inches of new snow in the past three days. After digging out and heading down the road, I thought to myself that while it may not have been the deepest day I’d ever been a part of, it had to rank right up there at the top. One thing’s for sure, winter is here, and I couldn’t be happier about it!