October 2, 2022 – Mt Hood, Zigzag Snowfield +

Even though I almost couldn’t believe it, October was already here, and with it was the warm weather of an Indian summer that showed no signs of letting up. Regardless, Joe, Dan and I made plans to head to Mt Hood to get some October turns in, with hopes of finding some remaining snow on the south side of the mountain. We met early at the cop shop in Albany, piled gear into my Suby, and headed up the freeway. We made good time getting to the mountain, and soon were greeted with the familiar view from the Climber’s lot.

Hood from the climber’s lot

We were happy to see some remaining snow on the Palmer, but it was looking pretty bumpy and dirty in the morning lot. Nevertheless, we organized our gear, donned hiking shoes, shouldered our packs and headed up the road towards the Silcox.

Heading up the road towards Silcox
Hood from Silcox

The hike up the road went quickly, and we were happy to see a decent amount of snow still remaining in the Palmer Canyon. In fact, it looked like it had been cat tracked recently, which smoothed it out, so we put on the skins and started up. Near the mid-station, there were a couple of spots that were about 200 feet long where the snow had melted out completely, but overall we were pretty happy with the coverage and condition of the snow in the canyon.

The Palmer Canyon
Skinning up the snow road

When we reached the mid-station, we were surprised to see they had done a little grooming the day prior. None of us were sure what was going on, but it sure didn’t hurt our feelings at all. We worked our way from the mid-station out onto the Palmer snowfield proper, and skinned the remaining way up to the top. The snow on the snowfield itself was definitely on the bumpy side, but it was plenty fine for early October turns.

The view from the top of the Palmer

Once at the top of the Palmer, we felt like it was worth heading over to check out the Zigzag snowfield, which had looked good from the road below on the drive up. The skiers changed back into hiking shoes, and we worked our way over to the snowfield, which indeed was looking smoother than the Palmer. We began skinning up, with the goal of heading up a finger of snow on climber’s left to get to our high point. On the skin up, we heard a big rumble, and a major chunk of the Steel Cliff fell to the ground. Although we’ve see this happen several times, this was probably the biggest rockfall we’ve ever witnessed on the mountain, as evidenced by the dust cloud in the below photo.

Rockfall dust on Hood
The Zigzag Snowfield

A little more skinning brought us up to our high point around 9400 feet, where we settled in for a nice view, a snack, and a refreshing beverage. My beverage of choice for the moment was a tasty Knuckle Dragger IPA from Rogue Nation.

Joe and Illumination Rock
A cold IPA from Rogue Brewing

Both the views and the beers were pretty great, and while we enjoyed them both Dan grabbed the camera and took a few shots of me with what has become my standard “sponsor” shot as Joe calls it, with my board over my head.

The view from our high point on the Zigzag

A bit later, it was time to drop in and sample the snow. Our plan was to ski the first narrow section, then make a short hike over to the smoothest looking snow on the west side of the snowfield, and that’s exactly what we did. I snapped some shots of the skiers as they came down on the upper section of the snowfield, and the turns were really fine.

Dan on the upper section
Joe skiing the first pitch

The upper section was good, but the main snowfield held really nice corn. It’s definitely hard to beat good corn in October, and we harvested a lot of it on this day!

Contemplating the best line down
Enjoying the corn near Illumination Rock

We snapped quite a few photos as we worked our way down, and the good snow continued as we descended. As usual, the Zigzag didn’t disappoint…

Matt enjoying the October corn
October turns on the Zigzag

At the halfway point, I stopped and fired off several more shots of Joe and Dan as they came down, and from there on down we didn’t stop. The snow was too good, and we harvested the corn for all it was worth, down to the very bottom.

High altitude cruising on the Hood
Fall turns on Mt Hood
Dan skiing the Ziggy

At the bottom, the snow was pretty dirty and we skied over a few thin spots with running water below, but I’d say we definitely milked it for all it was worth. After our joyful ski, the looming climb back out became a reality, but it went quickly with the skins, and soon we were nearing our traverse point to head back over to the Palmer.

At the end of the snow
Joe skinning back up

Back at our traverse point, the skiers changed back into hiking shoes, and we took a well earned rest for a few minutes, which afforded an opportunity to capture a few more photos. I snapped a pic of Dan and Joe, and then turned my attention to some interesting slurpee formations on the snowfield.

Dan and Joe
A slurpee on the Zigzag snowfield

A few minutes later, we were all ready to head back to the Palmer, and after a short hike over scree and sand, we were back at our familiar summer hangout. After all this work, it was definitely time for another cold beer, so I pulled out my second offering of the day, a west coast pale ale from Claim 52 Brewing and put it on ice. A few minutes later, it was time to enjoy it!

Heading down to the Palmer
A west coast IPA from Claim 52 Brewing

We sat at the top of the Palmer for awhile, enjoying the views and beverages, before stepping into our bindings and shoving off for some more October turns. I dropped in first, and setup to shoot a few pictures of Dan and Joe as they came down. The snow was bumpy but decent, and we all agreed it was nowhere near as nice as the Zigzag, but still fun for October.

First turns down the Palmer
Dan enjoying October turns on the Palmer snowfield

We worked our way down the snowfield, and as we neared the mid-station we hit the groomer from earlier in the morning. To our surprise and amazement, the cat had come up in the afternoon and pushed snow across the two areas that were bare rock earlier in the morning and had groomed the whole Palmer Canyon nicely. It made absolutely no sense, but we were so stoked to be able to ski the whole run without taking our skis off. Plus, the snow quality was absolutely perfect!

Dan and Joe coming down the mid-station road
Skiing the “new” snow

We worked our way into the Palmer Canyon from the mid-station above, and were absolutely stoked beyond belief with our luck. I’m 100% certain that we were the only people in the United States, and most likely North America, that skied a groomer on this day. It was pure bliss!

Ripping an October groomer!
Joe ripping the Palmer Canyon

I snapped dozens of shots as we worked our way down, and the snow quality remained superb. I don’t know if we’ve ever experienced anything quite like this before, or if it will ever happen again!

Slaying the fresh groomer
Joe all smiles in the Palmer Canyon

Near the bottom of the canyon, Dan grabbed the camera and fired off several shots of me enjoying the fresh corduroy, including the two shots below…

Matt getting in on the action
Turns on the beautiful October groomer

We skied right down to Silcox, and waiting there for us was the cat that made it all possible, still dripping with snow. We figured they must have laid the corduroy down only an hour or so at most before we headed down…

Joe and the cat

From the road at Silcox, we made the short hike to “ski” the snow in the Mile Canyon. The snow in the Mile Canyon was short, and for that we were happy. The snow in the Mile Canyon was the complete opposite of the snow in the Palmer Canyon. It was survival skiing at best — filled with sand and bumps. We slid down to the takeout near the road, and were pretty happy to be done with the turns when we made it!

Joe watching Dan ski some excellent snow
Looking back at the quality snow in the Mile Canyon

Once we made it out to the road, it was an easy hike back to the parking lot, where it felt really good to change into shorts and flip flops and enjoy some garden fresh chips and salsa. In what has become a post-ski tradition, we also got the brats going on the grill, and enjoyed them with all the fixings shortly thereafter.

Brats in the parking lot

When it was all said and done and time to go home, we loaded our gear in the car and hit the road. As we pulled out of the climber’s lot, we all agreed that this October would definitely be one we’d remember for a long, long time! Here’s a couple parting shots from the day…

Turns in front of Illumination Rock
Dan enjoying smooth corn on the Zigzag snowfield