October 1, 2023 – Mt Hood, Palmer “Snowfield”

October finally arrived, and with it came a dusting of fresh snow, and thank the Lord for that! Dan and I had been watching the remaining snow on Mt Hood’s south side dwindle away on the Timberline webcam during the month of September, and by the middle of the month it was basically gone. Needless to say, we were pretty happy to see some moisture move through at the end of the month which gave us a fighting chance to score some early turns on the 1st of October.

Mt Hood with a dusting of fresh snow

We met at Harrisburg interstate exit early where my wife dropped me off, and after loading gear into Dan’s Tesla we made the drive up to the mountain, arriving a little after 8:00 am. There wasn’t a lot of snow, but it looked like it would go and mountain sure was looking good in a fresh coat of white.

The road to Silcox

We shouldered packs and hiked up the road to Silcox, stopping briefly when we arrived. Shortly thereafter, we continued on and worked our way into the Palmer canyon. We had to hike a few hundred vertical before we were able to don the skins and continue up without the weight of the skis on our backs, and it looked like we’d be able to negotiate some turns in the canyon on the way down as well.

Dan on the approach
Heading up the Palmer Canyon

It felt good to be skiing in fresh snow again, and soon we worked our way up to the top of the Palmer. The clouds had been rolling in and out all morning, and we decided the best odds at the moment were to ski now while we had visibility and then maybe head up above the Palmer later if the weather allowed it. The first order of business was to get the beer on ice before changing over to ride mode, so I did just that after snapping a picture of my tasty Blonde Ale from Chief’s Brew House.

Yeti Blonde Ale from Chief’s Brewing
At the top of the Palmer

After getting the board put together, it was time to enjoy a few swigs of our beers. I was pretty stoked on mine, especially given that it is brewed literally a few miles down the road from my house. I drank about half of it and then we slipped it behind some snow near the Palmer top shack, clicked into our bindings, and headed down.

First turns of October
Dan enjoying smooth turns through the clouds

I dropped in first and setup to shoot some photos of Dan, and the snow was remarkably good, resembling some pretty smooth corn. The fog gave way after we descended a few hundred feet and then some creamy, sunny turns were to be had.

Dan working his way down
Pausing for a moment on the descent

Both of us were amazed at how smooth the snow was, as well as the fact that there basically wasn’t any residual snow left on the Palmer and we that were only skiing on 4-6 inches of fresh snow over glacial till. If it hadn’t been for the glacial till (as opposed to rocks elsewhere on the mountain), I don’t think we would have been able to link turns.

Weaving through the rocks
Enjoying some smooth October turns

We worked our way down to within a hundred vertical or so of the mid-station and called it good at that point, not wanting to head down any further for fear of breaking ourselves off in the epic conditions. The decision to skin back up for another lap was an easy one, so we kicked off and headed up.

Looking down after our first run
The view back up the “Palmer”

The skin back to the top of the Palmer didn’t take too long, and soon we were enjoying a quick swig of beer before making the decision to head up even higher since the weather was looking a bit better. We worked our way up to about 9,000 before the clouds and snow conditions made the decision to turn around and easy one and readied to head down. This time, Dan grabbed the camera and shot a few pictures of me as we headed down. Part way down I returned the favor and took a few pictures of him as well.

Turns above the Palmer
Enjoying the new snow
Carving a turn above the Palmer
Dan skiing above the Palmer

We worked our way back down to the top of the Palmer, thoroughly enjoying the turns along the way, and made a quick stop to grab our beers, finish them, and then head down. Our second lap turns below the top of the Palmer were equally as good as the first lap, and we threaded our way through quilt-work patches of snow and rocks.

Linking turns on lap 2
Dan carving a turn on the Palmer

We worked our way down to where we’d turned around earlier, and decided that we saw a path that would work to continue descending with the skis on, so we took it. For the most part it worked fine, and we found some really good turns as well as a few new scratches and dings on our bases.

Dan negotiating a line while descending below the Palmer
Matt enjoying a break on the second lap

Once down to the mid-station, we contemplated trying to ski a line outside of the canyon, but it didn’t seem like the best idea so we went with the safe alternative and hiked the skis for 50 vertical or so to where we could continue making turns.

Ready to make the short hike to the canyon
Ready to drop into the canyon

The turns in the upper canyon were quite good, and we only hit one or two rocks as we worked our way down. After a couple of hundred vertical, we had to walk a short patch but were then able to resume skiing.

Working down the canyon
Hiking an unskiable section

The last section of skiable snow in the canyon above Silcox skied quite nicely, and we milked it for all it was worth before putting the skis on our backs and traversing out and making the short walk to Silcox to enjoy a second beer. All told, we figured we’d only missed out on skiing about 100 feet between the top of the Palmer and the Silcox — not too bad given the conditions.

Skiing the last patch in the canyon

At the Silcox, we changed out of ski boots and into approach shoes, got our beers on ice, and enjoyed a well-deserved rest. My beer of choice for the afternoon was a smooth Cast Out IPA from the Crux, and it hit the spot.

Cast Out IPA

A bit later, it was time to shoulder the packs and make the long walk back to the car, but it was made a bit easier knowing we made some pretty sweet turns. The views looking back at the mountain behind us as well as Timberline Lodge below us weren’t too bad either…

Looking back at the mountain from below Silcox
Looking out over Timberline Lodge

Eventually we made our way back to the car, and it felt good to get  the packs off our backs. We fired up the grill and enjoyed some chips and salsa as well as a good view of the mountain. A bit later we were enjoying some tasty brats to top off what was already a great day.

Apres in the parking lot

Although the permanent snow of the Palmer was sadly gone, the mountain still provided some great early-season October turns, and both Dan and I agreed that this wouldn’t be a day that we’d soon forget. Until next time, here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting shot from high on the Palmer