October 8, 2023 – On-Hill Refresher

As hard as it was to believe, summer had passed and fall was here, which meant it was time for the refresher weekend with the Willamette Pass Ski Patrol. After a full day of refreshing OEC skills on Saturday in town, I woke early Sunday morning and grabbed Shaun to head up for the on-hill. We made a brief stop to pick up Dan in Springfield, and then we all headed up highway 58 in my new Tesla (a purchase inspired from the numerous trips in Dan’s Tesla on previous ski trips). We pulled into the pass outside the patrol room and it looked like it was going to be a nice day.

The new ride parked at the Pass

Everyone gathered in the lodge to debrief the day’s activities, and after some announcements from the area we broke into groups and headed out to do some refreshing. It was good to hear from MCP about the changes made to the area, and everyone was stoked for coming season.

Orientation in the lodge

As usual, I was in charge of chairlift evacuation, and this year we went back to doing evac in three rotations instead of putting everyone through it at once. I headed out to Twilight with group 1 and after talking over the evacuation plan, we loaded folks on the chair.

Brian & lift ops surveying the scene
Harwood on the belay

There were a few of us on the ground to ensure things operated smoothly from a safety standpoint, and managed the span between towers two and three, and sent Brian and Hutch up to keep tabs on the span between towers three and four. Once everyone was on the chair, it was locked out and the area’s tower climbers fixed the ropes in place for us.

Devin getting lowered
Shaun and Scarlett watching Silas get lowered

The process went smoothly and we worked our way down the line, lowering folks out of each chair. Passing the rope over the chair also went smoothly thanks to the use of carabiner-boo, and soon we were down to a chair full of SPY, including Shaun. Like the last year, I was able to snap a few photos of him getting lowered, and I think his smile indicates that even though it’s a refresher it’s still fun!

Joe and Andy on Twilight
Shaun coming down
Anna flipping the rope over the chair

Once we had everyone lowered from group 1, there was a little bit of time before our next session so I headed over and snapped a few photos of the technical rescue setup that Laurie rigged up on the Midway lift with Chanlin’s truck as well as a couple other photos of the patrol…

Chanlin’s truck staged for technical rescue
Tyler and Bryan enjoying a break
Mindy and Fischer tending the ropes
Laurie leading the technical rescue component

From there I wandered over to the mass casualty incident and snapped some pics of patrollers working on various OEC scenarios to hone skills for the upcoming season.

Kerstin, Dave and Ian working an OEC scenario
Matt Wade and Rob honing their OEC skills
Toby and crew analyzing their next steps

By then it was time to head back to Twilight and lead group 2 through a round of chairlift evacuation. That process went smoothly and by then it was time for lunch. It was nice to spend a few minutes on the lodge steps with the rest of the patrol and catch up on past times, dream about the upcoming season, and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Devin and Brian at lunch

After lunch, it was time for the final round rotation, and I headed back over to Twilight to lead the last group through chair evac. By this time of day, the sun was in a pretty good position to make for some good photos, so I pulled out my camera, and after putting the wide-angle lens on, fired away.

Brad dropping out of the sky
Shannon being lowered
Shannon lowering a patroller on Twilight

As the patrol was lowered, they would move into the belayer position, then communicator position, and then out. It’s slow going having to move everyone into the rotation, but worthwhile training in the event we ever need to do a lift evacuation for real. As the afternoon wore on, the thermometer rose and it became downright warm. Several folks stripped down to shorts, and it definitely felt more like summer than fall…

Steffan coming down
Simon being lowered through a sunburst
Meghan coming down

Eventually we worked our way through everyone on group 3 and it was time to wrap up. I headed over and observed a little bit of the final OEC scenarios, and then it was time for self evacuation for those of us who were qualified. We did that on Sleepy, similar to the year before, and that went off without a hitch. Finally, it was time to put the gear away and be done with the long refresher weekend.

More OEC scenarios

Dan, Joe, Shaun and I headed out, and made the short drive down to Gold Lake to enjoy a well-deserved beer along with some brats. I’d been looking forward to this point in time all weekend long, and it didn’t disappoint! My beer of choice for the day was a refreshing Hazy ’96 from Elysian Brewing, and it hit the spot!

Hazy ’96 by Elysian Brewing
Post refresher grilling with the crew

A bit later the brats were done and we were enjoying them along with some fresh chips and garden salsa — the perfect way to end a long weekend. With the refresher weekend in the books, I’m ready for the shorter days of winter to arrive, hopefully filled with lots of snow and fresh pow turns. Until then, here’s a parting shot from the day of Shaun being lowered off the Twilight Lift during chair evacuation…

Parting shot from the day