April was a busy month.Â Work was hectic, budgets were due, and I took a week long vacation to Southern California to visit the mouse with the family.Â And, we bought chickens, so several days were spent building a coop and run to house our new feathered friends.Â I found myself needing a break from snowboarding after a grueling winter of ski patrol, and was really enjoying working around the house and property, getting the yard in shape and the garden in.Â I did manage a couple days at both Willamette Pass and Mt Bachelor, but didn’t pack the camera with me.Â Being able to free ride lifts in the corn snow without the weight of a pack and camera was pretty dreamy.Â I actually only took one photo of snow the entire month of April, from the summit of Mt Bachelor on a perfect sunny morning.
Spending a couple days making runs with a few close friends down the likes of SDN and White Russian at Willamette, and the Cirque Bowl and the Southside at Bachelor, in great April corn snow, reminded me of great days from past years.Â With the month of April past, and the busy season at work wrapping up, I’m definitely ready to head back out again for some more riding.Â Conditions are shaping up to be an awesome May and June!
Winter decided to make a return to the northwest, and Dan and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for powder at the Pass, especially since neither of us were on duty on Sunday.Â We hit the road early, and made it to the Pass before the lifts were spinning.Â 8-10 inches of fresh snow greeted us, however it was warmer and heavier than expected.Â Nevertheless, we made a couple of fun runs on RTS, with ample face shots the reward for our efforts.Â Due to all the new snow from the previous day and night, we headed over to Peak 2 to help out with opening.Â The run down Northern was nice, and then after a bit of avy control, shoveling and fencing work, Peak 2 was open to the public.Â We made pow runs until it became tracked up around 11:00, then headed down for lunch.Â After lunch, I grabbed the split and we headed out for the backcountry, with it still snowing hard…
We skinned out to our destination, and discussed which line to drop first.Â We decided on a line near the trees in case there was any lurking wind slab avalanche danger.Â The turns were fun, albeit a bit heavy.Â Dan and I took turns on the camera snapping photos…
After our first lap, we elected to skin rather than boot given the depth of the new snow.Â Back at the top, we enjoyed a cold beverage before dropping in for laps number 2 and 3…
We skinned out to the area around 3:00, and were just in time to enjoy a nice pow lap down SDN.Â Our timing wasn’t too great however, as we ended up getting roped in to a search with patrol for a lost party.Â Dan and I ended up with the assignment of breaking trail along the cross country trails towards Gold Lake since we had our backcountry gear.Â Around 7:30, after several hours of searching and wading through waist deep snow, the lost skier was found (he’d somehow skied out of the area to the Waldo Road, then walked out to Highway 58 and hitched a ride back to the area).Â A snowcat from the area picked Dan and I up and gave us a heated ride a couple of miles back to the lodge, where cold beer was waiting.
The following weekend I found myself back at the Pass for a Level 2 avalanche class.Â The weather was nice on Saturday, so we toured out to West Peak with the group and charted the area, testing the snowpack with various snow pit tests, and generally had a good time.
The snow was deep, and in one place I lost a 230 cm probe and had to dig down 4 feet to find the top!Â We skied a few lines on West Peak in marginal snow conditions, and generally enjoyed touring outside the area.
The remainder of the class went well, with beacon drills and organized rescue scenarios on Sunday.Â It’s a relief that the training is finally over, and the end of the lift serviced ski season is in sight.Â While it may be bittersweet, I’m already looking forward to my most favorite season of all — volcano season!Â Here’s to a great spring!
The calendar said September, so it was time to head to Mt Hood in search of some late summer corn snow. After talking with Dan, we made plans to head to the mountain on Labor Day and meet up with Todd who was planning on getting a twofer on the 31st/1st. So, on Monday morning, I met Dan and Cindy at the cop shot in Albany and we set out. After a brief stop at Joe’s Donuts in Sandy for a power breakfast, we arrived in the Timberline Parking lot around 8:30 and found Todd waiting there to greet us. The weather was sunny and nice, with a slight breeze to keep us cool. In short order our packs were shouldered and we were hiking up the White River trail above the climbers lot.
Before long we reached the usual vantage point overlooking the White River Glacier, stopping briefly to soak in the views. The glacier looked about normal for late summer, and had retreated quite a bit from our previous trip in early August.
Continuing up along the climber’s trail, we found a suitable spot just below the top of the Palmer that was out of the breeze and worked great for a quick lunch break. After lunch, we continued up beyond the Palmer and onto the White River Snowfield as a few clouds began to form. Around 9200 feet or so, snow conditions started to deteriorate so we elected to head down.
Todd dropped in first, and dropped a knee, and was followed closely by Dan. After the two skiers were several hundred feet below me, it was my turn. I put my camera back in the camera bag, tightened my binding straps, and enjoyed sweet September turns on Mt Hood.
We regrouped just above the top of the Palmer, then cruised down the snowfield along with a few other paying customers from the Timberline ski area. Palmer skied about as good as I’ve ever skied it in September, and we ripped it.
A few thousand feet later, we stopped at the top of the Mile and debated options. Dan and I were game to head back up, while Todd was ready to head for the barn, so we bid Todd farewell as he skied down to the car. Dan and I strapped our sliding gear back to our packs and started up for another lap…
Less than an hour later, we were enjoying a well deserved beer at the top of the Palmer, lounging in the summer sun watching European girls in bikinis ski by lap after lap. Eventually, the hour reached 2:30 and the lifts shut down, and the general public deserted the mountain. This was our cue, as riding the Palmer after it’s closed with nobody around is about as good as it gets in the summer. Cindy, who was nearing the mid-station, called us from below, and with plans to meet up we headed down for a second lap…
The snow on lap two was as good as lap one — so good in fact, that after we met up with Cindy, we headed back up halfway to the top for another session. This time, we ripped the snow as before, but Dan grabbed a beer on the way down he’d stashed at the mid-station and pounded it while executing a perfect ski turn……
The snow in the Mile Canyon on the way back to the car was great as usual, with the last 100 yards a bit challenging due to all the snowcat tracks. Hiking out the trail down to the car, it dawned on me we’d skied nearly 5000 vertical feet on the day —- not bad for September!
Sitting in the climber’s lot in flip flops and shorts, we enjoyed some of the season’s finest offerings, including fresh salsa I’d made the day before, cucumbers and dip, and a great pale ale from Good Life Brewing Co. Reflecting on our day during the car ride home, we agreed that though September might not offer the best terrain options and snow conditions, what we skied this Labor Day will not soon be forgotten.
Four thousand five hundred….a number I’d be thinking about in my mind all week after an excellent September ski day on Mt Hood. My morning started early, meeting Dan at the park and ride at the Corvallis exit off Interstate 5 and carpooling north as the sun began to rise over the Oregon cascades. After a few stops, we pulled into the parking lot at Timberline near 8:30 am, shouldered our packs and set out up the Magic Mile canyon shortly after 9:00 am. As usual, the views of Timberline Lodge and south towards Mt Jefferson were spectacular.
Not wanting to hike under the ski lifts, we headed west towards the Little Zigzag Canyon, finding snow around an elevation of 6800 feet, though it was pretty badly cupped, most likely from previous skier’s whose tracks affected the melting snow. Continuing up the snowfield and onto the Zigzag Glacier, we made good time to Illumination Saddle, arriving at noon. The saddle is always a nice spot to take a lunch break and soak in the views to the west overlooking Illumination Rock and the Reid Glacier.
The Reid Glacier is always fairly exposed this time of year, making for some cool picture opportunities of the crevasses and cracks. One particular set of crevasses near the top of the glacier caught my eye on this trip….
After lunch, it appeared the snow was just starting to corn, so we strapped into our sliding gear with the intention of heading to the east side of the Zigzag, which appeared to hold the smoothest snow. To get there however, we had to descend from the saddle on pretty hideous suncups and cross an large area of snow with significant rockfall. Here’s a shot of Dan skiing from the saddle…
Once on the east side of the Zigzag, we found a nice line which was mostly free of suncups and bumps. Heading down, the turns were pretty nice – not quite as nice as August, but pretty nice nonetheless. I snapped a few photos of Dan as he headed down towards me with the mountain in the background…..
We continued down the Zigzag to the point where the snow started to become discontinuous a few hundred feet above the Mississippi Head Cliffs. Given the work and effort to get to this point, both Dan and I agreed it was time for a break to enjoy a frosty beverage in the sunshine…..
After enjoying a cold one, we had about a thousand feet of work to do before putting ourselves in a position to head back towards the car. Opting to climb instead of skin, we made quick time to the snow finger linking the west side of the Zigzag Glacier to the east side snowfield. At this point, the boards went back on our feet for some more fun…
Since the snow on the lower Zigzag snowfield looked iffy at best, we made the decision to descend only a few hundred feet, opting instead to traverse over and climb back up to the top of the Palmer snowfield inside the ski area, which proved to be an excellent decision. Arriving at the top of the Palmer around 3:30, the lifts had shut down for the day and we found ourselves staring down at at nearly 2500 vertical feet of perfect corn snow with not a soul in sight. Both Dan and I strapped in and started down on what proved to be the best snow of the day by far, hooping and hollering the whole way down. After several hundred feet, we felt the need to stop and rest our burning thighs.
Continuing down the Mile canyon and beyond, the snow was excellent the whole way down. Sweet turn after sweet turn, we able to descend to within a few hundred yards of the parking lot. Total vertical for the day was right around 4500 feet, by far the most I’ve ever made in September with the assistance of a lift. Sitting at home later that night and reflecting back on a perfect day, I know this trip will rate up there as one of my all time favorite September ski days! Here’s a parting shot from the Mile Canyon….