November 20, 2023 – Mt Hood, Southside

For one reason or another, I’d watched the better part of the month of November slip by without finding a worthy opportunity to get our for some turns. I’d missed an opportunity early in the month due to work, and the weather after that was pretty bad, so when finally another storm system moved through I jumped on the chance to get out.

Hood in the early morning

I called up Joe, and he was game to get out, so we met early in the morning at the cop shop in Albany before making the drive north to the mountain. We pulled into the climber’s lot around 7:00 am or so, and after donning skins and packs, we headed up. It was a treat to be able to skin right from the parking lot, and soon we worked our way up towards Silcox under blue skies and sunshine.

Looking back at Timberline
A snowcat at Silcox

We made good time on the approach to Silcox, stopping for a brief break and then continuing on up. Coverage on the lower Palmer was sparse, but there was plenty of snow for turns. Both of us had our hopes on climbing higher than the Palmer however, but weren’t quite sure what the upper mountain would offer in terms of conditions.

Looking back at Silcox
Joe heading up the Palmer

We continued on, making good time to the top of the Palmer, where we stopped to hang out in the sun for a few minutes and enjoy the views. After refueling with a quick snack, it was an easy decision to keep climbing, and see what the conditions above would give us.

At the top shack
Looking down from above the Palmer

We navigated our way through a maze of rocks, rime and firm snow, and skinning was bit difficult at times. Neither of us were sure if it would warm enough to produce corn for the ride down, but I had a feeling we’d be in good shape. We continued on up and worked our way towards the Vietnam couloir, and in places the snow was pretty nice wind buff. In other places though, it was pretty slick and sketch.

Joe heading towards Crater Rock

We met a solo skier named Nikki who we climbed part of the route with. Eventually, we switched to booting, which proved to be much more secure than skinning. I kind of regretted leaving the crampons in the car, but after a few hundred feet kicking steps it was apparent we’d make due without them.

Nikki above Illumination Rock
Nikki booting up towards Crater Rock

It started to warm considerably by the time we reached the bottom part of Crater Rock, and I had to take off my Pendleton wool shirt as we traversed above the White River headwall and continued climbing towards the Devil’s Kitchen and Crater Bowl.

Joe above the White River Headwall
Looking up beyond Devil’s Kitchen

Eventually we worked our way to the Hogsback ridge, and decided to call it there. Both Joe and I were a bit tired from the climb, which was more taxing than it should have been without crampons, and the upper mountain was basically out of the question without them as well. Sitting at the saddle and enjoying the views was easily a great consolation prize to continuing up.

Joe at the Hogsback
Devil’s Churn Imperial Stout

Since we’d reached our high point, it was a fitting time to snap a picture of my beer and get it on ice. The beer I’d brought for the day was aptly named Devil’s Churn Imperial Stout from Yachats Brewing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it while watching the sulfur steam vent from Crater Rock and the Devil’s Kitchen below.

Looking up to the Hogsback and beyond
The view down to Devil’s Kitchen and out to central Oregon

The temperatures had warmed considerably, and it was amazing to sitting there in just a base layer without a breath of wind. I spent several minutes watching and videoing the sulfur coming out of the rocks behind us, and eventually we figured it was a good time to step into the bindings and prepare to head down. It’s always bittersweet leaving the Hogsback — it takes considerable time to get there and the views are so special, however the turns beckon and the pull to put down some smooth tracks is strong.

Hogsback sponsor shot
Joe dropping in off the Hogsback

I dropped in first, and enjoyed some smooth wind buffed turns down a few hundred feet before setting up to shoot some pictures of Joe coming down. The slope didn’t disappoint, and Joe ripped some nice turns down to me and beyond…

November turns high on Mt Hood
Skiing down towards Devil’s Kitchen
Looking back at the Crater Bowl on Mt Hood

Once we descended down off the Hogsback, we continued on down past Devil’s Kitchen and then enjoyed some really nice turns above the White River headwall. The fresh snow was smooth, and with the deep blue sky as a backdrop, it provided for some pretty nice photos.

Turns near Devil’s Kitchen
Matt enjoying a turn above the White River
Joe working his way towards the Vietnam Couloir

Once down to the Vietnam Couloir (so named because it looks like that in the summer), Joe and I both agreed that we definitely needed to ski it and continue down to the Ziggy. As soon as I made my first turn in the couloir I knew we were going to have a few thousand feet of sweet skiing….

Enjoying some quality November chandelier corn
Matt skiing some perfect November corn

The couloir was a “take your pick” between chandelier corn on skier’s right and wind buffed pow on skier’s left. It was baby butt smooth, and Joe and I ripped it from top to bottom. I’d say it was easily some of the smoothest November snow I’d had (at least since last year on Hood hahaha), and we both had huge smiles on our faces by the time we reached the Ziggy below.

Joe enjoying the smooth snow in the Couloir
November corn turns on Mt Hood

Once down to the Ziggy, we continued descending and the snow conditions continued to be perfect. We worked our way down to the normal summer get-back spot, and ended up hitting it perfectly so that it spit us out right back at the top of the Palmer after a hard traverse.

Skiing the upper Zigzag

Back at the Palmer, we enjoyed a well earned break and talked to a few rookie splitboarders who were up for their first ever spiltboard outing. The conditions continued to be beautiful and warm, and it felt good to soak up the rays and enjoy the views. Eventually, we started down, and Joe grabbed the camera and took several photos of me enjoying the turns on the upper Palmer.

Coming down from the top of the Palmer
Cruising down the Palmer snowfield

The snow on the Palmer was in pretty good shape — not quite as nice as the upper mountain but still really nice nonetheless. We continued on down and I took a few pictures of Joe as we worked down towards the Mile chairlift.

Cruising down the Palmer
Working our way towards the Mile

Once down to the Mile, we elected to head skier’s left and followed our noses down some fun lines towards the car. The snow had melted out quite a bit down low from earlier in the day, but there was no need to take the skis off and we enjoyed some pretty nice turns that spit us out right at the climber’s lot.

Skiing back to the climber’s lot

Once back at the car, it felt good to get out of ski boots and take the packs off. Joe and I were looking forward to some apres’ grilling, so Joe fired up the grill and we got them cooking as soon as it was hot. A few minutes later, we were enjoying some tasty ‘brats along with some garden fresh chips and salsa to put the cap on what was a pretty great day of riding.

Apres in the climber’s lot

All in all, it was a perfect way to spend a late November day, and a day that neither Joe nor I will likely soon forget. Until next time, here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting shot of Joe


April 17, 2016 – Mt Bachelor

April was a busy month. Work was hectic, budgets were due, and I took a week long vacation to Southern California to visit the mouse with the family. And, we bought chickens, so several days were spent building a coop and run to house our new feathered friends. 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. I did manage a couple days at both Willamette Pass and Mt Bachelor, but didn’t pack the camera with me. Being able to free ride lifts in the corn snow without the weight of a pack and camera was pretty dreamy. I actually only took one photo of snow the entire month of April, from the summit of Mt Bachelor on a perfect sunny morning.

Oregon volcano lineup
Oregon volcano lineup

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. 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. Conditions are shaping up to be an awesome May and June!

March days at the Pass

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. We hit the road early, and made it to the Pass before the lifts were spinning. 8-10 inches of fresh snow greeted us, however it was warmer and heavier than expected. Nevertheless, we made a couple of fun runs on RTS, with ample face shots the reward for our efforts. Due to all the new snow from the previous day and night, we headed over to Peak 2 to help out with opening. 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. We made pow runs until it became tracked up around 11:00, then headed down for lunch. After lunch, I grabbed the split and we headed out for the backcountry, with it still snowing hard…

Patrol Room
Patrol Room

We skinned out to our destination, and discussed which line to drop first. We decided on a line near the trees in case there was any lurking wind slab avalanche danger. The turns were fun, albeit a bit heavy. Dan and I took turns on the camera snapping photos…

Pow surfing
Matt surfing the pow
Dan on the uptrack

After our first lap, we elected to skin rather than boot given the depth of the new snow. Back at the top, we enjoyed a cold beverage before dropping in for laps number 2 and 3…

Dan getting some
Matt slashing the mank

We skinned out to the area around 3:00, and were just in time to enjoy a nice pow lap down SDN. Our timing wasn’t too great however, as we ended up getting roped in to a search with patrol for a lost party. 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. 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). 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.

Dan skinning out through the woods

The following weekend I found myself back at the Pass for a Level 2 avalanche class. 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.

Avy 2 Class
Avy 2 Class atop West Peak

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! We skied a few lines on West Peak in marginal snow conditions, and enjoyed touring outside the area.

Brian & Moth
Brian & Moth in the pit

The remainder of the class went well, with beacon drills and organized rescue scenarios on Sunday. It’s a relief that the training is finally over, and the end of the lift serviced ski season is in sight. While it may be bittersweet, I’m already looking forward to my most favorite season of all — volcano season! Here’s to a great spring!

September 1, 2014 – Mt Hood, Palmer Snowfield

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.

Mt Hood on the approach
Mt Hood on the approach
Dan and Todd hiking along the White River
Dan and Todd hiking along the White River

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.

The lower White River Glacier
The lower White River Glacier
White River Glacier Abstract
White River Glacier Abstract

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.

Break time...
The view from our highpoint

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.

Tele turns on the White River Snowfield
Tele turns on the White River Snowfield
Dan getting September turns
Dan following Todd

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.

Turns on the Palmer
Turns on the Palmer

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…

Hiking for a second lap
Hiking for a second 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…

More perfect snow
More perfect snow
Surfing the Palmer corn
Surfing the Palmer corn

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……

Pounding a cold one on the run out
Pounding a cold one on the run out

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!

The snow's end
End of the snow

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.