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


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.

September 3, 2012 – Zigzag Glacier

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.

Timberline Lodge & Mt Jefferson
Timberline Lodge & Mt Jefferson

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.

Dan enjoying lunch at Illumination Saddle
Dan enjoying lunch at Illumination Saddle

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….

Crevasses on the Reid Glacier
Crevasses on the Reid Glacier

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…

September turns off the Saddle
September turns off 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…..

Skiing below Illumination Rock
Skiing below Illumination Rock
September turns on the Zigzag Glacier
September turns on the Zigzag Glacier

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…..

Enjoying a frosty Vitamin R
Enjoying a frosty Vitamin R

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…

September ski turns
September ski turns
Enjoying summer turns on the Zigzag snowfield
Enjoying summer turns on the Zigzag snowfield

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.

Turns on the lower Palmer snowfield
Turns on the lower Palmer snowfield

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….

Cruising down the Mile Canyon
Cruising down the Mile Canyon


August 8, 2009, Palmer Glacier

I was looking forward to August turns as I headed up to Mt Hood’s Palmer Glacier, where I met Todd to make some lift-served riding.  I had been up the week before practicing glacier travel and crevasse rescue on the White River Glacier and wished I’d had my board for the ride down.  The weather was sunny and nice and the snow on the Palmer looked good as we loaded the Mile lift.  We spun several laps on the snowfield and conditions were good.  As usual, there were a few race courses set up with Olympic caliber skiers practicing their skills, and lots of campers down below at the ski and snowboard camps.  There weren’t too many people just out enjoying the riding on the snowfield though.

For lunch, we headed all the way down riding deep into the Mile canyon, having to hike the last bit to the parking lot. The afternoon consisted of more turns, and after several thousand vertical, we called it a day and headed down to Govy for our usual standard of a beer and burger at the Ratskellar.  Summer turns on Mt Hood are always lots of fun!  Here’s a shot from the day…

August 2009 – Palmer Snowfield


August 2, 2008 – Palmer Glacier

To get turns in for month 33, I met up with Todd early in the morning at the parking lot of Mt Hood’s Timberline ski area. The weather was sunny and nice, and we elected to spin laps on the Palmer snowfield. The snow was somewhat hard as usual in the early morning, but few people were around.

Todd riding the Palmer, August 2008

As the snow softened up, more folks ventured up the lifts, and the snowboard campers started up the mountain as well. We spent most of our time on the upper Palmer, riding down to the mid-station without going all the way down.

Summer snowboard turns

Around 11:00, we headed over to the eastern boundary of the ski area and ventured out onto the White River Glacier to eat some lunch. Looking up at the White River Snowfield, it actually looked to be in pretty good shape. The usual large crevasses on the glacier itself were completely open in the mid-summer sun….

The upper White River glacier

After lunch, we made several more laps on the snowfield, with each one getting better and better. We thought about hiking above the ski area since the White River snowfield looked so good, but decide against that since most people were off the hill by noon and we had the place to ourselves.

Todd lounging at the top of the Palmer between runs

Around 1:00, being pretty spent, we made the long run down to the parking lot, having skied over 20,000 vertical feet for the day. Down at Govy, we stopped in at the Ratskellar for an IPA and some grub, rounding out a near perfect day. Here’s a shot of the mountain from the parking lot…..

Looking up at Hood at the end of the day