April 19, 2021 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

For a variety of reasons I’d missed the window to make some weekend turns, but Monday afternoon was beginning to hold some promise for a dusk patrol mission to the Pass to test out my latest DIY split. I text Jack, who was in town, and we made plans to meet at the area around 4:00 pm. I stopped off at Gold Lake on my way up to gear up, and when I pulled up to the gate at the Pass Jack was ready to go. We headed out almost as soon as I locked up my car, and started skinning up George.

At the snowpark
Heading up George

The sun had been working the snow over pretty good since I’d last been up, and the surface was quite a bit bumpier than we were expecting, at least on the front side. The skin up KP and then to Eagles went quickly, and soon we were up top enjoying the view…

Topping out on Eagles
Matt at the top

My first order of business was to get my beer on ice. The offering for today was a tasty, albeit stiff, Beaker Breaker IPA from Pelican Brewing Company. Seven minutes later when it was cold, I had my first drink and it definitely was refreshing. A few minutes after that, Jack and I stepped into bindings and slid off towards RTS to make a few turns.

Beaker Breaker from Pelican Brewing
Summit shot

The snow was in pretty good shape on RTS, and much more smooth than what we encountered on the south side runs skinning up. We skied it down to the bottom, took a few pictures along the way, and then started setting a boot pack for the trip back up.

First run down RTS
After work turns on RTS

A short time later, we were back at the top of the run, and decided to head to the top of EPA again for a second lap from the summit. I captured a few photos of Jack booting up the snow, as well as the dry ground, along the way…

Booting up for a second lap
Almost to the top

Back on top, I drank the rest of my beer, and we wasted little time dropping in for lap number two. The turns down the second time around were better than the first, and I had a feeling they would get better as the afternoon turned to evening.

Dropping in for run 2
Jack ripping down RTS

We made turns back down to the bottom of our bootpack, and proceeded to head up again for a third lap, this time stopping at the top of the run 50 or 75 feet below the top of EPA. On our way down for the third run, Jack decided to do his best Dan impression, and skied while drinking a beer. I gotta say, he’s basically got it nailed!

Jack doing his best “Dan” imitation
Turns above the fallen log

I continued shooting photos as we headed down, and captured several of Jack enjoying the steep slope. At the bottom, we checked our watches and decided we had enough time for one more, so we reused our boot pack for a third time.

April turns down RTS
Jack enjoying his 3rd lap

For our final lap, we headed back to the top of EPA to milk the turns from the summit. Dropping in, the snow just kept getting better and better. I have no doubt that if we would have done a fifth and sixth lap, they would have been the best of the day.

Skiing RTS a 4th Time
Corn turns on RTS

At the bottom, we decided to head out via Lois Lane, and then skirt over to Rough Cut to check out the conditions. Lois skied quite nicely, but as we started down Rough Cut the snow became really choppy and bumpy. A little bit of that and we decided to traverse over to Swoosh, which proved to be a better choice.

Heading out
At the top of Twilight

We skied the dirty, albeit relatively smooth snow down Swoosh right to the parking lot, and made the short hike over to the cars. Jack had a couple of beers on ice from Montana, and I was more than happy when he pulled them out and offered me one…

Skiing down Swoosh
Jack with a couple of cold ones

The ice cold Cold Smoke’s from Kettlehouse Brewing Co. hit the spot, and were super tasty. I can see now why Jack is always raving about them. If I can ever find these here in Oregon, I’ll be purchasing a 4-pack.

Cold Smoke by KettleHouse Brewing

As we were sitting there enjoying our beers and reflecting on the evening of skiing, an ODOT crew pulled up and cleaned off the Snow Zone sign that I always like to take a picture of. I’d always wondered, and now I know what the wooden 2 x 4’s in front of the sign are used for….

ODOT cleaning crew

A short time later, with our beers finished, it was time to head home. I bid Jack farewell, and headed down the road, satisfied with another great evening of turns at the Pass. Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Heading down to Lois


April 10, 2021 – Closing Weekend at the Pass

After a pretty fun dusk patrol the night before, Dan and I woke early at the cabin, anticipating the final weekend of lift accessed turns at the Pass. Both of us were on the schedule with P3, and it looked to be a decent day, with a break in the warm weather we’d been having. We had a hearty breakfast of sausage and eggs, and headed out the door around 7:30 am to make the short drive to the Pass.

Morning at the cabin

There was a  half inch of new snow at the Pass when we pulled in, and I donned the patrol coat and radio for the last time of the season. Heading over to the patrol room, it was bittersweet for the season to be coming to an end, but I knew we’d have many days of turns in the backcountry ahead of us before the snow was gone.

Dan and Brian before the morning meeting

After a morning meeting, we headed out and helped get the ramp and fencing setup prior to the lift opening. The area was running a little slow, so after our work was done I snapped a few pictures…

Waiting on EPA
EPA base from the patrol room

Around 8:45 am, we finally loaded the lift and headed to the top. I was tasked with opening Timburr and Timburr Glades — not the most pleasant task. The snow was super frozen skier cut, and nearly chattered the teeth out of my head. Nevertheless, I made it down, and helped set up the closure at Sleepy…

Quin, Ian and Dan ready to load
Kris running the Sleepy Closure

It was basically one and done to get the mountain open since Peak 2 wasn’t running, so I headed back up with Dan to check out the grooming on Charlie. The corduroy was quite good, and Dan and I ripped it up for a couple of runs. I snapped a few shots of him slashing turns on the first run down…

Cranking turns on Charlie
Dan headed down Charlie

After three or four runs, I headed to the parking lot for a quick break, and found Quin, Matt and Dan hanging out. A few minutes later, Dan and I headed up to Peak 2 with Ian to get all of the patrol gear packed onto the sleds and bring it down for the season.

Quin, Matt & Dan in the parking lot
Ian and Dan headed up Peak 2

Once at the top, we pulled out the two Cascade 100’s and the 350, and set about loading them up with the medical gear, evacuation gear, boo, signs, and packs. It didn’t take too long, and we had Peak 2 ready to be closed down for the year. It was nice hanging out on top of Peak 2 with nobody around, and I was looking forward to being back with my splitboard in a few weeks. Before we left, I snapped a picture of us loaded up and ready to go…

Loading gear atop Peak 2
Closing Peak 2 for the season

Dan and Ian kicked off, and started out down Southbound, with sights set on the Kris Kross closure to grab the gear there as well. I followed behind, towing one of the Cascade 100’s, and snapped a few pictures, before we all headed down Rosary and KP to the base.

Ian and Dan headed out
Picking up the Kris Kross closure

The ski down with loaded sleds was pretty fun, and it didn’t take long to reach the base. I ditched my sled at the bottom, and headed back up EPA in order to get to my bump slot.

Ian arriving at base
Hanging at bump

Hanging out at bump was pretty nice, and was something I didn’t get a chance to do much during the season with P2, either because I was hill chiefing or because we were so incredibly busy most of the year. I was a bit bummed however when a few folks headed back to Peak 2 to pull the tower pads — I wanted to get one more lift ride back there, but it wasn’t to be. Oh well, next year! After bump, I skied a few runs down RTS, which remained super icy. In fact, I think it was as icy as I’ve ever seen it. Success was really nice however in the afternoon sun, and I made several laps on it, adjusting tower pads on EPA as I went. The afternoon passed quickly, and soon we were ready for upper mountain sweep.

P3 ready for sweep

I ended up sweeping Rosary, and although we had to wait for a couple of slow skiers, we worked our way down to the parking lot with plenty of time for the evening meeting and social hour afterwards. The meeting went quickly, and just like that my patrol season was over. There would be one more day of skiing in the morning, but I had several things to take care of on the home front. But that would be tomorrow — for now, it was time to enjoy a cold beer in the parking lot. My beer of choice for the day was a super tasty Cocoa Cow from Sunriver Brewing Co. The pic below was from the day before at Gold Lake snowpark.

A tasty Cocoa Cow from Sunriver Brewing

For the first time all season, the parking lot scene felt like “normal.” With all of patrol fully vaccinated (but still taking some precautions), it was super nice to enjoy the apres’ skiing activities. Dave even busted out the shot ski, complete with pixie cups that were changed out each time it was used.

Shot ski in the parking lot

An hour or so later, it was finally time to hit the road, and call it a season. All things considered, it was a pretty damn good year at the Pass, despite the issues presented by COVID-19, and despite the near record number of people. I’m already looking forward to next year, and hope the snow flies early and often!

April 9, 2021 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol Redux

For the second time in as many weeks, Dan and I left work early and headed up to the Pass for an evening of corn snow turns. Our objective on this trip was to ski a few laps in the evening, and then stay the night at the cabin and patrol the following day, for what would be my final patrol day of the season. Dan had to stay up for closing day on Sunday as well, so we took separate rigs up on Friday afternoon. I pulled in to the Gold Lake lot around 3:45 pm, geared up, and Dan arrived shortly thereafter…

Gearing up at Gold Lake

While waiting for Dan to arrive, I snapped a few pics, including the one below of an Imperial O’Dark  black IPA from Oakshire Brewing, which I hoped to enjoy a little later once on top of the Pass. At 16 oz and 8.6%, it definitely packs a punch!

Imperial O’Dark by Oakshire Brewing

With boots on and gear ready to go, we made the short drive to the Pass and shouldered packs to head out. The snowpack was still holding up ok, but it was quite a bit lower than the previous week, and it definitely looked like the end of the season was approaching.

Parked at the Pass
Heading up George

We skinned up George, and then KP, on our way to Eagles. It looked like Rick had been up earlier with the cat, and there were quite a few snow and ice chunks in the run. Both of us hoped those things would be groomed out by morning, since it was supposed to be in the low 20s overnight, and we had to patrol the next day.

Cat debris on KP

We made good time up Eagles and then to the top of EPA, and the weather was warm and nice. The lighting was nice as well, and it felt good to be at the Pass with nobody around, enjoying the views out to Diamond Peak and beyond…

Dan atop EPA
Looking out over Odell Lake and beyond

We put our beers on ice, ripped skins, and I got my board ready for the ride down. A few minutes later, the beers were cold and it was time to enjoy a tasty cold one with a view. As has become customary for dusk patrol days at the Pass, I pulled out my tripod and took a few photos of us and our gear, before it was time to shove off and lay some tracks down RTS.

Obligatory shot up top before dropping in
Dan ripping corn off the top

We dropped in right off the top, and the turns were pretty nice right from the start. The afternoon sun had corned the snow up nicely, and I setup to snap some shots of Dan as he crested the rollover onto RTS and headed down…

Turns through the steeps


Dan headed down

Dan skied about halfway down the run, and waited for me to come down. I made my way down, and the turns were fun as the snow was setup better than the week earlier. When I met Dan, I handed him the camera, then he skied down a bit and snapped a few shots of me as I milked turns to the bottom

April turns on RTS
Matt riding RTS

At the bottom, it was a no-brainer to head back up for another lap, and we put an easy bootpack in up the steep slope. I caught a picture of Dan just above the fallen tree that went down earlier in December and came to be a defining feature on RTS this season.

Hiking up for lap 2

Lap 2 was equal to or better than lap one, and I captured a few shot of Dan heading down. After he was at the bottom, it was my turn to head down as the sun started to set over the horizon.

Dan dropping in for lap 2
Heading down RTS

We worked our way out Amber’s Way, and stopped for a few minutes at the top of Twilight. The snow was in good shape, I captured the below shot of Dan taking a quick rest prior to heading down ByGeorge…

A quick break at the top of Twilight

The ski down George was pretty nice, and we laid big, sweeping tracks down the hill. It wasn’t quite as perfectly smooth as the week before, but still skied really nicely, and our tracks would be clearly visible the next morning from first chair on patrol.

Evening turns on ByGeorge
Stoked at the bottom of George

Once at the bottom, it was a quick hike across the parking lot, and then to our cars. I headed out a few minutes before Dan, and drove down to Crescent to grab a six pack for the evening. When I got back to the cabin, Dan was there, and it didn’t take long to get our gear inside and get the fire going to warm the place up…

Heading to the car
At the cabin

With everything inside and drying out, it was time to crack open one of those beers and get the brats on the grill. I was in the mood for something a little on the lighter side, so we both enjoyed a Blonde Bombshell from Cascade Lakes Brewing Co. while cooking up dinner.

A tasty Blonde Bombshell 6-pack
Brats on the grill

The rest of the evening was filled with good food, drink and bs before it was time to hit the sack in anticipation of closing weekend at the Pass. All in all, it was a pretty awesome way to spend end the workweek and spend a Friday afternoon!