October 21, 2023 – Cutting at the Pass

Summer like weather was holding into late October, and conditions were looking favorable for a day of cutting at the Pass, so I made plans with Dan, Joe and John to head up for some saw time. The plan was to meet early at the Pass and work on the RTS area. Laurie, Matt and Austin were also planning on coming, so we left early from Dan’s house and made our way up Highway 58.

Morning pit stop at Gold Lake

After a quick pit stop at Gold Lake, Dan and I pulled in and opened the gate. A few minutes later, the rest of the crew showed up and we drove our way up the haul road to the top of Twilight. At the top Twilight we scoped out the approach via Lois Lane but decided that Amber’s would be the better choice. There were some fresh elk tracks at the top of Duck Soup, and after cutting a couple of logs out of the way were parked the rigs and were ready to go.

At the Pass ready for a day of cutting
Ready to go on Amber’s Way

The plan for the day was to head up hill and work on cutting some of the endless trees that seem to grow on the run (even with our work over the last several years) and then spend some time in the afternoon on the runout. Packing the saw and gear up the steep slope is always fun, and soon we were working away…

Ready to work on RTS
Dan cutting on RTS
Austin and Dan taking a break from cutting
Laurie, Dan and Matt

We cut until about noon or so and then headed down to take a break and enjoy some lunch and a well-deserved break. After lunch, John, Dan and I headed down to the runout to open a few lanes that would hopefully pay dividends later in the year. It got pretty warm in the afternoon, and I had to remember to hydrate as well as take my helmet off multiple times to dump the sweat out of it!

Dan and Laurie heading in for lunch
Fischer working on the runout

Around 3pm or so we called a day and headed back up the hill to the trucks. It was time to enjoy a cold beverage and I didn’t turn Dan down when he offered me a cold Ninkasi Hazy IPA from his cooler.

Ninkasi Hazy IPA

The next order of business was to get brats on the grill, so we pulled out the grill, meats and condiments right at the pickups and decided to grill right on Amber’s. It wasn’t long before they were ready, and we quickly devoured them after a hard day working on the hill. I grabbed the tripod from my bag and snapped a few photos of the group, including the shots below.

The crew relaxing after a hard day’s work
Grilling brats on Amber’s Way

A bit later, it was time to head down, so we loaded in the truck and drove down from Amber’s. Dan and I wanted to drive around towards the big corner, so we turned left below the top of Twilight and worked our way up the haul road. The mountain was looking good from the truck as we drove up and then back down, with the only ingredient needed for opening being snow. All in all, it was a great day to be on the mountain, and I hope the next time I head up it’s to make turns! Until then, here’s a parting shot from the day of a tasty Pumpkin Patch Ale from Rogue Brewing.

Pumpkin Patch Ale by Rogue Brewing

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

June 10-11, 2023 – Nuts & Bolts Clinic at Mt Hood

The second weekend in June meant it was time for the annual Nuts and Bolts Clinic at Mt Hood, and I was looking forward to attending this year for the first time in 10-years. I was extra motivated to head to the mountain and enjoy the fun this year because Shaun was able to come with me, and he was really looking forward to a few days of late season skiing. We left our house on Friday afternoon, and made our way to Government Camp in time to get in on some of the evening shenanigans at the Ratskellar, including pizza and beer. We met up with the rest of the crew from Willamette Pass, and after a couple of hours headed to crash at the Edelweiss for the evening.

Shaun at Timberline on our first morning

The next morning, everyone woke early and enjoyed a quick breakfast before making the short drive up the road to Timberline. The check-in process was pretty smooth, and soon Shaun and I were hanging with the rest of the crew representing patrollers from all over the northwest. After some announcements and discussion about the plans for the day, we took a picture of the Willamette Pass crew and headed out to load the Mile chairlift.

Hanging out at registration
The 2023 Willamette Pass Nut’s & Bolts Crew

I was stoked to show Shaun the area, since he had been to Timberline before but never to ski. We loaded the Chair up the mile and I ended up with a sled in tow, and we worked our way over to load the Palmer. Seeing a bunch of patrollers descend on the mountain is pretty cool, and I took a few shots of patrol queuing up in the lift line from the air.

Waiting for the Palmer Chair
Looking back at the Palmer station

We made our way to the top of the Palmer, and after unloading the sleds we broke out into various groups to get instruction in different disciplines. I took several shots of Shaun, and someone (can’t remember who, maybe James?) took a few shots of me and Shaun as well.

Shaun and a sea of patrollers at the top of the Palmer
Matt and Shaun

Once everyone made their way to the top of the Palmer, we headed off to our respective clinics. Shaun headed off with some others to take a ski enhancement seminar, and I headed out to the east side of the snowfield with several patrollers from Mt Hood to have Toby show us some tips and tricks for running the edge sled.

Toby talking it through with some Mt Hood Patrollers
Checking out the Edge

To start things off, we took a lap down the Palmer running the sled unloaded, and really worked to exaggerate getting the sled up on edge by working the handles. It’s always nice running the edge, and I enjoyed my time in the handles while enjoying the views as well.

Hood Patrollers running the Edge
Heading down the Palmer

After our first lap running unloaded, we headed back up at the mid-station and spent the next several laps running the sled loaded. Everyone got a turn in the handles and on the tail rope, and when I wasn’t doing either of those two tasks or being ballast in the sled I fired off some pictures with the camera.

Talking it over at the mid-station
 the Palmer
The Mt Hood crew
My view from the sled

After running several laps with loaded sleds, we switched over to doing a few drills with boo. One of my favorite was the uphill traverse, a trick that Toby showed me how to perform which involves the patroller in the handles turning 90 degrees to the sled and pushing on the uphill handle while the tailroper pulls the sled from behind while out in front (or nearly in front) of the patrollers in the handles (kind of like a slingshot). When done properly, you can actually traverse the sled uphill.

Toby and Jeffrey working the boo course
Skiing the edge in the timed trials

To cap off the clinic, we ran a few timed trials with the sled unloaded but with a patroller in both in the handles and on the tailrope. I ran a couple of laps with Toby and overall it was a pretty fun experience. Once the clinic was over, I called Shaun on the radio and caught up with him at the top of the Palmer. He wanted to ski down through the half pipe and then all the way to the base of the Mile, so that’s what we did and the snow was in great shape.

Shaun and the Pipe
Skiing above the Lodge

The last couple of hours were spent free skiing, and it was fun running laps with Shaun and the rest of the crew from Willamette. I snapped a few pictures of our group in between runs, as well as while they were getting some turns in.

Our crew at the top of the Palmer
James, Shaun and Amber enjoying some free skiing

A few minutes before 2:00, we shoved off from the top of the Palmer and made the last lap of the day since the lifts were closing. It was a leg burner skiing all the way down to the lodge again, and Shaun and I enjoyed cruising through the Park as well on the Mile. Skiing to the lodge parking lot is always a treat, and I was stoked to get to do it with Shaun and the rest of our crew.

James cranking turns on the Palmer
Stoked at the bottom of the Mile

Once down to the lodge, we made a quick pit stop at the cars to ditch the ski gear and change out of boots, and then headed over to the lodge to enjoy a beer at the Ram’s Head. After ordering our beverages, we found a nice spot to sit and enjoy the scene. A half hour later or so, it was time to head down to Govy and get ready for dinner at the Mt Hood Ski Patrol building on the west side of town. Our crew made the short walk down and found a Hawaiian party happening…the Mt Hood Ski Patrol definitely knows how to throw a good party.

Shot ski table
Meghan and our friend from Alaska enjoying the party

We hung out for quite awhile, and found some good offerings for food and beverage. Shaun enjoyed the spiced chicken before checking out and heading back to the condo, while the rest of us stayed and enjoyed the company and drinks. There was quite a beer selection on ice, and I chose a tasty Superfuzz Pale Ale from Elysian Brewing Co. and it definitely hit the spot.

Superfuzz Pale Ale from Elysian Brewing
Matt & Jen enjoying the scene
James chilling at the luau

After enjoying a couple of cold beers, Ian and Meghan decided it was time to hit the shot ski, so we took turns with that. I snapped a few pictures while they tipped the ski back, and then enjoyed a shot ski of my own with them a bit later.

Readying the shot ski
Tipping it back

Eventually the scene died down at the patrol party, and we made our way back to the condo. We enjoyed the company of Larry Davis from Santiam Ski patrol who hung out with us for the evening, and then eventually made our way to bed in anticipation of the next day’s activities.

Shaun ready for day 2

We woke early, enjoyed a quick breakfast, and then made our way back up to Timberline. Similar to the day before, we had a quick orientation at the Wy’East Lodge before heading up the Mile and then the Palmer. It looked like it would be another gorgeous, sunny day as we unloaded at the top.

Back at the top of the Palmer
Jen and Meghan on Sunday

Shaun was planning on free skiing on Sunday since there wasn’t any specific clinics that he could attend, and I tagged along on a couple of different clinics to shoot some pics and enjoy the turns. I started out with the Women’s clinic, and snapped several pictures of the ladies rocking the sleds down the slope.

Women’s clinic with the 350
Jen and Amber running the Palmer
Jen pulling the 350
Jen and Amber near the mid-station

After spending some time with the ladies, I headed over and found James working with the Edge sled. I fired off a couple of pictures of him on the tailrope and lapped back to the top before riding down and finding Meghan working with the 350.

James tailing on the Edge
Meghan working the tail handles on the 350

It was awesome seeing Meghan work the sled like a pro after getting a few tips from the women at Hood. Even though it was her first time running a sled, you wouldn’t have know it and clearly she was a natural…

Meghan on the tail handles
Working the 350 down the Palmer
Meghan rocking the 350 and the tank top
Cruising down the Palmer with the 350 in tow

Shortly after noon or so, the clinics wrapped up and I regrouped with Shaun to do some free skiing. We ran a few laps on the Palmer and he also wanted to hit the park on the Mile so I did that with him as well. We thought about quitting at 1:30 pm or so, but Shaun wanted to ski until closing so we headed back up to the top.

Shaun cranking turns on the Palmer
James, Shaun, Matt and Meghan at the top of the Palmer

We found several of our crew at the top of the Palmer and it was fun to run laps down to the mid-station with absolutely nobody around. By 1:00 pm the place had cleared out, so we had the entire upper Palmer basically to ourselves.

Last lap on the Palmer with the Pass crew
Pass patrollers heading down the Palmer

Skiing the Palmer with nobody around reminded me of several past trips with Dan and Joe later in the season after hiking up and dropping in when the lift was closed. This was just about as good, and made even better with the lift assist! Around 1:45 pm, we dropped in for our last lap and Ian had an idea for a fun picture with four of our patrollers simultaneously shredding the Palmer. I headed down and set up, they dropped in, and after firing several shots, I was pleased with the below picture…

Enjoying the Palmer all to ourselves
Amber enjoying the Palmer on a quiet afternoon

We worked our way down to the Palmer and then the Mile, and Shaun skied through the Park on the way down. We were fast enough that he was able to head back up for another lap, while the rest of us headed to the car for a beer and some treats. It was cool to see Shaun going until the last chair! At the car, it was good to get out of ski boots and enjoy a cold beer. My beer of choice for the afternoon was a Stratus Hazy IPA from Worthy Brewing, and it hit the spot (so did the cold Blue Moon I had afterwards as well from Ian!).

Worthy Hazy IPA
The crew enjoying some food

We sat at the car basking in the glow of a great ski day, and enjoyed a good spread of food. Shaun showed up a few minutes later, and I got a good photo of everyone with the wide angle lens and the mountain in the background, capping of a fitting way to end a perfect couple of days on the mountain. Overall, it was a great trip to Hood, with great people and great conditions. I’m already looking forward to heading back again next year!

May 6, 2023 – May I Ski More, Please?

A week after the end of the “regular” ski season at the Pass, Shaun and I were looking forward to some bonus lift-served turns during the extended season. With the healthy late season base, the Pass was planning to operate for an additional two weekends in May, and we were signed up help on Saturday. I was hill chief for the day, and after recruiting Brian and Shannon the night before at the patrol banquet, we had a total of 5 patrollers to take care of the hill.

Last early patrol morning of the year

As usual, we arrived early at the Pass, and it was nice to be greeted by a little bit of fresh, wet snow. We didn’t really have a morning meeting, and headed out early to chat with the lift ops while waiting for EPA to spin. A few minutes later, we made our way up the hill and to the top of EPA, where the snowcat was still busy grooming.

Waiting to load EPA
Watching the groomer up top

We spun a couple of laps and got the fencing setup and the front opened, and then worked our way over to Peak 2 to open the backside runs. The snow was skiing decently early in the morning, and then started getting sticky as the morning wore on. Shaun and I headed down to the base, and Mindy had all of her waxing supplies out and was putting on a clinic. She offered to wax Shaun’s ski’s so her gladly took her up on it, and I threw a coat of wax on my board as well….

Mindy putting on a waxing clinic

After the waxing, Brian and I headed into the lodge to grab some breakfast, and ended up talking to Tim for a half an hour about various things happening with the area and planned for the coming year. It was nice to sit back and relax in the lodge for a few minutes, and enjoy the rather slow day for a change in contrast to the hectic days for most of the season. After breakfast was over, we headed out and spun a few more laps.

Brian and Shannon with some free swag

Dan and Joe made their way to the hill for some lift-served turns as well, and I met up with them around 11:00 am or so and we ran laps on RTS. Although usually by May we would be skiing RTS together, under normal circumstances we’d be doing it by climbing the hill so it was nice to be able to use the lift-assist.

May turns on RTS
Joe ripping RTS

Around noon I headed in and ate lunch, then found myself back at the top of EPA to sit bump for awhile with Shannon, Brian and Mindy. It was good to hang out in the bump shack and enjoy the conversation, and made even better by the fact that the hill was slow and we didn’t have any incidents.

Hanging out in the bump shack

By early afternoon, I was ready to take a few laps with Shaun, and we skied Good Time and a few other runs. I pulled the camera out and snapped a few photos of him coming down, and was pretty happy with how he was skiing at the end of the season compared to where he was at to start it — he definitely improved a lot over the year.

Shaun enjoying a lap on Good Time
Enjoying some of the last lift accessed turns of the season

After skiing a few runs together, we headed into the patrol room for some mop-up duty. The snow was melting hard, and as a result we had water in the aid room and patrol room. We’d mopped it up a bit in the morning, but it was pretty fruitless. Regardless, Shaun wanted to do some more work so we spend a half an hour mopping and brooming water out of the aid room into the garage and out of the building.

Mopping up the patrol room

By the time we were done, it was time to close Kris Kross and start Peak 2 sweep. I’d assigned Shaun the duty of closing Kris Kross, so I helped him set up the fencing, and then we radioed that it was closed. Given that we only had a few patrollers, we left the closure in place and swept Destiny and Boundary to help with sweeping Peak 2.

Kris Kross Closure
Headed up Peak 2 after sweep

It started snowing heavily during sweep, and it seemed like a fitting way to end the season at the Pass. Even though the mountain would be open for another week, this was going to be our last day of the season and it was pretty special to have it puking snow on us in May after a great year!

James and Shaun on the final Peak 2 chair of the day

Once back to the top of Peak 2, Shaun headed back to the Kris Kross closure and waited for upper mountain sweep to begin, and I made the short hike to the top. We took the obligatory photo of the closing crew, including Brett and Gordon from the area as it continued to dump snow, and then shoved off after last chair to close the hill.

The crew ready for upper mountain sweep

Jan led lower mountain sweep, and it went off without a hitch. Brian took a 350 down since it wouldn’t be needed for the rest of the year, and rode it down Timburr Glades cowboy style.

Brian taking down a 350 to base
Heading in via KP

We swept our way to base, and it was time to enjoy a frosty cold beverage after a long season and good day of patrolling. My beer of choice for the day was a Perfect Storm Double IPA from Oakshire Brewing and it was just right! I caught a picture of it outside the patrol room and then enjoyed it thoroughly.

Perfect Storm Double IPA from Oakshire Brewing

Back in the patrol room, it was still looking like a lake, so Brian, Shannon and I thought it would be funny to make a “No Lifeguard on Duty” sign and leave it for for Hutch who was coming up the next day. It turned out pretty well I thought…

A little patrol humor

Finally, we gathered our gear and it was time to hit the road, satisfied with a good day and a great year. All things considered, even though this season was one of my most challenging in patrol in a number of respects, it was definitely one of my favorite years ever. Getting to spend so much time with Shaun and seeing him flourish in the SPY program was awesome, and the conditions this winter were all-time. My main hope is next year comes close to being anywhere as good as this year. If it does, I know we’ll all be happy skiers and riders!

April 30, 2023 – Final Patrol 2 Day of the Season

After an amazing year, the last day of the “regular” season at the Pass had finally arrived, and Patrol 2 was on the schedule to close things out before we headed into two weekends of operation for the month of May. As we’d done several times throughout the season, Shaun and I woke up early and this time we convinced Carson to come along with us for a fun day of turns at the Pass. We arrived at the patrol room early, and got situated before heading out after the morning meeting to open the hill.

Patrollers ready to open the hill early in the morning
Edward bringing a sled to the base of EPA

The sun was out and it was looking like the corn was going to be good. As a patrol, we were a bit early to the base of EPA, so I caught a couple of photos while waiting to load, including the shots below of the groomer heading in for the day as well as a few patrollers hanging out at the base of lift.

The groomer finishing the morning work
Patrol ready to load up EPA

A few minutes later, we loaded the chair and arrived at the top of EPA. The weather was beautiful, and I caught a picture of Shaun before we headed out to open runs. After my first run, I stopped in to check on Carson, who was geared up and ready to head out with Stone, the son of another patroller. We agreed that he would ski a few runs with Stone in the morning and then we’d ski together in the afternoon.

Shaun at the top of EPA on a beautiful morning
Jon and Joe enjoying the sun

 Around 10:00 am, I met up with Andy who was up for the day, and we caught several laps together. It was fun to ride down RTS and some of the other frontside runs in good corn and brought back memories of the old days. Dan showed up about 10:00 am as well, and was skiing really well after his recent shoulder surgery.

Andy and I at the top of EPA
Dan skiing RTS

The skiing on RTS was excellent, so we spun several laps on it in a row. Laurie joined us, and it was nice to see her having fun without her patrol coat on…

Laurie in a rare moment without her patrol coat
Skiing down RTS

Around noon, the snow started to soften quite a bit, and Andy, Laurie and Dan all headed home. I went in for a quick lunch, and then Carson and I headed out to ski the rest of the afternoon together. Carson made a lot of progress skiing, and was excited to ski Good Time, Escalator, June’s and Destiny.

Carson skiing Good Time
Carson heading down Escalator

We had a lot of fun on Peak 2, and soon it was time for last chair and sweep. Carson decided he was ready to head down once Peak 2 sweep began, so I sent him off and went to check on Shaun who I’d assigned to close Kris-Kross. I helped Shaun set up the closure and then swept the backside before heading up to EPA for upper mountain sweep.

Riding the Peak 2 chair
Closing crew up top on EPA

Upper mountain sweep went off without a hitch, and I swept KP so I could ski part of the run down with Shaun, who was closing Upper and Lower Rosary. We had a couple of slow skiers heading down Rosary, but eventually worked our way down to the base, where a cold beer was calling my name. My beverage of choice for the afternoon was what has since become one of my new favorites, a smooth and refreshing Cosmic Creatures IPA from Deschutes Brewery.

Shaun closing Rosary
Cosmic Creatures IPA from Deschutes

Our evening meeting was quick, and just like that the regular season at the Pass was over and done. I was looking forward to at least one more day of patrolling at the Pass in May, but still it was bittersweet to have our season end.  Here’s a parting shot from the day of Dan, Joe and Jon enjoying the sun from atop EPA!

Parting shot