December 3-4, Opening Weekend at the Pass

The snow was flying early this season, and the stoke factor was high, with the Pass making one of it’s earliest openings in recent memory. After opening on Friday, December 2nd, I was on duty for both Saturday and Sunday on the weekend. With all the new snow, I was hoping that maybe EPA would open, but it looked like it would be Twilight only for weekend. Even so, the area was looking good, with really nice coverage for early December.

The view from Patrol base on opening morning

I was on duty both days, and covering for Hutch with Patrol 1 on Saturday. After a good morning meeting, we headed out to open Twilight and catch our first lift rides of the season.

The crew at the base of Twilight
Jon, Brian and Kyron at the saddle tube

Even though the Pass was open the day before, we still found some really good snow on the runs and in the trees around Swoosh and Rough Cut. After a few runs, I headed down to the patrol room for a drink of water, and then headed out to meet up with Shannon and Greg to run some unloaded sleds to knock the rust off from a several month hiatus….

A calm moment at the patrol base
Shannon running an unloaded 100

It’s always fun running sleds, especially when they are unloaded. Shannon, Greg and I each took a turn in the handles, and had a friendly competition to see who could dig the downhill skag in the furthest and get the sled to turn up on edge the most…..I’m not sure who won but I almost tipped the sled over :).

Shannon pulling a 100 down Swoosh
Prepping the sled for the lift ride

The rest of the day went well, with only a couple of incidents, and soon it was time to sweep the hill and call it a day. Sweep went without a hitch, and then it was time to enjoy a cold beverage after the evening meeting. My offering of choice for the day was a great tasting PCT Porter from Crux Fermentation Project.

Brian chatting with Brett
A PCT porter by Crux

After enjoying some fun camaraderie with Patrol 1 after the evening meeting, Shaun and I headed down the hill to stay at Brian and Shannon’s for the night since the four of us were all back up and on-duty the following morning. Brian cooked up a great tasting piece of salmon and coupled it with a baked potato bar, and the meal hit the spot. We washed it down with a bottle of wine, and then it was time to hit the sack. The next morning dawned early, and after making the short drive to the Pass we were out making turns again. I finally got the chance to make a few runs with Shaun, and captured the below picture of him right after he went off a small roller on Swoosh.

Shaun on Swoosh

Up next, I made a few runs with Greg running sleds, and then I headed up to the top of Twilight to catch up with Brian, Shannon and Jen.

Jenn, Brian and Shannon at the top of Twilight
Brian and Shannon

As the day wore on, I made a few more runs and captured a few more photos in between incidents and while managing the hill. A couple of shots that piqued my interest was the afternoon light on the upper mountain, as well as new snow gun at the bottom of Twilight…

The upper mountain illuminated in the afternoon light
One of the Pass’s new snow guns

The afternoon wore on mostly without incident, and everyone made their way to the top of Twilight for the evening sweep. Since only Twilight was open, we were able to start sweep a few minutes after 4:00, as opposed to having to sweep the upper mountain first.

The Pass truck at base
Sunday closing crew

Sweep didn’t take long, and a with the mountain cleared it was time for our evening meeting. Being a Sunday, I brought beer up for patrol, and it was nice to sit back, relax and enjoy some socializing with the crew again. My beer of choice for the second patrol day of the season was a good tasting Lager from Ninkasi Brewing Company.

A cold Lager from Ninkasi

After enjoying the beer and company, it was time to check the incident reports and close up the patrol room, and put a wrap on the opening weekend at the Pass. Brian, Shannon, Shaun and I piled into Brian’s truck and headed back to Oakridge, fully happy with a successful opening weekend at the Pass. Here’s a parting shot of Shannon from Saturday pulling an unloaded 100…

Parting shot of Shannon pulling a 100

 

November 19, 2022 – Patrol Room Cleanup

After enjoying a great week in Hawaii, I returned to Oregon and the colder weather. Soon, the weekend rolled around and it was time to head up to the Pass for the Patrol Room Cleanup. I met Dan at his house early and we made our way to the Pass in time for an 8am start. A few inches of snow greeted us as we rolled in to the parking lot, and it was refreshing to see the snow guns working for the first time in several years.

Early morning at the Pass
Running snow gun at the Pass

As usual, Dan and I set to work first thing by checking the avalanche beacons and installing them with batteries. Once that task was complete, we worked through the evacuation gear and ropes to check for damage and make sure everything was in working order. Usually everything is in good shape, but this year a mouse had chewed through the EPA evac tote and into one of the ropes rendering it damaged and unusable. Good thing we check the gear at the start of every season…..

Checking the evac ropes

Once the evac gear was fully checked and put away, we moved to the sled garage and took all the sleds out to do a once over and cleaned out the garage as well. After we had all the sleds lined up, I snapped the below picture of Dan for perspective….

Dan with the sleds outside the garage

Around 11:30 am, a representative from Life Flight joined us and we did a half hour training session in preparation for a helicopter visit a short time later. After discussing logistics of calling for a helicopter, landing procedures, etc. we headed out to Sleepy a few minutes before the team arrived.

Coming in for the landing
Aerial shot of the Life Flight helicopter

The refresher on helicopter protocols was timely, given our incident last year where I had to call for one due to a patient with a serious injuries. It’s always fun watching the pilot land the helicopter in the area, and he did it perfectly as we all stood by and watched…

Touching down on Sleepy
Brian and the crew shortly after landing

The next several minutes were kind of a blur, and we discussed numerous things associated with landing, loading a patient, etc. We also checked out the helicopter, including the loading area at the back of the bird.

Checking out the chopper
Kyron listening about how to load a patient

The crew, which consists of a pilot and two medical personnel gave us detailed instructions about how to load a patient at the back of the helicopter and how to make sure to avoid the rotors while doing so.

Listening to an overview from the crew

After that, we got to climb up and check out the view firsthand, which was pretty cool. After climbing in the bird and looking around, I do think being able to pilot one of these things would be pretty darn cool.

Jodie up in the cab
My turn in the bird

After checking things out, we brought out a backboard to do a couple of practice scenarios and load a patient into the helicopter. Brian volunteered to be the patient, and several patrollers worked swiftly to get him strapped up and ready to go.

Discussing how to load a patient
The crew backboarding Brian

Once he was securely strapped to the board, he was lifted up and carried around to the rear of the helicopter in preparation of loading through the small entry port. Everyone crouched as they approached the helicopter to avoid the rotors…

Loading Brian in the chopper

They got him loaded securely in the back of the helicopter and I was able to get a few pictures of him snug up in the bird from both the front and the rear of where was….

Brian snug as a bug inside the helicopter
Another view of Brian inside the helicopter

A few minutes later, we got Brian out of the helicopter and then it was time to do it again for a second run. This time Sarah was the patient and a different group of patrollers loaded her up, going through the same motions as before. I caught one picture of that scenario, as well as the below picture of Laurie with the pilot in front of the helicopter….

Laurie and the pilot
Running through a second scenario for loading a patient

Eventually, we wrapped up the training and got ready to take care of the remaining tasks at the patrol room. Prior to bidding the Life Flight crew farewell, we took a group shot of everyone (below)….

The cleanup crew and the Life Flight crew

The crew took off and headed back to Cottage Grove, and we headed back to the patrol room. After another half hour or so of work, Dan, Kyron and I finished up what we were doing and donned skis, skins and packs and headed out, hoping to find enough snow to eek out a few turns. Given the hour, we only had enough time to find something to ski on Twilight, and chose to skin up Swoosh which, generally speaking, is the smoothest run worth skiing on the lower mountain.

Kyron and Dan skinning up Swoosh

The snow started out crusty, but soon turned soft in the shade. We were unsure how it would ski, being only 8-10 inches deep, and soon we arrived at the top of Twilight. As usual, the first order of business was to put the beer on ice, and my offering on this afternoon was an excellent tasting Nut Brown from Alesmith Brewing Company.

Alesmith Nut Brown Ale
Kyron at the top of Twilight

A few minutes later, my beer was cold, and it hit the spot as we sat up top and enjoyed the afternoon and the sunshine. We took our time drinking our beer and removing our skins, but soon it was time to strap into the bindings and see how the snow would ski…

At the top of Twilight
Kyron heading down

None of us were expecting the conditions to provide much, but after our first couple of turns we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the snow. It was soft and surfy, and immediately I wished we had a bit more daylight left so we could make another lap.

Dan cruising down Swoosh
Kyron getting some air off the roller

We worked our way down the run, enjoying the soft snow as we skied. I setup a couple of times to shoot shots of the skiers as they came down, and Kyron even managed to get a little air off one of the rollers on the run.

Kyron enjoying early season conditions on Swoosh
Dan skiing in the sun

Somehow we managed to make our way to the bottom without hitting a rock or going down, and the three of us were all smiles as we rolled up back to the patrol room.

Skiing lower Swoosh

The rest of the crew was just wrapping up with a few tasks in the aid room as we arrived, and everyone hit the road, happy to have another Patrol Room Cleanup in the books. Dan and I stopped off at Gold Lake to cook up some brats as well as enjoy another cold beverage, and it felt nice to sit back and enjoy a good meal after the long day…

A Total Domination by Ninkasi
Enjoying brats and a beer at Gold Lake

Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy the Patrol Room Cleanup day more and more. No matter the year and conditions, it’s always a fun day, be it making turns if there’s snow or cutting trees on the runs if there isn’t. This year in particular was quite enjoyable, both because of the helicopter tour and because of the quality turns afterwards. At any rate, another Cleanup was in the books, and now it’s time for the season to begin as soon as the snow flies!

October 16, 2022 – On-Hill Refresher

Like it somehow does every year, the refresher weekend was upon us, and it felt like summer wasn’t even over yet. The weather also didn’t help to make it feel like fall, with ample sunshine and warm temperatures abundant. Nevertheless, we had a successful in-town refresher on Saturday, and headed up to the Pass on Sunday for the on-hill day. Shaun, Dan and I met at Dan’s house early, and headed up the highway, pulling into the Pass around 7:30 am. The day started with a few announcements, then after I led a review of our lift evacuation plan, we headed out for the first rotation. With the help of TW, we got the first group loaded on the Twilight lift, and lift evacuation commenced.

Brian lowering Laurie
Shaun after the 1st rotation of lift evacuation

This year was fun, because my son Shaun, was up for the day since he is in his first year of the Ski Patrol Youth program. I’m pretty sure getting lowered from the chair was one of the highlights of his day. During the second rotation of chair evacuation, I managed to break away from my on-the-ground duties and snapped a few photos of him getting lowered from the chair…

Shaun being lowered off of Twilight
Shaun coming down off the chair

By 12:30 pm, we finally had wrapped up lift evac, and I was happy to get just a few minutes to eat some lunch before we headed over to begin the search and rescue component of the day. While we waited for a couple of minutes for that to begin, I grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos…

Brian and Dave enjoying a break before the search
Patrol members enjoying lunch in the sun

A few minutes later, Laurie wrangled our group outside the patrol room and we began discussing the ins and outs of search and rescue. Holding on to the reporting party, information gathering, communication protocols, point last seen, and other steps of a search were all discussed.

Greg and Brian before the S&R practice
Discussing S&R Protocols

Once the general concepts were discussed and we ran through a few radio exercises to locate a missing person, it was time for a search. As usual, we sent a few teams out to check the base area, parking lot, lodge, etc. and eventually the “missing” person was found on Sleepy.

Laurie & Mindy discussing Search & Rescue
Looking up at ByGeorge

Our day finished up with several OEC scenarios out in front of the lodge, which is always good practice. Hannah led the discussion portion of the training, and then we headed off for some practice.

Discussing OEC protocols
Doug performing an assessment

I was paired up with Doug and Craig, and McKinley (our new P2 mountain host) was our patient. We worked through a few scenarios, taking turns being lead, including a really fun one that involved a dislocated hip. A bit later, I also found a few moments to sneak away and grab a couple of photos of Shaun, who was a patient for James, Brian and Nancy…

James assesssing Shaun
McKinley dressed up for a hip dislocation

We worked our way through a few more scenarios, and finally it was time for the day to be over, or at least mostly over (a few of us still were slated for self-evacuation after the regular refresher activities were through). Everyone shared in the duties of putting all the gear away, and the on-hill refresher was pretty much complete!

Tyler, Andy & Dave in between scenarios
Shaun on the backboard
A classic view of the Pass

Once we got all the gear away, several of us headed over to Sleepy for some self-evacuation practice. It ended up being the pretty core group of patrollers as usual, including Hutch, Brian, Shannon, Dan, myself, Laurie, Tyler and Kerstin. Mindy fired up the lift, Shaun surveyed the scene from below, and we got it done. I shared the chair with Brian, and after we both came out of the chair, I was able to capture a few pics of Hutch ready to come down…

Hutch on the Sleepy chair
Hutch ready to lower for self evac

Finally, with self evacuation over, our day was done, and it felt great to have another refresher in the books! I was looking forward to grabbing a cold beer and enjoying some tasty brats at Gold Lake, and so was Dan, so we loaded into his Tesla and headed out. A few minutes later, I was enjoying a tasty Double Hazy IPA from Pelican Brewing, and we had brats on the grill!

A Hazestack Double IPA from Pelican Brewing
Enjoying brats and beer at Gold Lake Snowpark

The beer and brats definitely hit the spot, and we enjoyed them along with the nice weather while reflecting on a fun day. It always feels good to have the refresher weekend over, and it especially feels good in the moment while at Gold Lake. A bit later, with the food and beer gone, we loaded up and headed down the road. Back at Dan’s, Shaun and I headed out, and we’re definitely ready for this year’s season to begin! Here’s a parting shot of Mark at work during the chair evac earlier in the day…

Mark lowering a patroller on Twilight

March 27, 2022 – Closing day at the Pass

As hard as it was to believe, Sunday, March 27th was the last day of the season at the Pass, with the closing day having been announced earlier in the week. Like many of the other day’s this season, I grabbed Shaun in the early am, and we headed out, stopping to pick up John at LCC before heading up Highway 58 to the mountain. As we pulled into the patrol lot to park, we were all quite amazed at the lack of snow on the frontside of the mountain.

The Pass on closing morning

The morning meeting went quickly, and we chatted about what activities we’d need to take care of during the day. Given that many of the upper mountain frontside runs were already closed, we decided to close Success just after opening to facilitate getting tower pads off the upper part of EPA early. In addition to needing to clear the mountain of all gear, we were also doing ski testing, which would add to the day’s activities. After the morning meeting, we headed out to open the hill, and I dropped into RTS to see how it was holding up. The conditions were firm until the breakable crust at the very bottom, but even so it was nice to ski my favorite run on the mountain.

RTS in the early morning

A few minutes before 9:00 am, I headed to the car to get Shaun, with the goal of doing a couple of runs with him before having to devote the rest of the day to work activities. Dave was nice enough to snap a picture of us at the base, and then we headed to Peak 2 to spin a couple of laps before I had to help out with ski testing.

Matt and Shaun at base
Shaun skiing Escalator

Before heading over to give them a hand however, I grabbed the saddle tube sled and took it down to the base, then rode the chair back up to EPA to head to Peak 2. At the bottom of Peak 2, while waiting for the ski testing group to arrive, I walked into the woods to take a leak, and then snapped a few shots of the base area from a different vantage point than normal. Awhile later, after waiting for a much longer time than it takes to ski Waldo, I radioed Hutch and he told me to just meet them on the run; one of the members was having a wardrobe malfunction which was really slowing them down. When I finally arrived on scene, they were just wrapping the issue up and were ready to go.

Peak 2 from the base
Hutch and Laurie in the meadow

After doing some controlled turns down Waldo, we spent a little time doing drills down Northern and then skiing crud snow in the Meadow, before ultimately finishing up with some snowplow drills on Boundary. Generally what we are looking for is folks that can ski in control, can follow direction, and have the foundational skills that will enable them to pull a rescue toboggan.

Hutch demonstrating a skill drill on Boundary
Patrol and ski testers

After several runs and several drills, we talked it over and agreed that the five folks that tested on this day were strong enough to pass and take the next step and interview with the patrol in the fall. Given that we’ve lost a few patrollers over the last couple of years, I’m looking forward to welcoming a few more members onto our team!

Talking it over
Hutch and Laurie at the top of Peak 2

After the ski testing was done, I headed down to get a quick bite to eat, and then it was time to start getting gear loaded and down to the base for closing. I worked my way back up to Peak 2, and helped Tyler and Anna get the evacuation gear and medical gear loaded onto the sleds that were at the top of Peak 2 so they would be ready to take down at the appropriate time. The next order of business was, in coordination with area management, to take down the tower pads on Peak 2. We closed Northern at 2:00 pm, and a cadre of patrollers headed down to pull the pads and ski them to the base of the lift.

Tyler and Anna loading a Peak 2 sled
The Fish bringing down a tower pad

Getting the pads down to the base of Peak 2 was the first order of business, and then getting them back up to the top of the lift and down to the base of EPA was another. I captured a few pictures of the pads being skied down, as well as coming back up the lift, including the two shots below of Dan.

Dan skiing a tower pad to the base of Peak 2
Bringing the tower pads up the Peak 2 chairlift

Skiing the pads down KP was a bit interesting, but we managed to get across the flats in the sticky snow without coming to a stop (or getting blown off the run on the steeper sections due to the pads acting like a giant sail), and finally got them to the base to put away. Then it was back up to Peak 2 for sweep and to take the sleds down to the base. I managed to sneak a run in on (closed) Good Time Charlie, and was able to slide the whole thing without taking my board off, but had to enter in through the trees and then slide over dirt sections in three or four places.

Hutch and Tyler at the top of Peak 2
Looking down Good Time Charlie

A few minutes before 4:00pm, we were gathered at the top of EPA for sweep, and once the final chair unloaded we took the remaining sleds/gear down, and swept the upper runs. Of course Dan and I had to “sweep” RTS, even though it was closed for the day, since we were needed at Twilight, and Patrick joined us as well. The snow was quite nice by the time we hit it, having softened significantly since the morning. The upper part of the run was pretty burned, and we had to avoid the rocks, trees and stumps, but once we got in, the turns were fun.

Dan skiing RTS with Patrick looking on
Harvesting some corn on RTS

Once down at the top of Twilight, it was time to sweep the lower mountain. Dan and I each grabbed a sled to take to the base, and I ended up sweeping George. The snow was sticky, but I thoroughly enjoyed my last lift assisted run of the season with the sled in tow, dodging bare patches of dirt on my way down the hill. As I worked my way down the hill, I reflected back on the season, and although it wasn’t a really epic season by any measure, I was grateful to be able to have had so many good days at an area I love with a great group of people on patrol. At the bottom, I stopped to roll up some fencing, and Craig skied up with a load of ‘boo, and we skied together down to the base with our loads of gear.

At the base, we spent a few minutes unloading the sleds and getting the gear put away before it was time for the evening meeting. Folks were pretty happy with how smoothly closing went, and we shared a few of our favorite stories from the season before it was time to enjoy a beer. To celebrate closing, I had brought up a 12-pack of mixed IPA’s from Deschutes Brewing, and there were several Oakshire pounders left over from the day before, so we had plenty of beer to go around. My beer of choice for the afternoon was a Grower Direct IPA, and it hit the spot.

Last run on ByGeorge with Craig
Grower Direct IPA from Deschutes Brewing

We hung around the patrol room for a half hour or so enjoying the company and the beer, and then Joe, Dan, John, Shaun and I headed to Gold Lake to cook up some brats and enjoy another beer to commemorate a good season. Hanging out at Gold Lake reminded me of several good trips the previous spring (and more to come this year I hope). I enjoyed another Deschutes IPA, this time a Symphonic Chronic, and soon the brats were cooked up to perfection.

Enjoying brats in the parking lot at Gold Lake
Symphonic Chronic IPA

A little while later, with both the food and the beers gone, it was time to hit the road, and it was hard to believe the season was over. All in all, it was another good year at the Pass, and though we’ve seen better snow years, I’m thankful that we were able to be open as long as we were. Hopefully next season will be even better, and deliver fresh snow early and often! 

March 19, 2022 – A brief return to winter

It was a welcome sight to see a coating of fresh snow on the mountain as we pulled in for a lazy Saturday patrol day towards the end of March. Around 3-4 inches of snow had fallen the night before, and the forecast was calling for snow showers throughout the day. After getting parked in the patrol lot and making sure Shaun was set for an hour or so before opening, I headed over to the patrol room to get ready for the day.

Early morning view at the Pass
A little last minute grooming

The mountain was looking like it was in much better shape than the previous few weeks, even if the new snow was only a thin coat. Morale was high with patrol based on the conditions, and after a quick morning meeting we headed out to open the hill. I opened RTS and it was in pretty good shape, so we pulled the closure so the public could get back on it as well. Once back at the base, I grabbed Shaun, and we headed out.

Patrol 2 before opening
Shaun ready to head out

Since there wasn’t any training on the schedule, nor were there many people at the Pass so incidents were minimal, I was able to spend some time skiing with Shaun, which was a real treat. He also didn’t have any friends up for the day, so he didn’t mind getting a few runs in with dad.

Skiing down the Peak 2 lift line
Shaun riding the EPA lift

We skied a few laps on the back, and then he wanted to go to the front and do RTS. He hadn’t been on RTS all season since it was pretty icy and closed most, if not all, of the days he had been up this year. Nevertheless, he was excited to ski it. I was a bit nervous when he dropped in, but he did great and wanted to do it again.

Shaun skiing down RTS
At the intersection with Lois Lane

I suggested we head over to High Lead and sneak in through Timburr to see if we could find some fresh snow, and then maybe head back to RTS. It was tough getting in (we had to cross over some rocks and dirt), but once in the snow was nice and it was cool to see Shaun get to ski some untracked snow.

Sneaking a run in on High Lead
Ready for another RTS lap

Back at the bottom, we met up with Dan, and headed back over to RTS for some more runs. Shaun skied it over and over again, and ended up doing it 9 times throughout the day (including closing). Dan gave him a few pointers about form, and by the end of the day he was skiing it a little more smoothly.

Negotiating a steep pitch on RTS
Shaun skiing while Dan looks on

With light radio traffic and no training, the day went quickly as we pounded out run after run, and soon it was time to head over to Peak 2 for closing. We skied Destiny down to the Peak 2 chair, and when we got to the top, patrollers were gathering to assign closing runs.

Shaun and Dan at base
Julie, Anna and Aimee ready to close Peak 2

Peak 2 sweep went smoothly, and soon everyone was gathered at the base and ready for one last chair ride back to the top. Tim was at the bottom bumping chairs, and Shaun and I got the last chair of the day for the ride back up. It had been snowing a little during sweep, but as we rode the lift up, the snow really started to come down and it felt like winter.

Patrol heading back up after sweep
The P2 crew up top on Peak 2

At the top of Peak 2, it was dumping snow. Everyone made the ride/hike back over to the top of EPA, and gathered for upper mountain sweep. I pulled out my camera to take a few pictures while the storm continued to puke snow.

Patrick and Julie enjoying the storm before upper mountain sweep
John and crew waiting for sweep to begin

Once last chair had unloaded, Patrick called upper mountain sweep on, and it we headed down for the day. Shaun and I cleared RTS, and then headed down ByGeorge while the rest of patrol covered lower mountain sweep.

Patrol right before upper mountain sweep

At the bottom, Shaun headed for the car and I took care of some paperwork in the patrol room before we gathered for our evening meeting debrief. The meeting went quickly, and everyone was pretty stoked on the day, the conditions, and the fresh snow. Given it was Saturday, everyone enjoyed a cold beer after the meeting, and it was somewhat bittersweet because we knew the end of the season was approaching. My beer of choice for the day as a tasty Pop Demand Haxy IPA from Sunriver Brewing Company, and it hit the spot.

Pop Demand from Sunriver Brewing

Before too long, it was time to hit the road and head home, after another enjoyable day on the mountain. After loading the gear in the car, we said goodbye to the parking lot crowd, and headed down Highway 58, and another good patrol day was in the books.