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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!