12/12/20 – Willamette Pass Season Opener

Word came on Thursday morning that opening day at the Pass would be on Saturday, and since Patrol 2 was on the schedule, I was eager to head up. Since I was hill chiefing for the day, I left the valley early to get a head start on the day’s activities, which would also be challenged by the new protocols in place to deal with COVID-19 precautions. I pulled into the parking lot around 7:30 am and soon after a few others pulled in as well.

Getting ready for the day

After booting up at the car, a change from year’s past where we were able to gear up in the warm patrol room, I talked with Hutch about the needs for the day, and then headed over to chat with Tim about his thoughts for the day. As it turns out, he was hoping to have all the lifts spinning as soon as possible, so we had some work cut out for us. P4 had been up earlier in the week and taken care of most of the lower mountain, so that left us to take care of gear and tower pads on EPA and Peak 2.

Dan & John loading gear

Patrollers organizing Peak 2 tower pads

The morning was a frenzy of loading tower pads, sleds and medical gear onto EPA and taking it to the top. We got the runs off EPA open, and the coverage on the hill was looking great. A short time later, we deployed a crew back to Peak 2 to get it setup, and help get tower pads on. I pulled out the camera to take a few shots of Dan and Joe checking out the new bump shack at the top of EPA, placed there so we wouldn’t have to bump in the actual lift shack with the lifties, as well as Joe and Anna demonstrating the proper space for social distancing…

Checking out the new Cove bump shack

Demonstrating proper social distancing

I took a few runs off of EPA while some of the crew worked behind the scenes on Peak 2, and spent quite a bit of time setting up fencing as well as being on the radio directing traffic.

Kerstin sorting through some rope

Sometime around 11:30 am, the crew on Peak 2 was ready to go, and it opened to the public. I was at the top of EPA at the time, so I decided it was worth a hike up to the top instead of riding down and then taking an 8 minute chair ride up. At the top, I arrived about the same time that Dan was getting off the chair. Looking down the lift line, I could quite a few public loaded on the chairs, ready to tear it up. Dan and I wasted little time at the top, and headed over to make some turns down June’s Run, which was covered with about 8-10 inches of fresh, dry snow.

Dan pausing at the top of June’s

Scoring some pow on June’s

June’s was awesome, and we ripped turns down to the bottom, and skied the roomer out under the lift to the base of Peak 2. As will be the norm for this season on patrol, we rode the chair individually on the way back up, and were soon ready for another lap.

Dan & Diamond Peak

After a couple of more runs on Peak 2, we headed back over to the front to set up the last of the fencing at the Sleepy headwall, and since it was nearing 2:00 pm and I was getting hungry, we took a break for lunch.

Dave & Kerstin in the parking lot

Lunch breezed by, and I headed back on the hill for some more work. All of the runs except RTS and Success were open, but some of the public was poaching into Success, so we needed to get the last few tower pads put on the upper towers. I had a blast making turns down Success with the heavy pad that acted like a sail, and after that final bit of work, it was time to head back to Peak 2 for closing.

Peak 2 closing crew

Peak 2 sweep went off without a hitch, and then it was time to head over to EPA for closing. Dan was running upper mountain sweep, and since we had enough folks, I stayed up with him at the top. My intentions were obvious — I wanted to exit via RTS — but being hill chief has it’s privileges. Plus, I wanted to check out a couple of large trees that had fallen across the run a few weeks earlier, and see what level of effort might be needed with the saw to take care of them. Once all of the upper mountain runs were called in clear, we stepped into our bindings and headed down…

Matt atop EPA

Soft turns down RTS

RTS skied really well, and we enjoyed turns down the steep slope. The two large fallen trees were still well out of the snow, or rather at least their branches were, and I made a note to pass that info along to Patrol 4 for some possible saw work later the next week. We skied out the rest of the run in the waning light, and it reminded me of good times from dusk patrols in seasons gone by. At the bottom, we skied out Louis Lane, and then down Swoosh to the base. A quick evening meeting outside the patrol room ensued, and then it was time to call it a day.

P2 evening meeting

At the car, after changing out of my boots, I joined Dan for a beer at the fire ring with a few of the motor home crowd. It was nice to shoot the breeze after a fun day of work and turns, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Fresh Haze IPA from Deschutes Brewery. Since it was dark, I did the logical thing and snapped a photo of the can during my lunch break earlier in the day, although I suppose I could have resorted to a tripod and flash, but that seemed like too much work:)

Fresh Haze IPA from Deschutes

After a half hour of enjoying the company around the fire, it was time to hit the road and head for home. I was pretty stoked on the day, happy to be riding lifts again, and looking forward to another good season of patrolling at the Pass. Until the next time, here’s a parting shot from the day…

Skiing RTS after closing



October 18, 2020 – Fall cutting at the Pass

It looked like the fair weather was going to be sticking around, so Joe, John, Dan and I made plans to head to the Pass to get some saw work done in hopes that it would pay dividends later in the season. We met at Dan’s in the morning, loaded gear into Joe’s truck, and headed up Highway 58. A hour or so later, we arrived at the Pass, unlocked the gate, and headed in.

At the Pass

Joe and I waited at the base area for Dan & John, who were a few minutes behind us, and checked out some of the earthwork being done around the septic tank that will hopefully lead to significant improvements this season. Once Dan & John showed up, we headed up the hill, with Dan leading the way in his Tesla.

Heading towards Twilight

At the intersection of the haul road and Swoosh, Dan parked the Tesla, and we headed up in the truck from there, with the goal of doing some work on RTS and vicinity for the day. Joe drove the truck up Amber’s, and we walked up while he found our favorite place to park…

Driving up Amber’s Way

Once the truck was parked, we donned our chaps, packs and other gear, and headed out. RTS always seems a bit steeper and more difficult to climb when walking up in hiking shoes and packing a chainsaw…

Dan surveying RTS

Joe getting work done

We spent a few hours working over what was left on RTS, which included a thick patch of trees on skiers right that we hadn’t cut in years past. Feeling pretty satisfied with our work, we decided to cut a few small trees in White Russian to open up a few lanes that had grown up some in the recent years.

Looking out over RTS

Matt heading up the hill

Dan and I worked our way back down to the truck, and then headed out to the RTS runout for a final hour of work. By the time we quit, all of us were pretty beat, and it sure felt good to head back to the truck and enjoy a cold beer. My beer of choice for the day was a tasty Profuse Juice hazy IPA from 10 Barrel Brewing.

A tasty offering from 10 Barrell

Sitting around the truck, it was nice to relax with good company, and enjoy some of the season’s bounty, including a spicy onion and habanero salsa I made, as well as a tasty tomato salsa John brought. Dan supplied the grill and fuel, and Joe brought the ‘brats with all the fixings. Putting in a good day’s effort with the saws, we’d all worked up quite an appetite, and the food definitely hit the spot.

Apres-cutting activities at the Pass

Eventually, the food was gone, and it was time to head back down. We made our way back to the base, and hit the highway for the drive home. Not knowing if the weather would allow us back for another day of cutting or not (and hoping it wouldn’t so we could ski pow), I was definitely thankful to get a good day of cutting in. Only time will tell how this season turns out, but one thing’s for sure, when the snow flies, I’ll be making my way to a few special stashes at the Pass!

January 19, 2020 – Sled training in the sun

It was shaping up to be a beautiful day at the Pass. The big storm event had come to a close a few days earlier, and we were greeted by sunshine and gorgeous weather for our Sunday. After gathering for the morning meeting and discussing the day’s plans, we headed out to open the mountain.

P2 crew up top on EPA

Looking out towards Peak 2

The groomers were in good shape, and once we had the front side open, we headed to Peak 2 to spin a couple of laps. Around 10:00 am, it was time for sled checkoffs. I’d been asked to get a few pictures of our new UO Edge sled, and even though my allegiance is to Oregon State, I obliged by taking a few photos…

Shannon and Greg with the Edge

Greg and the Edge

After shooting a few pics of the sled, I swapped out lenses, and was eager to shoot a few portraits with my 50 mm f/1.8 Canon. Matthew made a good subject, and then I snapped a picture of Greg, Joe and Shannon before we headed out to do some loaded sled work…

Matthew at the top of EPA

Greg, Joe and Shannon

We took a run down Eagles Flight, and I drove the 100 while Shannon drove the Edge. After half the run, I swapped out from the handles to the tail rope, and then we finished out the run and took the sleds down to the base, and then back to the top of EPA.

Telephoto shot of Diamond Peak

Matthew ready for a sled check run

The next several runs were spent checking off the other alpine patrollers on the sleds, and we were able to get everyone through by noon. On the last run, I was ballast for John, and with the aid of my fisheye lens, was able to take a few pictures from the vantage point what would normally be a patient…

Brian coming in hot to the top of Eagles

Fischer pulling me down Eagles

Once the sled training was done, I went in for a quick lunch, and the remainder of the day was spent dealing with a multitude of issues, including several injuries in the afternoon.

A portrait of Shannon at the top of EPA

Below are a few shots of Hannah and Shannon pulling Greg down the hill in the new Edge sled from earlier in the morning…

Hannah and Shannon running the Edge

Headed down Eagles Flight

When 3:30 finally rolled around and it was time to close Peak 2, I was relieved. After deploying many of my resources on different events that required attention, I was ready for the day to be over. We were able to sweep Peak 2 and EPA without incident, and closing lower mountain went without issue as well.

Moments prior to closing EPA

We closed the day with an evening meeting at the base, and called it another good day of patrolling at the Pass.


January 11, 2020 – Powder at the Pass

Saturday looked to be pretty epic, and for the first time in awhile, it appeared P2 was going to score the goods. I met up with the the crew in the patrol room after driving up 58, and the stoke factor was high for the day. The wind was blowing hard, and a significant amount of snow had fallen overnight. After the morning meeting, we headed out, ready for a morning of avalanche work and powder turns.

John and Greg

Given the storm conditions, EPA didn’t open until 9:45am, so we made the most of it hanging out in the lift line waiting for the icing issue to be resolved and the chairs to spin. Once we got word of opening, it was time to head up and run the avalanche route on RTS.

P2 ready to open the mountain

OEC candidates at the base

Dan and I loaded the first chair with Deverton and Greg, and headed up. The wind was howling up top, with sustained winds around 30-40 mph, and gusts up over 50m mph. We cautiously dropped over the rollover into RTS one by one, and the wind was ripping about as hard as I could remember. Lower down, we performed several ski cuts, without result, and finished with a few enjoyable powder turns on the lower run…

Pausing on RTS during avy work

Deverton ripping a turn down RTS

Given the snow and wind, it appeared Peak 2 wouldn’t open for another hour or so, so we spun a few laps on the front side while we waited. A bit later, we got the call, so Dan, John and I headed over, along with Hutch and Jon for avalanche work on the backside…

John and Hutch heading up for Peak 2 Avy work

Jon and Hutch were ahead of us, and when we got to the top of Peak 2, we heard the call on the radio that conditions were looking extremely sketch. As we readied to head out, Rick pulled up with the cat, so we checked in with him prior to heading over to June’s.

Dan and Rick up top

Rick groomed a nice path out to Waldo, and we followed, ski cutting the trees below the run. Shooting cracks were running everywhere, and the snow was extremely wind effected. Hutch and Jon got pretty good movement out of the snow on the nose, we worked our way out the ridge line, cutting cornices and getting some nice slabs to cut loose as well.

Dan on June’s

After we controlled the ridge, I worked my way down and across the meadow, and met up with Hutch and Jon. It was snowing hard, the wind was blowing, and conditions were sketch, so I didn’t get any good pictures of the actual action from the morning, but the slog fest up the ridge in waist deep snow, along with the sweat I worked up told me it was a classic day for doing control work.

First chair on Peak 2 after control work; Photo by Jon Marshall

With control work done, the rope at the closure dropped and it was game on. I spun a few laps on Northern, which was riding great, and met up with Jon and Shannon who also were ripping it. The snow was pretty blower up top, but definitely wind effected, especially down low, where it required effort to keep speed up and not sink to your waist.

Jon shredding down Northern

Shannon getting the goods

We spun a few more laps on Peak 2, enjoying it until our legs became tired, finally heading down to the front a few minutes before 2:00 pm to get a quick bite to eat and return the avalanche gear. The remainder of the day was spent enjoying a few turns down RTS, followed by Peak 2 sweep and then upper mountain sweep. Dan and I hung out up top during upper mountain sweep, and vacated via RTS as the evening light started to wane.

Afternoon turns down RTS

Dan up top with the lift crew at the day’s end

On our last run down RTS, the snow was still skiing nicely, and it was an awesome way to end the day. Down in the patrol room after sweep, everyone was pumped on a good day, and the beers after the evening meeting hit the spot as usual. Day like this one are definitely what makes patrolling at the Pass special, and don’t happen often enough!

December 29, 2019 – Last Patrol Day of the Decade

Sunday, December 29th would be the final patrol day of the year as well as the decade, and I headed up solo to the Pass to enjoy a day with Patrol 2. Given the meager snow depth, it would be a lower mountain show for the second week in a row. Nevertheless, it was good to be on the hill making turns.

Ed, David & Todd at the top of Twilight

After the morning meeting, I headed out to the Twilight chair, and spun a few laps on Duck Soup, Timburr Glades, and Rough Cut. I caught a picture of Ed, David and Todd at the top of the chair with my new Canon f/1.8 50 mm lens that I’d got a couple days earlier, and then headed out to make the short hike to High Lead Glades. Hiking out to the glades reminded me of earlier years gone by, when I made the same trek with Dan and Joe in similar conditions…

Looking out towards High Lead Glades

Diamond from High Lead

When I got to the Glades, I was welcomed by a great view of Diamond Peak and some smooth snow on the run. I sat there for a moment or two, enjoying the solitude, before strapping in and enjoying some fun turns back down to the intersection with Timburr Glades. From there, I figured it was time to spin a few runs on the Sleepy Chair. In fact, I think it was my first time (while patrolling) spinning 3 laps on Sleepy…

The view from the Sleepy chair

Sleepy and Diamond

After the exertion that is demanded from Sleepy, it was time for lunch, and then an afternoon cup of coffee. On my way to the lodge to get said coffee, I snapped a few shots of the lodge with my new 50 mm lens…

The Lodge

The rest of the afternoon was spent spinning laps on Twilight, with one more hike out to High Lead thrown in for good measure. Even though we were only skiing on 10 to 12 inches of snow, the riding was pretty good, all things considered. At 4:00 pm, it was time for lower mountain sweep, and I snapped a shot of the closing crew up top before we headed out.

Closing Crew

David on Sweep

A short time later, sweep was complete, and after our evening meeting, it was time to head down the road and say goodbye to 2019. Here’s to hoping that 2020 comes in stronger than 2019 went out…..

Parting shot of the Lodge