December 2, 2022 – Tombstone Pass

Fresh snow had been falling, and the weather forecast was looking favorable, so I made plans to head to Tombstone Pass with Joe to get out for some early in the month touring with Joe. I hit the road early, and made my way to the snowpark where I found Joe, who’d put in a few hours touring the day before and was camping overnight. Temps were in the upper 20’s as we geared up, and soon we were heading down the highway making our way towards the skin track…

My Outback in the snowpark
Joe skiing down the road

A few minutes later, we crossed the highway and donned skins to start the climb. About 4-6 inches of snow had fallen overnight, and the Cone Peak trail sign had a perfect cone of fresh snow on it, which was begging for a picture…

Cone Peak trail sign
Joe pulling the skins from the pack

We started up the skin track, and made our way through the lower meadow and up through the thicker trees. Every time I tour at Tombstone, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy the landscape and terrain in the area. We worked our way up to the bench, and then started up Cone…

Skinning through the meadow
Heading up Cone

As we continued up, the wind, which was pretty much non-existent lower down, started to pick up. We worked our way to the summit, and transitioned from skins to boards and took a few shots from the top.

Looking off to South and Echo Peaks
Summit view from Cone

We contemplated dropping in off the top, but the thin snowpack and underlying rocks had us thinking otherwise. I cut a couple of cornices with no results, and we elected to ski off the southeast side and work our way over to the north face from lower down.

Summit shot
Joe skiing the southeast side

We worked our way over the ridge to our typical drop in site, and had to negotiate quite a few rocks to work our way in. The snow was loaded up along the ridge that was to our left, but we headed right towards the middle of the bowl and worked our way down. The turns were really nice, and I snapped several pictures of Joe as he dropped in and again from halfway down…

Joe dropping in to the north side
Skiing the lower half of the bowl

At the bottom, we were pretty stoked on the snow, and quickly transitioned to skins to head back up. As usual, the first time up is a bit of a grunt, but we made our way back to our drop-in point and it was nice to have a track in. For the second lap, we decided to ski a similar line right next to our existing tracks. I dropped in first and set up to snap a few more pics of Joe…

Joe on lap number 2

On this lap, we were in for a bit of a surprise. In the back of my mind I was still keeping an eye on the loaded ridge on skiers left, but we ended up skiing a bit to close to it, and when Joe made his second or third turn, it released and headed down towards me. Fortunately, the slab was mostly to my right and Joe’s left, and only a small amount of snow headed down towards me. I held my position in front of the tree and watched it pass, and then took a few pictures.

Looking up after the slide
Looking down at the debris

Joe skied down to me and we discussed the events, and we both agreed we skied a bit to close to the localized wind loading along the ridge. Fortunately, the rest of the bowl wasn’t loaded in the same manner, so we made the decision to head on down and make another assessment once back on top.

Matt enjoying some early December pow
Turns in the lower bowl

At the bottom, we donned skins once more and headed back up the skin track. We made it to the top in relatively short order, and assessed the bowl again from the top. The wind was still blowing in the same pattern, but the loading was occurring below us and to skier’s left, so we elected to traverse into the bowl and out further to skier’s right, past our first set of tracks and to where there wasn’t any loading or wind affected snow. It turned out to be a good choice, and provide us with some of the best turns of the day…

Getting pitted on the north side of Cone
Enjoying a toeside powder turn

For this run, Joe had the camera, and snapped several shots of me enjoying the powder. The quality of the snow was really choice, and we thoroughly enjoyed the skiing down to the bottom of the bowl, where it was time for a well deserved break.

More powder turns
Joe enjoying a quick break with a view

It was nice to sit back for a few minutes and enjoy some food and the view. Hanging on the north side of Cone always reminds me of my first visit there so many years ago with Todd, and it’s definitely one of my favorite places in the Oregon cascades.

Joe on the skin track up
Looking out over Highway 20 country

A bit later, we hit the skin track once more and headed up again. We decided the snow was too good and that we wanted to do a fourth lap, so we left our beers and a few other items down below and worked our way back to the top.

Working up Cone with the range in the background
Nearing our drop-in point

Once back to our drop-in point, we put one more line down the bowl, this time again traversing out to skier’s right just beyond our existing tracks. No pictures on this lap, but it was damn fine and we enjoyed each and every turn to the bottom, where our beers were waiting. We decide to split Joe’s beer there, and then enjoy mine over on the ski out on the front side. Joe’s offering was a tasty Pilsner from 10 Barrell Brewing, and it was super cold and definitely hit the spot! After finishing his beer, we donned skins and made one final trek out from the northside, this time heading all the way back to the top of Cone.

A tasty Pilsner from 10 Barrel
Working up to the top of Cone

Back at the top of Cone, we de-skinned and spent a few minutes on top, enjoying the views and trying to stay warm. One thing about Cone, it may not be a big mountain but it always has the “feel” of a big mountain. And the views from the top never disappoint…

Looking off the north side of Cone
The view north to Jeff

After sending a text to my wife to let her know we were heading down, we shoved off, in search of the best snow on the sunny southeast side. I dropped in first, then setup to snap some picture of Joe as he came down. The snow quality wasn’t as nice as the north side, but it was still pretty good, and we enjoyed the  turns.

Turns down the southeast face
Skiing in front of South and Echo Peaks

We skied down as far as we could until it was time to traverse, and then headed south to link back up with our skin track and make our way back down to the bench below. The turns down to the bench were fun, and we stopped there to enjoy my beer and a last break before heading to the car. My offering was an excellent tasting Black Widow Porter from McMenamin’s, and it hit the spot.

Working down Cone’s southeast slope
Black Widow Porter

As we were sitting there enjoying our break and the beer, I snapped a few pictures of the surrounding area, including a pretty winter scene of the sun bursting over the trees with Iron Mountain in the background. Moments later, we stepped back into our bindings, and made turns down through the trees and into the Farm below. We spooned Joe’s tracks the previous day, and worked our way on down towards the trailhead….

Sunburst and Iron Mtn
Our turns in the farm

Making turns right down to the highway is always a treat, and from there it was a short hike back to the cars at the snow park.

Heading back to the cars

Both of us were looking forward to cooking some brats, but after several failed attempts to get Joe’s stove working due to a leaking hose, it was apparent it was not to be, so we had to settle for just being happy with the hefty serving of fresh powder we’d already enjoyed. All in all, it was a great day in the mountain, with a few lessons learned as always. Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting shot of Matt

November 2, 2022 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

With a trip to Hawaii starting on the 4th of November, I wanted to take advantage of the early weather window to get out and get a few turns in. I knew the timing would be difficult since I had to work, but I found a way to leave the office around noon and head to the Pass to see what was up. I wasn’t overly optimistic about the conditions, with the webcams showing about 6-8inches of snow, but figured it was worth giving it a go.

The Outback at the Gold Lake Snowpark
At the Pass

I made good time heading up Highway 58, and was greeted by a 4-5 inches of fresh snow at the Gold Lake snowpark, where I geared up before heading up to the Pass. The snow where I normally park was pretty gloppy from the snowplow, but after shoveling out a spot I was able to park without issue. A few moments later I headed out.

Looking up at George and the Race Shack

The lower mountain had about 6 inches of snow covering the grass, rocks and dirt, but it felt good to be on the skintrack at the Pass. I headed up KP, and followed a single skin track up. Just before Eagle’s, the skin track stopped and whoever made it had turned around to ski back down. I headed on up, and worked my way up Eagle’s and up towards upper KP and the tree farm.

A fall scene at the Pass
Looking out over the Tree Farm

Once at the top, I stopped off at the bump shack for a quick rest, and to enjoy a break before the turns back down. It was nice to get out of the weather for a little bit, and I took a few moments to eat a snack before locking up and heading to the top of EPA for the ride down.

The view from the Bump Shack
Enjoying a break at the Bump Shack

At the top of EPA, I popped open my beer, a tasty Operation Vacation from Hop Valley Brewing, and setup the tripod to snap a few shots. The beer hit the spot, and once it was finished I stepped into my bindings and shoved off.

At the top of EPA
Operation Vacation from Hop Valley

The snow coverage was pretty marginal, but I was able to make turns down KP without smashing any rocks. At the top of Eagle’s I contemplated heading on down KP, but decided the hell with it and turned right. The riding on Eagle’s was a bit sketch, but I made it down without falling or injury, and even managed a couple of fun turns…

Looking back up at my tracks on Upper KP
Tracks on Eagle’s

The rest of my run down KP was fun, hopping in and out of my skin track and making turns in the fresh, albeit minimal, snow. I only hit a couple of rocks, and soon I was back down at the patrol room looking back up at the mountain, which was looking a bit better than when I arrived.

Back at the base
The Pass truck parked at the patrol room

I made the short hike to the car, and loaded up and headed down to Gold Lake. Although I wasn’t cooking brats on this evening, it was a nice spot to change out of my boots and enjoy a snack. After snapping a quick pic, I hit the road, happy to have my November turns in the books and looking forward to a sun filled vacation in Hawaii with the family.

The lodge from the parking lot
Enjoying a snack at the snowpark

Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol – June 6, 2022

Exceeding all of our expectations, the cool, wet Spring of 2022 was continuing, and Dan and I were looking to take advantage of it, and were able to head out to the Pass for some after work dusk patrol turns in the month of June. Skiing the Pass in June is a rarity, and we were both looking forward to seeing what the conditions would be like as we headed up highway 58. The drive up went quickly, and soon we had pulled into Gold Lake Snowpark to gear up. It was pretty awesome to see the lingering snow patches around the parking area in early June…

The Tesla at Gold Lake
The Backcountry Patrol’s Shelter

It didn’t take long to get our boots and skins on, and soon we were parked at the Pass and ready to head out. Buddy, Dan’s dog, was also eager for the afternoon outing…

Dan gearing up
Ready to head out

The base area was bare, but we elected to head out in ski boots anyway, figuring we’d find some snow partway up the hill. We worked our way up towards Swoosh, and before long, found a few continuous patches of snow and we were in business.

Continuous snow on Swoosh
Approaching the top of Twilight

We were able to skin most of the way up Swoosh, and the coverage was looking pretty decent at Twilight at mid-mountain. A quick skin up Amber’s Way brought us to our destination at the bottom of RTS, just as a bit of weather was starting to roll in.

Dan at the base of RTS

We left some of our gear at the bottom of RTS and proceeded to put in a nice bootpack up to the top of the snow as the clouds moved in. By the time we got to the top, the visibility was much reduced, but it didn’t keep us from having fun. We clicked into our bindings, and headed down. I dropped in first, and setup to shoot a few pictures of Dan as he came down. The turns were perfect corn, and quite enjoyable.

First turns down RTS
Negotiating turns down RTS

At the bottom, we were stoked to head back up for another lap, even though it didn’t look like the cloud was going to lift. Reusing the boot pack was a bonus as well, and it didn’t take long to get back to the top. I was happy to be back up top as well, since I’d left a Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA from Ninkasi Brewing Company in the snow, and it was now cold and ready to drink.

A tasty Tricerahops Double Ale from Ninkasi

I took a few sips, then handed Dan the camera and we readied to drop in for a second lap. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t willing to cooperate, but Dan got a few good pics anyway. Riding down RTS after work with a beer in hand, in less than optimal snowpack is one of my favorite things about late season skiing at the Pass.

June turns on RTS
Matt heading down for a 2nd lap

We made turns down the slope all the way to the bottom and back to our gear below. We were ready to head out, but as we were sitting at our gear the weather finally cleared and the whole run came out for a view. It didn’t take too much arm twisting for Dan to want to head back up for a third lap, even if it meant we’d be getting back to the car at a late hour.

Dan and Buddy at the bottom of RTS
Dan enjoying a 3rd lap

We made quick time on our 3rd trip up the boot pack, and this time the weather remained clear for the run down. I snapped several pictures of Dan as he descended, and we were both pretty happy with our choice to head up for one final lap.

Dan harvesting some corn snow on RTS
Turns through the rocks, trees and stumps

Down at the bottom, we gathered our gear and enjoyed the views for a few minutes before heading down and enjoying some nice turns on Lois Lane out to Twilight.

Final turns down to the packs
Matt at the bottom of RTS

We arrived at the top of Twilight and Duck Soup just about the time that the sun was trying to win the battle with the clouds and make an appearance on the horizon. Looking down at Duck, we knew we needed to make a few turns even though it was getting late. The temptation was just too much to resist. We worked our way down the run about halfway or maybe a bit further towards Peekaboo, and then made the short boot pack back to our packs up top just in time to catch the sun bursting out over the trees before sunset.

Dan and our tracks on Duck
At the top of Twilight at twilight

On the hike back up, I happened to spot a full Coors Light can, so we picked it up and enjoyed it cold at the top of Duck before heading down Swoosh for the final turns of the day.

Dan skiing on upper Swoosh

Although both of us were skeptical about how Swoosh was going to ski given what it looked like on the up, we were both pretty happy with how well it actually skied as we headed down. It was soft, but fast, and we thoroughly enjoyed sliding, rather than walking, down.

Dan skiing on the lower Swoosh snow

We milked it for all it was worth, and then made a short carry down to the last couple of snow patches below the Haul Road for a few final turns. It was getting a bit too dark for any action shots (and there wasn’t much action since the patches were quite short), so I snapped the below shot of Dan at the bottom of the last patch…

The last patch just below the haul road

From the last patch of snow, it was a short walk back to the base and out to the car. We got our gear loaded up in the dark, and decided we still were game for brats and a beer at Gold Lake after working up an appetite for dinner. The drive to Gold Lake was short, and soon I was enjoying a very tasty Pineapple Stash House IPA from Hop Valley Brewing Co (pic from earlier in the day) while the brats cooked on the grill.

A tasty brew from Hop Valley

A few minutes later the brats were cooked to perfection, and we enjoyed them with a piece of sourdough bread, some spicy mustard, and chopped onions. There’s nothing quite like beers and brats in the dark after a fun evening of skiing after work!

Brats on the grill

Like all good things however, the fun must eventually come to an end, and it was time to hit the road, so we loaded the car and pulled out onto highway 58 for the journey home, content with earning some great June turns at the Pass. Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting shot