With the calendar showing June already, I was looking forward to getting out and scoring some turns. The problem was, the snow conditions weren’t looking really hot anywhere in the mountains. It hadn’t really precipitated since the first of March across most of Oregon, and reports from others as well as my own observations indicated the snow conditions weren’t really great. Even so, Dan and I made plans to head to Mt Bachelor to see if we could find some smooth snow to slide on. I met at his house early, and we headed up and over highway 58.
Temperatures were pretty cool on the drive over, and we stopped at Sparks Lake for a quick break. The forecast was calling for sun and mild temps, and we were hopeful of getting some good corn. By the time we pulled off at the area however, it looked like the forecast wasn’t going to come to pass. A dark cloud was forming over the mountain, and it remained cold. Nevertheless, we set out on skins and headed up.
The skin track was firm and icy, and by the time we neared the top of Sunrise, it started to snow. The weather was also moving in around the Sisters, and visibility became limited. If we didn’t know better, I would have though it was April and not June. Once we made it to the top of Sunrise, we decided to call it and head back down, not wanting to ski the upper mountain in firm, icy conditions with little to no visibility.
We sat around for a bit at the top of Sunrise, waiting to see if weather would give us a window to head down, but it didn’t appear it would. We decided to hit the east facing aspects as much as we could, thinking they would be most likely to be soft. I dropped in first, then snapped a few shots of Dan as we skied down. The first few turns were indeed soft, but after that it was pretty much firm conditions all the way back down.
We skied back down to the bottom as the snowfall picked up in intensity. By the time we made it to the parking lot, it was coming down pretty good, and it was staying cold.
We made the short hike across the parking lot, and headed for the warmth of the car. Just before we reached the road, Dan snapped the below shot of me as the snow came down…
Back at the car, we threw our gear in the back and headed over to the main parking lot, hopeful that we might find some soft snow on the Cone. We took a circuitous route to the top from the north side, which was a little longer than we’d anticipated, but soon we were standing on top of the Cone, enjoying a cold beer. My beer of choice for the day was a Spring IPA from Coldfire Brewing, and it was really tasty.
After enjoying a few sips of cold beer, we strapped in for the first of several runs down the Cone. After the first few turns, I knew we were going to be in for some much better conditions, as the snow was soft corn on the perfect eastern exposure…
We harvested the corn down to the treeline, then put in a boot pack back up to do it again. Once back at the top, we enjoyed some more of our beers, then laid some tracks down for our second run….
The turns on the second lap were as good as the first, so we headed back for a third run. It was nice re-utilizing the boot pack, and once we were back on top we took a few minutes to finish our beers and enjoy the view, such as it was. The visibility improved slightly, and both of us were somewhat in awe at the lack of snow around the base compared to a normal snow year. Before long, it was time to head down, and we enjoyed the turns back down to our packs at treeline on our third lap.
Once back at treeline, we shouldered our packs and “skied” back down through the trees on some really heinous snow to the parking lot below. Back at the car, it was pretty cold, so we decided to load up and head out, and delay our grilling session to later in the day. As we departed, I snapped the below shot looking back at the Cone…
On the way home, we pulled into the Gold Lake snowpark, but it was still cold, so we decided to just grill in Dan’s backyard. Once we got to Dan’s, both of us figured it was time to enjoy a second cold beverage, so I pulled out one of my favorite Pale Ales — a Bone-A-Fide pale ale from Boneyard Beer.
A few minutes later, the brats were done, and we enjoyed them with fresh garden onions and chips and salsa. A bit late, with the food and beer gone, the day was over, and that ended what turned out to be a decent day of June turns in the Oregon cascades.
A day after a great trip to Southern Oregon, I found myself at work early for a monthly public meeting. My plan was to put in two-thirds of a day, and then head out for an annual dusk patrol ski at Hoodoo, something I look forward to all year long. The forecast was calling for sun, and the weather looked to continue to be provide for some good turns. Shortly after noon, Andy arrived at work and we loaded gear into my car and headed to Dan’s. With Dan in tow, we headed up the highway, with plans to meet Neil, Joe and John at Hoodoo. Driving up highway 126, spirits were high, but started to dampen a bit as we noticed some huge thunderheads building over right over Santiam Pass. As we pulled off the highway and approached the ski hill, conditions appeared to worsen. We met up with the others, and decided we’d skin up to mid-mountain, and make an assessment of the weather from there.
Things didn’t really improve as we walked across the base area, and as soon as we set the skins on the snow and made our first strides up the hill, it started to drizzle. We worked our way up towards mid-mountain, and the drizzle became heavier, and by the time we reached the top or Ed’s Chair, everyone decided we would go no further.
The skies were getting blacker, and all of us were worried about the potential for lightening, even though we hadn’t seen or heard anything yet. Before we shoved off, we snapped a few pictures, including the shot below of Andy, Niel and I.
I dropped in first, and in a rush to head down, left my poles at the top with the rest of the skiers. I setup to shoot some shots of the skiers as they came down, and proceeded to shoot some photos of Dan and Niel who came down first.
Andy and John came down next, and even though it was raining and the conditions were less than ideal, it still looked like they were having fun…
Joe came down last, and I was relieved to see he was “double poling.” I snapped a few shots of him as he approached, and thankfully accepted my poles from him when he made it down to me.
We skied the run out and down to the parking lot, and everyone agreed it wasn’t worth another lap. Instead, we had a ton of food, and instead of grilling in the sun, decided it would be wise to head to the Ray Benson snow shelter to get out of the weather.
As we made our way back to the cars, we all agreed that though we didn’t get much vertical and the conditions weren’t great, this annual dusk patrol would be one we wouldn’t soon forget. A few minutes later, we were out of the elements and in the comfortable shelter at Ray Benson, and it was time to start grilling. Neil prepped the burgers, and I threw the brats on the grill, and before long we had a feast ready to go.
Even though we were all hoping to work up more of an appetite by burning lots of calories skinning and skiing multiple laps of great corn, our meal definitely hit the spot, and it was really nice to hang out with a bunch of fully vaccinated friends in what felt like a return to normal in the COVID-19 era.
I pulled out my beer of choice for the afternoon, a tasty Bombay Bomber Pale Ale from McKenzie Brewing, and snapped a few photos of it before getting it on ice. After that, I enjoyed a super tasty burger as well as a brat, and definitely overate with respect to the amount of turns we made.
After everyone had their fill of beer and burgers, it was time to hit the road and head for home. Before we headed out, I pulled out the tripod and snapped a picture of our group to commemorate a dusk patrol that probably will never be forgotten…
Looking back on it now, having an out of the ordinary 2021 dusk patrol seems right in line with the past year we’ve all had with COVID-19, wildfires, and other out of the ordinary events. Nevertheless, I’m still counting it as a great trip with good friends, and you can bet I’m already looking forward to returning again next year!