May 21, 2023 – Mary’s Peak

After hearing Carson talking about going to Mary’s Peak for a couple of weeks, Julie and I decided it was a good day to head up and go for a hike. We didn’t leave our house until about 1:30 pm or so since the morning was filled with taking care of chores, and I decided to throw the snowboard and boots in at the very last minute just in case there was any residual snow patches lingering.

Carson happy to be hiking at the Peak

We arrived at the parking area an hour or so after we left the house, and it didn’t look like there was much snow around. We decided to head to the top without the board in tow, and a bit later arrived at the top. Walking over to the far side, I could tell there was a patch that still went, so we agreed to head back to the car and come back up to get some turns in.

Julie and Carson hiking the road to the top

The weather was surprisingly cool, and clouds shrouded the upper part of the Peak as we headed up for our second trip to the top. Carson was pretty excited to be out for an afternoon hike, as evidenced by his big smile in the photo below.

Rounding the corner to the Meadow

A few minutes later we made our way to the top and over to the snow patch. Carson was excited to play in the snow, and would have loved to ski, but we had returned his season rental to Berg’s at the end of April.

Looking across the summit prairie to the snow
Ready to make some turns

I handed Julie the camera and stepped into the bindings on my DIY split. I can’t remember the last time I snowboarded in shorts, but it seemed like this patch called for it and I set off. I rode down by Julie and continued on, enjoying the low angle slope and smooth snow. Surprisingly, the continued down quite a ways, and I worked my way down until it ran out.

May turns on Mary’s Peak
Milking the Mary’s Patch

At the bottom, I stepped out of my bindings and hiked up the grass along the snow patch back up to Julie and Carson who were hanging out up top.

Looking back up from the bottom of the patch
Carson ready for lap 2

At the top, I was able to convince Julie and Carson to let me go for another lap, so I quickly stepped back into my board and headed off again. I don’t know what it is, but sliding on snow is fun no matter where I’m at, be it a 5,000 foot 4o degree line or a 600 foot long 20 degree patch.

Cruising down for a second run
Turns on lap 2

I milked the patch to the bottom again, and headed back up to Julie and Carson one more time. We met halfway this time, and took a different trail back down towards the car. I snapped a quick picture of Carson with my board next to a big ant hill, then loaded it up on the pack for the walk down. It was starting to get quite cold, and it was nice to crank the heat in the Subaru once we loaded up.

Heading back down the trail
Back at the car

To cap off the day, we decided to head to American Dream Pizza in downtown for some good pie and a beer. Julie and I enjoyed a tasty Hazy High IPA while Carson had an Izze.

The lineup at American Dream
Enjoying a High Hazy with Carson

All things considered, it was a pretty good way to spend a few hours in the afternoon in late May. I’m already looking forward to heading back the next time the Peak is skiable.

February 25-27, 2019 – House Ski

An unusual winter storm rolled through the southern Willamette Valley at the end of February, and stalled over the Eugene area for a couple of days. I’d spent the weekend enjoying a couple days of pretty epic conditions at the Pass, and was ready for work on Monday when my family and I woke to 13 inches of snow in the driveway. A few hours later it was 16 inches deep! Needless to say, I didn’t make it into work, but enjoyed getting out and playing in the white stuff with my wife and kids.

Skinning down the road to the neighbors

We suited up and decided to sled and skin down the road to the neighbors to let the kids play in the snow, while the adults enjoyed some warm coffee in the house (well, the rest of the adults – I was outside helping the kids build the biggest snowman ever). The remainder of the day was spent shoveling in the driveway and various other spots around the house. The following evening, another 6 inches of snow fell, for a combined total of 22 inches in two and a half days – pretty unheard of for these parts. Somehow we managed to not lose power, and with this much snow on the property we all agreed it was time to go skiing.

The kids with sleds

The kids brought the sleds out to the driveway and made several runs down our hill, packing in a run quite nicely. I busted out the shovel and spent 30 minutes or so building a small kicker, which brought back memories from my earliest days riding with my buddy Andrew at Mary’s Peak and Willamette Pass. Once the jump was ready, I hit it a couple of times and then the kids decided they wanted to try it too…

Snowboarding at the house

Shaun wanted to go first, and was super excited to get his skis on. The track was kind of narrow, but he did great. Carson followed, and they both skied off it several times…

Shaun skiing off the “house” kicker
Carson getting in on the action

I couldn’t resist hitting it a few more times either, and Julie was good enough to keep snapping some photos of me. By the time we were done, everyone was tired, but stoked to be able to ski on our own piece of dirt. Snowstorms  this deep are pretty rare in the Willamette Valley, and only come around every 10-20 years or so. My hope is that the kids remember this one for years to come…..I know I will. There’s just something special about being able to take your board or skis off the rack in the garage, step into your bindings, and drop in. Until next time…

Parting shot from the “house” kicker



January 27, 2017 – Mary’s Peak

With several long days recently, I needed a day off from work to take care of a bunch of chores at home, but wanted to get some turns in also. Mary’s Peak, the closest snow to my house, was an obvious choice that would allow me to kill two birds with one stone. The forecast was calling for sun, but I set out in a sea of thick fog around 7:00 am and headed west across the valley. 45 minutes or so later, I turned off of highway 20 and onto the Peak Road. A few minutes later I was out of the fog and could see it would be a beautiful day. I drove as far as I could (farther than I anticipated), parked the car, loaded my pack and headed out.

The Suby in the morning light

I booted across the lower meadow, and was a bit surprised as I crested the hill to see a decent amount of logging activity where I usually slip through the trees towards Parker Creek. I knew the forest service was working to restore some of the meadows on the Peak that have been lost to encroaching trees over the years, but it was still a surprise to see the big logs on the landing with Grass Mountain in the background…

Looking out towards Grass Mountain

After making a few turns down to Parker Creek, I crossed the creek and slipped onto the main meadow, with excellent views out to the south and west, including Grass Mountain, where I first hunted blacktail deer as a 12 year old with my dad…


As I skinned up the meadow, I was reminded of why the Peak is such a special place to me. Looking north, Mt Rainier, St Helens and Adams were all visible, and looking west, I could see Newport and the waves breaking on the beach.

Looking west to Newport

A few minutes later, I arrived at the top of the Peak and as usual was rewarded with great views across the fog filled Willamette Valley towards the peaks of the Oregon Cascades. It’s always surreal to see the sea of fog with just a few high points sticking out.

Looking out over the valley
Jeff above the fog

After snapping a few photos across the valley, I moved the tripod I’d packed with me and snapped a few pictures looking west, before packing my pack and split skiing down the road to the northern meadow…

Looking northwest
Looking north to Hood

Once down to the northern meadow, I switched lenses and shot a few photos of the volcanoes to the north, including the shot below of Mt Hood. It’s pretty amazing how much detail is captured in the below photo from the top of the Peak. Zigzag Canyon is clearly visible over 100 miles away…

Telephoto shot of Hood

After screwing around with the camera, it was time to head back to the top and get ready for some turns. Before dropping in, I couldn’t help myself and snapped a few more photos, including the shot below of my split in ski mode, with a Dead Guy ale on the picnic table at the summit…

Split skis and a Dead Guy

The turns down were pretty nice, even in the thin coverage, and since the meadow is pretty low angle, it’s a nice fun cruiser. I was able to link turns all the way back down to Parker Creek.

Looking out to the ocean
Looking back at my work

I made the short hike back to the car, and was heading home by 11:30, meeting my goal to get some turns in as well as a half day of work at the house. Before long, I was back in the fog of the valley, and the sun on the peak was only a memory. On the way home, I stopped briefly to shoot a shot of the barn below in the valley fog. Something about barns and fog always catch my eye…

Random barn along Hwy 99

All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to wrap up the first month of a new year, and I’m looking forward to see what 2017 has in store…

February 2, 2013 – Mary’s Peak

After missing the weather window for powder earlier in the week, finding some nice corn snow to ride in the warming temps seemed like the next best bet. With the forecast calling for freezing levels around 5000 feet over the weekend with sunny skies, the timing seemed right to head for Mary’s Peak for some turns. Ron had been wanting to get to the Peak at some point during the winter, and was game to make the drive south, so we made plans for a Saturday ski tour. After meeting in Corvallis around 7:30, we headed west through the thick fog, which gave way to clear skies and sunshine a few miles outside Philomath. Turning off highway 34 and cruising up the winding paved road, we eventually got our first glimpse of the mountain.

Thinking that the mountain would be caked white from the recent storm that dumped over three feet of snow in the Cascades, our hearts sank a bit when we saw the very meager coverage on the south side of the hill. It appeared the storm had dumped quite a bit of rain on Mary’s before it moved out, leaving a patchwork of rain runnels and spotty snow. Not to be deterred however, our plans changed from exploring the steep north side to lapping what snow we could find on the west prairie and beyond. Parking just before Parker Creek Falls, we skinned up the road and our spirits picked up a bit when we saw the snow covered west prairie……

Ron and Mary's Peak
Ron and Mary’s Peak

One thing I always seem to forget is how quickly the snow on the south side melts out and that the south aspect is the first one visible from the road below. With renewed spirits, we skinned onward towards the west prairie. Crossing Parker Creek is always fun, and it’s enjoyable to skin along the rushing water and breathe in the fresh mountain air soaked with the scent of the beautiful hemlocks…..

Touring along Parker Creek
Touring along Parker Creek

After the creek crossing, we popped out on the south prairie and skinned up the frozen surface towards the summit. Several minutes later, we arrived to one of my favorite views in the state of Oregon. Looking out over the Willamette Valley, which was engulfed in a sea of clouds, we could see 13 volcanoes along the cascade crest, from Mt Rainier to the north to Mt Thielsen to the south.

Ron on the summit of Mary's Peak
Ron on the summit of Mary’s Peak
Skinning north from the summit
Skinning north from the summit
Mt Hood from Mary's Peak
Mt Hood from Mary’s Peak

Shortly after reaching the top, a solo skier named Malcom cruised up and we chatted a bit while enjoying the views. A bit later, we decided to tour around the mountain and check out a few other aspects while waiting for the snow to corn on the summit prairie. We made a short but fun lap off the easterly pitch above the summer parking lot, finding some excellent corn snow……

Ron enjoying some Mary's Peak corn
Ron enjoying some Mary’s Peak corn
Cruising down with the Willamette Valley below
Cruising down with the Willamette Valley below

After a our short lap on the east slope, we headed down below the summer parking lot on the low angle snow as far aw we could until we quit gliding, enjoying the fun turns all the way. We found a nice noble fir with a bit of shade that made a great spot to stop for lunch. The old growth nobles on Mary’s Peak are worth the visit alone……

Ron enjoying lunch on the Peak
Ron enjoying lunch on the Peak

After lunch, we motored back up and made another quick lap on the east side, stopping at the bottom to explore the trees. Good lines exist, but none held enough snow to make it worth the while. Someday though, I’ll get up to the Peak in the right conditions to make powder turns down through 35-40 degree old growth noble firs, but all we could do on this day was imagine how good it could be…

Ron scoping out the tree lines
Ron scoping out the tree lines

Back on the summit, the snow had corned enough by early afternoon to make for some great turns on the summit prairie. Cruising down the low angle slope in perfect corn while being able to see ocean is such a treat. At the bottom, I could tell Ron was pretty happy with the previous run, and the smile on his face said that one run justified him making the long trek down from Portland. We cruised back up and made a few more laps, each one perfectly smooth and nice…

Corn turns on the summit prairie
Corn turns on the summit prairie

Heading out, we met up with a fellow named Kirk after crossing Parker Creek, and enjoyed a pleasant conversation while skinning back towards the car. Rather than skinning back down the road, we elected to head down the west prairie to maximize our vertical for the day with the hopes of hiking down through the thick trees to the road below, thereby eliminating much of the road slog on the way out. Our plan worked to perfection, and we had another three hundred feet of vertical to add to the day….

Ron making turns in the west prairie
Ron making turns in the west prairie

Hiking down through the trees went off without a hitch, but getting to the road proved to be a bit difficult due to the steep slope on the cut bank, but we managed without incident. After a short 1/4 mile ski back down the road, we were celebrating the day with a well deserved IPA, reflecting back on what is always a unique experience in making turns on Mary’s Peak. Back in Corvallis, we stopped off at McMenamin’s for a burger before calling it a day. A good beer and a burger always hit the spot after a long day of riding! Given our expectations for the day, I was happy with the riding we found! Corn snow in the winter is always a treat, but I’m already dreaming of scoring some powder turns in the noble’s sometime in the future!