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May 12, 2023 – Hoodoo Dusk Patrol

Hard as it was to believe, it was time once again for the annual Hoodoo Dusk Patrol with the crew. This event is one that I look forward to all year long, and this year it looked like the weather was shaping up for us to have a perfect afternoon. After running my Commission meeting in the morning and meeting with the lawyers after that, I managed to get a quick lunch in before Andy and I left work and headed for Dan’s to carpool up to Hoodoo. We made the drive up without issue and pulled into the parking lot and found Todd and Neil putting on their skis.

Todd and Neil ready to head up

The weather was beautifully sunny and the corn looked ripe, so we wasted little time getting ready to go and hit the skin track. It was short skin to the top, and soon we were enjoying the views from the top of the ‘doo.

Neil on the approach
Ripping skins at the top

The volcano lineup was looking pretty nice, and I took out the telephoto lens to snap a few shots of Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson looking prime in their coats of white…

Mt Washington from the summit of Hoodoo
The boys enjoying some time at the top

Since the weather was  pretty warm, my first order of business was to get a beer on ice, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate brewery to represent than Kona Brewing. My beer of choice for the afternoon was a tasty Gold Cliff IPA.

Looking north to Mt Jefferson
Gold Cliff IPA from Kona Brewing

We enjoyed the views up top for a bit, and then it was time to get some turns in. For our first lap, we decided to try the northwest face. It turned out to be a good choice, and we enjoyed nice turns off the top. I took the camera out and snapped several shots of the skiers as they came down.

Neil enjoying some May turns on the northwest side
Todd on the tele
Dan harvesting some prime corn
Andy dropping in

We worked our way down the slope, eventually stopping at the bottom a bit below mid-mountain. The snow was baby butt smooth, and each turn brought a smile to my face. At the bottom, we donned skins and made the quick climb back to the top.

Heading on down
Back at the top

Back on top, it was a good time to crack open my beer which was chilling on ice and enjoy the views. Looking to the southeast, I snapped a few photos of Mt Washington and beyond. The scenery from top of Hoodoo in the spring is quite beautiful.

Looking out from the summit
Neil enjoying the view

We hung out for a little while, debating on what to ski next, and settled on the main bowl under the chairlift. After snapping a few more picture, we dropped in.

Matt & Andy up top
Dropping in for lap 2

The snow was quite good, and I caught several more photos of the guys skiing, including a couple of shots of Todd below. It was great to be out with Todd and watch him rip it on the tele skis, and reminded me of days gone by from numerous Hoodoo dawn/dusk patrols in the years past…

Todd ripping it up
Skiing the main bowl

At the bottom, we skinned back up again and decided on skiing one more lap, this time on the east side. The brats down at the cars were calling our names, so we finished our beers on the summit and dropped in. This time, Dan grabbed the camera and shot a few pictures of me on the upper slope. The snow was absolutely choice.

Matt enjoying Hoodoo’s east slope
Harvesting May corn at the ‘Doo

Halfway down, I grabbed the camera back from Dan and we continued making turns. The sun was in a perfect position to get some silhouette shots of the skiers, and really highlighted the snow as they carved it up….

Dan and Todd harvesting the eastside corn
Todd dropping a knee in front of Mt Washington

We worked our way to the bottom, harvesting quality corn all the way down, and then made the slow slide back out across the flats and to our waiting cars at the parking lot.

Evening corns turns at Hoodoo
Looking back at Dan and our turns

With the skiing over, it was time to fire up the grill. Grilling after skiing is nearly as much fun as the skiing itself, and something I’m always game for.

Cooking brats at the base
Brats on the Grill

It was also time for a second tasty beverage. This offering was a True Gold refreshing golden ale from Breakside Berwing, and it was aptly named for such a great outing.

True Gold
Group apres shot

It didn’t take long and the brats were ready, and we gobbled them down quickly. Hanging out in the sun in flip flops and shorts, enjoying a cold beer and a tasty brat with a good group of guys — it just doesn’t get a whole lot better.

Dan and crew enjoying the evening

Soon, it was nearing the time to hit the road, so I walked across the parking lot to grab a couple of last shots from the area, including Hayrick and Hoodoo itself from the base area.

Hayrick from the base
A final look at Hoodoo

By the time I got back, it was time to pack up and hit the road, so we did just that, satisfied with another fun day of after work dusk patrol turns at the ‘Doo. I’m already looking forward to our 2024 dusk patrol, but until then, here’s a parting shot from the day.

Parting shot from the ‘doo

May 6, 2023 – May I Ski More, Please?

A week after the end of the “regular” ski season at the Pass, Shaun and I were looking forward to some bonus lift-served turns during the extended season. With the healthy late season base, the Pass was planning to operate for an additional two weekends in May, and we were signed up help on Saturday. I was hill chief for the day, and after recruiting Brian and Shannon the night before at the patrol banquet, we had a total of 5 patrollers to take care of the hill.

Last early patrol morning of the year

As usual, we arrived early at the Pass, and it was nice to be greeted by a little bit of fresh, wet snow. We didn’t really have a morning meeting, and headed out early to chat with the lift ops while waiting for EPA to spin. A few minutes later, we made our way up the hill and to the top of EPA, where the snowcat was still busy grooming.

Waiting to load EPA
Watching the groomer up top

We spun a couple of laps and got the fencing setup and the front opened, and then worked our way over to Peak 2 to open the backside runs. The snow was skiing decently early in the morning, and then started getting sticky as the morning wore on. Shaun and I headed down to the base, and Mindy had all of her waxing supplies out and was putting on a clinic. She offered to wax Shaun’s ski’s so her gladly took her up on it, and I threw a coat of wax on my board as well….

Mindy putting on a waxing clinic

After the waxing, Brian and I headed into the lodge to grab some breakfast, and ended up talking to Tim for a half an hour about various things happening with the area and planned for the coming year. It was nice to sit back and relax in the lodge for a few minutes, and enjoy the rather slow day for a change in contrast to the hectic days for most of the season. After breakfast was over, we headed out and spun a few more laps.

Brian and Shannon with some free swag

Dan and Joe made their way to the hill for some lift-served turns as well, and I met up with them around 11:00 am or so and we ran laps on RTS. Although usually by May we would be skiing RTS together, under normal circumstances we’d be doing it by climbing the hill so it was nice to be able to use the lift-assist.

May turns on RTS
Joe ripping RTS

Around noon I headed in and ate lunch, then found myself back at the top of EPA to sit bump for awhile with Shannon, Brian and Mindy. It was good to hang out in the bump shack and enjoy the conversation, and made even better by the fact that the hill was slow and we didn’t have any incidents.

Hanging out in the bump shack

By early afternoon, I was ready to take a few laps with Shaun, and we skied Good Time and a few other runs. I pulled the camera out and snapped a few photos of him coming down, and was pretty happy with how he was skiing at the end of the season compared to where he was at to start it — he definitely improved a lot over the year.

Shaun enjoying a lap on Good Time
Enjoying some of the last lift accessed turns of the season

After skiing a few runs together, we headed into the patrol room for some mop-up duty. The snow was melting hard, and as a result we had water in the aid room and patrol room. We’d mopped it up a bit in the morning, but it was pretty fruitless. Regardless, Shaun wanted to do some more work so we spend a half an hour mopping and brooming water out of the aid room into the garage and out of the building.

Mopping up the patrol room

By the time we were done, it was time to close Kris Kross and start Peak 2 sweep. I’d assigned Shaun the duty of closing Kris Kross, so I helped him set up the fencing, and then we radioed that it was closed. Given that we only had a few patrollers, we left the closure in place and swept Destiny and Boundary to help with sweeping Peak 2.

Kris Kross Closure
Headed up Peak 2 after sweep

It started snowing heavily during sweep, and it seemed like a fitting way to end the season at the Pass. Even though the mountain would be open for another week, this was going to be our last day of the season and it was pretty special to have it puking snow on us in May after a great year!

James and Shaun on the final Peak 2 chair of the day

Once back to the top of Peak 2, Shaun headed back to the Kris Kross closure and waited for upper mountain sweep to begin, and I made the short hike to the top. We took the obligatory photo of the closing crew, including Brett and Gordon from the area as it continued to dump snow, and then shoved off after last chair to close the hill.

The crew ready for upper mountain sweep

Jan led lower mountain sweep, and it went off without a hitch. Brian took a 350 down since it wouldn’t be needed for the rest of the year, and rode it down Timburr Glades cowboy style.

Brian taking down a 350 to base
Heading in via KP

We swept our way to base, and it was time to enjoy a frosty cold beverage after a long season and good day of patrolling. My beer of choice for the day was a Perfect Storm Double IPA from Oakshire Brewing and it was just right! I caught a picture of it outside the patrol room and then enjoyed it thoroughly.

Perfect Storm Double IPA from Oakshire Brewing

Back in the patrol room, it was still looking like a lake, so Brian, Shannon and I thought it would be funny to make a “No Lifeguard on Duty” sign and leave it for for Hutch who was coming up the next day. It turned out pretty well I thought…

A little patrol humor

Finally, we gathered our gear and it was time to hit the road, satisfied with a good day and a great year. All things considered, even though this season was one of my most challenging in patrol in a number of respects, it was definitely one of my favorite years ever. Getting to spend so much time with Shaun and seeing him flourish in the SPY program was awesome, and the conditions this winter were all-time. My main hope is next year comes close to being anywhere as good as this year. If it does, I know we’ll all be happy skiers and riders!

April 30, 2023 – Final Patrol 2 Day of the Season

After an amazing year, the last day of the “regular” season at the Pass had finally arrived, and Patrol 2 was on the schedule to close things out before we headed into two weekends of operation for the month of May. As we’d done several times throughout the season, Shaun and I woke up early and this time we convinced Carson to come along with us for a fun day of turns at the Pass. We arrived at the patrol room early, and got situated before heading out after the morning meeting to open the hill.

Patrollers ready to open the hill early in the morning
Edward bringing a sled to the base of EPA

The sun was out and it was looking like the corn was going to be good. As a patrol, we were a bit early to the base of EPA, so I caught a couple of photos while waiting to load, including the shots below of the groomer heading in for the day as well as a few patrollers hanging out at the base of lift.

The groomer finishing the morning work
Patrol ready to load up EPA

A few minutes later, we loaded the chair and arrived at the top of EPA. The weather was beautiful, and I caught a picture of Shaun before we headed out to open runs. After my first run, I stopped in to check on Carson, who was geared up and ready to head out with Stone, the son of another patroller. We agreed that he would ski a few runs with Stone in the morning and then we’d ski together in the afternoon.

Shaun at the top of EPA on a beautiful morning
Jon and Joe enjoying the sun

 Around 10:00 am, I met up with Andy who was up for the day, and we caught several laps together. It was fun to ride down RTS and some of the other frontside runs in good corn and brought back memories of the old days. Dan showed up about 10:00 am as well, and was skiing really well after his recent shoulder surgery.

Andy and I at the top of EPA
Dan skiing RTS

The skiing on RTS was excellent, so we spun several laps on it in a row. Laurie joined us, and it was nice to see her having fun without her patrol coat on…

Laurie in a rare moment without her patrol coat
Skiing down RTS

Around noon, the snow started to soften quite a bit, and Andy, Laurie and Dan all headed home. I went in for a quick lunch, and then Carson and I headed out to ski the rest of the afternoon together. Carson made a lot of progress skiing, and was excited to ski Good Time, Escalator, June’s and Destiny.

Carson skiing Good Time
Carson heading down Escalator

We had a lot of fun on Peak 2, and soon it was time for last chair and sweep. Carson decided he was ready to head down once Peak 2 sweep began, so I sent him off and went to check on Shaun who I’d assigned to close Kris-Kross. I helped Shaun set up the closure and then swept the backside before heading up to EPA for upper mountain sweep.

Riding the Peak 2 chair
Closing crew up top on EPA

Upper mountain sweep went off without a hitch, and I swept KP so I could ski part of the run down with Shaun, who was closing Upper and Lower Rosary. We had a couple of slow skiers heading down Rosary, but eventually worked our way down to the base, where a cold beer was calling my name. My beverage of choice for the afternoon was what has since become one of my new favorites, a smooth and refreshing Cosmic Creatures IPA from Deschutes Brewery.

Shaun closing Rosary
Cosmic Creatures IPA from Deschutes

Our evening meeting was quick, and just like that the regular season at the Pass was over and done. I was looking forward to at least one more day of patrolling at the Pass in May, but still it was bittersweet to have our season end.  Here’s a parting shot from the day of Dan, Joe and Jon enjoying the sun from atop EPA!

Parting shot

April 22, 2023 – High Pressure and Hibernating Rodents

It was shaping up to be a fun weekend, and I took Friday off from work to take Shaun to Mt Hood Meadows for a day of turns prior to patrolling at the Pass on Saturday. We had a great day at Meadows, and it was hard to believe it’d been more than a decade since my last visit. We spent the day running laps on the Shooting Star, Hood River and Mt Hood Express lifts, and even made it out to Private Reserve. We’re already making plans to get back next year. I capped the day off with a tasty Hazy in the Gorge IPA from Backwoods Brewing Co, and we hit the road home to prepare for patrol the following morning.

Hazy in the Gorge IPA from Backwoods Brewing

The next morning, we hit the road early and made our way to Pass. Shaun was planning on staying overnight for the SPY sleepover, so we had a bit of extra gear with us when we unloaded. The SPY got to work early by digging out some steps outside the patrol room, and I readied the patrol room for the day.

SPY working on the steps outside the patrol room
Patrick and Amy prior to opening

A little later, it was time for the morning meeting, and shortly thereafter we headed out to open the hill. The day looked to be sunny, and corn was on the menu. I headed to the top of EPA to help open the upper mountain, and snapped a few pictures of the crew before folks headed out.

The crew up top on EPA
Looking out to Diamond

Before I shoved off to open Timburr, which was “unbelievable” to borrow a term from Fischer, I took some shots with my telephotos lens of Diamond and Lakeview, which were basking in the sun…

Telephoto shot of Diamond
Lakeview from the top of EPA

Then, it was time to slide down and check out Timburr, which was breakable crust. The turns were nothing to write home about, but the views down to Odell Lake didn’t disappoint. It was nice to see that the ice on the lake was still holding…

Ice on Odell
James at the top of EPA

After heading down to the base, I spun back around to the top of EPA and made a lap down RTS with Patrick. The snow wasn’t too bad, having not iced up as much as the big 4 on the south face…

Patrick after skiing RTS

By the time we worked our way down to the bottom via George, we caught the SPY heading out after completing the morning duties and run reports….

The SPY crew loading EPA
SPY heading up the EPA lift

After one more lap, I got on the radio and announced to the rest of patrol that I was heading down to base to check out the vacuum splints. The patrol had purchased a couple sets of vacuum splints to test out to determine whether or not we would like to include them in our lineup of medical supplies. Having not used them much in the past, I found them to be fairly intuitive with application for several types of possibilities.

Gretchen working the vacuum splint
Ken and James working the vacuum splint

Several of us took a turn in the whole body splint, and it was quite rigid when all the air was vacuumed out. A few concerns were expressed, but in general I think folks were pretty happy with the idea of including them as another tool in the tool kit for our work.

My view from the vacuum splint

After the splint session, the rest of the day was spent running laps on EPA after lunch. We had a couple of incidents, but nothing serious. I even had the opportunity to photograph a little of the local wildlife as a marmot (I think) came out to play on Success and a few Red Crossbills were working up at the top of EPA.

A Red Crossbill at the top of EPA

The day wrapped up with a little tower pad work (lowering tower pads is always lame; I’d much rather raise them instead!), and a few more runs before we finished for the day to enjoy some excellent bean dip and cold beverages after our evening meeting. My beer of choice for the evening was a tasty Mogul Madness from Rogue brewing.

Mogul Madness from Rogue Brewing

An hour or so later, after the patrol room duties were taken care of, I bid Shaun farewell for the night. He was looking forward to a night of fun with the SPY for the SPY sleepover, and they had plans to watch ski movies, build a jump and head out with the grooming crew early in the morning for a ride on the snow cat.

Ready to head out after a fun day

The drive home went smoothly, and I was happy to complete another fun day of patrolling at the Pass.

April 4, 2023 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

After a pretty epic April Fool’s day at the Pass a few days earlier, I was stoked to get out for a mid-week dusk patrol with Dan, who spent most of the last three months nursing his shoulder back to health after surgery in early January. Starting in April, the Pass was on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday only schedule, so we were hoping to see if we could score some fresh snow after yet another storm had rolled in.

Gold Lake shelter buried

We headed up highway 58, making good time to the Gold Lake sno-park, where we found the Gold Lake Sno-park shelter absolutely buried. Wasting little time, we geared up at the sno-park, and donned the skins on the skis. I took a shot of a beer I was planning on drinking later in the evening (a tasty For the Win IPA from Old 99 Brewing Co.), and then we headed up the road to find a place to park.

Dan skinning up at the snow park
A tasty IPA from Old 99 Brewing

To our amazement, the lot near the PCT had been plowed, and there were a couple of cars parked there. We parked next to Jensen’s truck, and headed up the road. Near the ODOT building, we ran into Jensen and Hilliary and they both said the snow was pretty good. Stoked, we headed up the skin track, working our way up Sleepy and then KP. By the time we reached Eagle’s Flight, it was deep!

Walking up the highway
Looking up Eagle’s

The skin track continued up KP, and with 30+ inches of snow off-piste, we decided to continue to head up the track. By the time we got to the Big Corner however, the track continued up the road and out into the trees beyond. Not sure exactly what was going on there, we busted trail up KP and worked our way towards the top of EPA. The going was slow and the snow was deep, but eventually we topped out after stopping to fix a trails merge sign lower down…

Dan at the big corner
Adjusting some signage

The amount of snow on top was staggering. Looking at the Patrol bump shack, it was nearly buried! Heading on up to Peak 2, the size of the cornices looming above Southbound were also quite impressive.

The bump shack buried!
Heading up to Peak 2

When we reached to top of Peak 2, both of us were impressed with the total snow depth at the snow stake. It was about 3 inches from the bottom of the sign, and we later measured that to be an few inches shy of 144 inches! We cleared some of the snow off the ramp at the top to help the area out for later in the week, and then took a break to enjoy a beer.

12 feet of snow at the stake!
Clearing snow from the ramp

Everything in the shack was looking good, and we enjoyed a few minutes in the warm shack while it continued to snow outside. My beer of choice for the afternoon was a tasty Hazy Crazy IPA from Newport Brewing Co., and I captured it with the Peak 2 chair in the background in the photo below.

Enjoying a break in the top shack
Hazy Crazy IPA from Newport Brewing

A few minutes later, it was time to head back to the front and get ready to make turns. Dan was a bit worried about his shoulder, so we decided against dropping in on Peak 2 and skinned back to the top of EPA instead.

Ready to shove off from the top
At the top of EPA

We took a couple of obligatory summit pics, and then decided on skiing Good Time Charlie based on Dan’s assessment that it would be steep enough to provide good turns but also mellow enough that Dan wasn’t worried about falling on his shoulder. Shoving off, we worked our way down to the run and had to ski in the skin track because it was so deep.

Dan dropping in
Matt dropping into Charlie

Once we got to the run, we did a quick assessment and then dropped in. The snow was absolutely deep as could be, and the turns were excellent. Dan had the camera for the first half of the run, and snapped several shots of me, including the two shot sequence below…

Neck deep on Good Time
White room turns at the Pass

We worked our way down the run, and I snapped some shots of Dan who was ripping with his “improved” shoulder. The snow was so good I wished we had time for another lap, but the hour was getting late so we decided it would be best to ski through the trees and catch the haul road over to George. That proved to be an interesting choice, as the snow was 60+ inches deep on the haul road since no public had skied it the weekend prior. It took some time, but we skinned our way over to George after a bunch of effort.

Dan on Good Time
Ready to ski down George

The turns down George were nice, and reminded me of some of the fun dusk patrol outings from a few years prior during the pandemic. We milked it all the way to the bottom, and were able to ski out to the parking lot.

Down at base
Heading out from the Pass exit

The hike down the road went quickly, and it continued to puke snow as we walked. Even though it was April, it really felt like a mid-winter day.

Hiking back to the car

When we got to the parking lot, Dan’s truck was the only vehicle there. Although it was getting dark, we decided there was still time to cook up some brats, and that was definitely a great choice. The hot brats took the sting out of an otherwise cold evening, and we enjoyed them with a cold beverage.

Brats on the grill
Enjoying beers and brats at the truck

Soon, with the beers and brats gone, it was time to hit the road. Both of us wished we could come back in the morning, but worked beckoned, and we’d have to settle for turns later on the weekend. Even so, this dusk patrol was easily one of the deepest ever, and one that won’t soon be forgotten!