April Powder on Mount Hood

8 04 2011

Some late spring snow – and LOTS of it – fell on Mount Hood in early April 2011. Mount Hood Ski Bowl opened unscheduled on Thursday at 3 p.m. for “night” skiing – well, at that hour in April it was blue bird sunny!

Wow! Pictures are really worth 1,000 words.

A telemark skier takes on the fresh



The deep

Sun, Snow and the Best of Fluff in Oregon’s Cascades!

25 02 2011

A weather system out of the Pacific has converted a drought stricken snowpack in Oregon’s Cascades into dry fluff! Depending on elevation, up to two feet fell in the past two days of desperately needed white stuff!

Here’s a nice video of the dumping in action on Wednesday!

I took a gamble Wednesday and headed up to Ski Bowl and found a paradise for skiers! On the trails, snow up to the top of my boots. Off trail calf high.  Run after run of untracked powder could be had for anybody game enough to ignore the weather forecast and head up. Roads were no problem because the snow plows did such a great job.

Up to the boot tops!

If you have ever dreamed of skiing untracked powder run after run, Wednesday was such a day! I arrived late, about 1:30, and was in absolute DISBELIEF that runs, not backcountry, had NO TRACKS! OMG! In fact people were hiking to ski freshies and there was no reason, freshies could be had on some of the front side trails in the Upper Bowl!

As late as 4:00 p.m. I found lots of fresh, untracked snow on the front side of  Upper Bowl!

My ski buddy Alex said he would try to get time off to come up Thursday and today he was able to get out early and we arrived at Ski Bowl about 9:30 a.m. to the lightest, featherlight snow the Cascades offer!

Though there were more people on the trails Thursday, the snow was so marvelous it didn’t matter. Plus the sun peeked out several times, making the entire day complete.

Another bonus both Wednesday and Thursday was that wind was NOT a factor! WOW. Just perfect, run after run of feather light snow!

When the sun poked out of the sky on Thursday it showed in stark relief how beautiful Planet Earth’s wonders are! HOLY COW the entire Cascade Range stood out in clear, pure, fantastic focus from far to near. All on a day when the weathermen predicted all kinds of trouble!

So, without further adieu, here is Alex making his way down Canyon!

I have experienced many day like this in my skiing career. But not always in the Cascades. So one of my goals has been to show Alex how amazing skiing can be when Mother Nature bestows her magic!

Snow Returns to the Cascades!

24 02 2011

This is what I have been waiting for!

Hello everyone! After three weeks of drought and warmth and loss of snow, La Nina has returned, bestowing dry powder upon the Cascades! LET IT SNOW!

Enjoy this video – taken from the Upper Bowl at Mount Hood Ski Bowl!

More to come!


Rossignol’s 21st Century Ski Boots, Short on Style…

6 05 2010

I’ve been skiing all my life. One of the golden rules of the sport is get boots that are right for you – boots that have good performance, fit and comfort. Once you’ve got ’em dialed in, you can use them for years, well past skis that wear out.

Such is the case with my past two pairs – Lange Tii and Tecnica Explosion8. Each I loved, each delivered and each I owned for years. The Explosion 8 was still going strong this season. But I’ve learned the newer boots are designed with a new flex pattern specific to the latest generation of shaped skis.

That flex pattern is softer forward but just as stiff as before laterally (side to side). Older straight skis and earlier generation shaped skis were thinner and longer. The skier used forward pressure over the front of the skis to initiate turns. But today’s skis have deeper sidecuts and are all shorter and wider. This requires a different skiing style and therefore different boots have been developed.

Today’s boots are designed for a more upright stance with softer forward flex. Turns are initiated by “rolling” the skis on their edges.

With that knowledge I figured I’d try to take my chances and see what kind of after-season deals I could find at Hillcrest Ski and Sport in Gresham, Oregon. Greg Coulter, who’s been there for years, is a master boot fitter so he’s the man.

Rossi sans style

I tried three boots, one,  Nordica, was too big, and another, a Dalbello, had a strange three-buckle/cable system. The last was a Rossignol, which thanks-a-lot was all white. It’s the SAS Pro 120. This boot’s a freeskier boot. I remember my friend Ed was all embarrassed this spring when the “right” boot was an all-white Salomon! They didn’t have any others in my size. The Dalbello and Rossignol fit pretty much the same. Regardless of part of me trying to say “it’s OK to try new things,” the wise part said, “don’t buy those Dalbellos. You have been preaching for years about sticking with a 4-buckle boot!” So I wound up picking the all-white boots!

Now, the question is, what to do with the blank slate?

How to Score Fresh Tracks on Mount Hood: Wednesdays at Ski Bowl

19 04 2010

Mount Hood is a mere 60 miles east of Portland, Oregon. It’s literally in the city’s backyard. It receives hundreds of inches of snowfall in the winter, and has several ski areas. Portland is populated with a lot of powder hounds willing to brave wind, ice and state police to get a chance at enjoying fresh snow. On Mount Hood, where it can be wet snow, the days of sweet dry fluff are in extremely high demand.

At Mount Hood Meadows, the largest ski resort, crowds gather before the lifts open anxiously awaiting. Heather Canyon doesn’t open until 9:30 and similarly there will be dozens standing at the gates waiting for the ski patrol to let them in. The upshot is that around here, the exhilaration of floating in fresh powder doesn’t last long. And you have to get up real early to get it.

Mount Hood viewed from the top of Ski Bowl

But there are some who know they can sleep in. Or work a half day – and still get fresh tracks. Because they know there is a little secret on the other side of the Mountain. The true diehards get fresh tracks at Meadows, then pack up and then do it all over again at this secret spot. When low snow levels bestow powder on Mount Hood Ski Bowl on a Tuesday night/Wednesday, these people head to Mount Hood Ski Bowl to catch the 1:00 Wednesday opening. It’s guaranteed you can get run after run of trackless on these days.

1:00 time for freshies!

I was around for one such day late in winter 2009-2010 and it was super sweet, I took in one trackless run after another!

So if you just happen to notice the right conditions and have some time on a Wednesday, now you know you don’t have to set the alarm for 5:00 a.m. and rush out the door.

Easter Sunday 2010 at Mount Hood Ski Bowl

19 04 2010

Winter 2009 – 2010 at Mount Hood Ski Bowl was a joke. I bought a pass in November 2009, when we had four feet of early season snow. Then things happened. Accident, injury and El Nino.

Before this season began I made a commitment to boycott Mount Hood Meadows. Year after year of corporate marketing and boring terrain finally made me say good bye. I craved the low key Mount Hood Ski Bowl atmosphere – plus I loved the terrain in the upper bowl, and the warming sanctuary of the mid mountain hut. Many seasons, Ski Bowl’s lower elevation meant inferior snow. But the past several years it’d racked up some serious numbers, like a 130″ base by early March. I bought my pass gambling that it would happen again. I lost. But not quite in the way I imagined.

Just before Thanksgiving 2009, on my very first run, fate took an unfortunate turn. Standing in the middle of the widest slope on lower bowl, I was hockey check-blasted by a kid on a snowboard. Did not hear him, did not see him. I don’t know what he saw. But my shoulder was dislocated, and with that, most of the 2009 – 2010 season. But Planet Earth also conspired against my gamble. El Nino threw warm, and dry weather at the Pacific NW. My heating bill hit all time lows, as did the mid-season snow pack at Mount Hood Ski Bowl. The base was less than three feet in mid February.

By that time, after diligently following a physical therapy regimen, I was released to go at the hill. Base depths at Ski Bowl didn’t please. So, I headed to Utah for a wonderful week. Returning, El Nino’s grip started to relax. And winter made a late season comeback. Late in March, Oregon’s Cascades received over four feet of fluff.

Easter Bunny Brings Powder

And I took advantage. On Easter Sunday I headed up there, and was rewarded with feathery fluff – a serious bounty. Uncrowded and free of hype, Mount Hood’s Upper Bowl was a treasure. Well worth waiting for.

Here’s a view from upper bowl lift…

Upper Bowl Cliffs from the Lift

No way to describe how good the snow was this Easter Sunday! It was truly dry – a major rarity in Oregon. And deep. My ski poles labored to find bottom. And soft. No ice anywhere. And not crowded nor windy. All just right for me!

Some just weren’t prepared, for I witnessed some serious carnage from the lift. In some ways, I wait all year to see such carnage. You could tell this guy was going to bite it hundreds of feet before he actually did. When it happened is was a beautiful thing, yard sale, skis, poles, goggles, and a 100-ft face first slide…man one has to feel for the guy.

Well, once that guy did his yard sale I figured it was time to take a break. And true to form, the mid mountain hut was full of Easter Sunday merry makers. Folks of all stripes were enjoying the fire and swapping stories of the feather snow we all experienced this day!