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It’s ON - late spring skiing
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Updated 4 months ago
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Denis - DCSki Supporter
5 months ago

Two of the iconic roads accessing late spring skiing, one east, one west, will open in the next few days.  The skiing is spectacular if you are willing to climb; there are no lifts.

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tioga.htm 

Ellery lake bowl and chutes.  Mt. Dana and it’s couloir.  Mt. Conness, via Saddlebag lake water taxi.

https://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/current-road-status-weather 

Summit snowfields.  Great Gulf.

 

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
5 months ago

There was plenty of snow on Mt. Hood at Timberline when I stopped by for a look in early May.  My ski buddy and I skied at Mt. Hood Meadows that day but had plenty of time to take a look at Timberline Lodge since the snow was pretty soft by lunch time.  Now I get how there can be three ski areas on the same mountain.  Couldn’t quite understand why the Palmer lift at Timberline only runs during the summer season.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
5 months ago

Wish I’d known you were there.  We could’ve hade a few turns.  I was at the Silcox hut at 7000’ on May 6-8.  I skied but not that much since my knees are getting worse rapidly.  This is an annual climb/ski trip with a group of Seattle folks that I’ve been doing since the early 2000s.  We call ourselves the Wild Hearts Vertical Adventure Club.

the Palmer lift doesn’t run in winter for 2 reasons.  For part of the winter in most years, the snow is deeper than the lift towers are tall.  And, weather, clear blue sky to whiteout blizzard ‘in 15 minutes.  I’ve experienced that several times.  Wind over 100 mph is frequent in winter.  They used to give snowcat rides to the top of Palmer on good winter days but stopped that this year.  They also used to give climbers a free ride to 8500 feet but have stopped that also.  They are getting much more restrictive toward climbers, probably because it is the most frequently climbed major peak in the US and numbers, and accidents, and rescues are increasing rapidly.  You can no longer ride a lift with crampons or ice axe in your pack, and the climbers are very upset about it.  Some manage to hide them and not get caught.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
5 months ago

Denis wrote:

Wish I’d known you were there.  We could’ve hade a few turns.  I was at the Silcox hut at 7000’ on May 6-8.  I skied but not that much since my knees are getting worse rapidly.  This is an annual climb/ski trip with a group of Seattle folks that I’ve been doing since the early 2000s.  We call ourselves the Wild Hearts Vertical Adventure Club.

the Palmer lift doesn’t run in winter for 2 reasons.  For part of the winter in most years, the snow is deeper than the lift towers are tall.  And, weather, clear blue sky to whiteout blizzard ‘in 15 minutes.  I’ve experienced that several times.  Wind over 100 mph is frequent in winter.  They used to give snowcat rides to the top of Palmer on good winter days but stopped that this year.  They also used to give climbers a free ride to 8500 feet but have stopped that also.  They are getting much more restrictive toward climbers, probably because it is the most frequently climbed major peak in the US and numbers, and accidents, and rescues are increasing rapidly.  You can no longer ride a lift with crampons or ice axe in your pack, and the climbers are very upset about it.  Some manage to hide them and not get caught.

Ah, didn’t think about letting DC Ski folks know where I was going in May.  It was a last minute decision in terms of whether the trip would happen or not.  Driving up from Sunriver to Mt. Hood for a day trip depended on the weather.  We got lucky.  Had three great days at Bachelor May 3, 5-6, plus May 4 at Meadows since they opened Fri-Sun that weekend.

The man who parked next to us at Meadows was surprised at how much had melted in two weeks.  Have to figure out how to get back to Oregon in April when it’s already late season but there is still a lot open.  I have good friends who live in southern Oregon so that’s another reason to go again.

Saw a picture on the Timberline website with the Palmer lift tower almost completely buried.

4 months ago

marzNC wrote:

  Couldn’t quite understand why the Palmer lift at Timberline only runs during the summer season.

It get’s snowed in with snow so deep the chairs would be acting as snow plows, and would probably be trying to detach causing harm to the chiars, the cable, and probably the towers.

4 months ago

new invention - hydraulic lift towers….

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
4 months ago

pagamony wrote:

new invention - hydraulic lift towers….

Somehow when I read that the towers had to withstand 100 mph winds, skiing off Palmer in the winter doesn’t sound that appealing.

4 months ago

Just saw a video on the Weather Channel this weekend about some skiers that stuck on a chair at Jackson Hole near the top in 100+ mph winds.  To see how those were blowing around and how nuts that wind was - wow.  I wouldn’t want to be up there.

Fortunately there were good lifties that were able to get people off quickly when there were breaks in the wind.  And the lift held.  But yeah, not my idea of a good time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CDuMSP6Gws

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
4 months ago

superguy wrote:

Just saw a video on the Weather Channel this weekend about some skiers that stuck on a chair at Jackson Hole near the top in 100+ mph winds.  To see how those were blowing around and how nuts that wind was - wow.  I wouldn’t want to be up there.

Fortunately there were good lifties that were able to get people off quickly when there were breaks in the wind.  And the lift held.  But yeah, not my idea of a good time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CDuMSP6Gws

Yipe!

The winds were gusting to 40 mph at the top of Mammoth when I was there in early May.  Not an issue going up since we rode up in the gondola.  But that was enough to make me a little antsy when stepping into my bindings at the top even in sunny weather because the ridge is not that wide there.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
4 months ago

A story to illustrate what Mt. Hood can throw at you.  It’s tops out at 11,000 feet above a coastal plain at 3000 feet, only 100 miles from the pacific.  Storms blow in frequently and, given the amount of vertical relief, don’t have to be major to create an intense microclimate event on the mountain.  The tree line is at about 6500 ft.  Above that it’s wide open.  One day, about 10 years ago, I skinned up early in the morning while it was still rock hard, found a flattish place to sit at 10,000 ft. And sat down to rest, take in the view and wait for the sun to soften the snow into perfect corn.  It was early May, and I was alone, but not worried, being directly above the Palmer snowfield.  After a bit of softening, but not much, a few little white clouds showed up.  Corn’s not quite ripe yet, I’ll wait a while longer.  Big mistake.  In 15 minutes the clouds had covered the whole sky, descended, and I was in a whiteout.  I removed the skins and started down but had no references to show which way was up.  Fighting vertigo i fell multiple times.  The big Cascade volcanoes are well known to mountaineers for ‘fall line error’.  If descending in a whiteout by what appears to be straight down the fall line, you will gradually curve to the Southwest.  On Hood, that means descending into ZigZag canyon and a 50 foot cliff at the bottom.  I had a compass and tried, as best I could, to keep going south to the Palmer snowfield.  Then I came upon ski tracks, possibly my own from the day before, but whoever made them, they ought to lead back to safety.  I cautiously followed and soon came back to the top tower of the Palmer, which was now below the clouds in the clear.  The great surprise was that following the tracks gave just enough reference that the vertigo, a horrible feeling, went away and I could ski well again.

Having said that, I especially love the mountains when they show their wild side.  Of course that excludes sitting in a chair lift in a 100 mph wind.  The lift served slopes at Timberline are quite mild.  But the views and scale are huge, and it steepens steadily as you go above the lift (which ends at 8500 ft.) to the upper mountain.  Having taken about 20 trips there in early May, I’ve experienced just about every kind of condition, sometimes in the same day.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
4 months ago

Denis wrote:

A story to illustrate what Mt. Hood can throw at you.  

Having taken about 20 trips there in early May, I’ve experienced just about every kind of condition, sometimes in the same day.

Great story!

The weekend at Bachelor, the weather clearly didn’t follow predictions.  On Saturday afternoon/evening, the forecast for Sunday said 80% chance of rain.  Around 10:00 my friends and I decided if we were going to ski the backside, we needed to go ahead as clouds were rolling in at the top of the mountain.  A few minutes after going to the backside traverse, it was clear there weren’t more clouds coming.  There were a few high clouds afterwards but it was pretty sunny until we left at 1pm.  When I stopped in to buy an avalanche dog shirt before my last run, the ski patrol supervisor told me that he had been just about ready to close the backside mid-morning when he realized the weather was changing for the better.  He said he quickly called everyone he just told to get ready to sweep that they would keep everything open as long as possible.  It was the last day for some of the upper mountain terrain because Northwest Express closed after that weekend.  I think everything off the top was probably open until it was time to sweep before all lifts closed for the day at 1:30.

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