Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Inversion Frost Art

In mid-January, the Portland area experienced an inversion, lasting over a week and a half.  The Willamette River Valley shivered in below-freezing temperatures under foggy skies, while up on the mountain, lucky skiers enjoyed sunshine and balmy high 50 temps.  Crazy!

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

The frost is thick this am

But one of the great photographic benefits of this unusual weather was every morning found the outdoors coated in a thick white frost.

Frosty spider web

On weekdays, I'm out the door and at work before daylight, so I kept missing the show.  But Saturday found me at home with camera.  Once the sun rose, I got myself outside.

Forgotten apple long fallen from our tree

One of my Christmas presents was a new camera lens.  Now was the perfect time to try it out!

The last leaf

I had great fun roaming around the yard, checking out the cool frost patterns on the vegetation.

Empty bird feeder encased in white

Even this little bird feeder wasn't spared.  I really like how the frost crusted every bit of the wire.

Yet another spider web

I especially like how the frost coats the spider webs.  Now they are really visible.  Very cool!

The morning sun beginning to thaw my neighborhood

The fog started to lift, and sunshine began filtering through the hazy skies.  I liked how it lit up the frosty trees.

Fuzzy leaves

This little bush is wearing a fuzzy white coating.

Spiky frost crystals sparkle in the sun

When the sun hit the frosty leaves, it was downright magical!  White flakes glittered in the light.

More interesting spiky frost

The frost formed little needles of ice on these leaves.  Very interesting to see.

This rhodie looks like its growing hair!

Almost looks like some of these leaves are growing white hairs!

Even my doggie had frost on his ears

Even my dog got a little bit of frost on his ears.  He was such a good boy and actually posed for this shot (and he doesn't usually stand still for very long!)

This week our inversion ended, with a return of rain and warmer temps.  I never thought I'd be so happy to see the rain, but I am.  Rain in the valley means snow in the mountains.......  :)   And just maybe I'll see more frost up there next time I go skiing.

Linking to:  Camera Critters and Share Your Cup Thursday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

White River Rematch

Three years ago, I took a backcountry skiing class through the Mazamas, a local climbing education club.  Still feeling very much a rank beginner, I returned to help with last year's class.  I learned lots more, and had so much fun, I decided to volunteer again.

Gathering our group at the trailhead

Two weeks ago, the current class had its first field day.  Field day basically gives the students a chance to try out their gear before undertaking a long tour, and learn a few basic survival skills.  Check out my post from last year's field day right here.

Trying to pull the skins apart

Field day was held at the White River Snowpark.  Yep - the same place as my ill-fated tour of last month.  (If you missed the post, you can read all about it here.)  Although a tiny bit apprehensive about returning to the scene of my troubles, this time I was determined to stay upright on my skis, no matter the conditions.  Falling was not an option!

Putting on the climbing skins

Early morning found students and instructors gathered in the parking lot.  Everyone was split into groups and I paired myself with two instructors who happened to be experienced telemark skiers (coincidentally both named John).  After traveling a short distance down the trail, we stopped for a demonstration on climbing skins.

The sun comes out just in time for a Mt. Hood sighting!

Climbing skins are essential gear for backcountry skiing.  They are made of heavy fabric this is attached to the bottom of skis with a sticky glue.  Climbing skins are amazing - they enable a skier to travel uphill without sliding backwards.  You can ascend a fairly steep slope with nary a slip.  But if you've never used skins, it does help to have some basic instructions on how to use them.

Practicing an uphill traverse

The "Johns" and I had our students practice removing and reattaching their skins.  After a couple of tries, everyone had their skins securely attached.  Now it was time to do some uphill traveling!

Skiing straight uphill

First, the students practiced traversing up the side of a steep slope.  Since it's way less energy to climb by switchbacking, this is the preferred climbing method.  This point was driven home when John and John then told everyone to ski straight uphill.  We all reached the top gasping and sweating.  Whew!  What a cardio workout!

The weather couldn't have been more perfect

It seems every time I've visited White River Canyon, the weather is always beautiful and sunny.  Today was no exception.  Although the day began cold and foggy, it wasn't long before the clouds lifted, and Mt. Hood made her grand appearance.  It's such a fantastic view of the mountain.  In between practice sessions, I snuck as many scenery photos as I could.

Smiling faces

Not only was there endless sunshine and blue skies, but the ground was covered with at least half a foot of light fluffy powder.  The snow sparkled like diamonds in the bright sun.  We all looked hungrily at this wonderful pow, hoping to get a chance to ski down it.

Follow the leader

But for now the direction of skiing was up, not down.  The class practiced kick turns, traversed uphill some more, and then headed into the woods for lunch and snow shelter construction.

Makin' tracks

One of the skills practiced at Field Day is the art of making emergency snow shelters.  If you're out on a tour, and suddenly lost, stranded, or have an injured person, it's important to seek shelter.  There's lots of ways to construct a shelter.

Finished snow shelter

These guys dug a shallow trench, and using their skis, propped a tarp over top. 

Creative use of skis to make a shelter

These two students were even more creative.  They dug a deeper pit and used their skis and poles to form rafters.  Then they stacked chunks of snow and ice on top to form a roof.

Popping out of the shelter like a groundhog

A small and cozy little place to ride out the storm!  When this guy emerged from his shelter, we all said he looked like a groundhog popping out of his hole.

Digging a cave into the hillside

This group dug a snow cave into the hillside.

Lined up on top of the slope

After everyone had built their shelters, it was time to practice one more skill, the self arrest.  If you're skiing and fall, it's important to know how to stop yourself from sliding down an icy slope.  You don't want to slide off a cliff or into a crevasse.  Although some skiers use an ice axe, the Johns demonstrated how to self arrest using a ski pole.  Then it was time for the students to try it.

Packing down the nice powder to make a slippery surface

But although the newly fallen snow was wonderful for skiing, it wasn't very good for practicing self arrest.  It was so thick and powdery, the students could hardly slide at all.  So all of us got to work sidestepping down slope, attempting to pack the snow into something a little bit slicker. 

Our work didn't help.  The students tried to slide, but the soft powder stopped every one one of them.  It was actually very funny.  I made a short video with my camera to capture everyone's attempts at trying to get some speed down the hill.

Heading back to the parking lot

We finally gave up on the self arrests.  Having a little bit of time still left in the day, the Johns decided to embark on a mini tour.  We skied through the forest until reaching its end.  Here the landscape was wind-scoured and icy.  Thankfully, we turned around here, took off our skins, and had a wonderful ski back through lovely powder snow in the wind-sheltered woods.

And....I'm happy to report, I made it all the way to my car, AND DIDN'T FALL ONCE!  (Take that White River!)

What a great day to be outside, enjoying the sunshine and snow.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fade to Black (and White)

I love black and white photos.  There's something about the stark simplicity of monochrome that intrigues me.  Details that would get lost in the whirl of color take center stage. 

But often the bright hues of real life captured on my sensor can be distracting.  I get so caught up in color, I forget about converting my shots to B & W. 

Thankfully the 52 Photos Project chose "Black and White" as its meme for the week.  A perfect opportunity to view some of my favorite images in a new light.

Fog in the valleys, view from Mt Hood Meadows

I took this photo from high on the slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows.  Although the sky was perfectly clear, fog lingered in the mountain valleys.  Mt. Jefferson rose prominently on the horizon, with Broken Top Mountain visible behind.  The bent over, icy trees added to the wintry scene.  Meadows has a shot similar to this view hanging in one of their restrooms (which is where I got the idea).  And it's also in black and white!

Frosty leaves

I captured the above image this past Monday morning.  A heavy frost covered everything outside in a thick coating of white.  These leaves had tiny needles of frost clinging to their edges.  Very cool when converted to B & W!  Although I'd intended to post only one photo, I liked this one so well, it got included too.

Check out more impressive black and white images by visiting the 52 Photos Project Gallery 40.

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's Ski Bus Time!

Every year in early January I eagerly await the start of another wonderful activity - the midweek ski bus!

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

A fun ride to the mountain!

Mt. Hood Meadows, my local ski resort, offers bus transportation for Portland area snow-riders during the week.  I've been a regular on my bus since 2001.  For a skiing maniac like myself, it's the best thing that's even happened.  Skiing on uncrowded slopes and not having to drive.  For more background about the bus, check out the blog post I did a couple of years ago right here.

Midweek skiing crowds....

I pick Thursdays as my ski bus days.  It's great to be at on the mountain on a weekday.  Lift lines and crowds are nonexistent.  Just me and the trees.

Rush hour on the slopes

Over the years, I've made many friends on the bus.  People you get to know well during the 8-week session, then you don't see for the rest of the year.  The first day back, it's so much fun to reconnect with everyone.

Linda and Judy pose for Mt. Hood

My streak of sunny ski trips continued with yet another day of bluebird conditions.  That meant more great views of Mt. Hood.  Here's bus buddies Linda and Judy posing with my favorite mountain.

The camera phone photo I sent my work friend

It was such a beautiful day, I couldn't resist snapping a photo of myself with my new camera phone and sending it to my friend Kim, hard at work.  I know - not a very nice thing to do!  (And my friend texted me back a word that starts with the letter "b" and rhymes with "itch")

I found the Tele Ladies!

The Tele Ladies also ride a midweek bus, although a different one than mine.  I ran into them after lunch, and of course had to tag along.

Yet another Mt Hood photo....

We headed up to the top of the Vista Lift to check things out.  On the way up, I couldn't resist snapping this view of Mt. Hood from the chair.  Gorgeous, huh?

Impressive clouds on top

On top of Vista, the snow was wind-packed and icy.  Ugh!  But we couldn't stay up here all day.  Eventually we'd need to ski through the crummy snow.  At least there were some good views to enjoy on the way down.

Icy tree and White River Canyon

The icy-crusted trees were especially scenic.  And you could see across the White River Canyon to the Timberline Ski Area.  In this photo, you can just barely make out the towers of Timberline's Palmer Lift (upper right hand corner).

Katie the tele queen!

The snow gods had dropped 6 inches of fresh snow overnight.  Sadly, by the time our bus arrived, most of it had already been tracked out.  But.....once we got past all that icy crap on top of Vista, Katie, Sue and I made a wonderful discovery.  Powder.  An entire slope of it.  Still fresh and not too badly cut up. 

Whoopee!  It was a blast sliding through this nice snow.  My friends and I had so much fun, we skied back through that crummy icy stuff and hit the run again.  And again.  To capture this happy adventure, I set my camera to "movie" mode and created a short clip.  Those of you wanting to see what a telemark turn looks like, check out the video above.

Mt. Hood plays peekaboo

After many happy turns, it was time to head back to the lodge and catch our respective buses.  On my last run, I spied this great view of Hood peeping out between the trees.  It was a moment worthy of Eastman Kodak!   Of course I stopped and captured the scene.  Now you can all enjoy it.

Bus mom Linda with the important beverage!

Back on the bus, our "bus moms" Linda and Dixie get busy serving us hungry skiers goodies.  Although the bus doesn't supply alcoholic beverages, they do allow riders to BYOB.  And most of my bus-mates are willing to share their vino.

Bus mom Dixie with the less important beverages

But Dixie also supplies sodas for those not wishing to imbibe.  She thinks of everything!

"Back of the Bus" gang

I sit with the notorious "Back of the Bus" gang.  Don't they look like troublemakers?  But give 'em some wine, and they turn into pussycats.  Cheers, guys!

I'm so happy it's ski bus time again.  Here's to another great year of sun, snow, skiing, and friends!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Retro Photo - Snow Kids

I haven't done a retro photo post in awhile, so it's time!

This particular image is one I captured of my kids on a rare snowy day.  The Portland area only receives a measurable snowstorm every 5 years or so.  When white stuff does accumulate, the entire metro area goes nuts.  Kids of all ages rush outside to play in the snow.  Which is what we did that day.

This photograph is from around 1992.  My daughter, always the ham, produced one of  her super-cute expressions.  My son, the master builder, couldn't have cared less about the camera, and kept working away on his snowman.  One of the reasons I like this photo is it really captures the different personalities of my kids.

Linking to:  Flashback Friday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The "Tele Trio" Rides Again

Look out ..... we're back!

Sue, Katie and I (the newly named "Tele Trio") descended upon Mt. Hood Meadows last Sunday for another day of fun and frolic in the snow.  It's becoming a weekly routine. 

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

What are they up to now?

We lucked out with our third straight bluebird ski day.  The skies were clear and amazingly blue, with nary a drop of precip.  (Are you sure we're still in the Pacific Northwest?)

Sue admires the corduroy

It was another day of sweet turns in perfectly groomed snow.  And a continuation of merriment and laughter on the chairlift rides up.

Mt. Hood makes a nice backdrop for Katie

So far this season, I've been using my telemark skis more than my alpines.  (If I want to hang out with the Tele Ladies, I'd better have my heels free!)  Katie also threatened she wouldn't ski with me if I showed up with alpine boards.

Smile, you're on candid camera!

But the benefit is, my telemark skills have improved dramatically.  The Tele Ladies are a good influence!

Obligatory sunburst pic

As you know by now, my skiing blog posts are not complete without at least one sunburst shot.  Here ya go.  (You're welcome)

Glittering, icy snow

I ran into Dean and Kathy, some of my other good ski friends.  We all teamed up into one large happy group.  The gang traveled around Meadows, finally ending up at the top of Vista Lift.

Our gang high above the clouds

Although the runs off of Vista aren't my favorite, you can't beat the views.  Looking west across the White River Canyon one can see Timberline Lodge and the Mile and Palmer Lifts.  Hovering below the mountain was an impressive cloud bank.

Poor little ice-crusted trees

But conditions up here were definitely not ideal.  The top of Vista always gets the winds, and it appeared they'd scoured every bit of snow off its slopes.  All that was left was a firm, slick base.  And a few sad ice-crusted trees.

Icicles dangle from it's branches

But even though all that ice was nasty to ski over, it sure made the trees look lovely. 

Hood wears a feathery cloud cap

Towards afternoon, the wind picked up and my favorite mountain was wearing a wispy white cap of clouds.  So beautiful!  Yes, I have zillions of Hood photos, but I couldn't resist taking one more.

Just another wonderful ski day with the Tele Trio!

Linking with:  52 Photos Project.