Thursday, February 27, 2014

Skiing at Zero Degrees F

The first week of February, a massive cold front settled over Oregon.  My ski bus was scheduled for Thursday, despite a prediction of below-zero temps.  All week I debated whether to brave the cold to get my skiing fix.  (Yes I grew up in frigid South Dakota, but 25+ years of living in temperate Portland has turned me into a weather weenie.)

Who are these mystery men?

Well, you know me - a little cold weather wasn't gonna get in the way of a ski bus day!  I decided freezing my butt off on the slopes was way better than going to work.  I packed all the ski clothes I owned, stocked up on hand warmers, and hoped the wind wouldn't blow too hard.

World of white

Stepping off the bus that next morning, the thermometer registered an even zero degrees F.  Before heading to the lift, I piled on the layers, stuck hand warmers in gloves, toe warmers in boots, and donned a thick face mask.  Meeting up with ski buddies Pat and Glen, I had to laugh.  They were so bundled up, only their eyes were visible (soon to be covered by goggles).

Pat zips down the slope

Once outside, my friends and I were happy to discover the air was still.  At least wind chill wouldn't be an issue.  And a couple inches of fresh snow lay on the ground.  Dry, light, fluffy powder - the kind we usually don't see in the Cascades.

Frozen skiers

Oh it was so fun to swoosh through the new snow!  I was having a ball, floating in the pow, making tracks everywhere.  I had no trouble staying warm while skiing, but the lift ride back up was another story.  Faces froze, goggles fogged, toes tingled.  Lunchtime came early.  Not because we were hungry - it was time for a much-needed warm up.

Yahoo!  It's snowing!

After enjoying our break, and thawing out cold hands and toes, it was time to put those layers back on, slip another hand warmer in the glove, and return to the slopes.  The morning snow was so good, I was looking forward to more powder turns. my buddies and I started down our first run, I noticed the falling snow had turned wet and heavy.  Ice began to accumulate on my goggles.  It became so thick, I had to keep stopping to scrape it off, or I wouldn't be able to see.  Pat and Glen were having the same issue.

My ice-crusted goggles

Lucky for me, my ski gloves have a little plastic ice scraper built into the thumb.  Super handy for clearing frozen goggles!  Poor Glen and Pat didn't have any such gadget, and they had a hard time keeping their goggles clear.  The freezing rain kept falling, and poor Pat's goggles got so icy, he couldn't see a thing, and he ended up taking them off.

Such weird weather - freezing rain doesn't usually happen in subzero temperatures.  We assumed a warmer layer existed above us, and precip fell through the colder surface layer, turning into freezing rain.

Results of skiing in freezing rain

By day's end, my jacket and pants were coated with a thin, white film.  My goggles had a layer of ice around the rim.  Once inside, small shards of frost and ice flew off as I removed my outerwear.

Yes, the weather was frigid.  Yes, skiing in freezing rain was a challenge.  But the snow was wonderful, the company fun, and surviving today's zero temps made me feel pretty bada$$. 

Oh yeah - still way better than being at work!

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot.

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Super" Weekend at Mt. Bachelor

I'm not a huge Superbowl fan.  The game is almost always a blowout.  Most of the commercials are posted in advance on the internet.  And my hubby's favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, never makes it that far (and at the rate they're going, probably never will).  Besides, with everyone busy watching the game and having parties, it's the perfect day to hit the slopes.

A clear day dawns on Mt. Bachelor

Last year, I spent Superbowl weekend at Mt. Bachelor.  It worked out so well, I decided a repeat visit was in order.  So Friday night, I packed up my car, and headed to the town of Bend, in Central Oregon.

Ski tracks make fancy patterns on the cone

Although snowfall was still sparse in early February, Saturday dawned sunny with brilliant blue skies.  As I always say, if you can't have fresh powder, sunshine is the next best thing.

Dale and Max are ready to go!

My brother Dale and his son Max joined me that day.  A quick lift ride took us to mid-mountain, where amazing views of the neighboring mountains awaited.

White frosted wonderland

Overnight freezing fog had everything covered in a thick, frosty coat of white.  Amazingly beautiful against the blue sky!

Tiny sunburst peeps out of the trees

I even captured a tiny sunburst peeking out from some frosty trees.

Mountain views don't get any better!

Clear skies at Mt. Bachelor means skiers are treated to gorgeous views of the adjacent mountains.  Broken Top and the Three Sisters can be seen front and center from most every run.  Ski area views don't get much better than this!

Flocked glade

The snow was nicely groomed off the Pine Martin Lift, so Dale, Max and I made a few laps.

Snowmaking next to the lift

The lift ride back up was especially scenic.  First, we were treated to a line up of snowmaking machines, spitting powder into the air.

Riding through the white zone

Then, higher up, we passed by a row of ghostly white trees, thick with icy frosting.

Frosty lift tower

Even the lift towers had an icy coating!

Christmas in February!

The white, ice-laden trees looked like Christmas had come late.  Mother Nature's flocking!

Dale checks out the snowmaking machine

We skied past a line of several snowmaking guns.  So unusual to see this year.  Normally the Cascade Mountains receive such abundant snowfall, snowmaking isn't necessary.  Dale had to stop and check out the snowy stream. 

Someone used the statue as a ski rack

Taking a lunch break, the mid-mountain lodge was so full of skiers, we couldn't find an empty rack to stash our skis.  Some creative person had even used the front door statue!

Bachelor is known for it's fab views

We spent the afternoon checking out the trails on a couple other lifts.  And taking in more of the great scenery.

Stopping to take in the scenery

The next day, Superbowl Sunday, was a complete turn-around weatherwise.  Driving up to Mt. Bachelor, I encountered dense, cloudy skies.  Swirling snowflakes greeted me as I turned into the parking lot.  Yahoo - fresh snow!

Skier peek-a-boo through the trees

Sadly, the snow didn't last.  The temperature warmed just enough to turn the fluffy flakes into a nasty freezing rain.  I managed to ski all morning anyway, even though it meant continuous stops to scrape ice off my goggles.  When I finally went inside for lunch, my jacket was coated in a thin, white film.

Even though conditions weren't ideal, the lack of crowds, and no lift lines almost made up for the crummy weather.  By 2:00, I'd made more runs than the entire day before.  Which was a good thing, as I had to leave the slopes early.

JJ's acting debut

Why leave early you ask?  Had I changed my mind about the big game?  Nooo......I wanted to see my nephew JJ's acting debut!  The other reason I'd chosen this weekend to visit Bend.  JJ landed several minor roles in a local theater's production of "Alice in Wonderland."  His best character?  Hands down the Walrus!  He did a great job, and I loved the costume.  Even though flash photography wasn't allowed, I was able to get a couple decent shots of JJ in action.  Why watch a football game, when there's an opportunity to see a live theater performance that includes a family member?

Two good days of skiing and an entertaining play.  I deemed this weekend a "super" success!

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Blue'bird, a - Slang term for a day of absolutely ideal skiing weather, with blue skies and perfect powder snow.

Nothin' but blue skies

Okay, so we didn't have powder - but the sky's brilliant color more than made up for the lack of fluffy stuff.  Not bad for the last Thursday in January!

The mountain is out!

And besides, it was a weekday, and I was at the mountain skiing!  Such lovely weather made playing hooky from work that much sweeter.

Dramatic cloud bank below

Teaming up with my usual Thursday ski friend posse, we traveled to the top of Mt. Hood Express and gaped at a cool cloud bank hanging below. The deep blue sky and bright sunshine were a huge contrast to the thick, white fog hanging in the valleys.

My ski buddies

But enough about scenery.  Time to ski!

Lots of long shadows today

Although the day was windy and a little chilly, the endless solar energy seemed to make us feel warmer.

Snow looks better with blue skies

My friends and I traveled over to the Shooting Star Lift, where wide open runs offered nice views of my favorite mountain.  Gotta stop for a photo op or two!

The views can't be beat on Shooting Star Ridge

When searching for places to ski, I'm always paying attention to the number of people on a run.  If a trail is populated with snowriders, I always assume it's because conditions must be good. 

Linda contemplates the clouds

From the lift, we spotted a gully with a bunch of skiers zipping through.  Deciding to give it a try, my friends and I were rewarded with a wonderful trip through some amazingly soft powder.  The winds had blown the loose snow around, and it had all settled into the gully's bottom.

Skiin' down the gully

Glen had an app on his phone that tracked the number of runs, total distance and vertical, and time spent on the slopes.  At the end of the day, it gave us this nice summary.  Eighteen runs and 16,141 feet vertical!  Not too shabby. 

Stats for the day

When the valley is fogged in, it's nice to get up to the mountain for a midweek ski break.  Blue skies and sunshine do wonders for the attitude.  I returned to work Friday, refreshed and cheerful.  Only one day left until the weekend - when I could return for more.  And hopefully another bluebird day!

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Palmer Revisited

Okay, bouncing back to another mid-January trip up the Palmer.  This time, my buddy Young joined me for the journey.

Good morning, Mt. Hood!

Once again, our day dawned clear, sunny and warm.  The entire month of January saw the same above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation that has plagued the West coast. 

Mystery building along the climber's trail

It made for a lovely blue-sky day.  The views along the climber's trail to the top of the Palmer Lift are so nice, I didn't mind today's lack of winter weather.

Heading out of the forest

We started at Timberline Lodge, and followed the climber's trail through a short, forested section. 

Checking out a snowman

And passed by the resident snowman, looking a little disheveled from the relentless bright sun.

Skiing buddy selfie

Then Young and I left the forest for wide open slopes beside the Magic Mile's ski trails.

Looking down on the adjacent hills

The views were grand indeed.  Looking to the west you could see rumpled foothills speckled by Ski Bowl's white trails.

A long ways to go

But my friend and I had 2.5 miles and 2500 feet of climbing ahead of us.  And from our position far below the Magic Mile lift, it looked like a long, long way.

Pretty skis

But we did take time for a few breaks, to have a quick snack, gape at the scenery or admire our pretty skis.

Great views behind

And while toiling up the steepest portions of the trail, I remembered to look behind once and awhile.

Climber heading down

By mid-morning we began to see a few mountain climbers trudging down the trail.  They all looked tired.  In order to summit Mt. Hood, one must start at midnight and climb through the early morning hours.  The cold nighttime temperatures guarantee that the ice will be firm - you don't want ice collapsing and falling.  One climber had a novel way to transport his gear down - he loaded it on a plastic sled.

Hood is getting closer

There were lots of other backcountry skiers gliding uphill.  And we got passed by them all.  Sigh....made me feel like an out-of-shape old woman.

Panorama from Palmer's terminus

But, after a very long climb up the steep upper slopes of the Palmer, the top lift terminal came into view.  It was a sight for sore eyes (and legs!). 

Lunch behind a rock

It was very windy on top, so Young and I found a large rock to duck behind.  We broke out the sandwiches and tea and enjoyed the view we'd worked so hard to attain.

Young naps in the sunshine

Our bellies full, my friend and I laid back and relaxed in the sunshine.

Time to take off the skins

Then it was time for the best part.  Taking off our climbing skins and preparing for the trip back downhill.  Skins off, helmets on, boots locked in "ski" mode, and warm coats and gloves donned.

Enjoying our downhill reward!  Reaping those turns we'd earned.

Timberline Lodge

It was a sweet trip down, but way too short.  It didn't take long until Timberline Lodge came into view.

I've included a short video showing a small portion of our ski down.  Enjoy!

As always, it was great to be outside on a sunny winter's day.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot.