|Reflections in Pat's goggles|
One was a memorable Thursday in late February. Unseasonably warm temps were predicted. Although it's nice not to deal with the cold, too much solar energy will turn a ski area's snowpack into a sticky mess the consistency of mashed potatoes. Not fun to ski through!
|Glen and Pat - my men in red|
I teamed up with my "men in red" ski buddies, Glen and Pat. Trying to get as many runs in as possible before the snow turned to slop, we agreed to ski hard all morning. On warmer days, we'll normally start at the lower elevation runs, and work our way higher as the temperatures rise. But the mountain was experiencing an inversion that day, and it was actually warmer on top of the highest lift.
|Pat flies down the slope|
So we started our day with a few laps off the Cascade Lift, which is the highest chair at Mt. Hood Meadows. My friends and I didn't mind in the least - the views up here are always tremendous.
Some of the trails off the Cascade Lift lead into Heather Canyon - the expert area of our local ski resort. The initial drop into the canyon is down some extremely steep double black diamond trails, where the snow is often wind-packed and icy. Unless the conditions are incredibly good, I don't usually venture into Heather.
|Pat contemplates his line|
But the day's bountiful solar energy had cooked the snow into a soft, slippery surface. Up on the Cascade trails, it was easy skiing. Then we noticed lots of people heading into Heather Canyon. Usually an indicator of good conditions, my friends and I decided to check it out.
|Looking down into the canyon|
The boys and I followed some skiers to the top of Silver Bowl. Standing on the canyon's rim we gazed down into its white expanse. I tentatively poked the adjacent snow with my pole, trying to determine if it's surface was hard and icy, or soft and skiable.
|Pat drops in|
Only one way to find out! Taking a deep breath, I launched myself over the lip of Silver Bowl's snowy cornice. Skidding past the first few feet, my skis connected with a patch of dreamy soft snow. My edges glided through it like butter. I gave my companions a "thumbs up."
|Glen flies by|
Glen and Pat dove over the canyon's lip and rocketed down Silver Bowl's steep sides. We carved smooth, graceful turns through some marvelously creamy snow. Reaching the bottom, it was unanimous that another run was in order.
But first a quick breather to admire the bright winter's sunshine.
|Admiring the sun|
|Proof I was there too|
My friends and I agreed it had been a banner day. Sunshine, soft snow, and multiple trips into wild and wonderful Heather Canyon. Although stormy powder days will always hold the top spot of my favorite ski conditions, sunny warm days are the next best thing.