Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ladies Backcountry Ski Day

After hiking up the Tilly Jane Ski trail one hot day last summer, I was itching for a colder, snowier revisit.  Clear skies were forecast MLK weekend so I rounded up my adventure buddies Young and Catherine for a ladies ski day.

My partners in crime!

Although Young and I are long time backcountry ski buddies, this would be a totally new experience for Catherine.  The short 3-mile trek to Tilly Jane cabin provided a perfect first-timer introduction to the world of backcountry skiing.

Sliding uphill

Arriving at the parking area, it took several minutes for the three of us to don appropriate clothing, buckle up boots, locate skis and poles, and make sure our backpacks contained the essentials.  But finally, gear together, my friends and I approached the forested lower trail.

Lovely snowy forest

The first half mile of the Tilly Jane Trail wound through a fir forest.  An earlier snowstorm had dumped a foot of fluffy white.  Drooping tree branches, thickly laden with snow, made the woods look positively magical.  My friends and I oohed and aahed as we slid along, with me opting for several  photo breaks.

Catherine admires the scenery

Sporting true backcountry skis with climbing skins, Young and I slid uphill with ease.  Catherine, however, had only cross country skis with patterned bottoms and no skins.  Steep climbs were much more challenging, but Catherine managed to successfully side-step up the first few little hills.

Catherine did great despite not having climbing skins

We came upon the first trail junction, with it's multiple signs, each showing different distances, degrees of difficulty, and spellings of "Tilley" Jane.

Many signs, different distances

From this junction, the uphill path became much steeper, and the packed snow track more slippery.  Deciding enough was enough, Catherine removed her skis and strapped them to her backpack.  She'd hoof it on foot from here.

Time to carry the skis!

With packed snow providing a firm base, Catherine trotted quickly ahead of Young and I (jokingly teasing as we labored uphill). 

Gliding through the burn zone

But the forest quickly cleared, and we entered the burn zone from the 2008 Gnarl Ridge fire.  Although the forests of bleak, gray trees were sobering, the bright side was this fire opened up fantastic view corridors, giving hikers glimpses of the adjacent foothills and mountain peaks. Best of all, the fire's aftermath left front-row, in-your-face views of Mt Hood the entire way.

Mt Hood makes an appearance

It was a brisk climb, alternating from moderately to super-steep.  Climbing each rise, Young and I would proclaim this hill to be the one where the Tilly Jane cabin was located.  But we'd reach the summit, only to find more snowy forest stretching ahead.  (Are we there yet?)

Spectacular scenery!

The Tilly Jane cabin is available for overnight group rentals.  As my friends and I trudged uphill, we met a group of Boy Scouts heading down, who'd spent the previous night at the cabin.  A couple of the boys were sliding down the trail in plastic sleds.  The group looked like they'd all had a great time.  What fun memories for these young men!

Clouds hugging the adjacent hills

The clear, sunny weather was nearly perfect for our hike/ski.  A strong wind higher up had us donning our jackets again, but uphill movement kept my friends and I toasty warm.  Now if only we could find that darned cabin.....

Catherine taking it in

Nearing lunchtime, everyone was getting tired and hangry.  Just when I thought we'd never see the Tilly Jane cabin, we topped the final hill, and there it was!

Finally the cabin!

Yahoo!  A sight for sore eyes!  After posing for a couple of group victory photos (achieved by setting my camera's timer and balancing it on my backpack), it was time for some rest and nourishment.

Victory photo at Tilly Jane cabin

Catherine showed us a cool way to rest your back while sitting in the snow.  Just cross your skis and plant the ends in the snow!  She really knows how to relax in style.

Catherine relaxes in style

We chose a spot in the sun, donned warm layers, and enjoyed our lunch break.  Sandwiches, hot tea, and ginger cookies were on the menu.

Panoramic break spot

With some incredible panoramic views from our lunch spot.

Our lunchtime view

The Tilly Jane Trail is a popular ski and snowshoe winter hike, and while we ate, my friends and I watched several people (and cute dogs) ascend this final hill to the cabin.

Watching the hikers and dogs approach

Then, with food in our tummies, it was time for the moment we'd all been waiting for.  The ski down!

Time to ski downhill!

All the way up I'd been longingly eyeing the fluffy new-fallen snow in the trees beside our trail.  Was it as light and powdery as it looked?  We were about to find out.

Catherine perfects her snowplow

Oh yeah!  The snow was divine.  Making tracks through the trees, Young, Catherine, and I whooped and hollered as we zipped down the first hill.

Young looking for untracked pow

Although Catherine was a bit tentative at first, she soon got into the rhythm of things and did great.  The only mishap was mine - after flying down a hill I hit a deep patch of fluff and promptly face-planted.  Luckily it was a soft landing, and there were no witnesses to my klutziness.  But getting back up necessitated taking off skis and backpack (I felt like a turtle, stuck on my back!).

Sunshine in the forest

Not only was the snow perfect for skiing, afternoon light illuminated the far hills, and the scenery was just as awesome as our trek up.  Conditions couldn't have been more perfect.

Scenery break

Reaching the last half mile back in the forest, our trail became a slippery tread of packed snow, forcing a prodigious use of edges and our best survival skiing skills.  Catherine, on cross country skis which are harder to control, cried uncle first, opting to continue on foot.  I finally did the same about a quarter mile from the trailhead.  Young was the only die-hard skier in our group to make it the entire way back on her boards.

Finding fresh tracks through the trees

Back at my car, poor Catherine was having a hard time releasing the buckles on her ski boots.  Brand new last year, she'd only used them a couple of times.  Young and I tried to help, but only succeeded in ratcheting them tighter.  Not wanting to shut off our friend's circulation, we abandoned our release efforts.  Catherine cheerfully joked she'd just have to wear her boots home.  Good thing I was driving!

More powder turns

On the drive home, once we had cell service, Catherine searched google for a video that would offer instructions about loosening her boots (a great idea I would've never thought of).  But the only video  she could find was in French.  Although it made for some entertaining moments, the video wasn't much help.  Then I suggested Catherine call the store where she bought her boots.  After a funny and somewhat embarrassing conversation (Catherine was such a good sport about it all) she got the needed advice, and freed her feet.  Hallelujah! 

Young zips past the signpost

A great day to be outside in the beautiful, snowy Mt Hood National Forest.  Lots of smiles and laughter with my friends.  Thanks Young and Catherine for such wonderful company!

Hike number 3 of 52 is in the books!  (Backcountry skiing counts too)


  1. Absolutely beautiful! Even the sad burnt zone looks pretty in the snow.

  2. Blue skies, sun, snow and beautiful scenery. What more would anyone want

  3. What a fabulous day out. The scenery is just breathtaking.

  4. Um belo passeio pela neve de que gostei de ver, aproveito para desejar a continuação de uma boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  5. ...what a gorgeous day to be out with friends!

  6. What an absolutely brilliant magical day! Friends, fresh snow and views!

  7. Looks like a fun day. I've never tried cross country and had no idea one needed climbing skins! Too bad there is no photographic evidence of your turtle moment! ;-).

  8. Awesome, what a day and such beautiful scenery. Hard to believe you have snow when I'm sat at home in a tee shirt

  9. Hello, looks like a great day to be outdoors. Lovely scenery! Enjoy your day!

  10. Very beautiful area to explore, I remember hiking Hood in summer snow. I felt some sympathy pains for the novice skier, why do my legs hurt here the next day? LOL

  11. Breathtaking! What a lovely outing.

  12. I love these photos of your fun day backcountry skiing, Linda. Were you and Young wearing telli or atv skis? My son rented atv skis this winter to try them. (He hates the lines on weekends at the ski area.) He did about 8 miles round trip from our house to a hut behind us. He did it twice, and the first time had a malfunction of his boots that caused him to have to walk on the skis rather than glide home (very tiring!). I think Catherine gets the medal for bravery.

    1. Hi Barb - My friend Young had AT skis and I had tele gear. Yes, with her cross country skis, Catherine definitely gets the medal for bravery!

  13. Beautiful photos - what a perfect day.

  14. What a beautiful area to spend the day! Thanks for sharing! :)

  15. That cabin would be fun to rent! I'd have to hike or snowshoe though.

  16. You take amazing winter images. You really capture the colors .


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