It’s a well-known fact that this winter has started off slow for us skiers in the lower 48. While it was easier to cope with the lack of snow before Christmas, once the new year hit, I decided it was time to take action and seek out snow. While some have traveled to Alaska, Canada, Europe, and even Japan, I didn’t quite have that time or budget, so after scouring the weather and finding a willing ski partner, we headed north, first stop Central Oregon. Busting out of Tahoe on the 1st day of 2012, it was eerily warm, we made quick time up to the Oregon border where we saw our first dusting of snow on one of the higher passes east of Shasta. We rolled into Bend that evening and met up with a local skier, who was injured, but gave us some beta. The next morning, we headed up to Mt. Tumalo, a quick backcountry jaunt across from Mt. Bachelor. It was windy, but the skies were mostly clear. A mellow skin amongst the trees led us to the summit where we could witness the wind piling the snow into the northeast facing bowl. “GAME ON” we thought as we transitioned, did a quick snow assessment, and dropped in. The first powder turns of the season – so effortless and fun. We skinned back up for 5 more laps, upping the ante each time and connecting with a local professional skier and photographer. Small cliffs, then doubles, then a 30 footer, and finally a few flips off a natural kicker; we finished the day with high fives, snow on our goggles, and some new friends (all photos by Court Brock).
And a photo montage by the talented Paul Clark:
We headed back to Bend to refuel and plan our next destination and ended up at Deschutes Brewery where the atmosphere was buzzing from a combination of locals night (1/2 off!), the Ducks playing in the Rose Bowl, and the fact that it was the last night open for a few months and they were planning on knocking the wall down that evening to kick off the remodel. The Bend locals seemed to welcome us and we even found a place to crash for the night and hatched a plan for the next day – Central Oregon was paying off so far, why leave a good thing?
The next morning we headed to the Three Creeks Sno Park to access the Tam McArthur Rim. We knew it was a long approach on a snow-covered road best done by snowmobile. We also knew there were yurts back there, but they were booked last time we checked. So the plan was to head up there, skin out to the base of the Rim, waving down a snowmobile for a tow if possible, and then ski out the road that evening by headlamp.. until we met Shane, who runs the Three Sisters Backcountry Huts on the road in. He had a group book both huts, but there were 5 no shows and 1 heading out that day. He offered us a ride in to the yurts and the chance to stay there for free. He even went back to our truck and got our sleeping bags and a change of clothes for us while we were out skiing! We couldn’t believe our luck so far in Oregon.
With our new friends, we headed up to the top of Tam McArthur Rim and checked out a zone called the Playground. It had great terrain and soft snow. With a rare windless day in the Cascades, we decided to leave the group and do a more scenic tour of the Sisters Range and headed out to ski Broken Hand and Ball Butte. It was a slog, but a beautiful one.
With no snow to even tour on in Tahoe, it was just what we needed – a full day out in the mountains. Back at the yurts, we enjoyed a gourmet meal prepared by our new friends.
The next day we focused on objectives closer to the yurt, hitting a sunny line in the morning and numerous lines in the Playground – skiing and skinning until our legs gave out on any landings we tried.
Skiing out the 5.5 mile road was quick and we thanked Shane for a memorable time and headed back to Bend for a quick soak in the Turkish baths before the long drive back to Tahoe. Both of us were reluctant to leave since there was still great snow out there and Central Oregon had treated us so well, but it was time to get back to Tahoe. But right before we crossed the border back into California, I had to make one last stop – to buy a lottery ticket in Oregon because that is how lucky skiing powder with friends in beautiful places makes you feel.