It’s early May in the UP and spring has sprung. The snow in Michigan is gone, the birds are chirping, and most sane people are breaking out their bikes and boats for summer. I however, am not a sane person. As soon as finals finished at NMU I was ready to hit the road in search of the final turns of spring. I wasn’t going to Ontario this time, or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter. This late in the season west was the only direction to go. Luckily for ski bums everywhere, the ski world has created the perfect solution for catching those post season turns. Timberline lodge on Mount Hood, Oregon offers a special spring pass that runs from mid-March to the beginning of June. For only $116 you can ride the lifts well after the closing of your local mountain. The day after my finals I packed my life up in my Subaru and prepared myself for 3 weeks of ski bumming in the Mount Hood National forest.
After leaving Marquette I met up with some likeminded Michigan Tech students, Conner Deur and James Unsworth who were both down for the cause of skiing and living in the woods for 3 weeks. We continued on to Duluth to meet up with the remainder of our group, Brian Knapp and John Degelau. Once we had our crew assembled it was a straight through 32 hour push across the country. 6 states, lots of interesting gas stops, and 1692 miles later we finally arrived at Mount Hood. The Mount Hood national forest allows for dispersed car along its forest access roads. The low altitude of these roads means much warmer (and also usually a lot wetter) weather than the nearby mountain receives. We found a great spot along a river, the clouds parted and we were able to set up our home base, Camp Dabagonia, in clear skies.
The weather held for the next four days and we spent that time hot lapping Timberline’s world class terrain park. They had a transition park with a halfpipe and lots of interesting skate bowl like features and hips to play around on, 3 jump lines ranging from “holy shit that’s huge”, to forgiving and fun for beginners, and nearly every rail imaginable with some unique and fun challenge rails mixed in. The Sarge 95 did great in the soft conditions, the extra width and rocker profile were perfect for staying on top and avoiding unwanted hookups. It felt great to get my park feet back underneath me on a well built and super soft park. Skiers and snowboarders from all over the country converge on Timberline for the month of May and it was great to reconnect with friends from my past two summers on Mount Hood and make lots of new ones too. Everybody was throwing down and spring pass vibes were very high with the good weather.
Then the storm came. True to PNW form the rain came and it came heavy, for 4 days straight it barely stopped. Luckily our tarp setup was up to the challenge and we managed to keep our gear dry. We spent the rain days exploring the surrounding area, visiting waterfalls, hotsprings, and checking out the city life in Portland (trust us, it’s just as weird as they say it is). A very special shout out goes out to the folks at Coffee Brewsters in Welches who allowed us to buy one coffee between the 5 of us and loiter editing photos and getting on the internet for hours on end while it poured rain outside.
The final day of the storm the snow line moved lower on the mountain. We braved the weather and headed up to ski. We were rewarded with some fresh snow. While it was definitely wet and heavy it was still pretty cool to ski 8” plus of fresh in Mid-May. I ran into fellow Shaggy’s Ambassador Madeline Dunn in the parking lot at Timberline. She brought up the possibility of a weather window opening up the next morning for a summit attempt. After checking multiple forecasts, we decided that it was a go and went to sleep early with plans of an early start in the morning.
We headed up to the hill around 8:00 AM the next morning hoping to catch first chair Palmer at 9:00 AM. Unfortunately the harsh weather of the previous 4 days meant that the chairs had to be removed and the put back on the lift that morning. Finally, around 10:30 AM we were able to load Palmer. We quickly put our skins on and began the long 2000 foot climb to the Hogback. This late in the day we knew that a summit attempt could be very dangerous due to rock and icefall if temperatures warmed too much. We arrived at the Hogback and assessed the conditions. Luckily it was still well below freezing, the new snow that had fallen was very stable, and there were no signs of recent rockfall, even in the areas most prone to them. Decision made to attempt the summit, we swapped skins for Crampons and threw our skis on our packs. The final 1000 feet of vertical is very steep and exposed, a fall here could very well be fatal. The final pitch is a very exposed ice climb that many parties rope up to attempt. Madeline and I opted to free solo the short pitch and made it to the summit without any issues.
With nearly 10,000 feet of prominence the views from the summit are incredible. While there was a layer of clouds below us to the West, we could see for hundreds of miles to the North, East, and South. Unfortunately the layer of clouds below us was also moving up on us quick and we didn’t have much time to spare on the summit. We quickly layered back up, removed our crampons, and got skis back on our feet. The old chute ski decent had about a foot of good fresh snow on it. Madeline made neat turns and cleanly and safely exited the top and most dangerous part of the decent. I decided to take the fast (straight) way down and enjoyed not so safe GS style powder turns down the 40+ degree slope below the chute. The Bootjack 115 was amazing at staying on top and smashing through any variations in the snow, especially at high speeds. Even in the No-Fall zone I felt confident in the skis and they kept me safe above the numerous hazards below. We traversed to the West Crater rim and found some more steep untracked turns. Just as we reached Illumination rock at about the 9500 elevation level the clouds rolled in and the rest of the decent back to Timberline was spent socked in praying we were going to come out inside the ski area. When we finally saw the lifts we were very relieved and enjoyed the resort skiing back to the parking lot. Beer was consumed at Mount Hood Brewing Company, and the successful day on the mountain was cemented into memory.
Check out a video recap at www.vimeo.com/224874938
Sizing skis is a little bit of an art and a little bit of a science. There are numerous factors that all effect the optimal ski length for you.
A few of the factors are:
The list could go on and on, but if you need help with the decision, always feel free to call us at 231.459.4323, live chat, or email us!
Here's a basic chart based solely on height, to get you started.
|Height||Suggested Lengths (cm)|