Tagged ‘powder‘

Southern Oregon Backcountry: Siskiyou Skiing

southern oregon backcountry

Taylor on the skintrack, with untouched Southern Oregon backcountry gold behind her.

This weekend, Taylor and I headed South along I-5 to Southern Oregon aiming to sample the Southern Oregon backcountry and ski a smaller cascades volcano, Mt McLoughlin. Unfortunately, with a busy week last week, Tay forgot to move her shovel and probe from her race pack to her touring pack, so on Friday evening we discovered that we didn’t have the right kit to go ahead as planned. We cursed bad fortune and looked for alternate ideas.

southern oregon backcountry powder

I found a few good turns here and there in some of the lightest snow the PNW has to offer.

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Mt Rainier: Paradise and Van Trump Park

It’s been a busy couple of weeks around Mountain Lessons HQ (ie, my Subaru). With the lax winter precipitation, there hasn’t been a lot to do around Portland besides pretending that it’s Spring. Except, unlike spring, the temperatures are still sufficiently wint’ry to prevent a predicatble corn cycle. This is life

With a long weekend jiggered together, Taylor and I decided to run up to Mt Rainier last weekend. It has been, I’m ashamed to admit, almost a decade since I was last there. What an enormous mountain, what amazing terrain, and what startling proximity to Portland (2.5hrs!?). We didn’t read the forecast and as a consequence, we were pleasantly surprised to discover almost a foot of stable, fresh snow under splitter blue skies.


We started up the main cattle drive to Camp Muir… with every skier in Seattle in tow.


Running into winds up high (blowing clouds visible at left) we decided to scoop the primo run right next to the skin track. Taylor makes tracks in the cloud shadow.

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(The blustery summit of Mt. Superior, LCC, UT)

Some lines steal your imagination the first time that you see them.

That’s what happened to me the first time that I saw Mt. Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT, three or four years ago.  At the time, the South Face of Mt. Superior had yet to be listed at one of the 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America.  It was simply the largest skiable face that I’d ever seen, and it flowed all the way to the busy Little Cottonwood Road.  If you ski at Snowbird, or at Alta, then as you turn to ski downhill, you turn to ski towards its steep white face.

When I first saw Mt. Superior, I was impressed to learn that people skied it, and as the bumblie that I was, I told myself that one day I’d ski the line.  I’m now sitting in Salt Lake with the first of the summer’s thunderstorms shaking my windows, looking back on the season, and my descent of Mt. Superior marks a distinct high-point of personal satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not special, gifted, or even really that talented a ski mountaineer.  On any given day of the week, almost regardless of snow conditions, someone will lay turns down Superior’s South Face.  So often, in fact, that it’s a fairly common question to hear batted around at the bar; have you skied it?

However, I like to think that Ian Donovan and I not only skied the line, but we got on the line in near perfect conditions.  Because of its popularity, as I mentioned above, the face is skied in almost all conditions.  In many cases, the skiers who lay tracks down the face do so in such unstable conditions that I don’t hesitate to call them morons, fools, avalanche poodles, or all the above.  They’re likely unaware of the hazard to which they’re exposing themselves, or they just don’t care, both of which are unsustainable options.

(Sunrise on the ridge to Mt. Superior’s summit.)

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