Arriving at Dutchman Flats before 7 a.m. afforded me a parking spot with a trailhead view. The morning's itinerary included a six-mile, roundtrip ski to Big Meadow. The path ran me up the Flagline Access trail to the Big Meadow trail, down to Big Meadow for some exploration and back to the Landcruiser.
The snow that did come to visit Central Oregon was sent by the gods. The cold temperature kept it light and fluffy with little water content. As I watched the snow cascade over my skis, I felt as if I had stepped into a Patagonia ad.
My early bird plan not only gave me first tracks, but also got me out of the parking lot before the onslaught of snowmobile trailers. While I'm all for the many uses of the Dutchman Flats Sno-park, I do appreciate a solitary start to a ski. My dog Mavis, who is not welcomed on that side of Century Drive, doesn't share my approval.
Even the high end of a projected two-four inches had trouble covering the hard-crusted snow pack. It may seem like I'm knitpicking, and it did snow most of the time I was out there, but another six inches would have been nice.
The obvious trade-off of fluffy snow is the cold. The adults were immune to this fact due to the actual presence of snow, but a couple of kids in the parking lot as I left were not quite as convinced.
Our friends at Central Oregon Avalanche Association (COAA), Deschutes County Search and Rescue and Mt. Bachelor's National Ski Patrol are anxiously watching the next couple of storm systems. The previously mentioned light and fluffy snow is not bonding well with the existing snowpack. A forecast of more low temperature/low moisture snow may allow a future dumping of wet snow to create a slab waiting to slide on all avalanche prone areas. This all adds up to giant warning for all backcountry revelers.
We are currently smack dab in the middle of the National Ski Area Association's Safety Week. As Mt. Bachelor's headlining event, Safety Day took place last Saturday, January 14. Activities included an Avalanche Dogs demonstration, a demonstration by COAA, and a helmet giveaway. If you don't think safety is important on the slopes, just remember Sonny Bono, Natasha Richardson or Michael Kennedy, all of whom died while skiing.
Know Before You Go
Speaking of avalanche awareness, the second installment of COAA's Know Before You Go series will be held next Tuesday, January 24 at GoodLife Brewering. While not a substitute for an avalanche class taught by certified instructors, this free program will highlight basic avalanche awareness and minimal gear required for avalanche terrain travel. The class will start at 6:30 p.m. and you can't beat the price!
MBSEF Nordic Races Switch Dates
The Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MBSEF) will host the Cascade Crest Ski Race this Sunday, January 22, at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center. The 10th Annual Desert Orthopedics Great Nordeen Cross Country Ski Race will now be held on Saturday, March 17. Please note the change of date due to a lack of snow below the Mt. Bachelor trails. MBSEF's Molly Cogswell-Kelley (541-388-0002) has more information if you need it.
The Sound of the Backcountry
I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman regarding listening to music while recreating in the backcountry. I have had this argument previously with other friends and acquaintances. It always seems to go the same way. I prefer to listen to music when recreating alone in the backcountry (i.e. skiing, hiking, running, mountain bike riding, etc.). To some, this breaks some sort of unwritten rule about spoiling the experience of nature. To others, it is just downright blasphemy.
I have friends that take my side in this debate. Not so surprisingly, age tends to play a part in where people's opinions lie. While it's good fun to discuss, there doesn't seem to be a winner in the, "to listen, or not to listen" quarrel.
To the older gentleman on the trail, my argument lost credibility when I mentioned I was listening to the Grateful Dead. For me, his argument was drowned out by the sound of a passing snowmobile.
Skinny Skis Cafe
As I headed down Century Drive back to the warm confines of my house, I noticed the sign for the Skinny Skis Cafe located at Virginia Meisner Snowpark. A bonus: they also sell sno-park passes.