Skiing in a Winter Wonderland (that’s colder than cold!!) at Willamette Pass
Like the typical genius I am, I waited till the coldest day in North America to go skiing up at my beloved Willamette Pass. They were predicting temperatures in the teens, and snow on the Valley floor, but no, it’s MLK day and Andrea was going skiing!
My pal, and superior skiing buddy, Sara and I were up before the sun, and on the road by first light on our quest to make it to Willamette Pass before the first chairs started running. We drove on packed ice for the last leg of the trip, but it was nothing that slower speeds and four-wheel drive couldn’t handle.
After a pit-stop at the lodge to use the facilities and purchase our lift tickets, we were snow-suited up, with boots on tight, skis in one hand and poles in the other.
But before we get to the slopes, a little background information:
Me: Learned to snowboard at age 14, learned to ski at age 18. That means 5 eligible seasons of skiing, if you subtract the winter I was planning my wedding.
Sara: Learned to ski when she was a little girl. Been on many skiing trips with her family. Eligible seasons of skiing: many more than me.
We gracefully made our way to the base of the mountain, sized up the high-speed summit lift and then opted for the Midway lift to take some warm up runs.
We skied the front side of the mountain for about an hour and a half. The snow was freshly groomed, and we swooshed, carved and whizzed our way down the mountain. But, sooner than later, I succumbed to the cold and headed into the lodge. Sara, meanwhile took her adventures to the backside, where some of my favorite runs live. You’ve got your just-right blue runs that have steep bits and not so steep bits, and in addition to the really hard black diamonds, some manageable black diamonds that are the perfect mix of moguls and smooth snow.
I sat in the lodge hoping my feet would thaw and watching the wind whip the dry snow around. The clouds eventually cleared and it turned into one of the most beautiful days I have ever seen at Willamette Pass with brilliant blue skies, and bright summer-like sunshine. Only the temperatures were more Arctic than balmy.
Around noon Sara met me in the lodge for lunch. After eating I decided that warm, fuzzy boots and the heated ski lodge sounded better than trying to manipulate my skis with semi-numb feet. I was in good company though. The folks we ate lunch with called it quits early too, and so did some other skiers – we weren’t the only ones leaving the parking lot by 1 p.m.
All in all, I am a little bummed it got so cold, but Willamette Pass is still my favorite place to ski. It’s the perfect size for a skier like me. It’s comfortable, yet still challenging. I’ll never get lost on this mountain, but there are always new adventures to be had. The best part? Lift tickets are still cheaper than almost every other ski area in Oregon, and this mountain is almost in my backyard (just over an hour outside Eugene).
When you go:
-Check www.tripcheck.com for road cams and the latest road conditions.
-From Eugene head East on Highway 58, the resort is directly off the highway, near milepost 62
-Bring $40 for a lift ticket, $42 if you don’t have a ski key.
For more information on skiing Oregon’s slopes, please visit our Ski Oregon section.