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Spring Skiing on the West Coast

The year is 2022 and the snow along the West coast was dismal to say the least. But it was time for the three bodies one brain ratpack AKA Vicky, Cody, and Jack, to head out for the annual spring ski trip. Using all our might combined it was not until a week prior to departure that we came up with a ski route for this year’s trip. The snow chasers plan was to hit Oregon first, up to Washington, over to Idaho and back down to Tahoe area to close out the trip. Cody and Vicky were planning to leave a couple days before myself with the plan to meet for day or two at Mt. Bachelor to start it off. I pulled in just before ten o’clock on Thursday to join Cody and Vicky at an artful RV park in downtown Bend, the van door flung open and I was greeted by a shot and disco lights, it finally really felt like the ski trip had commenced.
As “Buddy the Elf” would say “I got a full night’s rest!” the weather was cool and there were shred ready white peaks within a short drive. Our ratpack was off and ready to hit the slopes for some ski touring on Mt. Bachelor’s uphill traffic trails. It took very little convincing for me to start up the hill, having driven nine plus hours the day before. The race was on to the Pine Marten Lodge at the top of the hill, “last one there buys the first round of drinks!” At the top Vicky claimed that she had won but it was all good as Cody still ended up buying the first round. We ripped a couple laps and were back at the vans. There was a storm blowing in that evening, but Vicky had lined up a driveway hip-camp in Sunriver with a friend from work, so we were set for the night.
As the rooster crowed, we were greeted by snow covered vans mixed with freezing temps, the scramble was on! We rolled into the Mt. Bachelor’s parking lot just before the craze hit. Knowing that we had little time before the locals snatched all the pow, we hit the lift line. We started clicking off laps, each one better than the last. In Bachelor we also added two more people and another van to the group. Steve and India in the “GNARVAN,” both far better skiers than us of the ratpack. Steve took pity on Cody and I and offered to show us some of his favorite lines on the mountain. Steve being a competitive free skier, following his line was bonkers, the goods were being delivered! Close to closing and snow still falling, the caravan started moving north for our next destination, Meadows at Mount Hood.
The snow had followed us up to Mt. Hood, our first day was a near white out, most of the upper mountain was closed or had zero visibility. We skied till we could ski no more then hit the lodge for nachos and some bone broth before heading back to the vans. After some hide and seek in the parking lot looking for the vans, we found them and dusted the snow off. Cody, Vicky, Steve, and India were headed north again to Crystal Mountain just outside Seattle. I was staying the night to ski the next day with some old motocross buddies. Boy oh boy did I luck out on that decision! My friend Wiley and I arrived to HRM (Hood River Meadows) parking lot shortly after sunrise. It was like a grade school reunion for Wiley with all his old friends, classmates, and the usual suspects already there ready to go. I guess the local shred thread sent out a memo the night before, HRM was the place to be! It was a blue bird day with fresh pow top to bottom and cold, cold temperatures. The absolute best ingredients for a perfect pow day. There were also whispers that Moon Bowl boundary restrictions were going to be lifted early in the day, it was a mad dash by the locals to get first tracks. Somehow… I was fourth through the gates. It was knee deep and steep, the first run down was my run of the entire trip! My euphoric demeanor could not be disturbed after that, even on the tough drive up to Crystal Mountain to rejoin the caravan.
Fast forward to the next morning at Crystal where I was greeted by a brisk ten degrees outside… we were in for another good day! The last time I was Crystal was 2020 just before the world was rocked by the COVID pandemic, so I was keen to be there again to spin some laps. This trip to the resort had drastically better visibility than the last time. What I had thought was a three lift one bowl mountain was more of a multi-ridge sprawling eight lift and gondola mountain with epic views of Mt. Rainer and surrounding Washington mountains. Crystal leaped even higher on my favorite list and solidified itself a must go for years to come. We only skied a half day as our caravan was headed east to Schweitzer in the upper panhandle of Idaho.
Being the weather aficionado that I am, I never looked at the weather report for the trip and areas where we were headed. After all, it was supposed to be a spring skiing trip… all I had packed was shorts, t-shirts and a puffy jacket. Having taken a few licks already on the trip thanks to the cold, we were now headed for our most harsh of conditions on the trip. The high in the day was twenty degrees and closer to zero at night. I had my work cut out for me keeping warm, but thankfully the diesel heater in the van was more than up for the task leaving me with a cozy retreat to sleep and hangout away from the frigid temperatures. Following an awesome first day of skiing at Schweitzer, it was time for our final hip-camp/apres-ski before beginning the trek back to Central California. We set up a game of whiskey bottle bocce ball in the overflow parking at the resort. Me being in slippers, shorts and a puffy jacket it wasn’t long before we started to gain an audience. Albeit most were dogs, mixed in with some were other van-lifers, and assorted ski bums - it was a site to see! I could not tell you who won the game, but we all felt like winners by the end!
Starting the journey south, we were not done maximizing our fun just yet. We charted a course to Reno, NV for a night of fun before a final day of skiing at Palisades Tahoe. Our maps sent us down the path of the Oregon Trail, as if the Oregon trail did not already have enough treachery, the weather decided it was going to add some extra spice to our drive. From near below zero temps and ice roads to full white knuckle high desert plain winds, navigating the vans across the freeway lanes made the whole drive seemed eventful. Nevertheless, no one came down with dysentery and Cody and I were able to navigate our vans safely into Reno in time for reservation to the Roxy steakhouse in El Dorado. Of course, we had to cap off another successful ski trip with an even fancier dinner.
Slower than any of the other days on the trip, we hit the slopes at Palisades a little before noon but that did not matter, the energy at the resort was electrifying! The three of us zoomed to the top of the mountain and over to Granite Chief, a favorite spring skiing zone for us. We crossed paths with an old skier friend who we had not seen in the last two years and that drove the stoke to the next level! We ended the day and trip in the village with some pizzas and beer at Le Chamois, “The Chammy”, and then it was back on the road again. All and all another memorable and successful spring ski safari!