Saturday, February 8, 2014

Timberline ski area and side-country adventures

I have a long connection with Timberline (Oregon).  I have skied and raced there for more than a quarter of a century. In the late 1980s, I volunteered as a ski host there several years in a row. In the mid- 1990s, I actually worked as a ski instructor there for just one season.
But, in recent years, I have developed a taste for back-country skiing, and in the case of Timberline: side-country skiing.  The scenery west of Timberline changes quite dramatically soon after you leave the ski area's boundary.  It is highly advisable to register as a climber in the climber's room in the day lodge, to let people know where you are headed, and it is best to go with someone who knows the terrain.

Skiing Timberline's side country is fun.  You can dip into Zig Zag canyon, Little Zig Zag, and Sand canyon.  Do it on a sunny Spring day when the snow is good. When the snow is right, any intermediate skier can do it. You can choose your own level of challenge, because the terrain is wide open, so it is easy to avoid and ski around places that might be too steep for you.  Those who think that there is nothing steep at Timberline should see the top of Zig Zag canyon! 

But skiers and snowboarders often get lost in the forest when they ski too far down. Then they are faced with hours of hiking through deep snow. Fortunately, all you need to do is to keep walking down the hill and you will eventually get to Kiwanis Camp Road (aka. Road 39).  But, you might not be able to get there before it gets dark.

Since there are no safety signs anywhere, other than Timberline's warning that you are on your own once you leave the ski area's boundary, I have spent lots of time in the last 3 years marking two safety boundaries in the area roughly between Little Zig Zag canyon and the Kruser ski trail (at the edge of the ski area).  The boundaries are marked with ribbons hung on trees.

YELLOW ribbons mark the boundary where you need to turn left and traverse bak to the lifts.  Last chance to get back to the lifts.

RED and/or PINK ribbons mark the boundary where you need to turn left and traverse back to the Glade Trail, which will then take you safely to Govenrment Camp. Beyond the red ribbon boundary, you will not be able to easily return to Government Camp and will most likely have to do the long hike and will have to cross a large stream (a small river) several times before finally reaching Kiwanis Camp Road.

During the Spring months, I like to take people just slightly out of bounds, to let them see the natural beauty of the terrain and also to give them safety pointers and alert them to where the dangers are and how to ski it safely.  These tours will begin in late March or early April.  For now, I am still busy refreshing and improving the safety markers.