Skiing in the Time of Covid-19
The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of our lives in nearly every way. But with winter approaching, we can be sure that if snow falls there could be skiing. The Oregon Nordic Club remains dedicated to skiers and cross-country skiing. However, our activities will be changed by COVID-19. The Willamette Chapter’s board has developed the plan below for the 2020-2021 season.
First, we acknowledge that COVID-19 is a serious threat to health and safety. Our club will comply with guidelines and restrictions placed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and we strongly urge individual members to do the same. The OHA website is: https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19. Check this site for current news and links to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other sources of reliable information.
Second, we realize that individuals face different levels of risk from COVID-19 based on age, health, employment, family associations and other factors. We urge members to consider their risks carefully before deciding whether (and how) to ski this season. If anyone chooses to forego skiing as a precaution, we respect that decision. But even if you are not skiing, we hope you will remain connected with our club to keep in touch with other members and stay abreast of skiing news.
Please feel free to contact Board members by email or phone with your comments and suggestions.
The club will continue volunteer activities to improve and maintain ski trails and shelters; volunteer work is done under Forest Service guidelines designed to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.
Regular monthly meetings will not be held this season due to the increased risk of COVID-19 infection in indoor settings.
Overnight trips are suspended because of difficulties arranging travel and lodging in ways that minimize COVID-19 risk.
The Willamette Chapter will not schedule tours this season, but will help skiers connect with each other and plan their own tours, if they wish to ski.
Ski tours (and volunteer projects) require the following precautions:
1. Skiers who feel ill, have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, sudden loss of smell or taste), receive a positive test for COVID-19 or have had recent contact with someone with a positive test will stay home and avoid contact with others.
2. Skiers will drive to trailheads separately; only immediate family or household members may carpool.
3. Skiers will maintain a social distance of 6’ (or more) at all times, in parking lots, on trails and during lunch stops and rest breaks.
4. Skiers will wear face coverings at all times per latest statewide mandates ( https://govstatus.egove.com/or-covid-19 ).
5. Skiers will carry hand sanitizer and use it.
6. Skiers will bring all necessary clothing, equipment, water, food, etc. and will not share these items—except in emergencies.
Skiing can be done with these COVID-19 precautions, although no set of precautions guarantees safety. If you have assessed your risks of COVID-19, are comfortable with the known risks and are willing to adopt and maintain these precautions, our club is ready to help you ski this winter. For everyone, please take the pandemic seriously. Adopt recommended precautions for your sake and the sake of others. Let’s stay safe and hope for an effective vaccine and better skiing next year.
Featured Ski Report
After a week of anticipation and careful observation of what the storm was doing in the cascades, we scored a golden and rare opportunity to ski on a bluebird day and on fluffy snow! Bob Young and I ventured out to Hoodoo where we thought the snow would be the deepest, with our light weight back-country gear. There was a solid 18-20 inch base, and we were sinking about 6 inches in fresh snow. Up higher we were sinking 8 inches. Given that we were at Hoodoo and some of the runs and roads were groomed we chose to preserve energy by climbing up on groomed stuff, and running down in deep fluffy snow. So we climbed laps that gave us good exercise, and on the blissful downhills we refreshed our memory on how to do tele turns. About 5.5 miles of it and 1970 foot elevation gain. Not bad for the first day. There were about 20 AT skiers doing the same thing and looking stoked. And I saw a pair of cross country skiers. Hoodoo staff was preparing the facility for operations. The temperature reached 35 Fahrenheit which with a light breeze was very comfortable. We were reminded how quickly the temperature drops when the sun lowers. The snow started freezing quickly on our last climb in the shade and so did our lips and hands. –Bianca Klar —
What’s Open – Santiam Fires and Covid 19
September was a wildfire disaster in Oregon and the Santiam Canyon along Hwy 22 was especially hard hit. Large stretches of forest were destroyed and all the communities from Mehama to Idanha sustained damage. Hwy 22 has reopened, but fire cleanup is still in progress and there is a 40 mph speed limit from Gates to Pamelia Creek. Drive with caution if you travel Hwy 22 and be aware that there is no longer a gas station between Mill City and Sisters.
Sections of the Willamette NF are currently closed to the public. To find what is open, please check the websites of the Willamette National Forest and Deschutes National Forest. Closure information can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/willamette/alerts-notices/?aid=61574. For a detailed description including a great map for Willamette National Forest, see https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd832171.pdf.
In the Maxwell Sno-Park area, the Forest Service has temporarily closed the Mountain View and South Maxwell Snow Shelters to help contain the spread of the Covid 19 virus in accord with CDC guidelines and local authority recommendations. Because of the closures, no firewood will be stocked in these shelters for the 2020-21 winter recreation season.
The Willamette Chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club Website
On the website you can review all Club news, post news, find volunteer activities, locate rental and retail sources for ski equipment, find descriptions of our favorite trails, and much more. We have sent out separately a list of members and their contact information. We do not put that in the Newsletters or Website for member protection. If a member needs the membership list, please contact Bob Young or Genice Rabe.
The website address is ONCWillamette.org. Only the Newsletter Archive in the website is password protected. All members can easily sign up to receive new posts to the website via their e-mail. Just go to the website and click on “Following ONCWillamette.”
2020-2021 Officers and Board Members
Jeanne Miller Vice President
Bob Young Treasurer and Membership
Denise Sanders Webmeister
Genice Rabe Newsletter Editor
Jim Todd Day Tour Chair
David Forkner ONC State Board Rep & Board Member
Pam Wojcik Overnight Trip Coordinator & Board Member
Mark Olson Volunteer Coordinator & Board Member
Christine Young Board Member
Available Board MemberWinter Driving Safety
A further consequence of COVID-19 could be increased highway traffic due to reduced carpooling. More inexperienced drivers could be traveling on our snowy roads. This situation raises the importance of being well prepared for winter driving and exercising caution when traveling to mountain trailheads. Below are some resources for safe winter driving that we should all review:
ODOT Traffic Safety Director, Nicole Charlson, has kindly given us a copy of their Winter Driving PowerPoint, ODOT_Winter_Driving2020web.pptx. It’s well worth reviewing.
ODOT also provides a wealth of information on safe winter driving through their websites. The Winter Driving Guide ( PDF), https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Documents/winter-driving-guide.pdf, covers basic winter safety; the Winter Driving Tips, website https://www.oregon.gov/odot/pages/winter-driving.aspx, has everything from how to drive under varying conditions (rain, snow, ice) to videos on installing chains and links to road reports from Oregon and surrounding states; and finally, TripCheck.com should be consulted for road reports, pass cameras and weather forecasts before every drive to the mountains.
Below are additional Cascade ski specific thoughts from our club members:
Always have Chains or Winter Traction tires when heading to the mountains. Both improve traction on snow and ice and each has advantages and disadvantages. Chains are cheaper, but there is the inconvenience of installing and removing them. If you use chains, be sure they fit properly; practice putting them on at home; carry a pad to kneel on when installing them; drive 100’ and retighten before heading back on the road. A disadvantage to chains is the tendency to try getting by without the nuisance of putting them on; this can lead to driving on hazardous surfaces with inadequate traction. Two important precautions for using chains: put them on before you think you need them and don’t drive faster than 30 mph with chains (more on this later).
Winter tires are more expensive than chains, but give the peace of mind of always having enhanced traction on snow and ice. Most club members who drive to the mountains frequently use winter tires for convenience—even though chains worked well for them in the past. However, this “peace of mind” offered by winter tires can lull drivers into a false sense of security. Winter tires stop a car much better than all season tires on snow and ice, but stopping distance is still greater than on dry pavement. Also, winter tires will not prevent a dangerous slide if driven too fast for the road conditions; and winter tires will not stop a car as quickly as all season tires on dry or wet pavement. Be aware that in especially hazardous conditions ODOT will require chains on all tires. Even if you have winter tires you should carry chains, just in case.
Slowing down is the most important winter safety practice regardless of your tires. The 30 mph rule for chains (to keep from breaking chains and damaging your vehicle) is actually an advantage because it forces drivers down to a speed that minimizes the risk of a slide and also the consequences if one occurs. This may seem agonizingly slow, but consider: it’s about 15 miles from the chain up area on Hwy 22 to Santiam Pass. This will take 30 min. at 30 mph. A driver with snow tires at 60 mph would save only 15 min. and at 45 mph only 10 min. But if chains are required it would be crazy to drive 60 mph and probably unwise to drive 45. Better to put on chains, slow down and enjoy the journey. Even if using winter tires, slow down. If you have to pull over to let a string of cars go by, you are probably driving the right speed. Stay safe.
The Willamette Chapter has an active volunteer program assisting the Forest Service with ski trail clearing and marking; shelter maintenance; and firewood stocking. Thank you volunteers! All volunteer activities on National Forests were halted during the early stages of the Coronavirus Pandemic, but volunteer projects have resumed with COVID-19 precautions in place. For volunteer projects on the Willamette National Forest it is now necessary for volunteers to register individually through Cascade Volunteers at http://cascadevols.org/index.php/volunteer/. You can call Mark Olson (503x559x0728) or Jim Todd (503x378x7003) for more information about our club’s volunteer program.
The Forest Service has requested that Willamette Chapter skiers report conditions encountered on winter trails to assist them in deploying their limited staff efficiently. Any information (trail marking, downed trees, parking problems) would be appreciated. Reports can be submitted through Cascade Volunteers at https://cascadevols.org/index.php/2020-phase-1-report/ or by phoning or emailing your observations to Jim Todd.
Volunteer Project: Willamette Chapter volunteers will ski Forest Service trails and place extra blue diamonds this inter. Contact Jim Todd if you wish to assist with these “working” tours.
November and Early December Ski Reports
November 21, Saturday: Any ski before Thanksgiving is a treat. This season we already have two feet of snow at Santiam Pass—well above normal. Four club members got out on this mild, sunny day for an early ski. Rocks were well covered along the South Loop as we cruised down to Brandenburg shelter. Views were great and trails were deserted until afternoon as we were returning to Ray Benson SnoPark. We put on masks for the final quarter mile—just in case.
November 29, Sunday: Bianca lead the first backcountry ski of the season north of Santiam Pass. Weather was mild and sunny, snow was deep enough to cover downed logs and firm enough on top for easy skiing. Five of us climbed over the Cascade divide and continued northeast to the Heavens viewpoint; then had a great downhill run back to Santiam SnoPark. It doesn’t get much better. – Jim Todd –
December 2, Wednesday, Fay Lake ski: With winds forecast for the pass I decided to stay in the trees and catch some snow before the upcoming sunny days create crusty conditions. It’s been years since I’ve skied to Fay Lake and pulling off at Big Meadow Road was available. Recent 4-wheel traffic left a smooth center area that had just a skiff of new snow making it like a groomed track up to the Fay Lake junctions. From there, foot traffic continued from the Maxwell side for about a half mile. Two small downed trees were covered with snow and one larger one, part way down, stretched halfway across the road. Most of the snow condition was perfect for game tracks. The only challenge was the icy snow shed under trees which became more frequent as I progressed. A quarter mile from the lake road 405 forks to the left and was so open and inviting that I went that direction for about a mile, setting about 2” deep track, until I hit sunny patches that were very sticky. Caught just a glimpse of the top of Turpentine, where Jim Todd and I hiked to the peak earlier this year, and then turned back. Classic stride and glide back to the junction of 2257. That last quarter mile up to the lake was, ummm, not fun. A bit steeper and icy under the full tree canopy but the effort rewarded me with a sunny warm rock and great view of the lake for lunch. The return trip is mostly gentle downhill. The last mile was perfect for practicing long stride with full pole extensions behind. Total of about 8 miles, calm and cool air, great day of exercise. –Bob Young —
The Newsletter now includes an Announcement Section. There members can post ski related items for sale, cross-country related questions, inquiries about condition and suggestions for ski trips, and, of course, ski reports. Please send your announcements to Genice Rabe for inclusion in the Newsletter. Another good place for these items is on the website, ONCWillamette.org. If you have signed up to follow the website, you will receive all such posts automatically. See Website portion of this newsletter above.
Ski Equipment available: Cross Country skis – Karhu “wide track,” 5’2” long (160cm), partial metal edges, Fischer bindings (NNN). In good shape, not heavily used. Also Swix poles.
$100 total for skis and poles.
Also for free Rossignol boots, about women’s size 8, NNN bindings. In good shape.
Call Marcia Hoak, 503x363x1352 and leave a message.
Please renew your membership for the 2020-2021 season. For only $20 you will receive access to all inside club news and satisfaction of supporting Club efforts to promote and improve cross-country skiing for everyone. You can renew by downloading a membership form at https://oncwillamette.org or completing and printing and returning the membership form below and your check.
Nordic Club – Willamette (Salem) Chapter Membership Application / Renewal Form Annual Individual or Family Membership fee is $20.00.
Please make checks payable to Oregon Nordic Club. Mail to Oregon Nordic Club – Willamette Chapter P.O. Box 181 Salem, OR 97308
Mailing Address: ____________________________________________________________
Phone: _______________________________________________________________ (optional)
E-mail address: ______________________________________________________(optional)
I hereby release the Oregon Nordic Club (ONC) from any liability for any injury to myself or my family which may occur while participating in any club activity. I realize that there are risks in the participation of this outdoor sport, and that some risks are unforeseeable. I freely give this release with full knowledge that this is a hazardous activity.
(Contact Bob Young for more information)
Willamette Chapter–Oregon Nordic Club
P.O. Box 181
Salem, OR 97308