By Jim Todd
April 20, Tuesday: Jessica Larson, Trails Volunteer Coordinator for Deschutes NF, joined me at 0900 for a survey of Ray Benson Ski Trails. Santiam Pass still has 3-5′ of snow, but high temperatures and our freeze/thaw cycle have taken a toll. Tree wells are deepening and adding a challenge in some places. The North Loop was a bit icy at first and rutted by steady use, so we headed off trail onto smoother snow until we reached the PCT trail junction. By this time the snow had softened and trail skiing was easier, but ruts from heavy usage were still unpleasant.
Throughout the day we veered off trail into smoother, untracked snow whenever possible. We followed the North Loop to North Blowout Shelter and then took Circle Lake to Island Junction Shelter. Both shelters still have some firewood, but it was more comfortable to sit outside and enjoy lunch in the sun. We continued on Circle Lake to the junction with South Loop and Two Buttes, then zigzagged back to Ray Benson via Two Buttes, Claypool Buttes and finally the South Loop.
The trails would be pleasant skiing again with a little fresh snow, but right now skiing is better off trail in the Big Hoodoo thinning area that stretches from Ray Benson to the Santiam Wagon Rd. between Big Lake Rd. and the PCT. Enjoy some spring skiing while the snow lasts.