By Jim Todd

March 30, Tuesday: when Frank and I met at Ray Benson we found sunshine and a 3″ layer of almost-powder on a solid base–nearly perfect conditions. Continuing our recent rambles, Frank planned a route that avoided marked trails or groomed roads and we headed for another destination we had never visited: the lowest point on Santiam Pass. Say what? Yes, tucked into the triangle formed by Hoodoo, Big Lake and Sand Mountain lies a crater that is only 4475′ at the bottom; and it holds a tiny pond which, since we have now visited, we choose to name Low Lake.

The journey was a fine ski making tracks only a couple inches deep in pristine snow. Lodgepole thickets with tangled branches and tree wells did force us onto a groomed snowmobile route for a short distance, but 70% of the trip adhered to our goal of skiing untracked snow. The skiing was “interesting” and the views of Mt. Washington, Patjens Butte, Sand Mountain and Hayrick were great. You should add Low Lake to your skiing Life List, too.

But where is Low Lake and how do you get there? Well, Low Lake is at 44 degrees 23′ 1.8″ N and 121 degrees 54′ 5.1″ W. Consult topo maps and satellite views, grab a compass &/or GPS and navigate your own route to Low Lake. It will be rewarding.

Volunteer Training Opportunities

Willamette National Forest and Cascade Volunteers are offering a great opportunity for volunteers to obtain training and certification in chainsaw and crosscut saw use on volunteer trail projects. Chainsaw classes are May 8-9 and Crosscut classes May 22-23, at Fish Lake Guard Station. These classes are free, but do require students to sign up as Willamette National Forest volunteers through Cascade Volunteers. First Aid/CPR certification is also required, but Cascade Volunteers is offering comprehensive Wilderness First Aid classes on May 7 and May 21, for only $25.

I will be taking the classes May 21-23, and would be happy to answer questions about them and about the Forest Service volunteer programs, if you phone me at 503x378x7003. You can also obtain more information by visiting the Cascade Volunteers website at or by emailing Beth Dayton, Cascade Volunteers Saw Program Coordinator at

Jim Todd, Day Tour Chair
Willamette Chapter – Oregon Nordic Club

Trip Report

March 24, Wednesday: by Frank Hoffman

I made a pre-sunrise start on a trip to McKenzie Pass. After a customary stop in Sisters, I turned the key, anticipating about a 15-min drive on Hwy 242 to the starting point of my tour. But instead of a healthy roar, I heard only a brief, unenthusiastic grinding noise followed by a dash full of lights. After a few repetitions I accepted it was hopeless, and that my well-laid plans might come to naught. I called Les Schwab and reached a sympathetic person who said he could have someone out to jump the car in the next half hour. Within 10 minutes a fellow had me started; in another 45 I was back on the road with a new battery.

Temp was near freezing at 9am when I parked just below the east gate at 4000’; road had packed, icy snow. Clear blue sky, no wind. I skinned up to Windy Point, removed skins, and continued 1.4 mile on the road to 5020E, where I exited to the lava field. As usual, some blind alleys ending in rocks and drop-offs, but a fairly direct route SW for about 1.75 mi to Dee Wright. I never sank more than 4”, usually less—a good snowpack with near-ideal conditions. I had lunch at the observatory with clear views, though some clouds were building to the west. North breeze as I returned by the same route. I met two snowmobilers shortly after I got back to the road, then a group of 6 or so at Windy Point, finally a skier near the Cross-District trail. Last quarter mile near the gate was slushy; back to the car at 3:50. 13 mi, 1400’ elevation gain. This should be a good tour into spring; typically the road progressively melts out and plowing starts at some point. Euro Sports staff in Sisters often know about road condition above the gate, as they cater to cyclists who use the road before it opens to motorists in June.

Frank sent a nice map. I was unable to copy the pdf into wordpress… DS

Trip Report March 23, Tuesday:

by Jerry Vessello

Today was the first day of real time on AT gear.  Jon Wiener and I skied Bennett Pass to seek some easy downhill as well as tour.  Jon is truly an expert alpine skier, but generously accompanied me on something not at all challenging for him.  I also played with the Gaia software, using it a bit for way finding and recording our route.  I have included a map, our route is in Teal, about 6 miles and 1,000 feet of vertical.  The base map is the National Geo trail map.  Gaia gives you several choices and you can overlay several, including avalanche risk and slope angle.

Today promised to be the best of the week, sunny skies after fresh snow, and it delivered. Snow definitely got heavier as we descended but quite nice for most of vertical in our runs. Unfortunately it will not be as nice for a while as it ages and temperatures rise. Avalanche risk was minimal due to slope angles and nothing above us, but we had our transceivers, probes and shovels. The trail is multi-use, and we saw some people loading 3 snowmobiles when we arrived, otherwise we did not see or hear any. There were several people with snow shoes, several AT skiers, and lighter gear tourers, but the area is big, so we only ran into them in passing. The trail looks down onto Teacup, and we have both been curious about skiing between the two, but there is this problem called Hood River, so we aborted that goal when the snow got heavy as we descended, since it wasn’t going to happen anyway. As far as first time on AT gear, (except for the 3 turns I did with many of you when you weren’t looking in December,) I found myself trying to do tele turns, particularly to the left, that being even more of a problem on the first run since I forgot to lock my boot cuffs, which isn’t so critical on tele, but seemed to be really important on AT gear. After locking and the first run, the natural inclination to tele diminished. You can see on the map that we didn’t start by taking the main Bennett pass trail, but instead traveled up the backside of the ridge until we connected again with the main trail. Neither of us had taken that road in the past, so it seemed like a good idea There are many places along the main trail where you can drop down into well spaced trees on various slope angles, another place to see if you haven’t been there! The trail leads to the notoriously famous Terrible Traverse which is further along on the trail that we skied today. It was a very fun day, and got me much more receptive to trying AT some more!

SNOTEL and other Snow Informations Resources

by Bob Young

Many of you may have been using, as I have, the snotel website for accurate information on current snow depths as you plan a tour. A month or so ago my link went to a page that just said the information had been archived and I was unsuccessful reestablishing that resource. Thanks to Frank Hoffman we now have an address to the revised site. pasted into your browser address bar should take you to the interactive map with all of the Oregon snotel sites marked. Once here you can bookmark the site for a shortcut or you can go further into the site and specific information you want, like Hogg Pass and 7 day hourly table, and then bookmark that. The interactive map page though gives you lots of options for locations and type of information you might want.

That last reference is what I use to see what new snow really fell yesterday at Santiam Pass and how much consolidated or blew away overnight. I still also look at the Santiam Ski Patrol weather page which tells what the wind and temperatures have done at Hoodoo over the previous 48 hours and then look at Tripcheck for road conditions. Tripcheck’s snow depth information is highly unreliable as it is only a report of what a plow driver observed, like “no new snow” but is that since the last time he drove it, ignoring the 6″ that fell last night . . . . Well, that’s my take anyway. Also be sure to check NOAA (hint: enter “Santiam Pass, OR” in the location box) or Mountain-Forecast to see what the rest of your day may be like. So no excuses now. Know before you go and get out there to enjoy the snow.

Trip Report

Sunday, March 20. Spring is here? The snows continue to come down and provide us with good skiing. Crowds at the Santiam Snopark appear to be diminishing as we found few cars when we arrived at 9:00. It was lightly snowing and a stiff breeze was putting the wind chill somewhere in the low 20’s or below so 5 of us bundled up and headed towards the PCT highpoint above Booth Lake. As we got to higher elevations we were finding wind exposed surfaces a bit crusty and icy and changed my plan to ski the ridge line down toward Square Lake and instead made our way into the crater below the PCT. Bianca, Dayna, Fiona, and I had fun runs and good workout climbs as we did multiple trips to the bottom. The bottom of the crater provided a nice protection from the persistent stiff breeze where we had a fairly leisurely lunch before the final climb out and fun ski back down to the Skyline trial. The snow was not as fluffy as it could be but was still soft enough for nice turns as we sought out the most fun route. Just another of those great ski days with the best of company.

By Bob Young


By Jim Todd

George Susbauer, a long-term member of the Willamette Chapter passed away last week at the age of 70. In addition to skiing with our club and hiking with the Chemeketans, George was a noted community volunteer and was named Citizen of the Year by Sublimity and Stayton in 2012. As a volunteer for the Willamette Chapter, George will be remembered for his work building the North Blowout Shelter (and serving fresh sweet corn to our volunteers) and for inventing the Blue Diamond Hammer that the club still uses to place ski trail markers. Thank you, George. Rest in peace.

TOUR REPORT: March 11, Thursday:

Frank and I enjoyed 4-5 miles of rambling between Hwy 20 and Ray Benson without touching a ski trail. The current snowpack is deep enough to cover fallen trees and smooth steeper, rocky spots. Also, the Big Hoodoo thinning project has opened up plenty of space between trees and tree wells. It’s now a pleasure to head out “cross-country” and choose your own path. We took a compass bearing out to North Blowout Shelter, climbed to point 4927′ and then discovered an unmapped lake (now called Enigma Lake) near the Fireline Snowmobile trail. The lake is at 44º24’17.6″N, 121º50’52.9″W (WGS 84). If you are bored with the North and South Loops or tired of fighting their frozen ruts, grab a map and compass or GPS and go exploring. The views are great and you might find something new.

NEWSLETTER: MARCH 2021Willamette Chapter – Oregon Nordic Club. PO Box 181SALEM, OR 97308

Photo by Frank Hoffman

Thank you members

I know it has been a trying year for all of us with normal routines interrupted but so many of our long time members as well as a number of recent and brand new additions to the Willamette Chapter have sent in annual membership dues.  With the state dues increased to $10 per member unit we would be falling behind on account balance if we had meeting place fees to pay, which we did not do this year.  Other fixed fees for us like the web hosting and post office box keep going up as well.  So thank you to all of you who continue to support our efforts to promote and further cross country skiing.

There are many of you that I have not talked to this year but I hope you are getting out there to enjoy what has developed into a fairly good winter.  There is plenty of opportunity to get out and enjoy the snow.  After a couple of arduous backcountry treks with difficult climbs and more challenging descents I was really ready for some good old classic XC.  Wednesday, Feb. 24 turned out to be the perfect day for that.  Bianca and I headed out to Brandenburg to add a sign to discourage the use of the wood stove that had a missing chimney (yes, people are thoughtless and foolish enough to do that, even forcing a chain off the doors).  We had 2” to 3” of new snow as close to powder as the Cascades gets.  Glide was incredible and the sunshine brilliant while the temperature hovered just above freezing.  We ended up skiing the full loop to Island Junction and on to the North Loop, putting in about 9.4 miles.  The views of Washington, Sisters, Broken Top, and Black Crater were the best I can recall seeing ever.

So I hope you all will get out there and keep up the skiing.  We can do it safely and have a great time keeping ourselves healthy.  The current snow pack suggests that we could have some good spring skiing.  And by the way, the Mount Jefferson Snowmobile club took a sled and parts out to Brandenburg and North Blowout shelters and made repairs to the chimneys so those should be back in working order.  A big thank you to our winter rec partners.

Bob Young, treasurer 


We are pleased to report the stovepipes Bob mentions above were repaired on March 1, by Sisters Ranger District staff and volunteers from Mt. Jefferson Snowmobile Club. The stoves are back in service at Brandenburg and North Blowout shelters. You will be able to enjoy a warm fire at these shelters as long as the firewood supply lasts this spring.


February 28, Sunday:  Santiam Lake (again) by Jim Todd
It was great to have fresh, soft snow for this tour after January’s trip on rock hard ice.  Dayna, Fiona and I broke trail up Lost Lake Creek and down to Santiam Lake on a beautiful, sunny day.  The view of the lake and Three Fingered Jack was, as always, spectacular.  This route is worth a couple trips a year.

Lost Lake Creek photo by Dayna Svendsen

Photo by Jeff Starr

February 20, Lava Lake, by Jeff Starr

Anna, Jack and I found very good snow and weather conditions at Big Springs SnoPark as we did an out and back ski to Lava Lake. Travel time took a little longer than expected as there were timber clearing operations along the highway. By skiing one of the closer and lesser used snow parks we avoided the crowded conditions that have lately been plaguing the more popular snow parks.

Big Springs SnoPark is blessed with large Douglas Firs which are visually impressive and make for a very scenic ski. Our route to Lava Lake included skiing through an old lava flow offering open views with a smattering of large trees that somehow manage to subsist on the meager soil.

February 24, Wednesday: Where the heck is Point 4927? By Jim Todd

Once again Frank lead Chuck and I on a new route. Starting from Ray Benson we followed the North Loop to the Two Buttes Cutoff, then left the trails and headed south up the ridge. After a short, steep climb we reached the “summit” of Point 4927–the highest bump on Santiam Pass. The views were great in all directions and so was the skiing.

February 4, Wednesday: FRESH SNOW! By Jim Todd

After more than a foot of new snow Tuesday night, Frank lead Chuck and I on an excursion from Ray Benson to Brandenburg Shelter. Not content to follow tracks on the South Loop, he chose an off trail route following old roads between the South Loop and PCT so we could enjoy the pleasures of trail breaking. And it was enjoyable (untouched snow, solitude, new views), even though we were sinking 8-10″ with every stride. 

Following a well earned lunch at Brandenburg we relented and chose the South Loop (more or less) for our return. Tracks made by earlier skiers gave us a smooth run back to the SnoPark. 

The good news at Santiam Pass: so many skiers are out that tracks should be set on all trails by Saturday. The bad news: first the stove pipe has failed at Brandenburg Shelter so a warming fire is not an option; second, the traffic will be very bad this weekend. Even on a week day Hoodoo was jammed, with cars parked along the road to Ray Benson and crowded against the shoulder on the road out to the highway. If you go this weekend plan on arriving early in the morning and having a long slow drive out to the highway in the afternoon.  

January 30, Saturday:  Tour report for Square Lake and Long Lake

By Bob Young

This is a loop I have wanted to do for a number of years. 2 years ago I lead a tour to do this but we ended up taking the Square Lake trail out and back because of some fairly deep snow and trail breaking. This Saturday conditions were more promising, though it was misting starting out, and 6 of us, Jim, Conor, Bianca, Fiona, Dayna, and I headed up the PCT to a saddle above Square at 5400 feet and did the 600 foot drop to Square at 4800. This can be a fun descent depending on snow conditions. Today the snow was very heavy as the mist had turned it to Cascade cement. Perfect for killer snowballs but not so good for turning. From here we picked up the trail to Long Lake, another 200 foot drop. Weather had moderated and we even had a couple of near sun breaks. At least no more rain.

For the climb back out we split into 2 groups of 3. Jim, Conor, and Fiona skied to the end of Long before retracing the trail back to Square. The rest of us tried to cross the creek to the north facing slope but the tangle of logs and small trees made that impossible. We did eventually cross before getting to Square and climbed to the notch near the official trail and started breaking track back towards the PCT trail head. The other 3 caught up with us fairly quickly and must have had an easier route. The rest of the return was fairly easy with mostly gentle downhill which is a good thing since the snow remained very sticky and heavy. Had to maxiglide twice to keep moving. This was one of the most physically demanding tours I’ve done in a long time and I think we were all sufficiently tired by the time we got back. I may do it again but it will definitely be on better snow. A great place to get views, terrain, and definitely get away from the other people out there.

The Willamette Chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club 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. 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.” 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 or the website password, please contact Bob Young or Genice Rabe. Willamette Chapter activities have been curtailed by COVID-19, but please renew your membership for the 2020-2021 season. For only $20 you will receive access to all inside club news and support our efforts to promote and improve cross-country skiing for everyone. Our chapter pays $10 from each membership to the statewide Oregon Nordic Club to support its efforts and cover the cost of insurance for all ONC chapters. You can renew by downloading a membership form at and returning it with your $20 check to the Club as directed on the form. If you have questions please contact Bob Young.

Volunteer Opportunities
The Willamette Chapter has an active volunteer program assisting the Forest Service with ski trail clearing and marking as well as shelter construction, maintenance and firewood stocking. Thank you volunteers! Please call Mark Olson (503x559x0728) or Jim Todd (503x378x7003) for more information about our club’s volunteer program. During the ski season Willamette Chapter members help the Forest Service maintain and improve ski trails by reporting trail and shelter conditions. Please help the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests use their limited resources efficiently by sending a Nordic Trail Report when you ski their marked trails. Contact Mark or Jim about trail or Sno-Park conditions and they will forward the information to the appropriate Forest Service office.


The Newsletter now includes an Announcement Section. There members can post ski related items for sale, cross-country related questions, inquiries about conditions and suggestions for ski trips. Please send your announcements to Genice Rabe for inclusion in the Newsletter. Another good place for these items is on the website, Equipment available: NNN bindings $15. NNN BC bindings $20-$40. Multiple telemark skis with bindings, 170 cm $25-$250. Alpina BC 2050 boots, size 46, new in box $125. Black diamond ascension kicker skins 60mmx75cm, new $40. Northern Lites Backcountry snowshoes, new $175. Sierra designs 3-4 person tent 1990s, excellent $150. New ice axes $80, crampons $50. Contact Tim Faber at COUNTRY SKIER MAGAZINE Tim Faber would like to encourage members to subscribe to this excellent publication on our favorite sport. Information can be found at:

2020-2021 Officers and Board Members Available President

Jeanne Miller Vice President, Bob Young Treasurer & 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 Member


Fifteen years of heavy use has taken a toll on the stovepipes in our Santiam Pass shelters. Last fall the collar between the stove and pipe at Brandenburg had rusted through and there was serious rust at the top of the pipe near the roof. The pipe finally failed in January and attempts to repair were unsuccessful in our heavy snows.

When we visited Brandenburg in early February the pipe was lying on the floor and there was a “DO NOT USE” sign on the stove. Do not try to light a fire, if you visit Brandenburg.

Similarly, the stovepipe at North Blowout has rusted through near the roof and smoke pours into the shelter when the stove is lit. The stove at North Blowout should not be used until the pipe is repaired.

The one bright spot at present is Island Junction shelter. When Jeff visited in early February, the stove was burning and there were no problems with the pipe. However, Island Junction may experience the same rust damage soon, since it is the same age as the other shelters. Replacing stovepipes at Santiam Pass will be a summer priority for Deschutes National Forest and Willamette Chapter volunteers.

– Jim Todd