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

Tour Report: FRESH SNOW! February 4, Thursday:

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.

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.

NEWSLETTER February 2021

By Jim Todd

Willamette Chapter–Oregon Nordic Club

P.O. Box 181

Salem, OR 97308


January’s warm, heavy rains followed by cold temperatures produced the curse of Cascade skiing—frozen crud, ice; a surface so hard that skis scarcely scratch; steel edges don’t catch; and the grip is zip. Negotiating these challenges last week lead me to thoughts of the many variants of ice and the ways we deal with them.

First, in its defense, ice produces superb glide.  Many years ago George Miller and I crossed Big Lake when it was frozen solid and swept clean by the wind.  With careful attention to balance and cautious double poling we experienced speedy and nearly effortless skiing.  Likewise, a freak Willamette Valley storm (half inch of freezing rain over two inches of snow) once provided a surface that deformed gently and offered just enough grip for excellent skate skiing out my back door.  

But these are isolated instances of skiing on smooth, level surfaces—rarely encountered in the Cascades.  What happens on the slopes or on dips in the terrain?  During a side hill traverse the effort required to remain erect is exhausting and all but the most skillful frequently find skis slipping sideways and their hips making intimate contact with the ice.  Even on gentler terrain skis can bridge frozen dips in the trail and, being suspended on the slippery tips and tails, produce alarming gyrations.  Of course, it is possible to maintain balance by heading straight downhill in a parallel stance; but then gravity takes over, escape velocity is reached and ice is REALLY hard when you fall.

The first defense against ice is slapping skins or climbers on your skis; essentially turning them into long snowshoes.  This works reasonably well going straight up or down and provides some improvement in side hill traverses.  But on steeper slopes or solid ice, these aids quickly reach their limits and flailing and falling again enter the picture.  

The second strategy is timing your tour.  The freeze/thaw cycle, which produces much of our ice, also softens it on warmer days; and a frozen pack with a couple inches of thaw on top is one of the best skiing surfaces offered by the Cascades.  A skier who checks the forecast and watches temps on ODOT webcams could plan to arrive at the pass just as the snow softens and the skiing gets good.  This often means waiting until 11 am or noon to begin skiing.  While this may shorten your tour, it makes skiing much more pleasant.   Unfortunately, current COVID induced crowding at SnoParks ruins this strategy.  Even a 10 am arrival may leave you without a parking space.  Still, you could drive up early and bring good books or music to while away the hours until the snow softens.  Relax!

If you are too impatient to wait for the melt, a third strategy comes into play.  When ice is too hard and slick to ski, it’s usually firm enough to walk.  Gone are the purest days of youth when I was determined to ski every inch of a tour.  Now, if ice is too slippery, I strap skis on my back and hike.  Better a leisurely stroll on boots than a frustrating scrabble on skis.   

Lastly, what of the days when a hard freeze follows soaking rain and the ugly sheen of ice endures until sunset?  Or when the surface ice is too hard for skis to scratch, but too thin to stop boots from plunging through to the crotch?  Well, skiing toute la neige et toute la montagne is a worthy goal, but there are limits.  At such times the wise recline in a comfortable chair with a suitable beverage and plan for the next tour when the weather changes.  It always does.

If you have ruminations, orations or observations on ski related topics please send them to Denise and Genice for inclusion in the March Newsletter.


Willamette Chapter activities have been curtailed by COVID-19, but please renew your membership for the 2020-2021 season.  For only $20 you receive access to all the inside club news and support our efforts to 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 renewal form at 


If you are missing the Willamette Chapter Ski School (we miss mentoring for it) there is still an alternative that gives expert skiing guidance.  Mike Armstrong and Bev McDonald, Hoodoo’s PSIA Nordic instructors, offer lessons in classic and skate technique to individuals and small groups (<6).  You must book lessons on line at  Once you have a reservation, just go to the Ski School Ticket window by the tent at the end of the Lodge.  Registering online will also give you priority to go into the lodge and pick up rental equipment, if you need it.  Please review Hoodoo’s COVID-19 policies at before booking a lesson.


The Willamette Chapter will not sell Sno Park permits in the absence of our regular monthly meetings.  Sno Park permits may be purchased online at the Oregon DMV:  Annual permits purchased directly from DMV cost $25—no handling fee.  The process takes only a few minutes and includes a downloadable copy you can print and use immediately while waiting for your permit to arrive in the mail.  Buy a permit and support Sno Park plowing.  


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 (503-559-0728) or Jim Todd (503-378-7003) for more information or to sign up for one of our projects. 

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 SnoPark conditions and we will forward the information to the appropriate Forest Service office.


January 16, Saturday:  we did more skiing than working this month, but Bianca and Jim took timeout from their Santiam Lake tour to hike the SnoPark Tie between Santiam SnoPark and the PCT parking lot and removed two fallen snags blocking the trail.


January 27, Wednesday:  Frank introduced me to a nifty off trail route at Santiam Pass on a day with beautiful fresh snow.  We parked on the shoulder of Big Lake Rd. just south of its junction with Hwy 20.  Road #801 heads east here and accesses ODOT’s gravel storage area.  Beyond the scenic snow covered gravel piles it was route finding eastward through lodgepole pine regrowth until we struck a very faint road #910.  We turned south here and soon picked up the North Loop trail to North Blowout Shelter for lunch.  For our return we skied the North Loop back to the PCT junction, turned north on the PCT for a short distance, then headed northwest to hit road #801 for the short run back to our cars.  The tour is 3-4 miles, depending on how much you wander, has great views and avoids much of the North Loop traffic.  Check it out.


Cross-country ski racing is seldom the focus of Willamette Chapter members, but now and then it is worth attending to the doings of the lycra set—especially when the home team has notable achievements.  The US women’s team is a powerhouse on the World Cup Skiing circuitthis season.  Rosie Brenan is ranked number three in the world and Jessie Diggins is number one.  Diggins won the grueling Tour de Ski, a three weekend race series in the Alps in January and last weekend took gold in the 10K Free Style race at Falun, Sweden; beating Norway’s great Therese Johaug who had been undefeated this season.  The winning time for 10K (6.2 miles) was 23:35.9; but they weren’t breaking trail in Cascade Crud.  For all the news of Nordic Ski Racing visit

Trip Report, January 31

After several days of freeze-thaw conditions, the forecast promised yet another warm day, with a high of 44 F, after freezing night.  Jim Todd and Bianca Klar proceeded to ski towards Santiam Lake.  Traumatized from the unprecedented crowds at the parking lot and the entire corridor of Santiam Pass the week before, we decided to show up at 8 am at the snow park to secure ourselves a parking space.  We knew that this early the snow was going to be frozen cement (and it was), but we came prepared for it.  We skinned up going to the lake and at times the going was easier without the skis.  Around 11:00 am the snow began to soften and the skiing became more pleasant:-).  We reached the lake around noon and enjoyed the beautiful views of Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson and the lake itself with an aquamarine looking water at the center of it. On the way back we had very nice glide with a few icy surprises.  Some of the shady areas never thawed out, especially close to the creek.  It was a lovely day for some fresh air exercise, about 12 miles round trip. 

Report by Bianca Klar

Trip report for Saturday Jan 9

Well, I never thought I’d get to heaven: Chuck Dellenbaugh and I were lucky enough that each of us found a place to park our cars on the entry road to the Santiam snow-park. Unwilling to leave those precious spots to join other club members where ever they found parking, we, along with Ann, geared up and knocked on heaven’s door.

This is another of those places you will not see named on any topo, but is a small knob south of Three Fingered Jack that looks down on Square and Long Lake, with a glimpse of Booth Lake as well. We did the trip as a loop, heading up the Santiam trail, then crossing east, all a modest climb. A bit more climbing on the east side of the ridge, then a traverse to Heaven. We ate lunch there, admiring the view. Snow conditions were excellent, about 5” of fluff under the skis perfect weather, and nice temperatures.

This is great trip, very open, not too long, and climbing grades were very moderate. Back country ski explorations has definitly increased. We enjoyed our solitude but other’s tracks were apparent, including several downhill runs, which I suspect were made from resort skiers that are now AT skiing.

I hope for a lot more days like this one this season. The photo is from Heaven looking south, in case you need more motivation to try this trip! Jerry Vessello


January 9, Saturday: As Bob noted it was a crowded zoo at Santiam Pass last weekend. Fiona and I were among the lucky skiers who left early (before 7am) and reached the Pass before the worst of the crunch. But there was still a traffic jam on the Hwy beginning at Hogg Rock and 50 cars in Santiam SnoPark at 9am when we grabbed two of the rapidly vanishing spaces. Fortunately, the Wilderness north of the Pass has plenty of space. Within a quarter mile we left the crowds behind and were making fresh tracks in new snow with sunny skies and beautiful views in all directions. During the day we saw tracks on the slopes and skiers in the distance, but never met anyone on the trail until the last quarter mile back to the SnoPark. To enjoy the best views we skied northeast across the Cascade crest to a point overlooking Square Lake, then wandered north to Martin and Booth Lakes below Three Fingered Jack before climbing back over the crest and enjoying a smooth downhill run to the SnoPark. Beautiful weather, beautiful views and beautiful skiing–one of the lucky days. –by Jim Todd

1/9/21: Booth Lake and Black Butte photo by: Fiona Couperthwaite

1/9/21: Booth Lake and Black Butte photo by: Fiona Couperthwaite

For sale:

Cross-country skiis – Karhu “wide track”, 5’2” long (160 cm), partial metal edges, Fischer bindings(NNN).  In good shape, not heavily used.

Also Swix poles.

$100 total for skiis & poles.

Rossignol boots, about women’s size 8, NNN bindings.  In good shape.  Free

Call Marcia Hoak, 503//363//1352 & leave a message or email marciah255 at outlook dot com

Trip Report: A Zoo at the Santiam Pass

As some others will likely report, parking at Santiam pass has become a nightmare on the weekends at least. Hoodoo was full by 9:00 and had traffic backed up to below Hogg Rock. No place to park at Santiam Snopark and Potato Hill parking was the same so Dayna, Bianca, and I ended up at Little Nash snopark and skied some unfamiliar area. The snow at that elevation was not great but the track that was set, and well separated from snowshoers, had great glide.

My intent was to ski up to the Hash Brown Loop via the Nash Potato trail but the cutoff sign for the connections was totally engulfed in a small tree with no noticeable tracks and the road 725 continues straight ahead, which we did. Ended up skiing up the snowmobile road for a thousand feet elevation gain and got into some really nice snow up there. Skiing in those areas that have been thinned for fire control is really beautiful. We found a sunny spot with a nice view of Jack and Potato Hill for a lunch break. We did 8.7 miles, got in a good climb, exhilarating downhill, and great diagonal stride on the final leg back. It was a good day despite the change in plan.

Bob Young