The never-ending glacier finally runs out

For the first time in its 29-year history, lack of snow ends the last remaining ride to skiable terrain

August 27, 2005

Sharp and broken basalt is everywhere. Scattered along this mountainside like geologic casualties from an ancient, fiery battle.

And I don’t see any snow. Not here. Not for another thousand vertical feet, at least.

This concerns me.

In the next 30 seconds, you see, the chairlift on which I am riding will deposit me on the ground. Ordinarily this would be fine except that the lift ops here at Timberline seem to have forgotten to shovel some snow into the off ramp so I don’t break my snowboard. So I don’t fall and bloody my knees.

I look down at the lift op for some advice.

What should I do? I’m trying to plead with worried eyes.

The lift op is slumped, too bored at this point to read my panic.

I look down again at the angular basalt and imagine the gashes it’ll claw into my snowboard and my knees.

I look up again at the lift up.

He’s still slumped. Still bored.

Reluctantly and motivated by some irrational habit, I scoot toward the front of the chairlift and prepare to destroy my favorite wintertime vehicle.

The lift op sees this and, very casually says: “Stay on this one. It’ll take you up to the glacier.”

Relieved, I sit back, relax and ponder my own stupidity for thinking a ski area would actually unload its skiers onto rocks.

But really, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I’ve never snowboarded in the middle of August before. And so far, snowboarding in summer has been nothing like the winter experience.

Blue jeans, hiking shoes and visors are as common attire on these lifts as are snowboard pants, boots and goggles. I’ve only seen two lift ops so far and something like 10 kazillion rocks. Usually it’s reversed.

The rocks are everywhere up here except in one visible location: a tadpole-shaped patch of snow with a long, curly tail – The Palmer Glacier. That’s where for one more day, winter still is holding out.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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