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Photo Report: A Quick Spring Ski Trip to Crater Lake National Park

By Katherine Donnelly on

What started as a simple mission to get some cool photos of our new Spring color release quickly turned into one of my favorite days to date in the Cascades. Be it the stunning location, the phenomenal company, the bluebird weather - or more likely a combination of all three of these factors - this mini-trip to Crater Lake National Park was all-time.

If anything, this trip goes to show that you don't always need a lot of time, planning, stamina or foresight to make a normal Sunday into an adventure that will never be forgotten. And of course, this was a great reminder that Spring ski season in Oregon is what it's all about. You don't move to Oregon for the light fluffy pow; you move here because you can tolerate the Cascade Concrete until that sweet, sweet corn arrives in April...and then you have months upon months of corn shredding while the rest of the continent hangs up their boards and waits for next Winter. I'll never claim to be against a good pow day, but if I had my way I would be ripping Spring slush every damn day. 

The cast

Where every good ski trip begins is with the folks who say yes to your silly ideas. Enter Eric, Audrey, and Emily. Three exceptionally rad humans. Oh, and me of course: the person with the TREW Gear in tow, a camera around my neck, and a Winter of being couch-ridden with an injury and very little activity. (Spoiler: I got my *ss handed to me....but it was so worth it.)

Before we dive right into photos, allow me to introduce the cast of characters who joined me on this venture:

Eric Lee O'Brien. Snowledge founder. Tahoe-based skier. Big mountain competitor. Ex-lawyer. If you ever need a dose of positivity, this is the guy you should turn to. Voted best smile four years running. It's no surprise to learn that he used to model. 

Audrey Hebert. Banff-based snowboarder. No stranger to the big mountain scene, and has competed on the Freeride World Tour as well as many other international stages. Infectiously silly, ridiculously fun. Christmas light installation aficionado. And so much more. 

Emily Tidwell. Self-proclaimed mom skier. Incredibly talented photographer a.k.a. light magician. Lives in Reno, but native to Minnesota. In one word, I would describe her as SWAG. I'll live the rest of my life trying to be just 1/10th as cool as her. 

Eric, Audrey, and Emily brainstorming about a possible road gap overlooking the lake....TBD.


The game plan 

This time around, Eric and Audrey were on the hunt for some Volcano adventures. When they mentioned their idea for visiting Crater Lake, and I simultaneously realized that I had the weekend free, it was fast work to get a rough plan together: we would meet up at the Crater Lake Lodge at 2PM on Sunday and from there we would head deeper into the park for a sunset tour up to the Watchman Lookout. This was more of a mellow slog for the views and sunset than an epic ski mission, which was perfect for me considering that I hadn't skied in months. 

Being that the North Park Entrance to the park was not yet open for the season and the Rim Dr. was still closed for snow clearing, we parked our cars at the Discovery Point Trailhead and began our initial hike into the park.

Audrey lei'd up in the parking lot and getting ready for some tropical walking. 
One of the harder parts of the day was getting everything on the packs for the hike in. Emily battles her backpack straps while securing her skis.
Audrey and Eric smiling (as always) and ready to walk. 

The two mile walk along the road was a good way to move the legs after the five hour drive down from Portland. I'm sure the other three were thankful for some leg stretching as well, since Emily came straight from Reno and Eric and Audrey had just driven up from Lassen.

My attempt at a cool  perspective. The high snow banks on either side of us was really cool, especially considering just how hot it was outside. 
The walk in went by fast with lots of chatter as all four of us got to know each other a bit more. Photo by Emily.
Crater Lake gets a little bit of snow every year. Photo by Emily.

We eventually arrived at the bottom of Watchman Peak and were able to switch over to touring for the climb up to the Lookout. Boots on, sneakers (or tevas) packed, and on snow from here on out.

The crew heading up. Slowly but surely.

This was not a big climb by any means, but the sun-baked snow and 70 degree temps made for some slippery ascending up the 350 (ish) ft. to the tippy top.

Eric leading the charge, no surprise here. This guy is a goat.
Touring mode was great most of the way except for the last push, where we bootpacked the final portion of incline. 

And just as I felt like I was going to melt under the afternoon sun, we rounded a corner and BOOM. We made it to the top and were welcomed with a breathtaking view of Crater Lake and Wizard Island. 

But seriously. This photo is amazing, and yet it still doesn't quite do the scene justice. Photo by Emily.

Now that we made it to the top, it was time to bask in the remaining light, eat some well-earned snacks, and contemplate the meaning of life while taking in our stunning surroundings. I am regularly taken aback by nature's scale and beauty when out in the backcountry, but there is something innately special about being on the edge of a caldera overlooking some of the deepest, bluest waters in the world. 

Audrey reading upon the Watchman Lookout, which was built in 1942 and is still in use to this day during the summers. 
Trew love ;) 
Taking it all in :) Photo by Emily.
The sun begins to set, which means it's go time to start strapping back in and making our way down. Photo by Emily.
Let the corn harvesting commence. Photo by Emily.
Pictures are worth a million words. Photo by Emily.
Eric shredding some corn with the lake behind him. 
And Emily spotted, doing her thing up high. A true legend behind the lens. 
Eric being Eric had his eyes on another line, so he hiked back up...
...while Audrey and I stayed below and watched. Photo by Emily.
Sunset skiing. The snow wasn't great, but Eric pulled it off and made it look magical. Photo by Emily.
With dwindling light, we called it a wrap and started the hike back to our cars. Photo by Emily.
We made it back to the cars by 9PM, loaded up, and made our way to our camping spot. What a short but sweet adventure! Photo by Emily.


Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you enjoyed the photos. If you ever have the urge to visit Crater Lake, do it! Even without your board(s) in tow, this place is so worth your time and will inevitably knock your socks off with its views and beauty. 

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1 comment

  • jere heath on

    awesome! what scenery and a corn harvest to boot! way cool

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