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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