Tim Wiper prefers not to dwell on last season.
So this week the owner of Willamette Pass ski area was working frantically to get the entire mountain up and running in time for the holidays.
As of Thursday, Willamette Pass was scheduled to be open Friday through Jan. 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, except Christmas Day.
The resort opened for the season last Friday through Sunday after being open for only a few days in February last season during a low snow year.
“It was in the beginning of February, and then we got rained out again,” Wiper recalled. “The weather hasn’t been cooperative, so that was unfortunate. This year, we did get open. We’re on thin snow. But we’re hoping it will continue to build.”
The Willamette Pass website reported just 20 inches of snow at the lodge on Thursday, but snow is in the forecast for much of next week.
Willamette Pass is located about 70 miles southwest of Bend off state Highway 58 between Central Oregon and Eugene. The Eagle Peak Accelerator — one of three chairlifts at the ski area — takes snowriders from the base elevation of 5,120 feet to the 6,666-foot summit of Eagle Peak. The backside lift (Peak 2 lift) takes skiers and boarders to the top of Peak 2, at 6,683 feet.
The area features some of the steepest ski runs in Oregon, including RTS, which boasts a 52-degree pitch and is billed as THE steepest run in Oregon.
Willamette Pass was open for only two days during the 2014-15 season, when a paltry snowpack affected all ski resorts in Oregon. Last season was more of the same for the small ski area, whose primary customer base is from the Eugene/Springfield area. But Willamette Pass does draw folks from Central Oregon seeking different terrain and shorter lift lines than those at Mt. Bachelor.
Wiper said his goal is to have all three chairlifts operating through the winter break.
Last weekend the resort operated only the Twilight chairlift and the beginner area on the lower part of the mountain.
“It generally takes about 3 feet of natural snow to build a base that allows us to run everything,” Wiper said. “We’re really close to that and we’re moving snow and doing everything we can to make it work. There’s supposed to be more (snow) coming in as this weekend approaches. We just need every flake.”
Early-season conditions exist at Willamette Pass, and skiers and snowboarders should expect obstacles on runs and trails.
For more information and updates, visit www.willamettepass.com or call 541-345-7669.
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,