A seasonal affliction: Snow Fever

November 11, 2016 GMT

Niel Barrett is seasonally afflicted with a healthy type of fever: snow fever.

His affliction begins whenever there’s an inch or two of snow on the ground. Even before the calendar turned to November, Barrett made his way to Crater Lake National Park to soothe his fever by going cross country skiing. Although recent warming had decreased the park’s early season snowpack, there was still enough for another outing last week.

Barrett mostly led as we looped around open meadows near and below the Crater Lake Lodge and weaved our way through forested areas along and near the Hemlock Trail. The snow wasn’t deep, but it was deep enough. We tucked and sped down slopes, poled up hilly stretches and kick-and-glided along rolling terrain with snow that variously felt like Styrofoam or, even better, was as smooth as silk. It was a bluebird day, with brilliantly sunny skies and temperatures that had us peeling off layers of clothing.

Blue diamonds search

We truly wandered cross country, making our own trails. We also searched for blue diamonds that mark the Hemlock Trail, a 2-mile loop that begins near the Rim Village café-gift shop. Barrett, a longtime leader and member of the Crater Lake Ski Patrol, knows his way around the park’s back country. He eventually spotted a blue diamond high above in a towering hemlock. In another few weeks, if the usual weather patterns dump their usual several feet of snow, that and other trail markers will only be a short height above skiers and snowshoers.

Those snow layers will also bury the still visible picnic tables and garbage cans at Picnic Hill and, more significantly, layer West Rim Drive, which still has bare pavement from the final rounds of plowing.

In preparation for the inevitable snow to come, we watched crews place shutters over windows at the Crater Lake Lodge. Like a hibernating bear, the lodge will remain in a seasonal state of slumber until reopening its doors until next May.

For Barrett and others, winter isn’t a time to sleepily laze away. Because he was busy through the summer painting jobs, he’s anticipating winter as a season for being outdoors, usually skiing. And while he enjoys going solo or with a friend or two, he also encourages others to take advantage of the Klamath Basin’s winter outdoor recreation, especially cross country skiing.

“This is probably my favorite time of the year to be out,” he says.

Klamath Basin Ski Club

That’s why Barrett continues to promote the Klamath Basin Ski Club, a group he helped revive a few years ago. The club will hold its first meeting of the 2016-17 season with a potluck meal Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the Klamath County Community meeting room on Pine Street. Monthly meetings are usually held the second Tuesday, but this month’s meeting was pushed back a week because of the election. Members of the club’s board of directors will meet at 6 p.m. with the general membership meeting at 7. The club will provide pizza while those attending are asked to bring food to share.

Along with the meal and socializing, Barrett said the group will discuss possible outings, ski clinics and potential classes on such topics as avalanche safety and ski techniques for beginners. If the winter provides ample in-town snow, club members may also help groom ski trails in Moore Park and along the Link River.

As in past years, the club provides information on trails, snow conditions, trails, weather forecasts and outings on its website at klamathbasinskiclub.com.

“To get people more excited about skiing, we need to get more snow,” Barrett said, noting club activities got off to an early start last winter then dwindled when warming temperatures caused an earlier than usual melt-off. “We’re hoping for long, snowy winter.”