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of course. But it was fun to think so.
The climb was steep and surprisingly difficult to start, but I settled into a rhythm. Before long we were above the tree line and absorbing an endless vista of snow capped peaks, including Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood, white pyramids rising to the north above the fog.
Tam McArthur Rim is an endless playground for well
"Lapping an 800 foot bowl is awesome for backcountry skiing, because you're not skinning for too long before you drop in again," Shane said.
I hiked up over the ridge to soak in the more dramatic view: craggy Broken Top rising above a snowfield, and North and Middle Sisters dominating the skyline to the north. I also spotted two other backcountry skiers atop a higher ridge to the west.
"Until you get up close to it, and stand there at the base of the rim, it's hard to understand it's a pretty magical spot," said Shane Fox, a part owner of Three Sisters Backcountry Inc., which guides skiers and teaches avalanche courses on Tam Rim. "We feel super lucky to have the opportunity to be here every day."
Seeing only white, I forgot for a moment where I was. But after the snow cascaded down around me I eventually remembered I was at Tam McArthur Rim, near Sisters, which is quickly becoming a mecca for Central Oregon backcountry skiers and snowboarders.
One at a time, Jonas and Shane skied the precipitous slope, their wide telemark skis sinking deep into the fresh snow.
"Loading a slope with a large amount of weight is one of the best tests (for stability)," Fox explained. "Under the cornice is a big wind pillow and a trigger point (for an avalanche). If you can drop a lot of weight onto a trigger point, that gives you a good indication on top of all the other stuff (snow profile and weather history)."
On the six mile snowmobile ride from Upper Three Creek Sno park to Three Creek Lake we broke completely through the clouds, and bright sun reflected off sparkling, untouched snow. To the immediate west, the jagged white slopes of the North and Middle Sisters dominated the blue sky.
Jutting 1,500 feet above snow covered Three Creek Lake, the rocky Tam Rim stretches for two miles with perfectly pitched north facing slopes like an invitation for snowriders seeking deep, virgin powder.
But erring on the side of caution is a must for a backcountry guide. From the slide they created with the cable, Jonas said he noticed a weak layer of snow nothing extremely dangerous, but something that could create enough slough to knock a skier off his or her feet.
the snowmobiles at the base of the rim near the new yurts, where backcountry skiers can stay overnight to maximize their opportunity. The edge of the frozen over lake marks the Three Sisters Wilderness boundary.
"I feel like I'm summiting a mountain," I told Jonas.
"You are," he responded.
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I felt lucky to be there on Wednesday, when most of Central Oregon was mired in a foggy inversion.
Shane and Jonas Tarlen, another owner of Three Skechers Twinkle Toes High Tops
Sisters Backcountry, skinned (with climbing skins affixed to the bottom of their telemark skis) and I snowshoed up Skechers Performance Shoes through the trees, my snowboard strapped to my backpack.
"It is a big responsibility," Chladek told me earlier in the day. "It's a career you get into over time. All three of us have 10 to 15 years of backcountry experience. You build your own experience, but you also attend a lot of training courses.
"We have to make our terrain selection relevant to the danger," Jonas said. "So we'll pick some more moderate (less steep) routes. You always have options. You're trying to be stoked and ski good snow, and be safe at the same time."
Shane and Jonas each took one end of a cable and cut a cornice off the side of the cliff on which we stood, sending a small slide down the slope.
We came to a point on top of the rim where Shane and Jonas had left tracks the day before. We decided to ski somewhere right of those tracks.
The snow was like velvet, incredibly soft and light, bouncing me back up through my turns like a sponge. As I rode down into the trees, I sunk into a heel side turn, spraying a blanket of powder over my head like an uphill waterfall of snow.
We all carried avalanche transceivers, probes and shovels to use in the event of a slide. But for Jonas, Shane, and Gabe Chladek another owner of Three Sisters Backcountry, who was not with us on Wednesday their avalanche preparedness involves more than just equipment. It's virtually a lifestyle.
"There's a lot of method to it, it's not at random," Chladek continued. "It's a guide's judgment and a checklist process. Certain factors cue red flags. A few red flags, and you don't ski that piece of terrain."
Once at the lake, we parked Skechers Elite Black
Sounded reasonable to me. Besides, some of the slopes appeared much too steep for me to stay on my board. But that is no problem on Tam Rim, where myriad pitches and terrain offer something for most skill levels: steep chutes, open bowls, gentle meadows and tree glades.
The guides and avalanche instructors constantly record weather history, track snowpack, watch temperatures, and dig test pit profiles to analyze the layers of snow.
Once the guides were stopped together at a point hundreds of feet below, I dropped down along the ridgeline, taking my time turning through the deep powder. I turned left into a bowl, making a fresh track down to where the others waited.
"We've been out here 10 of the last 14 days, monitoring the snow history," Fox said. "We've probably done 20 profiles in that time. Today we didn't do a profile because we felt really comfortable having skied this same line."
Shane said that most runs on Tam Rim range from 800 to 1,200 feet.
We hiked along the ridge, a steep drop off to our right.
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