Illumination Saddle, Mt. Hood – Skiing’s Summer Solstice Gathering Through The Lens of Carter Edwards

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Illumination Saddle, Mt. Hood – Skiing’s Summer Solstice Gathering Through The Lens of Carter Edwards

Photography: Carter Edwards

Nobody knows which skier first watched the sun set on the summer solstice from Mt. Hood’s Illumination Saddle. There are legends, rumors and myths, but no voyager can confirm the true story. It’s been said that Glen Plake built the first kicker on the solstice with his own two hands and pierced a hole in the sun with his mohawk that very same night. Others claim the New Canadian Air Force were the originators, heading down from Vancouver to pay their American friends a visit. Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, this tradition is one of the finest in all of freeskiing.

Today, the origin of the Illumination summer solstice party is irrelevant. What’s important is that it has grown into a brilliant gathering of friends from around the globe, brought together by a quest for snow amidst the summer heat and a love for backflips under the (almost) midnight sun. And oh, has it grown. Take a look at this video from FREESKIER alumni Ethan Stone and, when compared to the images below, you’ll notice quite a few more bodies have made the hike.

From the parking lot to the final destination, the haul up Mt. Hood to Illumination Saddle has an elevation gain of around 3,422 feet. Even if you take the chairlift, there’s still foot power required. Arriving at the saddle, skiers revel in the camaraderie, enjoying hot dogs, lukewarm beverages, soft turns, sunscreen, sunburns, good hats and better crashes as intrepid riders coast off the massive jump. This goes on for hours. Once the final cheer has echoed off the rocks and the sun has dipped below the horizon, turns are made back down to the base, with smiles spotted all over, no matter how crusty the snow has become in the dusk chill.

This year the trek brought out many faces new and old. Lucky for us, photographer Carter Edwards was there to capture the eccentric scene in all its glory. With a careful eye, Edwards absorbed both the people and place that make this event so special. Enjoy the gallery below from one of skiing’s greatest gatherings.

“We spent the week immersed in the excitement at Windells Ski Camp. Initially, Curt Hiller, Jonah Williams, Parker White, and I, hadn’t planned to venture up to Illumination Rock, as we were all quite exhausted from the week’s activities. However, after seeing the hundreds of enthusiastic people gathering at the top of Palmer and making their way up the mountain the fear of missing out hit us hard, and we felt compelled to join.

Together with Kevin Perron, Perri Runion and some others, we joined the lively group and spent the evening soaking in the solstice festivities. The atmosphere was insane, with everyone being incredibly hospitable, offering us charcuterie boards filled with cheese, steak, and more. As the evening progressed, laughter filled the air, and we were all mesmerized by the setting sun. Descending the mountain, we were elated, riding high on the unforgettable experience of the solstice celebration.– Photographer Carter Edwards