Monday, December 28, 2009

almost new year

likely my last post before the new year.  we are going out of town for 5 days.  hopefully find some fresh powder and great nordic skiing in sun valley area.

high pressure and cold air has made for some very mediocre skiing (despite what big dave and his crew are saying) today i made one run.  cold, crowded and well, mediocre skiing make for low motivation.    there is some okay backcountry skiing conditions, but low snow cover down low makes for troublesome travelling.

there is some okay nordic skiing going on.  here in whitefish, we need way more snow.  but the glacier nordic club has been grooming about 1/2 of the big mountain trails.  they are also currently connecting down to the trails groomed on stoltz land, for iron horse.  this makes for more quantity, but man, it just puts you farther down in the hole, with an unescapable climb out.  i did that today, and it was exhausting.  good excuse to have a couple of beers tonight though.  although this skiing is not great, as it is very hard, fast, narrow in spots and steep; it is still something, and i am grateful to rob and mark for their grooming. 
how great would it be for the big mountain to restart grooming the trails up there?  they are fun, though tough, and plentiful when they are all groomed.  a great way to finish or start a day up at the resort. 

news report from an avalanche rescue in italy.  why should we wear beacons even when skiing alone?  read the following

hopefully you can pick up this link.  if having trouble, elsewhere on the page and see if a different tab comes up you can click on. 

so i hope everyone has a great new years, and that by the time we return, so will the snow pattern.  just in time for the mass exodus of visitors.  i am looking forward to skiing with friends you just cannot find when it is so busy. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Here's a quick update on what we found in the Missions yesterday(12/23). Snowing all day, started skinning @ 4200'. Snow-pack 40-50cm's, topped off with a little new fluff on the supportable rain crust from last Sunday(12/20). Got up to about 7000'. Dug a very quick pit, snow-pack of 1m, rain crust from Sunday still present but under 30cm's of new snow. Soft slab failure on this rain crust while isolating back of a column with my shovel blade (I forgot my saw), so really more of a shear test than a compression test. Saw no evidence of the Turkey Ice Layer, just the normal NW MT pile of sugar at the bottom of the snow-pack. A couple of hard ski cuts didn't get anything to move. Nice low angle boot-top powder tree skiing on a supportable rain crust (for about 800' where logs weren't as covered). We need more snow.

this was sent to me by one of the followers of the blog

inbounds, december 23

well, unfortunately the skiing deteriorated from tuesday.  up high was great, but about mid mountain and down, the snow had frozen some, and gotten chunky.  stiff.  we need more snow, but nothing major is  forecast.  of course, it is what the tourists love.  clear, great groomers and the face is skiing great.  the crowds get a bit bigger every day, but still quite managable.  but, really, it is always managable here.  i skied at whistler a couple of years ago, right after new years, and remembered what big time ski resorts are like.  a ten minute lift line there was great.  here it is huge. 

right now hellroaring is open to the traverse.  the traverse is fast, but very rough.  on our second run, MA told an obviously intermediate couple about the terrain, lack of lift and tough traverse.  they turned around.  so much better for her to use her gentle demeanor than my rather rough one.  but a good idea.  how many dopes did you all see walking on the traverse. 

the old low traverse, (circa 1994, built by some true rogues, not the palin type) out of deeper in the basin is in. but if you have skins with you, it is likely quicker and easier to walk up the groomed slope back in bounds and ski out on the official traverse. 

take a look at my other post from today, as well as ted and greg's comments on the december 22nd post.  thanks and have a great christmas. 

xmas eve hellroaring report

alright.  nice comments and discussion

i really like the parking lot volunteer idea.  and maybe opening up a portion of the cedar lot to non paying public. maybe by 11 am instead of noon.  but too much on parking. i get it. 

greg.  i have been trying hard to not go off in a rant against the usfs and the avalanche center.  two weekly advisories is a joke.  as plan as that.  what would it take to get more.  money.  who can raise the money. well, gcac, but the problem starts at the top.  figure out the rest. 
if the nordic could somehow get involved, that would be great.  part of my reason to start this, was to get input from local skiers and backcountry advocates out to the general public.  the more informed opinions and information we all have, the better we will all be.  let's talk!

ted and all else.  great comments.  please read them.  wear your beacons regardless of who or how many are skiing.  i went to the slide on Hellroaring to check it out and ski a bit.  the skier, who until he is ready, will remain unidentified.  but he is a well known long time ski bum. he was skiing alone, and i do not know if he had any gear on him.  my guess would be NO. my belief is he is extremely lucky, as he could easily be buried.  i hope he gains some perspective, respect and humility from the event. but i might again say, my guess is NO.   i ran into tony willets from the usfs avalanche center while there.  the slope angle at the point of release was approximately 38 degrees.  open slope with few anchors.  sound like a problem slope? 
it was approximately 50 meters wide, but fractured another 50 meters that did not slide.  so is there hangfire?  YES!  it released on the november 28th (or thanksgiving) rain layer, and even propogated below this into the faceted junk and another week layer below. 

i was hoping the snow might be starting to bridge over this ice layer, but it has not.  the skiing was fun, but it IS dangerous.  and now we are having cold clear weather for a while.  already surface hoar frost is forming.  on a fairly solid base of snow.  more to think about with future snowfall.  and the chances of failures of new snowpack stepping down to other weak layers is high. 

i dug a small pit at the top of hellroaring, on the north face.  it is only about 120 cm deep.  and a compression test failed on the first test from the shoulder. cth 21. but it went on the ice layer.  about 70cm down.  i imagine an extended column test would indicate progation. 

so, as ted and i continue to say. be SUPER careful.  travel with a solid group.  use the assessment triagle ted mentions.  and avoid open, step slopes with few or no anchors.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

getting better

now we have some quality skiing.  really fun day, as the snow settled and allowed the skier to stay on top.  it was very creamy, silky.  a bit heavier down lower on the hill, but still quite turnable and managable.  i did not make it long enough thru the day to see if patrol opened hellroaring basin, but man, did it look GOOD!

selfishly,  i am hoping they do not open it today, and instead early wednesday am.  i will be there.  apparently only to the traverse,but that is the best stuff anyway. 

i think that as the colder air comes in, we will not see an ice layer form on snow from 5-6000 feet.  instead it should start to feel a bit lighter, as wet, rounded snow bonds break down a bit. 

it was starting to feel a bit more crowded today.  more locals, but it also seemed like some visitors are starting to hit the slopes.  should be relatively mellow thru xmas morning, but by friday afternoon thru jan 3, i expect pretty heavy crowds. 

with that said, i am hoping the backcountry solidifies so we can get out in it a bit more safely thru this holiday season, and for those of us who like to avoid crowds, we can.  it almost seems like all this new snow has solidified into a pretty solid base.  that does not mean there are incredibly bad layers down lower in the snowpack, they just might not be as likely to collaspe and run as before. i hope toget out and about and check it out in the next few days. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

the big wet

out of town for a few days, but got back in time for an afternoon session on sunday.  it felt like a midweek day, with just so few people.  the skiing was okay, although very heavy and hard to stay dry.  also, nearly impossible to keep the goggles clear.  could have (should have?) stayed for more, but it is football season, and i had to come and watch the broncos absolutely choke against the hated raiders.  arrrrgh!
today brought more of the same.  we got nearly 1/2 inch of rain in the valley yesterday, but mostly snow on the hill.  so with 8 overnight, and knowing the temps were going to get warmer over the day, i decided to get up there early.  and the lifts were not running.  okay, chair one was not running.  did it ever open?  they quickly got chair four up, and the skiing thru those great trees was quite fun, albeit challenging.  i left before chair 5 was running, so hopefully some of you got some turns in up top. 

so yesterday i got to ski with ted b. he and his lovely wife had climbed the mountain before it opened, and while she had had enough by 1pm, he was putting on dry clothes, excited to ski until the lifts closed behind him.  what a great effort. 

today i got to ski with jen and jerry.  and if you could have seen us, it was jerry and me chasing her down the deep, wet, snow.  way to turn up the speed. 

tedshred has added a very detailed analysis of the snowpack.  please read his comment on my last post.  especially the last line about being very careful, and making sure you are with solid, smart and well equiped partners. 

to me, i was not that upset that the area was having trouble getting lifts open. it seems like a lot of work.  but why can't they get it open on time, or close?  what do the ski areas in wetter climates do?  i don't imagine they open late every time it snows more than 6 inches of wet.  i am not going to go off against the employees or management, but do wonder if something could be done better? 

the forecast looks great after today. cooling temps and more snow.  with luck the next three-five days, before the crowds really arrive, could be awesome.  is it warm enough that cooling temps with freeze the top of the snowpack, for yet another ice layer?  or will new snow come in time before ice forms?  and will the cooling temps break the bonds in the existing heavy snow, to make it ski and seem lighter?  we'll start to get our answers tonight and tomorrow. 

okay, so my comments about the base lodge have caused some debate and consternation.  first of all, the comments are my opinion.  it is my blog.  but i don't want to piss people off. mostly trying to be funny.  but, i do wish that they had built things a bit differently when they re-built chair one, so that more parking would immediately access this chair.  i know some people don't mind riding chair six, i am just not one of them.  and i get that the base area and day care is comparable and perhaps better than many other places, but that since i don't have kids, this does not affect me.  things could have been done differently, and likely better, but they are what they are, and all in all, it is still a very fun ski hill, with enough amenities for all. 

now, i will say, that the parking situation can still be made better.  i do not understand why they do not have a parking assistant in the early morning hours.  i got there today, and the cedar lot was a mess. huge spaces between rows, then some were parked three cars deep.  since there is no parking assistant, we all need to do a better job of policing ourselves.  or perhaps we should all buy old beater subarus that we can trash and bash and make a sport out of creative parking, demolition derby style.  oops, wait, i guess that is already the case. 

see you all in the pow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

snow pro

okay, two pits dug off baby's butt.   12/17/09

first, N40degreeE
incline 35
elevation  6030
air temp .5C
precip, light snow
foot penetration  waist

154 cm depth
nov 28 ice layer at 94 cm - 2 cm thick, not decomposing whatsoever
snow pack temps were cold above ice layer, then warming considerably below, this could be a problem later
a weak bond between new light snow on top of ice layer, from beginnning of the week, and the newest, heavier snow, from the last two days. this was at 110 cm.  this layer may dissapate over time. i expect it will.
thin weak layer at 73 cm.  breaking thru the 94 cm ice layer could propogate down to this layer.  but if something goes on this ice, there is trouble anyway.
there are other ice layers below this. again, if they are failing due to propagation, there is big trouble already.
we had mixed results in our compression tests.  first went at CTM 3, Q3.  so, we thought, not too bad considering the circumstances. this failed at the 94cm ice layer
second test failed while cutting the column.  about as bad as it gets.
what we found interesting was it was failing below the ice. the entire ice layer was breaking off in the compression test.  hum?  any comments?
we did an extended column test, to examine likelihood of propogation.  chances are our techniques were not the best, but we did find moderate propogation.

so we skied a highly treed slope, very carefully, and immediately had one huge settlement.  but no fracture or settlement lines.  then nothing else.  it skied okay, but very heavy, with a super punchy layer.   skied dropping below the ice layer can easily get caught and take a skier down.  this of course would be trouble.  so we skied WAAAAY in the backseat. 

second pit
S130degrees SE
slope 28 degrees

133 cm depth. 
november 28th ice at 76 cm
weak bond between light and heavy snow at 109 cm.
again, mixed results on column tests, but mostly it failed easily at 76 cm.  mild propogation below.
on this exposure, the snow was failing above the ice, and we found faceted crystals, 2 cm lying on top. htis seemed much more normal, to me.
so, given the angle, plenty of anchors, and a slope known to not slide, we skied this without event. it skied quite well.  it did take me a couple of turns to get used to the heavy snow, after skiing inbounds fluff monday and tuesday.
so, not a professional  report by any means, and not much differnent then we expected.  it still remains.  avoid open slopes over 30 degrees, on all aspects.  this could take a lot of time and snow to become safe, if it ever really gets safe.  but you know, weighing ones options of pleasure vs. pain.

great fun last night at the Crush.  thanks brian, mike, ryan. and all the readers.  (even though some were a bit long winded).  looking forward to the reading.  and for the rowdy crowd in the back, and a few others, maybe we need a reading with tomatoes and eggs and a medieveal aspect.

okay, i am out for the weekend.  hope the snow settles and then continues.  lets get as many turns in as possible before the masses arrive. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

pineapple cake

yep, it is upside down, with a huge ice layer we are all aware of still there, as it will remain.  however, it is acting in many different ways. sorry for the very brief and informal discusion following. i will update in the am.  time is pressed. went on a brief tour off the ski area, and dug two pits and had it react differently in three different compression tests.  from moving while cutting, to hardly moving at all. then it did not seem to move much in an extended column test.  i think as much as anything, it is unpredictable, and best to stay away from open slopes above 30 degrees.

snow is heavy on top of ice, on top of light.  hence, the upside down pineapple cake.  right now the heavy is tough to manage, and overall, still punchy. and trail breaking is very tough.  okay, i will be more descriptive in the am.

thanks for the post, ep.  good to hear the office is keeping you safe. i hope not too much or too long.

okay, so the ski area continues its long time woes of getting open on time on days of heavy snow.  but to be angry at the ski patrol or the liftees is just wrong.  the liftees have nothing to do with it, and don't know more than they are told.  the patrol has it's work to do, and does not (to the best of my knowledge) have a team of avy guys who get to go up early on these days, like so many other areas.  are they too conservative? maybe, at times. but they have to consider everyone who is skiing, not just the experts who feel entitled to ski wherever, whenever.  look up off the easy street cattrack, below elkweed.  just as the trees open up, there is a fracture line.  this tiny type of event can bury someone.  people do get buried in bounds, and sometimes die. it happened 2 or 3 times last year. fortunately, not here.  so come on, let them do their jobs. our jobs are to have fun.  and as one of the great all time ski bums once said "there is no use getting stressed out when you are having fun!"

skiing inbounds changed dramatically over the week.  we are now skiing on top of all the light fluff, in the heavy new snow.  but this will supply us the base we need for the long winter.

okay, off to the whitefish review party.  hope to see some of you there, as it is always fun, and a good cause. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

new report

please read the comment made on 12/14/09. report from jewel basin.  also, look at GCAC website.  although the forecast is outdated, it still discusses the snowpack in different areas. 
weather forecast is about as good as it gets.  warmer air coming from the pacific with moisture could really give us some much needed snow and bulk.  but it will also increase avy danger.  just  be careful, especially on open slopes. 

just talked with patrol.  west bowl will not open until a fair amount of snow has fallen. they need to be able to get a groomer down to the bottom of the chair, for rescue sake.  we are probably 12-18 inches of new snow away from that being able to happen.  i bet it is great in there though. 

okay, love the comments.  thanks for the report from the jewel.  like to get more of that.  see you out there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

great day!

well, for those who did not get to ski today,  try to make it up this week.  they opened the entire front side and it was fantastic.  still not really a base, but it was just great skiing.  on north and east facing slopes you can still feel the nov 28 rain crust, but could not on the face, good med and front side skiing. 

we have not had skiing like this in december for some time.  and with just over a week to go before xmas, it is a great time to ski the mountain with just a few hundred of our good friends. 

pasting on a comment about the base lodge.  i got two comments on this rant, and this is the one i like and can relate to. 

And on a side note…I do use the lodge. Tim went in for the first time last Saturday to hang with Cody by the fireplace so I could ski, …(I tried to send him to the stube, but it’s hard to set up a blanket on the stube floor.) I was at the outpost for the first time THIS weekend and HOLY SHIT, you are right, it IS for tourists, RICH tourists, but I did notice a few local parents doing the swap out so they could have kids AND ski…. day care on the mountain is sooooo expensive… there was one kid in the daycare. You can’t even hang out in that area WITH your kid if you don’t pay, wow!!! But I fully agree, the parking situation sucks, especially if you have all your ski gear and kid gear. AND the coffee at the outpost costs more than a top shelf cocktail at the Stube, and so helloooo…who the ef can afford a beer?…such BULLSHIT!!! Have you ever seen the brown bag lunch room in there as well?? There are NO TABLES???!!! Wow, can we screw the local any more????


okay, first of all.  i hope you are all finding this, and reading it. but also, look at the comments.  ted stiener has been adding some very important information, including a youtube clip.  although the snow is getting deeper and more fun, we have a seriously BAD snowpack, that needs to be treated with respect and care.  i cannot over emphasize this!  besides teds reports, i have talked with others, and searched around a bit myself.  the november 28th ice layer is still around, and likely will be for the year.  below it is nothing but faceted crap.  it is BAD.  did i already say that.  well, it cannot be said enough.  okay, enough lecturing.  it is just too bad.

thanks to jon p and tedshred for signing up and writing comments.  let's all get in on this and get the info out there. 

skiing here does continue to get better, and hopefully we will see some more inbounds terrain open up on a daily basis.  the weather continues to look good, although perhaps a bit too warm mid week.  this of course could create a massive slide cycle. 

at least the wind did not hit the high country.  how is that possible?  has anyone been into the middle fork, or the jewel, and if so, what have you seen and could you comment, please?  here is some info from ted and gallatin.

so, parking at the Big.  another year of bullshit.  just got off the phone.  $175 buys you a pass to the cedar lot.  this is the middle lot, one below the bierstube.  the birch lot, the one adjoining the bierstube is sold out.  but $175?  that is 35 days.  not something really worth considering, in my opinion.  on saturday, i arrived at the mountain at noon. there were 9 (yes that is a single digit number) cars in the cedar lot.  what a f-ing joke.  compare to oh, say fernie.  they have tons of free, great access parking.  and parking lot attendants, making sure the space is being used efficiently.  (by the way, rumor has it they did not get the november 28th rain layer).  or maybe compare it to the ice rink.  like the ski area, you can buy a season pass, or pay daily, or buy a punch card.  but pay for parking?  no, of course not.  so once again about 400 users will try to pack into the lower lot, that can safely hold maybe 100 cars.  so how many locals have to get subjected to riding up chair six.  and do any of us really use that lodge or those base facilities?  no, of course not.  they are for tourists.  so let them park there, and let us park where we always did.  but it will not be.  apparently foley and his legions need the extra $15-20000 that they get from parking thru the winter.  i am sure this makes their books profitable.  not.

just took a look at the weather.  getting warm, with chance of rain in town, but most likely snow in the hills.  this should help consolidate the snowpack, and maybe bring in an avy cycle.  which could be what we need.  but an avy cycle does not mean something is then safe for the rest of the year.  the facets junk can remain.  but it should really help the inbounds skiing.  see you up or out there.

Avalanche Warning





..Our snowpacks are not that different with the main difference being SW Montana has a bit more snow... But I am sure you saw (I hope you did) as I did that the slab that broke off in the Hyalite You Tube accident clip that the slab was maybe 2' thick at the most... We're setup for a very tender situation... Anyway, thought you would like to see this- Ted.

523 AM MST SUN DEC 13 2009

















DECEMBER 14, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

getting there

just a quick note and more later.  death in hyalite canyon, near bozeman.  similiiar snowpack to ours.  it is on youtube.

i hope this will work. 
okay, skiing is getting better, and snow is in the forecast. but so is high winds.  could blow the snow away.  and make new hard layers. we will see.  ski today, stay warm tomorrow.
so, if you read the big mountains website, they are saying north bowl and evans are skiing like powder.  well, sort of. still very hollow, sugary and the last rain crust still apparent. but it was fun and with care can be skied well. and certainly more of a powder affect than groomers.  and this stuff needs to get skied in, BAD!
this weekend should help with that.  backside is completely open, but needs more skiers as well.  lower kodiak is a mess, and lower lift line is still pretty ugly as well.  some summer maintenance would help, but for now, new snow. 

so , this year the new rule when taking pass photos was no funny faces or hats or other garb near the face.  so of course i had to see what i could do.  my over exuberant smile passed by the photo clerk, but got noticed by a chair 7 liftee.  if anything, this should make it harder for someone to pass as me.  but it is the NEW big mountain, and rules are rules.  actually, he did not bust me, just asked when i had had the picture taken.  i wonder if they will track down the photographer for a lecture or worse.  man, am i glad i don't work up there.

okay, hope to see you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

new snow

okay, it has warmed up a bit and is snowing as i write.  the patrol is getting close to getting some more runs open, and have indeed opened the entire backside.  lower mountain is a bit low on snow, but the varied crusts have somehow formed a firm layer that you can stay on top of.  still not sure how this layer will present itself thru the winter.  some thoughts are it will break down with the weight of new snow and because there is still some thermal radiation coming up from the ground.  i am not overly optimistic about this thought process.  any ideas out there you avy guys? 

first fraebert as predicted, had as many people there as were on the hill for the day.  i got up there for an afternoon hike up and ski down big ravine.  an unknown skier was observed skiing ed's, and claimed it to be GREAT!  big ravine was fine, and certainly could be ready with some more lower mountain snow.  but man, was it cold.  even hiking, with multiple layers, we had trouble staying warm.  the usual issues.  extremities.  but the dogs loved it, and going up from above chair three kept us completely away from the public, (except for the unknown skier), and therefore we took the dogs. not for much longer though.  and the dogs got cold too. 

fraebert was fun as usual.  and a great winner, though i missed his name.  he did the job of gettting the beer down though, a good start to another fun year both on and around the hill, and at the stube. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

f-ing cold

the cold continues, and the skiing is still the same. 202 people on the mountain yesterday, monday december 7th. i was not one of them. today could be less, with even lower temps.

tomorrow is first fraebert. will there be more people at it than actually skied. if you don't ski, don't work on the hill or live on the mountain, is it just to those who did or do, to drive up and lap the beer?

as soon as this cold breaks, i believe we will start to see some snow come thru. in the meantime, stay warm and take some walks to keep the muscles. is anyone out there having great snow?