Friday, February 26, 2010

It's not too late.........

............. Just got back from skiing Blacktail nordic trails .........even though last year at this time there was 3' of snow and there's only 1' of snow now - the snow is great and no bare spots!! Steve usually has the track groomed by 10am and with the warmer weather it's been getting soft later in the day so the early bird definately has the fast track!!
........... Also - this is fund raising week at NationalPublicRadio (KUFM) in Missoula - they are a little behind where they need to be with pledges so if you have any $$ to spare, you might think of calling or pledging on line (mtpr.org). Remember Sunday is Pet Wars and you can pledge for your pets - that's also the last day of pledge week!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"The Boy's" Winter...or Is Winter Over Already?!?!?!

Chris paid me boatloads of money to write a post about El Nino Southern Osciallation (ENSO) and its effects on our region this winter. Disclaimer: I am not an expert on climate cycles...I don't pretend to be...It just makes me feel smart when I use terms like "shear" and "amplitude" and...um..."weather".

Alright...I'll leave it up to the viewing audience to do your homework and google the basics of ENSO (BOTH cool-phase and warm-phase), Pacific Decadal Osciallation (PDO), and Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). They all play a role in how ENSO can affect our winters. Then there are the details of ocean circulation patterns, but let's keep it simple.

So getting down to it...ENSO will stick around through at least the spring of 2010 according to the Climate Prediction Center(CPC) at NOAA. Most models are predicting that ENSO has peaked in the December-January-February span and is on the decline with half the models suggesting it will persist through April-May-June 2010. This is all info that can be found on the CPC website from above. So break out the flip-flops, start kayaking tomorrow, and quite a few folks have already started running and riding. It is possible that it will extend into the summer as well. If you want to know a bit more keep reading. If not, have fun sunning yourself the rest of the winter. The CPC provides a nice weekly update (and thorough overall explanation of things like various ENSO indices and updates the 3-month probability graphs at that time):

So, ENSO is a result of sea surface temperature (SST) change in the Pacific Ocean due to either a weak or strong upwelling of cold water, and this year is a warm-phase (El Nino). Whereas a cool-phase like 2007-08 is referred to as a La Nina. During a warm phase cycle, the jet stream moves south and becomes more zonal (straight west to east) thus favoring California and the southwestern U.S. The polar jet sinks south and effects eastern Canada and U.S. Whereas in a La Nina year, the jet stream shifts north. This all occurs because of changes in atmospheric heating resulting from changes in SSTs and convection patterns.

This image shows the aforementioned jet stream patterns and as you can see we stay warm and fairly dry.


However, PDO is a climate cycle that shifts every 20 or 30 years and is detected by sea surface temperatures in the Pacific. It manifests itself in ways similar to ENSO, but persists for a much longer time scale. To learn more, here is a link that briefly describes the pattern and provides many more links. http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/

PDO affects our region in various ways as well depending upon the cool or warm phase. I "borrowed" a few graphs I saw on a skiing forum a while back that I had saved because they depict the situation very clearly. For credit sake, they were created by an individual named "walrus", a weather/climate forecaster in Missoula. If he is reading this, it's Chris' fault.


This one shows how PDO (both warm and cool phases) can affect moderate ENSO winters (+0.5-1.0 degree Celsius) in Missoula.

This graph shows snowfall amounts in the region during moderate El Nino years. The Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) is currently +1.8 degrees Celsius, which is a bit more than moderate. This number is a 3-month running average of SSTs in a certain region of the Pacific that affects us the most in western N. America. However, these graphs are pretty neat.

So, sure, we may still see a nice storm or two in our area this winter/spring, but I wouldn't expect the skies to burst and bring us a "sickter, epic, blower all over, brobra" rest of the winter. We are hovering just around 76% of average (35 year average) for the Flathead River Basin in terms of precipitation and around 72% for snow water equivalence (SWE). Of course, this is only an average for the basin, and some SNOTEL sites are a bit closer to average.

Wow...too much...are you still reading? Go skiing!!!

Thrills, Action and Adventure - Oh my!

In honor of all the folks ripping around the Middle Fork during our seemingly endless bout of living between storm tracks I though I'd share some video action. Plus maybe this will distract minds from the "skinning up the hill" issues. Ha ha. Check it out at http://www.vimeo.com/9734945

Lamson vs. The Cornice

A quick vid of Mr. Middle Fork Secret Spot himself wrestling with a cornice ;) He probably wished he had one of those dangerous looking poles for this one...This is no Costain video, but the lead role sure does deserve an Oscar for his performance.


video

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

funny story?

i think this is kind of funny.  a couple of days ago i was talking to a young couple who have been in town for about 6 months. one of them works on the big mountain, so we ended up discussing issues and policies concerning the resort.  they were both quite defensive towards anything critical about how the big mountain is run.  this reminded me of when i first moved up here. a couple people i became friends with early on, had decent jobs at the resort and were very defensive towards criticism.  only after a few years, when they could no longer take the BS of resort management, and had moved on, were they able to see how perhaps their views had been clouded by their jobs.  one of the beautiful things about this country, and most any solid democracy in the world, is freedom of speech. it is in our constitution. 

but what was really funny to me, was the consistent comparisons to Colorado, from where they had moved.  because parking at resorts in colorado is worse than what we have, we should be thankful for that. because uphill traffic is more limited in colorado, we should be thankful for that.  no matter where the discussion turned, it had to be compared to colorado.  and guess what? we just don't compare to colorado. that is why so many of us moved here.  so why is that funny.  well i moved here in the fall of 1991, after 13 years in colorado (yes i am getting old, and with 50 just around the corner, i can no longer deny this fact), and that is how i was then.  in a long ago discussion with Westin, i was the one comparing everything to colorado.  a discussion he brings back to my attention every year or two.  so now, after over 18 years, i apologize for my ignorance and condenscending manner.  WF and Mt. are great and beautiful on their own merits.  for what we have that is so great, we compare favorably to so many places, and though we do not need to brag about it, we can relish in it.  but if there is something better somewhere that we can do something about (ex.  i mentioned how great parking is at fernie, but this was apparently unfair, as it is canada?), why not aspire to greater things.  and if another place is better, than f-ing move there.

skiing and uphill traffic updates

the skiing yesterday was better than it had been, as the snow softened in a few spots.  still pretty stiff. but sun is sun around here, and best to enjoy it while you can, for as you can see, it is gone today.  see you in a month, dear sun.

as for uphill traffic.  we most all know of the severe limitations being put on uphill traffic.  if you are someone with a regular job, and really relish the time after hours to stretch the legs, blow out the lungs and feel the wind in your face, all by 7 pm, well, have some fun for 5 more days, learn some sneaky routes and most importantly, send you comments to the big mountain. 

they continue to say this remains an open discussion, but i have my doubts.  if you have time, look back at one of my uphill updates and get the facebook page discussing this matter.  there are many good ideas, but mostly it is a conversation by a few, not the masses.  we need the masses. and read ALL the comments on this page.  some are constructive and hopeful for a better tomorrow.  one, by phil, realizes the present and has an interesting perspective.  can this idea of boycotting foley business really do much to change the corporate ideology pervasive throughout the big mountain management?  probably not, but it is an idea.  and i really like his thoughts on why the groomers might be a bit upset.  and of course, if suddenly the big mountain has to begin drug testing and can no longer employ $10/hour stoners to run their $200,000 dollar groomers, they might have to pay going rates to machine operators, which i am sure they would not be very happy about. 

i am trying really hard to stay positive towards a better compromise, and not just bitch about poor decisions, but it will become increasingly difficult. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

general info

well, we should hear sometime today.  no more uphill traffic after 4:30. starting march 1.  so get out there while you can.  word has it this is not set in stone, but a starting point.  i have no recollection of something being taken away and then given back, but maybe we can get lucky on this one. 

skiing is holding up, but backcountry is the place to be.  just look at the two posts by brad and pete.  great job and thanks. 

on the hill, it has been beautiful, but cold, so not corning up at all. although corn would be more fun, it is better for long term snowpack to keep it frozen. 

on the nordic end.  you can look at updates on grooming for the golf course, round meadows and stillwater on http://www.glaciernordicclub.com/  .  i can tell you that as of monday afternoon, feb 22, no grooming had been done for four days at round meadows.  it is frozen and rutted.  difficult for classic or skate.  hopefully they get on that today. 

the olympics have been great.  the best winter olympics ever for the US.  the men's hockey tourny has been super, and will just get better.  6 great teams.  the women's has been painfully boring, with no one close to either the US or Canada. but they meet in the finals on thursday at 4:30 pm,  and that will be "a war" in the words of fitzy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's right there on the Map. Secret spo... Mt. Grant.


Could the USFS determine that Backcountry skiing is dangerous, could
cause serious bodily injury or even death and
make you stay home and watch OSHA approved safety
videos on backcountry skiing? Likely not, but that thing
on the end of your pole, looks dangerous!

Nine cars parked at Rescue Creek, glad I didn't go skiing there.
It is one of the best spots though in the whole Middle Fork corridor.
Skiing is still holding up pretty good.
We did see several 14"- 20" slabs that had pulled out,
size 2 that ran anywherefrom 800'- 2000', with similar elevation loss on a variety of aspects. Most likely ran on facets that developed a couple of weeks. Last weeks storm that was accompanied by strong winds pushed around just enough snow to overload some things. Not big enough to bury you, but you could go for quite a ride, lose some gear, break a few bones, go over a cliff.... Snow on the way? Might be a good time to pay a bit of extra attention since we haven't really had to for the past few weeks.

Still some nice skiing out there.


Those are some sweet goggles. Are they new?


E.P. enjoying some tea time on top of Mt. Grant.


East face of Mt. Grant.


J.K. sliding towards home for a Red Beer.


Maybe a Rolling Rock would taste better?

Secret Spot - #1,437,895.3


New Fog Machine created to protect Secret Back Country Ski Spots.



Pete Costain peering into Secret Spot #1,437,895.5.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

uphill update

direct from pr at the big.  keep thinking


Hello all --

A couple of new things related to uphill traffic:







•For any of you that are on Facebook, I would recommend joining a new group that local photographer and skinner David Marx has created called "Protect the Right to Responsible Uphill Travel at Whitefish Mountain Resort". I think it is a good place to take this conversation public, talk to others you may not already know who participate in this pastime, and so on. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=info&gid=315081054303

•For those of you I haven't talked to in the past couple of days, WMR representatives are meeting with the USFS on Monday to talk about things, and we'll be presenting a proposal for a policy to them. I'll be sending out an update after that happens.

•All of us up here are assuming that whatever sort of policy we land on with the USFS, it will need to be tweaked/reworked after a couple of months in action. So, please don't give up on taking your part in this conversation after the first version of this thing gets ratified.

•Just a clarification: If and when something is finalized, we'll be passing out flyers, taking out newspaper ads, and having conversations with individuals on the slopes for a while before actually putting anything into action, so we're hoping by the time any new rules go into effect, it won't be a surprise to anyone.

•For those of you who haven't already, check out Mt. Bachelor's policy - http://www.mtbachelor.com/winter/services/safety_policies/uphill_access - as well as another mountain in Washington called Mission Ridge - http://www.missionridge.com/mountain_safety/uphill_mountain_policy.html. They're the two I have found so far, and both are very similar to what we're proposing. Bachelor is lift-operation hours only, Mission Ridge starts 2 hours before lifts open and closes with sweep.

•To the two or three of you whom I started this conversation with before the first meeting between ski school, Chester Powell, Dan, grooming, marketing, and me, I want to apologize for being a little too confident in the way I understood the situation at that point. Two years ago, a similar but smaller meeting took place, and my take-away then was that an uphill policy was unrealistic because unless we expended resources to enforce it, we would be putting ourselves more at risk for liability than if we continued to simply "recommend against it". That was the advice from our lawyers at the time, and that is what I told a few of you before this process really got started. As it turns out, some recent serious close calls with winch cats and other groomers have pushed the issue over the tipping point, and now, having identified those particular dangers, the law doesn't really allow us to fail to act. I think most of us went in hoping to come out with some sort of educational strategy as a first step, but in fact we all came out agreeing that we could be potentially held responsible for injuries if we didn't do more than that. I'll provide more details on this sort of logic later.

Of particular interest to me personally in regards to the Washington resorts with uphill policies is a law that is mentioned on Mission Ridge's uphill policy page, RCW 4.24.210. That law states that:

any ... in lawful possession and control of any lands ... who allow members of the public to use them for the purposes of outdoor recreation ... without charging a fee of any kind therefor, shall not be liable for unintentional injuries to such users.

Full text here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=4.24.210





Montana does not have a similar law on the books that I can find, and so I would like to start a movement to have something like this passed. A law like this would make uphill traffic and other activities outside of the hours that ski patrol is available a much less frightening proposition for us, as far as personal injury law goes. It's a little fuzzy, since we do charge for downhill skiing, but it would help. It would also make it a lot easier for companies like F.H. Stolze Land & Lumber to continue providing recreational access to the public on their land, which I know they constantly struggle with in the same way we're struggling with uphill traffic: They want to do it, but the first fatality that happens has the potential to put them out of business, and that's scary.





So, thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far and thank you to everyone who has been patient with me in regards to getting back to you.





More on Monday,





Donnie

Friday, February 19, 2010

uphill traffic and nordic skiing

Well, the story hit the papers, so nothing is hidden anymore. I still hope there is some room for compromise. Cutting out all night traffic really hurts a lot of people. I have already heard many complaints, but they need to be constructive to have any legitimacy.




Went for a skate ski at round meadows yesterday, late morning into the early afternoon. The coverage there is outstanding, and while they are doing a better than usual job with grooming, it is not an everyday occurrence. So there was still quite a bit of frozen ruts, making some of the downhill sections a bit nervous. So while the terrain at round meadows is as good as anywhere, the grooming at Stillwater remains the best.



I ran into a couple gals who were out for a walk with their dogs, and since they saw I had two as well, they mentioned a deer kill down just off the trail I was just entering, Chechenko. They were concerned it was from a mountain lion, which may have still been nearby. Well before it, I was warned of the location. Usually when I have observed birds flying off a kill like this, it will be one bald eagle, and half a dozen or more ravens, and perhaps a few magpies. But this was just the opposite. No fewer than 6 bald eagles took to the air, and only one raven. I wish I could have observed them while they were still on the carcass.



Two new slide incident reports on the GCAC website. One from a snowmobilier, one from a skier. No burial on injuries, but with warm temps and sunny skis, stability seems to have decreased somewhat. Anyone?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

uphill traffic update

just got off the phone after a long conversation with donnie clapp, a public relations employee at the resort.  they are definetely in a conversation about limiting uphill traffic, and are meeting sometime next week with usfs personnel.  they are strongly considering limiting uphill traffic to 6:30 am to 4:30 pm, toni matt only.  i offered many other possible solutions, and asked to him to strongly consider any way they could to maintain some uphill traffic after hours.  he was very cordial and said he would absolutely take my remarks to future meetings, but we will see how that goes.  he did not know how they would enforce it, but did not think this was going to be the problem. 

i don't really think bombarding donnie or becky smith powell (of the usfs) with calls is going to make a huge difference. perhaps emails would be a better choice.  but if you want to be involved, try to be constructive and even inovative.  just whining is not going to help and likely will hinder. 

pr@skiwhitefish.com  is donnie's email

brsmith@fs.fed.us  is becky's. 

i have asked both becky and donnie to keep me informed of thoughts, discussions and decisions, and i will keep the posts up to date and concise.  please let me know thoughts, concerns and ideas.  thanks. cbm

too many rules

life has too many rules. 

cops are out busting people for driving 3mph thru a stop sign, while kids are smoking crack around every corner.  (as reported by an anonymous nurse).

the ski resort wants to limit uphill traffic because one or two skiers dare to ride to close behind a groomer, thereby ruining the new corduroy.  (although they will say it is a hazard because they are not aware of the skier, i have been scolded myself for the prior, not the latter).   yes, this has become a real issue. i talked with a forest service officer who said she is indeed going to meet with chet powell at the big mountain and talk about limitations.  some of the issues are real.  people, come on. don't walk up the middle of a ski run during the day, don't ski too close to groomers at night, and please, if you see a winch-cat groomers, stay away from it.  would you walk onto a construction sight and right under a crain hauling a huge load?  i hope not!  but i believe some of the issues are just more points on an agenda of new ownership and control.  god forebid someone has fun up on the resort in a way no one can collect some cash.

then of course there is my biggest peeve.  dogs.  how is it possible i can go onto state or federal land and not be allowed to have my dogs.  no, not the park, or a ski resort, where the concerns are real. but why can i take my dogs skiing on this nordic trail, but not this one?  are dogs really any more problematic to wild life than the humans that are using the various trails?  once there is substantial human impact, the dogs are just superfluous.  if there is a problem dog, then deal with it. just like on the ski hill, if someone consistenly causes a problem hiking up in traffic, or skiing too near a groomer, don't blame the public at large. 

so, thinking of skiing. yes this is at heart, a blog on recreation, i have been doing lots of nordic over the last few weeks, as the ski resort skiing is pretty mediocre.  not bad, just not great.  but the nordic has been great.  therein came the problem with the dogs.  but that is enough about that.  the skiing at stillwater continues to be great.  fast!  the skiing out at round meadows has been great too. they have been grooming out there more regularly this year, making skating an option on most days.  (thanks much to the usfs getting whatever money it can to the volunteers who make that happen).  but i went to the WF golf course yesterday, and they are hurting.  too much warm weather and sun.  i only skied the north loop, and by 11 am it was super mushy and and soft.  and there were numerous puddles clogging the lanes, and too huge puddles causing detours.  i would expect, without some new snow, for this one to not last much into march.  so early am is the call there, or after dark might be good as well. 

in the meantime, the touring remains remarkable.  no, not deep pow, but stable and easy travel.  take a hint from brad and go BIG!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Benefit Slideshow & Gear Auction!!

Locals Ben Parsons & Brandon French have organized a fundraiser to help cover their race fees and travel costs to the Ski Mountaineering World Championships in Andorra (this March). The slideshow, this Thursday Feb 18, features local artists Noah Couser and Silent Matter Productions and will be followed by a gear auction. Place - KM Theatre, above Red's Wines & Blues in Kalispell - 7pm - 9pm. Suggested donation $10 at the door!!

soup de jour

okay, before my ski report, some comments. 
let's start off with the big one.  sounds like the mountain management is getting serious about uphill limitations.  PLEASE read the post from rmo and the comments by kj.  and then make some calls.  lets try to be persausive.

second.  i sure wish brad would post more often, as his are by far the best and most enjoyable, with the best pictures.  how, though, with that group (if there is an A team in the flathead, the group he went with on this trip is IT!), did they start out predawn and still end up two hours late.  just had to do one more run, didn't you?!  actually i am quite sure with these guys, it was an epic.  i wish i had been there, but then again, with old and chubby along, they would have been 6 hours late. 

okay, as far as what i have found.  got up on the hill yesterday, in as thick a fog as we get. in the parking lot, i could not see two cars in front of me.  so i was not surprised when my new dog and newly discovered "escape artist", found her way to the lift while i was still putting on the boots. fortunately, she does come to my whistle, so we averted any issues.  i will keep a better eye on her though. 

but the lift rose thru the fog and into some clear skies at the bottom of the face.  and the skiing was good throughout the mountain.  it was a mixture of spring skiing with small dashes of powder. of course, with our lack of snow, there are moguls everywhere.  fun but not like deep.  unless you have been watching the olympics and are all amped up after the freestyle comps.  kind of makes my knees ache just watching them, but boy, can they fly!!!

so with a little snow in the forecast, the skiing should remain adequate and fun.  i am still rooting for a return to normal weather and snow patterns in march. 

The Big Liebigski

Really, was it worth it? That 6:30am start, boy is it busy down here, this is like spring, there's not much snow, I hope the snow softens up, I forgot my THERMOS, the constant thought that you made a commitment to be home to hang with your family by 4 Ol'Clock.


Yes, it's really busy in the Middle Fork this year.


Not so bushy and great views of St. Nick. E.P. on the way up using
those high heel pegs.


The Objective, Mt. Liebig.


Going up!



That's a BIG cornice.


Going down.


Really its a good time to get out and get after it. Despite the lack of any significant snow over the past several weeks the skiing remains good and the stability has been Very Good. Good skiing down to 4200', freezing level 4500', mixed bag of snow types from soft wind deposited snow, sun crust, wind slab... just about anything you could think of is out there.


Two hours late, "Sorry and the promise of dinner still stands(E, buys the Kokanee though)". Thanks"L" for being understanding of your husband, I know he thinks you are the greatest and a super excellent mom.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jewell Basin, Dogs & Race this weekend!

We were in Jewell Basin yesterday - Sunday. It was sunny , no wind, good snow, 30cm ski penetration. Be careful with those buried layers!!

Chris asked me to report on which nordic areas allow dogs - that would be Blacktail, Glacier Outdoor Center (West Glacier), Round Meadows and Stillwater Nordic!

Speaking of Stillwater Nordic - they are hosting a race this Sunday - Feb 21 - The Great American Broken Binding Race! Race lengths will be 3.2k, 16k, 32k, or 48k (longest race in the Flathead). If you have any questions give Reid a call at 261-2262 - this should be loads of fun! These guys know a thing or two about fun!!

Big Mountain Up Hill Traffic

Just got word the other day in the shop that really soon Big Mtn will be changing their uphill traffic policies - ugghhh!!! They will allow uphillers on Toni Matt only and only between 6:30am-4:30pm daily. I guess the problem is people have been complaining that early morning corduroy has been carved up by late night skiers. We'll keep you posted on this..........................

Saturday, February 13, 2010

some snow!

okay, it is not deep, but it is powder.  it is better than at this point last week. so we are moving in the right direction.  i have not been in the backcountry for a bit, so i am wondering how this new snow is bonding to the old snowpack.  is any of that surface hoar causing problems? 

colleen from RMO is now sending in info on nordic skiing throughout the valley. this is a great addition.  thanks.

back by popular demand, my rant on the parking issues at the (still) Big.  yes, i actually had two people tell me they missed my insight on this issue. of course, it could be because they had been drinking. 

but as usual, the parking in the cedar lot has remained nearly empty, while the majority of the locals try to squeeze into the dogwood lot.  i am now shopping for an old beat up celica of something like that, that i can drive into i ditch if it allows me to stay away from parking below chair six.  what would it take to get management to try something different?  we need a mole to invade the corrupt attitude in the corporation.  unfortunately, as far as i can tell, the people who run the place are already moles, or some other kind of subterrainian varmints, that cannot see or hear the issues of us locals.  so i will keep looking for that tiny piece of crap car that can fit anywhere, and that i don't care if it gets hit or towed. 

the forecast has moisture in it, but not much accumulation. let's hope they are just a bit off in their predictions. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nordic Track Skiing in the Flathead

In spite of the poor showing of snow in the valley the nordic track skiing has been pretty darn good so I thought I would mention some of the many options available to skate or classic track ski.

1. Glacier Nordic Center: - 12 K's - aka Whitefish Golf Course - $8 - www.glaciernordicclub.wordpress.org.
2. Round Meadows - 19K's - Farm to Market Rd to Star Meadows Rd. - Donation
www.glaciernordicclub.wordpress.org
3. Flathead Valley Community College - 6K's - Grandview Dr to the Arts & Tech Bldg - $2-
www.glaciernordicclub.wordpress.org
4. Blacktail - 19K's - Blacktail Rd 8.1miles from Lakeside - Donation
www.northshorenordic.org

Privately owned Nordic Centers:
1. Stillwater Nordic - 25K's - Hwy 93N of Whitefish to Beaver Lake Rd - $12 -
862-7004
2. Izaak Walton Inn - 33K's - Essex - $10 -
888-5700
3. Glacier Outdoor Center - 10K's - West Glacier - $8 -
888-5454

Don & I have skied at Blacktail Nordic, Stillwater Nordic and Glacier Nordic in the last few days and we would give them all a 9 out of 10 rating!! CH 7 waxes for skaters and Special Blue was for classic would be our wax recommendations!! Happy trails!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

avy 2

a quick link to an upcoming course. 


level 2 on March 4=7 2010.


www.whitefishbackcountry.com .

$495.00

not much happening, and i have not been on hill in some time, but it is snowing.  let's hope to  break this high pressure. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

one week into febuary

yep, another dry feb.  pretty normal.  i am hoping march will bring a weakening of the el nino affect, and hence more moisture to the area.  for now, there is still plenty of soft turns on north and east aspects, up above 6000 feet, and the touring is fun.  pretty easy to go a long way.  but it sure would be nice to ski  some deep powder. 
i went touring out of hamilton, mt last week, for four days.  the bitterroots are a steep and rugged mountain range, and very rocky.  i forget how gentle our terrain can be.  i have never done more base damage to my skis in a short period of time.  the scraping sound of ski on rock just became standard.  but we were able to find some good skiing.  if you think el nino has been tough here, go to ravalli county, and the bitterroots.  it is THIN!  but we were able to get up to 8000 feet quite easily, and find nice turns on north and easterly aspects.  unfortunately, the south and westerly aspects were too thin and the snowpack too unconsolidated to make it even worth trying.  spring time. 
so now i am home, waiting for some more snow, and skiing as much nordic as anyone can enjoy, as it continues to be a solid choice for exercise and fun.