Thursday, March 31, 2011

last day of march

march always seems like the longest month to me. but it has stayed winter, at least in the high country, so most of the skiers should be happy.

yes, last post i talked about hitting the high/high country. but rain and snow continue to come, and the trees are the safer place to be. it has been wet, but with decent gear and the right attitude, there has been plenty of skiing and powder. yep, powder.

i admit i am ready to get out the mountain bike and hit some trails, but i have to admit, i am likely going to need to go desert bound for that, which is not an option this year. so powder, wet and cold, will be the dessert de-jour.

eventually the weather will stabilize (july?) and it will be time to get up high. until then, take what we got. enjoy the last few weeks of the mountain being open, enjoy a long spring of hiking the hill after it closes, get out into the real world of peaks and chutes when the time is right.

and then get out the dry suit and hit the rivers, the wet weather gear and hit the trails, and i am sure some rivers will show some good fishing opportunities, but not sure when. need to talk to the experts on that one.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


yep, spring has sprung, and the time has come to look for corn lines. sure, northern aspects still hold some soft snow, and with some additional yesterday, worth looking for. but now is the time to start thinking; Peaks!!

which is what i did with a small group down near ovando over the weekend. saturday found us a bit hungover, with crappy weather, wind and clouds. since we had snowmobiles, and i remain a novice, we thought of being sled neckers, at least somewhat. we drove from monture creek to seeley, with thoughts of sledding into town and having a beer. but due to recent logging activity, the trails near the main trailhead were obliviated, and we ended up turning tail and heading back, just in time for an afternoon squall. we logged over 40 miles, good for my experience, but maybe not so good for overall enjoyment for a group of guys who really will never be sledders. not at heart.

on sunday, with slightly more responsible adult behavior, we rose early and got a decent start, and with only a short drive and ride, were at the base of ovando mountain. certainly we could have picked a better route, but we are still learning the area down there. one thing is for sure, there is a lot of terrain, without all that much sledding to get one started.

we were lucky the sun hid around 11am, as the snow never really changed from its frozen, solid state. this mountain does not look that big, but is over 3000 vertical feet, and if you had a full day to expend, you could log some big miles and vert. but with mediocre (dust on crust) skiing, and the drive home ahead of us, we just did an up and down, found a much better route out than in, and were back at the sleds in no time.

montana just has so much space and mountainous terrain. the middle fork of the flathead is barely touched by our vast, diverse group of backcountry users, so when you get to less populated areas, (and believe me, ovando is just a bit less populated), there is a well, Ton of fun.

and one nice thing about sleds, you don't even have to wait to get back to the vehicle for your beer supply. they have a handy pocket for just such a beverage just under the seat. high peaks, corn snow and cold beer! sounds like springtime is in the air.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


yeah, it was a powder day. but please, do not call this one "epic" or even "great". it was a fun day with some new thick snow on top of a very firm old pack. occasionally you could float above the old crust, but mostly you knew it was there. that is just the way it is with spring skiing.
not to say i won't take it. 8" new is still a good time, and worth getting up early for.

the ski patrol saw lots of slab action of new snow and windload, and ted has a great video on the GCAC obs page. just when you maybe think, okay this one is solid again, come tap 28 from the shoulder,and watch out! the potential for big rippers propogating both across and stepping down the snowpack is outstanding. it might take some work, or perhaps a big face plant, but there is a fragility deep in the pack that calls for the utmost caution.

Monday, March 14, 2011

spring survey

there is survey online on the GCAC website, on try to find it and take it, it could be substantive with our forecasting in the valley moving forward. i tried to paste the link, but it will not let me, but it is easy to find. hope some of you will take the time.

skiing has gone into spring mode. may be some new snow coming, otherwise, go north side or wait for sun. not much else to report. i am busy trying to find fresh snow.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


while ugly in town, and likely to be rain on half the hill, the depth up top, might, just might be worth the drive up, for a few wet turns. i think i will sit it out until mid afternoon and go for max wet depth.

yesterday finally did something i have been considering since the whole uphill policy debate began last winter.

hike up at the end of the day, ski off into the canyon, then climb back up the backside. can they regulate this? i don't know, or care. it totals more actual climbing and hiking, more skiing, as you get a run into the canyon, and more peaceful. it is fun coming up the backside after hours. in the past, the only times i have done this were when i missed the last chair, and one time when the chair was down, and we had skins and said, f-it.

the skiing in the creek remains super good, but this new wet stuff could make it more interesting. will this rain finally cause problems with earlier freeze layers? probably best right now to let this storm cycle thru and settle, and maybe get some colder temps. but hey, do what feels best. it could be deep.

search and rescue and nordic ski patrol got called out late last night, as two snowboarders lost their way near Zip's Place cabin, up past essex. what were they thinking? no avy gear, and even worse, no mode of snow travel. they were boot packing, and were into waist deep snow and stuck. they did have the wherewithal to at least start a fire and hunker down and wait for help. they were found sometime after 2 am, and were safe and okay. apparently is was raining pretty hard, but at least they were not caught in an avalanche.

what does it take to get more info and education to the masses?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

another year older

yep, hit the big 51 yesterday, so did nothing special for this nothing special birthday. the skiing on the hill was only good on northern facing slopes, the rest, as best i could find, had been attacked by sun and warm temps. sure, i could have gone for a tour, but i actually had some job prospects to go thru, so i took a few runs in bounds, then got the dogs out to round meadows, which is in great shape, as are all nordic adventures right now.

after the epic turns in the canyon a week ago, this past weekend had given up lots of runs to powder hounds. the snow remained good, but to find an untouched line would take more time than we had, so our small group was happy to get what we could.

spent five days touring in the bitterroots, west of hamilton, out of the Downing Mountain Lodge. this old restaurants sits above 5000 feet, and offers slopes up to 8500 feet. high winds kept us off the biggest of the pitches early in the week, but there was great snow all over, so powder turns at lower elevations kept us more than happy. unfortunately this place is very rocky, and the slopes off the south and west sides of the high ridges are just so forboding in this regard, we avoided them for the second year in a row. these aspects seem to offer the biggest runs, but also put you into some potential traps. i believe these pitches really only open up in springtime corn.

our last couple of days allowed us to better explore the farther reaches, and on our final day, we really hit a nice big day, with multiple descents and lots of variety. also this year, compared to the paltry year of 2010, we were able to ski out the final run each day, and quite easily slide all the way to the cabin.

this lodge is worth a visit, as it is close, affordable and easy to get to, so bringing in tons of food and beer and other amenities is quite easy. but it is not really the place to go for people looking to max out on vertical and huge alpine expanses and big days. it is a place to get some fun and relaxing powder turns in, soak in the hot tub and crank up both the fire place and the wood burner.