Thursday, March 29, 2012

March nears the end

Yes, March is about over, and things are quickly moving towards springtime activities, but WAIT! There is snow in the air, and in the forecast! Actually, quite a bit of it. Too bad we are coming into a weekend, but things should be pretty fun if we even get only the lower amounts of the predicted snowfall. Some creamy, damp snow to cover up some ruts and frozen mank and bring in the end of a pretty good month and season overall.
This can be a great time of year, and usually is. Although we do not typically get any kind of predictable freeze/thaw cycle, there is usually some good snow up high and the occasional snowfall making for some great spring powder runs.

But one can also get out on their bike. Sure the roads are dry, but some trails are starting to shape up as well. On Tuesday, I checked out the WF Trail, and it was 80% clear and dry, all the way to the Goegan Rd., about 4 miles along. Past that, it is mostly still frozen snow, but some valley rain should begin to take care of that.

Also, the fisherpeople are out and about, as the temps warm up and the trout start to feed. Before the big meltdowns can be an awesome time to drop a few tight lines and get your summer season rolling.

For the highly motivated, it is a great time to multiple event in a day. You can do all of the above, plus some more if you want to.

Why Not?!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

spring has sprung

Yep, that seems to be the case. Hope you'all are ready, because biking is near upon us, the fisher's have been out and about, the dogs are getting restless, and, well, that is just what seems to be what the weather gods and mom nature has in store. Certainly does not mean it will not snow again, as i feel confident we will have a powder day or two to go. But the valley seems well on its way to open up and get going on other activities.
I usually start out March hoping for more winter, and if it comes, remaining a ski bum first and foremost. However, if it does not, and spring pushes forward, I start to really look forward to getting back on the bike and back into the garden. And this year will be different out in the garden. (Like everyone else into gardening, I say this every year. But this is the one)

In the meantime, there is still plenty of snow in the mountains. The problem is the conditions are only so-so. The avalanche danger seems to be coming down, but the different layers out there make the skiing not so good, and the chances of big slides remains high enough to keep most of not so hugely ambitious-home. So what am I doing? Heading to Canada, where snowfall continues and area skiing is sure to be great, but we are going backcountry, and the avy conditions are High! And with more snow on the way, not sure how things will pan out, but we have a great group of friends from different posts, so the party will rage.

Hope some of you are finding the goods, and if you are, maybe let a few of us know!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

fun stuff

I am willing to call the skiing inbounds at the Big on Sunday, February 26, 2012 "EPIC"! That is the most overnight snowfall I have seen in my 21 years here, and as much in 24 hours in that time frame as well. And although the crowds were as bad as they can get, it was still an amazing day. I have actually been surprised by a number of people I have spoken with that did NOT make it up there on Sunday. I think the patrol did as good as possible getting things open, especially with a heart attack/death just when they were nearly caught up taking valuable resources away from their avy control efforts. From what I understand, the victim had actually felt some signs, but took them to be heartburn. But this is another subject.

So we just had about 10 good to great days of skiing in a row, and the conditions remain great inbounds, but the backcountry is indeed a major hazard. I believe it must be settling out, but there are now two distinct and dangerous layers in the top 3-4 feet that cannot be ignored. Certainly, I want to get out and ski some sick, deep pow but just know the conservative approach is the best approach.

More snow is on the way. Nothing like last week, but still, a bit of a re-fresh that should make some great skiing on Wednesday and Thursday, and possibly this weekend.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

avy danger

Saturday February 25, 2012

Today, I skied in Canyon Creek. We found some of the worst new snow instability I have ever seen. Twice we kicked off small avalanches that could have buried someone. These were not large, but we were in highly treed areas and low 30 degree pitches. It something like this were to step down to deeper layers of instability, it could be catastrophic. I do not feel like I am one to be too conservative or worried, and I have never sent anything out like this before. But February has been a bad month for avalanches, and quite frankly I am nervous.

Therefore I am advising extreme caution. Personally, I am going no where near the backcountry for the next few days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

typical february

this is what i would call a typical february for NW Mt, with a very untypical caviat. a decent base of snow in the mountains, with decent skiing conditions, increasing day length to the extent that we are now noticing it in both the am and pm, and some but not much new snow falling.
the caviat? well, there remains very little valley snow, okay, basically none. the snow cover in most of our access points to the backcountry is limited, making approaches difficult to shitty.

temps have never been cold this year, and we are fast approaching the time of year where it is not too likely to see anything below zero. oh sure, it can happen, but just not as likely.

so, feb. is a good time to tour and make plans for spring trips, or to make early sojourns to the SW desert for some early season riding. and hope that March brings back the La Nina effect that has mostly avoided us this year.

in the meantime, backcountry conditions are okay, but not great. snow on southern facing aspects, even up high, has an buried suncrust that may effect your skiing, and could turn into a dangerous layer with some more snow on it. north facing aspects are in great condition, and seem very stable, but i did kick off a tiny 2" fracture, about 20 feet wide on sunday. a bit unnerved after the recent death in the Jewel as i saw a small crack begin to spread, i moved quickly to my right, only to laugh at myself at the infintesimal size. better safe, right?

Friday, February 10, 2012

come on snow!

well, it is friday and trying to snow. with a few inches in the forecast, we can hope for a bit more, but really, the forecast thru the weekend is not awe inspiring. but at least it has broken the latest high pressure.

wednesday there was a memorial for Mark Albee, which, despite the unfortunate circumstances that brought this group together, was a positive event, and will help so many of us begin to move forward.

life is so fragile and fleeting. how can we slow it down and better learn to enjoy each and every moment? i don't have any anwer for this, but need to search and try harder.

not much info on backcountry conditions, as i have not been out, nor spoken to anyone who has. it is time to return!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tragedy in Jewel Basin

Despite the great skiing of late, it is with a heart that is heavy I make this post. enough said.

A message from Chris Miller:

For those of you who have not heard, or have not been able to follow the news, Mark Albee died on Wednesday, February 1, 2012, in a massive avalanche in the Jewel Basin. He was skiing with his long time partner, best friend and brother, Iain. In fact, they were not skiing, but had just taken some photos from a ridge, and were moving away to ski a safe line in the opposite direction from where the avalanche ended up going. The snow pack fractured to the ground, right on the ridge, and indeed somewhat back from the slope. There was not a cornice of any perceptible size, and they never once thought they were in any danger where they stood. Only by some shear force of luck was Iain not taken as well.

The avalanche went perhaps 1000’ vertical, exposing several rock bands and cliffs. Despite his best efforts, Iain was not able to reach the debris pile in any safe manner, and had to leave to call for help. He knew the worst was all that there was.

Mark was found yesterday, Thursday, February 2, by search and rescue. It took the team quite some time to locate the body, but his transceiver was still working, at least making a long and dangerous probe line unnecessary. It then took them over half an hour to dig the body out, as the snow was packed incredibly tight and solid.

Family members and friends have begun the grieving process. Mark was a fun and fantastic friend, hard worker and great family man. He will be missed very much, and I am thankful to have so many great and lasting memories, as I try to take the best out of this tragic situation.

It is always is worse when it is someone you love. So long Mark Albee, so long.

Friday, January 27, 2012

more snow

well, one great week was followed by another, as it started snowing again early in the week. not as much snow this week, but the thicker quality actual made the turns as good, and for some of us, better. personally, i love the creamy texture we get when the temps are in the mid to upper 20's. especially since we just do not get the 2+ foot dumps. (like Fernie, who recieved two feet last monday night and then a foot during the day on tuesday. lucky few who timed that one right)

right now the resort is in Fantastic! shape. everything is completely filled in and pretty well packed in. sure, you can still hit some rocks in different cliff bands, as i did trying to get into a tight chute in the western bowl cliff band, but it was worth it, as the apron was full, untracked and deep.

i keep thinking about trying to find some ice to get up, but it keeps snowing, and after a brutal december, well, sometimes it is best to take what the snow gods give you when it is there, cause things can change quickly here.

had to turn down an offer to Turner Mtn. today, as we are headed south to Ovando (where it snowed nearly 3 feet in town last wednesday. that means on mon/tues, Fernie got close to 3 feet, and on Wed. Ovando got nearly 3 feet. right in the middle, well, we did well, with perhaps a foot on the mountains, but only 4-6 inches in town. so we continue to suffer the worst nordic year i have seen here in my 20 years. too bad, but there is some grooming still going on at Big Mtn and into Ironhorse) from Ovando, we are heading down to ski at Discovery, where I have not been in 20 years, so I really do not know how it is, but the backside sure looks like fun.

on a non-powder note: for any and all dog lovers, or friends of dog lovers/owners. please do not feed you pet:

anything with
any "food" product from China.

both of these are toxic to our loved ones, causing severe stomach and liver issues. also, though usually safe

Rymadil can prove an issue as well, so any sign of problem with this product should bring immediate cancellation of use.

all for now, cbm

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

crazy lite

that is some light snow, and with the temps staying cold, it will continue to stay that way for a day or two more, before a small warming trend comes in. i heard two different guys who had lived in steamboat, compare it to some of the lightest snow they had skied down there, (which, if you do not know, is known for some of the lightest "champagne powder" in the world) this was in two different conversations.

for those into the out of bounds, well, the canyon is up to and over the head. but with it so light, you are actually skiing the bottom still. hopefully it just keeps piling up and we leave the hard packed base to those who want to ski groomers.

if we do get more snow and warmer temps, we will once again see a pineapple cake effect, with warm snow on top. this can be tricky, and it can also be very dangerous, especially given the ridiculous snowpack we have right now.

but it sure seems like we are on our way into winter and out of the extended high pressure autumn that has been nagging us for the past two months.

Friday, January 13, 2012


okay, i am ready to say the skiing is good. not great, like the typical Big reports say, but good. we have a pretty solid base, with mediocre coverage, but enough to carefully get where you want to go. the BC is in nice shape, FOR NOW! the addition of much new snow on top of several troublesome weak layers can (should i say, will) spell for a big avy cycle! so, of course, here comes a good sized cycle, moving in tomorrow, and building up strength into mid week and beyond. i don 't want to get too excited until it actually hits, so will temper my expectations, but i have my fingers crossed.

after a good conversation with an old time local, who was here thru the brutal winter of 2000/2001, he convinced me we are in much better shape this year than that. so again, with the addition of a good cycle, especially one that is extended, should make for some amazing skiing. front country to start with, then side-country, and finally, hopefully, after a avy cycle or two, some settling, some bridging, we could find ourselves in some incredible backcountry skiing for the second half of winter.

it might finally be time to break out the new, fat, early rise skis my incredibly, beautiful, wonderful, wife bought me for xmas!!!!!!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

sun shine

okay, for those of you who suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder, our continued sun has probably been a huge boon to you. but for those of you who do not suffer from this typical affect, but have what i call "reverse affect disorder" (too much sun resulting in little to no snow)times are tough. if you have tons of money, perhaps head north, as far as Ak, as it has been pounding up there since October. or if you have even more money, head across the big bay to Europe, as they are into a big winter, and of course the options there are unending.

but for those of you, like myself, where this is not an option, settle in for a bit, keep your fingers crossed and know that surely it must start sooner than later.

that is really all i have to say right now. it is just a tough go. the long range forecasts and "la nina" effect still point to a moist cold winter. i just got to believe that if the greater high pressure breaks down, here and off the pacific, and all the other climate effects stay in place, it is going to go off, here and elsewhere, and all us knuckleheads will go out and get crazy. until then, try not to go crazy upstairs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


as i sat up early this morning, a bit before dawn (getting up this early is a result of a post holiday cheer reduction plan, which in turn results in early bedtimes), i began to hear some rumbling noises that at first i thought might be the wood in the stove settling, then realized it was rain pounding on the deck roof, and wind knocking the swing against the house. ah, if it were only april.

BUT IT IS NOT! it is fucking january. sure, sometimes it rains here in January, but usually after it has already snowed for a month to two. now, well, you know. what little valley snow we had is gone. i swear, on tuesday, in kalispell, with my car's thermometer reading over 45 degrees, grass was greening up.

there were two positives yesterday, but unfortunately they are accompanied by the negative side too.
first, our beloved ski patrol, always trying to make things a bit better, opened the Western Bowl (or hellroaring basin, if you prefer) to the traverse. the skiing was actually pretty good, but one knew the traverse was going to be tough. and like so many other things i have noted of late, it is the worst i have seen it. but what made it even worse still, was that for some reason, snowboarders do NOT know how to read. it appears, in my unofficial survey, that 20% of snowboarders are illiterate. not one, but two signs implored snowboarders to avoid the basin, as the traverse was tough. still, there they were. and they were not the experts that can manage such obstacles, but the intermediates. cluttering the trail and making it even more dangerous and onerous. i swear the patrol would have been better if they had encouraged snowboarders onto this traverse, as certainly they do not want to do what the "authorities" would suggest. i felt as though it were like telling a teenager to NOT smoke pot, or NOT drink beer! and of course their response would be "well, if mom and dad don't want me to try something, it must be great, and here i go, into hellroaring basin"

the second positive, is the glacier nordic club is now grooming some of the old nordic system at the base of the Big. they have actually gone down into haskill basin and connected to the ironhorse trails, which, being on stoltze land, is optional for all to use, not just those that can afford to live in ironhose. (the "r" is purposefully left out) this now gives us a more close to home option for nordic than blacktail or issak walton. unfortunatey, the trails are quite thin, as expected. plus, as many of you know, it is mostly an up and down course, so the climb out of the hole is daunting. if you are not up for a hard workout, or not in skate ski shape (who is) i might suggest using your old waxless classic set up. also, with the warm weather, the trails got soft and many pole plants were touching down to terra firma.

well, as the light comes thru on a new day, the rain and wind have abated, at least for now. certainly winter will start any day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


well, i wish i could open with some amazing stories of deep powder and unabashed bliss. but unfortunately, the reality is, we are in what i am now calling the worst start to winter i have seen in my 21 years in the valley. although the resort is mostly open, and offers some good skiing, it is still shallow and there are numerous obstacles to watch out for, not the least of which were the holiday crowds. fortunately, the lift lines stayed at a reasonable level, and the weather was at times fantastic, it is just not happening yet. and worse, the weather forecast is pretty minimal going out about 10 days. i keep thinking the big push will start any day, but am losing some confidence.

this could all be calmed with a nice storm or two that at least brought enough snow to cover our valley and open up the nordic ski options, but that too looks off in the not immediate future. i have heard report that the glacier nordic club may begin grooming up on the old mountain trails any day, and am trying to confirm that. in the meantime, essex and blacktail offer decent options, if you are willing to drive an hour or so.

the backcountry remains extremely limited and with new snow and high winds late last week, i was concerned with high avy conditions. but for now at least, what can be found seems moderately stable. i would not go hucking into anything loaded or exposed, but gentle skiing may be good on mind, body and skis.

so for now, i continue to look for options to keep my body active, and keep my mind off the late november conditions here in early 2012. perhaps our friend kevin, somewhere searching for wind in the baja of mexico, found the right thing for this winter. certainly this was not the best year to be unemployed. i am certain that if i find some work, the snow will start, so perhaps i should make that sacrifice sooner than later. i am trying, for if that is what it takes to wake the snow gods from their long slumber, well, someone has to do it.