Sunday, January 02, 2005

New year: Deadman telly

Deadman tele slopes
I first did the Deadman Creek run in the Little Belt Mountains 23 years ago with H. Wayne Phillips who conceived the idea of the 8 mile run from Kings Hill Pass south along a ridge down into the creek bottom.
Originally, I liked the run for its backcountry touring variety and great vistas, readily available from its open ridges.
Now I’m in love with it because it delivers some great backcountry telemark skiing within an hour of the pass.
The slopes we used to glide past are now our playground destination.
The slopes attract generally consistent snow and offer 200-400 foot runs --- about the level I can handle telemarking. We’ve also found them consistently safe from avalanche. However, that’s something I could never assure. Dig a pit, study the snow, wear your beacons, be ready for a slide.
Anyway, Great Falls has been locked in a deep cold wave. It was about 10 below zero when we took off for the hill this Jan. 2. Often the temperature is about 20 degrees warmer at King’s Hill, so we decided to take a chance.
Luckily for us, the rule held true, and in addition to 15-20 degree temperatures, we had a bright bluebird day with about two feet of good powder sitting on top of a solid base.
We headed directly for the telly slopes and spent the afternoon practicing turns and slogging our way back through the deep snow to the top.
The new telemark ski technology with the wide shovel tips and more narrow waists allowed us to float on top, yet cruise through unbroken snow.
The skiing was heavenly. The weather was so clear we got vistas as far south and west on the horizon as the Elkhorn Mountains between Helena and Butte!
Not much could mar such a day, but I found myself irritated by the snomobile tracks that were with us on most of the run.
The snow machines had ignored very clear signs that mark the Deadman trail as off limits to snowmobiles.
With more than 10 times the number of trails in the Little Belts marked for snowmobiles over the number marked for cross country skiing, I fail to see why the snowmobiles violate these few backcountry areas.
The machine tracks wreck the ski tracks and often ice up, making them unsafe for skiers.
What can we do to keep the machines away and get their operators to respect a backcountry skier’s desire to get away from it all --- including noisy, stinky machines?

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