Monday, November 21, 2005

Great early skiing in Little Belts

Nancy Dow below the iconic Porphyry Lookout in Little Belts

One of my favorite spots, the Mizpah Bowls
There’s encouraging news in those hills south of town.
We’ve got the best snow I’ve seen in years this early in the season.
I had been watching the Showdown Web site religiously after the “Alberta Clipper” zipped through early last week, dumping a couple of days of snow there.
Showdown owner George Willett does a good job updating his site with snow information that is as useful to the backcountry skier as to the down-hiller (
Thursday when he announced early in the day that three more inches had fallen on the 10 he had gotten earlier in the week, and the temperature was 20 degrees, it was a no-brainer, and off I went.
The ski area won’t open until Dec. 9, so we and some Lewistown skiers who had come over for a second day of telly skiing on the hill, had it all to ourselves, although a groomer was packing the snow pretty steadily throughout the day.
Our plan was to ski to the top and head over to the Mizpah bowls for our first telemark turns.
On the way up I couldn’t resist one quick run down Golden Goose, which was freshly packed.
On top of Porphyry Peak near the lookout it was the dead of winter. The snow hung freshly in the trees creating snow ghosts, the sky a deep, bright blue. Vistas toward Big Baldy, and across the road east toward the Deadman Ridge offered the promise of early, unlimited skiing.
I figure the snow on the ridgeline between Porphyry was between 15 and 18 inches deep.
This snow is nothing like the early snow we’ve had the past four or five years, where your skis would sink straight to the rock in light powder.
This snow had good moisture and a base. It was work to break trail back to Mizpah, but worth it.
Mizpah bowls can be tricky and can slough easily. Thursday, despite seeing some vegetation coming through the snow, it was stable and good enough to drop over the side for telly runs of several hundred feet!
There was a lot of elk and possibly moose sign.
Unless we get some warm, windy weather like we had last December, this could be the start of something big.

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