Sunday, February 26, 2006

Out of the backcountry and onto the slopes

View from top of False Lockhart down on ski area and Choteau Mountain

On top of False Lockhart looking deep into Bob Marshall Wilderness in winter cloak

False Lockhart from below
Sometimes you just gotta practice.
Sometimes the snow is so right that you’ll have to dig into your pockets and shell out money for a lift ticket.
Thank goodness we’ve got Teton Pass Ski Area near Choteau and Showdown Ski Area south of Neihart so close to Great Falls when the snow and temperatures are that way and it makes more sense to do your telemark turns and then climb onto a lift to do some more rather than skinning up and slogging your way back to the top.
Showdown and Teton had dumps of powder last week that made tele rather than backcountry skiing the thing to do.
We hit Showdown Thursday after 12 inches had fallen on the slopes in the previous three days. It covered more than 70 inches of packed snow.
Although the slopes had been skied hard the day before, we found great chopped up powder on most of the blue and black diamond runs we could handle and got in eight runs from noon to 4 p.m.
We hung out on the south end of the hill, hitting Good Luck run several times, before ending our day with a couple of runs on Big Seven, where we were surprised to find some untracked powder.
That was challenging enough to make my thighs scream.
It was a day well spent discovering how to tele the chopped up snow.
On Saturday we had to check out “too good to be true” reports that Teton had gotten 29 inches in the previous two days.
We were skeptical, but the report turned out to be dead on.
Not only that, but for the first time in my experience at Teton there was no wind and not a cloud in the sky!
The snow had been skied some on Friday and the wind had worked over some of the area just to the south of the lift, exposing stumps and rocks, although the snow everywhere else was deep (60 inches) and powder-consistent.
We had a glorious day of skiing at this small ski area, charmed by the busload of locals who showed up to enjoy the day.
Among the guests was a group of Mennonites from the Choteau-Fairfield area.
We were amazed to see the young Mennonite girls and women skiing in full skirts and bonnets!
A number of snowboarders hit the slopes above the hill, climbing all the way to the top of the mountain, some 1,300 feet above the lift.
My son, Demian, 30, was the first to the top, and we marveled as he worked his way up, using his snowboard to post-hole. He then carved his way down the face of this steep, unnamed Rocky Mountain Front mountain.
The scenery at Teton is incomparable. It is Bob Marshall Wilderness country, with great views of the Front from the top of the lifts. There’s a vertical drop of 1,000 feet, and the lodge is quaint --- just like an old cabin --- with a stunning view of the hill.
The price is right, too: $25 for a lift ticket.
I can’t complain about Showdown, either. The area is larger and the vertical drop is $1,400. Lift tickets are reasonable for a ski area --- $30.
What’s really nice about Showdown is that it is only an hour’s drive from Great Falls. Teton is 1 hour 45 minutes, but the drive is so spectacular it is worth the effort.

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