|Katie at Teton Pass Ski Area|
|It doesn't seen like winter to Eric Newhouse at Granite Butte Lookout celebrating his 62nd birthday|
For quite a number of years I’ve combined the two sometime around March 4 to commemorate former colleague Eric Newhouse’s birthday.
I’ll betray this old-timer’s age, 62, because he’s reaching the Social Security benchmark and is still able to gut out a good mountain climb on skis.
A fresh mantle of about four inches of powder was the icing on the celebration, marked by a 9 mile trip to the top of Granite Butte Lookout (elevation: 7,425 feet) on the Continental Divide Trail, west of our Stemple Pass starting point (elevation: 6,376 feet).
We had originally set out to do the 7-mile South Fork of Poorman Creek run, but couldn’t find a cooperative skier at the pass to help us ferry our car to the bottom on that point-to-point trip.
Granite Butte, with its impressive views on both sides of the Continental Divide, was the alternative, and a great one at that Sunday.
The Stemple Pass access to the Continental Divide Trail, is only about a dozen miles from Canyon Creek on the east or Lincoln on the west and always has great snow and plenty of skiing options.
It was supposed to have snowed Sunday, but we were treated to a bright, sunny sky instead as we kicked and glided our way to the lookout.
The trail from Stemple west is relatively flat for about 3 miles until the lookout comes into view above a ridge of granite outcroppings. Then it is time to climb to the trees and skin up for the summit cap. The top, with the old lookout, is treeless and flat. Sunday it had been frosted with a new snowfall, and the trees on its periphery looked like they had been flocked, standing out against a stark blue sky.
I was able to telemark down from the top through the forest and then played a bit in a clearcut not too far from our Stemple Pass starting point.
Despite ideal backcountry conditions, we didn’t encounter another skier the entire day.
It was that kind of weekend on the Rocky Mountain Front.
On Saturday we hit the Teton Pass Ski Area northwest of Choteau where there were only about 50 other downhill skiers, despite a bright, blue sky and warm temperatures.