Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ah, March!

Fabulous powder in Mizpah Bowls

The best way to enjoy a warm winter day!!!
Ah, March!
I love March much like many people love the high summer month of August.
Normally, we get our best snowstorms during March when storms from the West coast pulse across the Divide.
It’s in March when I get my best backcountry skiing, my favorite sport.
Last week we got a foot of new powder in the backcountry, so I took Friday off work to enjoy it.
I spent Friday in the Kings Hill area, half a day skiing Showdown on lifts, and the second half across the road skinning up Kings Hill for some runs through the trees. The powder on Kings Hill was exceptional, the groomed runs at Showdown were only so-so for this telemark skier.
I find myself quickly bored taking lifts and skiing the groomed runs.
I have to admit to myself that I love the backcountry the most of all, even if I have to ski uphill for the downhill runs.
On Saturday Mark Hertenstein and I opted for the High Porphyry run with the Nugget Creek option.
It is about 10-miles long and involves skiing uphill on Showdown to the top of Porphyry Peak, then across a long ridgeline just beyond the Mizpah bowls as the ridge hooks from its southern course to the east. At this point in the trees it’s time to skin up and gain the first of three high points, skiing the ridge out to U.S. 89 near where Nugget Creek intersects with the highway. We used to ski down to Forest Green, but new owners discourage our use.
This alone is a long day.
What made our day longer was finding good, stable snow on the Mizpah slopes, where we lingered for more than an hour yo-yoing the slopes, telemarking down and skinning back up.
At both ends of the bowls the powder was as good as one could want.
It appeared as though the heavy snow had collapsed on the weak, sugar layer, bonding it.
You never know for certain, though. This backcountry skiing is dangerous for avalanche risk, and detecting stability is more an art than science.
The snow had a thin, ice sheen on it just underneath the Mizpah high point, so we stayed away from it.
We also found the slopes beyond the final high point a tad icy, making our turns more difficult.
At the bottom in the clearcut and in the shade, just above the highway we found some great snow for hard, fast turns.
Our day was complete!

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