Sunday, January 18, 2009

High Porphyry on a spring-like day

Jim Heckel stands proudly below his tele turns in Mizpah Bowls

In High Porphyry Flats
The snow in the backcountry has settled into a hardened base and the skiing is great.
The base-hardening event was several days of warm weather.
In Great Falls we’ve had sun and temps in the 50s. It’s supposed to top 60 on Sunday.
It was chillier in the Little Belts where I ventured Saturday, but the skies were cloudless and the sun bore down on the snow. It iced up some of the snow and in other spots it laid down a thick hoar frost that will create an unstable snow layer.
Because of the warm weather in Great Falls I was skeptical about the potential for good backcountry skiing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Jim Heckel and I skied the High Porphyry/Nugget Creek run ---- with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain and more than 12 miles in length.
We hit only one patch of really heavy snow that clung to our skies.
Otherwise, the snow was just right for tele turns.
The run travels along the Mizpah Ridge, that runs south from the Showdown Ski Area’s Porphyry Peak. Just beyond some high bowls off that ridge, another ridge comes in from the east that eventually drops into Nugget Creek and leaves us off at U.S. 89 just north of the old Forest Green resort. To begin the trip we started at Kings Hill Pass and skied up to the top of Porphyry Peak.
We stopped at the Mizpah bowls along the way, judged the snow quite stable and did the long ski to the bottom twice.
The snow was so perfect for tele turns that we contemplated staying to play.
But we found other turns along the way off the final high point, 7,988 feet, on the ridge that ultimately dropped us down to Nugget Creek.
The snow on the south side of Kings Hill Pass is quite set up and very deep, even at the lower elevations.
It was so warm that Heckel did a little skiing in his shirt sleeves.
This was the best day of skiing so far this winter, although it resembled spring skiing.

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