Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rogers Pass powder

Blasting downward 
In deep powder
A driving, frigid, unrelenting wind blasted us on a backcountry ski trip on the Continental Divide at Rogers Pass Sunday.
That meant we didn’t hang out on any ridgelines as we might normally do when we’re backcountry skiing and in search of fresh tele powder and turns.
Mark Hertenstein had skied this area before and was convinced that the main drainage on the east side of Montana 200 would be sheltered and provide us with the snow we sought.
Thank goodness he was right, because otherwise skiing almost anywhere in northcentral Montana would have been impossible because of the wind. Not that we didn’t have wind, it was that the wind we had wasn’t as brutal as most unprotected areas.
We climbed roughly 1,000 feet above the pass in lovely powder on three uphill treks, and enjoyed exceptionally good skiing through trees and down the relatively open drainage.
I had skied the drainage just a bit further south from the Continental Divide along the official CD trail in years past. Mark’s route was a bit more open and extensive.
Rogers Pass is largely ignored by Great Falls skiers although it is easy and quick to reach despite its spectacular and challenging terrain. The views to the west are remarkable, revealing the Continental Divide country back into the Scapegoat Wilderness Area.
The lesson learned from this trip was to stay in the protected drainages to avoid the wind that burnishes the ridgelines.
It has not been so easy during this past month to escape the wind and frigid air. It has forced me to repeatedly return to my neighborhood park to ski. That has provided the workouts I crave, but I miss the slopes I carve.

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