Monday, December 21, 2009

The last ski of fall

Losing daylight on one of the shortest days of the year on Nugget Creek run
Finally, winter.
We got in our last ski of the fall season Sunday, but it acted as though winter had already arrived.
Our route was the Nugget Creek option on High Porphyry run, some 12 miles.
The snow was deep on the ridge line --- more than 50 inches. It was 15 inches of powder sitting on a windblown crust. The weather had warmed to freezing and there had been a bit of rain. A cloud hung over the ridges throughout the day. On the lower reaches the snow was quite thin. In spots the snow was quite deep ---- more than 3 feet of powder that was tough to break as we wound our way up the several small peaks enroute.
The snow and clouds were disorienting and at one point I got completely turned around and led us in the opposite direction of where we were supposed to go.
Unfortunately, we were left to break trail and it was quite a chore.
The run took some 9 hours and we got going about 9:30 a.m., which meant we came out in pitch black.
It didn’t help that I can’t remember Wayne Phillips’ cutoff route that speeds the trip through the trees and we floundered around in the dark. One of these days I’ll finally get his route straight.
Luckily all three of us had headlamps and we could see the cars on their way to White Sulphur Springs on U.S. 89 far below us, giving us hope that we had picked the right route.
The snow was heavy and deep enough that it was tough to cut turns. It was tough to stay on top the powder and we’d break through to the crust when we jammed our weight down to carve.
The heavy clouds gave the day an eerie feel heightened by the snow ghosts that made the ridges and forest resemble spots on Big Mountain near Whitefish.
Even to get out a 6:30 p.m., we had to push pretty hard.
The drive back to Great Falls was hairy. The roads up high were iced and it had started to rain and snow making them very slick. A shroud of fog that lasted into Great Falls made things even more dangerous.
The snow is definitely the best I’ve seen this early in the winter.
This is a great omen!

No comments: