Monday, February 08, 2010

Little Belts shoeing and skiing in powder and sunshine

This pretty much sums up what I think of snowshoes, as Katie is mired in deep snow with hers

This is more like it:  on skis practicing tele turns on O'Brien slopes near Divide Road

What had begun as a plan to go to Glacier last weekend wound up as a wonderful holiday in the Little Belts with a stay over in White Sulphur Springs.
We had reservations for the Half Way Motel in Essex and because of a mixup in scheduling we redirected Saturday to the Little Belts.
It was very frosty in Great Falls with a dump of about 5 inches of snow, so I knew the Little Belts would be good. Reports from Glacier spoke of fog and rain and ice. Icky.
What we found south of Neihart was clear, cold weather and powder.
We headed down toward Deadman Creek, crossed the road west from the main parking area, put on our snowshoes and walked up a snowmobile trail and then off-trail on a ridgeline that was punctuated by an old clearcut, revealing amazing telemark slopes. Unfortunately, I was on shoes rather than skis.
The snow was a baseless four feet of powder and I found myself working harder than I had at any point skiing this winter.
Luckily for us it was extraordinarily pretty winter weather, with snow off and on, and clouds shrouding the nearby peaks.
We didn’t go too far in the two hours we shoed, but found wild, unused country that hadn’t even been marked by snowmobiles.
Because we had gotten such a late start we couldn’t get into our first choice in White Sulphur, the Spa, or even our second choice, the All Seasons, but we got the last spot in the Tenderfoot, a fairly rundown, but clean and quiet motel across the street from the Spa.
The town was loaded with kids who were competing in the Ski Racing competition at Showdown.
We grabbed a very good pizza from the Stageline Pizza at the movie house and called it a night. For the first time in memory I didn’t soak in the hot springs while visiting White Sulphur.
In the morning it was cold and foggy and we took our time eating at Dori’s Café, where we met a retired school superintendent, John Dacon, who kept us entertained with tales about his time spent on the White Sulphur Hospital Board. It was the sad story of a tight-knit town’s power structure working against its own best interests.
By the time we hit the road and got to the Moose Creek turnover, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining brightly and we decided to try O’Brien Creek.
We were the first down that day in front of a pretty good crowd of skiers, most of whom we knew.
There was about four inches of fresh powder on the trail.
The snow sparkled and it covered the creek bottom likes large, fluffy pillows more than six feet deep. The creek popped up in pools from place to place, gurgling.
O’Brien is always a good choice, but particularly so on this sunny day.
By the time we finished and drove back past Riceville turnover near the Sluice Boxes the clouds and frost enveloped us. It had been a cold and cloudy time in Great Falls while we had played in the sun.

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