Sunday, February 06, 2011

Some surprising tele skiing in Fool Creek aftermath

Mark Hertenstein climbs through Teton Pass Ski Area hill toward the burn

The handiwork of the Fool Creek burn borne in the ghost tree 
We dodged lots of burned trees
The summer of 2007 is memorable for the three large fires that burned in the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex that blackened Great Falls skies for a couple of months.
One of them, the Fool Creek fire burned particularly hot and took out one of my favorite recreational areas --- the West Fork of the Teton River drainage between Mount Wright and the Teton Pass Ski Area in the Rocky Mountain Front.
I hadn't skied into the burn since the fire.
There are thousands of acres of blackened trees that stand in sharp contrast to the white snow.
We went back there Saturday for an exploratory and to see how the new owners were doing with the ski area.
The exploratory was successful beyond our wildest imaginations and the ski area is getting a first rate redevelopment that has expanded it considerably and well.
There was about a foot of new powder in the area, powder that was light and fluffy and easy to break.
We started out at the ski area skied up the new runs on the north side of the hill.
There were only a few skiers and we got a great look at the development and even tried one of the runs.
There is a new lift to this area, but it wasn't getting hit hard.
It opens an area that doubles the size of the resort and makes the hill more interesting.
We skied across these runs and directly into the burn on the east and north flanks of the hill I like to call "False Lockhart" that rises above the West Fork of the Teton to the north.  The North Fork of the Teton comes into view to the east.
As we worked our way around to the north side of the hill Mount Wright's hulking southern flanks are revealed.
Everything in sight has been burned and there were the ghosts of the trees standing like burnt matchsticks in every direction.
It didn't take us long to find very skiable slopes where the trees are spaced widely enough to use as slalom posts.
We spent several hours taking long runs down the slopes above the West Fork.
The powder atop the hardpack was just about perfect and the weather surprisingly calm for the Front, if overcast.  Soft snow fell from time to time.
We skied back out through the ski area and dropped into the lodge for a look-around before ending this perfect day.  The lodge has been remodeled, but the character of the place is intact.

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