Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Big powder, great Little Belts weekend

New pool added and Spa repainted

Pillows of snow on O'Brien bottom

Any landing would be soft in this snow
I can't remember the last time we got so much snow in the Little Belt Mountains.
Some 61 inches of new powder fell there in a week's time.
Of course I took advantage of it, taking a personal day Friday and returning Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday was the "rest" day when we drove through the heart of the range in a snowstorm to soak at the Spa's new pool in White Sulphur Springs.
Spooked by all the fresh powder atop the 40 inch base, which is resting on hoar frost, I stayed on the Showdown Ski Area slopes.  I skinned up and went bottom to top three times, hitting such runs as Speculation, Big Seven, Ripley's and the used the lift towers as my own personal slalom route.
The powder was heavy and had been churned up the two days previous to my run.
I had no trouble climbing the 1,200 feet to the top, but found myself out of breath every 200 feet or so of descent because fighting the powder with my tele turns was such muscular work.
Toward the end of the day the sky started to clear and I got great views of the snow drenched mountains to the east.
The new pool at the White Sulphur Spa is quite modern and nice and offers a pleasant "extra" to the experience of soaking.  There's a new addition to the motel as well.  The soaking-only price has been raised from $5 to $7 and the cost of a room in the old motel is now $90 and the new addition is in the $130 range. Soaking at the Spa is one of the premiere winter diversions in this part of the country.  The Spa maintains its small town character, but the new pool enhances a visit.
On the way back to Great Falls Saturday through Kings Hill Pass we got caught in another dump of powder, as another 10 inches fell overnight.
On Sunday I joined Helena friends Tim and Jan Horan for a ski down O'Brien Creek, an 8 mile run I've never missed in my years in Great Falls.
I had been worried about breaking trail with all the new powder, but was pleasantly surprised another group had taken care of that chore the day before.  There was still about 6 inches of new snow in the track, but it was easy to push aside.
It has been quite a long time since I've seen such large pillows of snow on the O'Brien Creek bottom.
We were quite happy that the snow machines had passed on the bottom half of this run.  In most years the snowmobiles create icy bumps that are tough to navigate on our cross country skis.  It was pure, fluffy powder on this lower end.
It appears as though the snow deficit has been taken care of.  There's sure to be plenty of snowpack this spring and summer.

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