Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Checking out Teton Pass area backcountry

Ear Mountain on clear, cold winter morning
Teton Pass Ski Area opened Friday and we went to take a look on Saturday, Dec. 23, our first post-solstice trip.
It never opened last year, effectively shutting out recreationists from this spectacular Rocky Mountain Front area because the road isn't plowed when the ski area is not opened.
We made it to the area once last year, on New Year's Day, when we were able to drive close enough to the area that we could park and ski to it.
On Saturday we did a broad overview, skiing north along the road toward the West Fork, hoping to catch some turns in the burn.  We were disappointed to find that the burn needs more snow.  We did a short stretch but encountered lots of dangerous deadfall blocking our way.
Small waterfall we crossed over
So, it was back to the ski area where we got on the cross country ski trail that links it to the North Fork Waldron Creek trail.
Our luck wasn't much better there, although the snow was more plentiful.
Getting into the North Fork Waldron bowls is always a trick because the trail abruptly ends and about three-quarters mile of dense forest must be negotiated.
We made the mistake of going up some down tracks coming from the bowls.   After more than an hour of struggle, we found ourselves on a ridgeline to the north and east and a little bit above the best bowls.
It was time to give up and turn around and hope we could get back down through the trees without breaking our necks.
Through the burn toward NorthFork Teton
We need another foot of snow to make the skiing really good.
The weather was near zero when we left Great Falls, but in the teens, rising to the low 30s in the backcountry.  It was colder in Great Falls when we got back.
It was foggy driving up, but the sky cleared and it was a gorgeous, if chilly day.
A word of caution to those traveling the Teton County Road that was beautifully resurfaced in the past couple of years ---- the Highway Patrol is stopping speeders!!  I've never seen any law enforcement on this road until its reconstruction.
Watch your speed.

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