Thursday, January 08, 2015

Downhill, no; backcountry, yes

Showdown was picture perfect early in the day as I rode the ski lift

After giving up on the ski lifts, we wandered into the backcountry for the skiing we love
Every three or so years I have to remind myself why I don't like downhill ski hills.
I fell prey to a friend's request Wednesday to accompany him and others on what would be an epic powder day at Showdown Ski Area south of Great Falls where more than 24 inches had fallen in the previous three days.
It was a picture perfect day with bright, blue skies and sun illuminating the ski hill, a very inviting picture, indeed.
Unfortunately, it didn't take long for my distaste for the ski hill scene to emerge:  the lift lines (even if small), the mechanization, the noise, the groomers, the snowboarders whizzing by and shredding perfectly good powder lines, the chopped up powder.
The snow got chopped up quickly
I did five downhill runs, including two down Big Seven and tossed it in, opting instead to skin and climb from the ski lodge to the top of Porphyry Peak, about 1,200 feet in elevation gain.
The climb calmed my jangled nerves and gave me the aerobic workout I had sought, although working my way down Big Seven and dodging snowboard gashes was a hard workout of a different sort.
Once on top, my friend Wayne Phillips and I headed out of bounds through the trees to the north and east, losing much of that elevation and enjoying the best virgin powder of the day.  Because the area is shaded the powder was much lighter than the tough, heavy stuff we were pushing around on the hill.
Despite having to break trail, this was the best part of the day.  It was the pure, quiet, gorgeous backcountry.
I enjoyed the company of my fellow skiers at the lodge during breaks, but other than that, the only time I'll use the ski area is when the lifts aren't operating, mainly during the off season.
The shadow of a lift rider in the snow

Alpenglow on Big Baldy as the sun sets

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