Thursday, March 09, 2017

Sunset Mountain again; best powder of season

Lots of snow has fallen at Rogers Pass
This backcountry ski season continues to remind me of 2005 when it took until March for the best snow and best skiing.
We're in the midst of a series of storm pulses that are dropping terrific snow, particularly along the Front and Continental Divide.  We could see as much as two feet of new snow in the days ahead.
The wind is a bit troublesome, but the snow makes up for it.
Our Wayne's Wednesday group diverted from the Teton Ski Resort area Wednesday to Rogers Pass because we saw forecasts for a big dump that would make negotiating the Teton Road a bit tricky.
Besides, why drive 2 hours to ski when a simple hour to Rogers Pass would give us just as good a day out.
We did the Sunset Mountain ski from the pass, 6 miles out and back, with about 1,200 feet of gain when we counted the telemark turns from the top.
Where we tele turned below the top
 It was the best powder of the season, by far.
I had done this ski just 10 days ago and found it even better Wednesday because there was new snow.
After climbing to the telecommunications towers at the top of the peak, we hit the tele slopes just below it, really an old clearcut.  We probably should have stayed longer than we did.
I'm a big fan of passes along the Continental Divide, particularly Marias, just south of Glacier Park, Stemple and Flesher and especially Rogers.
Rogers is as close to Great Falls as Kings Hill Pass in the Little Belts, except the road is better.  It takes an hour to get there and it delivers you to the Continental Divide Trail, with great skiing to the south, or as was the case Wednesday, Sunset Mountain just east of the trail.  Rogers also opens up the possibilities of skiing in the Mike Horse Mine Area or Cadotte Creek, both a short distance from the pass.
We shared the pass with a logging truck

Beautiful kick and glide conditions most of the way 
Gorgeous snow at the top

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Snow good, three eclectic trips

Skiing up the Jones Creek bottom with Choteau Mountain to the east

One of the most gorgeous valleys on the Front

Finally getting some good snow and I was out in it three times in the past week:  Bender Creek to Hoover Ridge in the Little Belts, a quick run on Silver Crest Cross Country Ski Area, and a gorgeous afternoon in the Rocky Mountain Front.
Bender Creek was a compromise for Wayne Wednesday Walks old-guys group.  Four of us showed up, hoping to catch the great, new snow at Rogers Pass and possibly do Sunset Mountain again.  But....I was overruled by our group that feared the strong winds coming from the west.
Instead, we headed for Bender Creek, just east of Monarch, an area that I generally don't like because it doesn't get much snow cover and is often icy and rocky.  On Wednesday it had a little more snow than usual, but the rocks were still there, and I rocked up my skis pretty severely.  It is three miles and about 1,500 feet to Hoover Ridge.  Along the way above the creek there are great views of the peaks from open and very ski-able parks.  We played a bit in these parks and for the most part avoided the winds from the west by being in this enclosed north and east facing valley.
I skinned up on the way down to avoid getting out of control in the narrow bottoms.  I shouldn't have.  The snow was good enough to have teled down, and I missed out on that fun, just compounding my displeasure with rocking up my skis.  It turned out this was a fairly good choice, but I think we all realized that Rogers Pass would have been better.  Oh, well.
On Thursday my wife asked me to check out Silver Crest to make sure there was a passable snowshoe trail for her Big Brothers and Sisters outing on Saturday.  That took me less than an hour, and so I took off the snowshoes, put on my skis and did a 3 mile loop on pretty good snow-covered trails.  I hadn't been to Silver Crest in a number of years and was impressed with the snowshoe trail work and signs.  This is a very nice area for the less adventuresome.
On Saturday we went up the Teton Pass Ski Area to see the large amounts of snow, more than 60 inches with 12 inches new on the slopes.  We climbed the hill to the north and tele skied back down the to lodge, but felt that the snow was just too heavy to do many turns.  The sun had hit it the day before and it was heavy.  So, we went down the road to Jones Creek, which lies in a stunningly scenic valley of high peaks in all directions ---- Choteau, Guthrie to the east, Cave, Ear, Wind to the south, and the high unnamed peaks to the north and west.
It was windy, but the snow was pliable and we toured up the bottom for several miles, stopping for a lunch in brilliant sunlight.
 Bender Creek meadow