54″+8″=62″ at Lost Trail Powder Mountain

ImageSo far we have been on the road for a week, and life is starting to get difficult.  We are camped on the side of HWY 93 and it is cold and snowing.  Jon, Moiwa and I are all crammed in our little camper at Sula RV Resort, it is only 65 degrees in here and we just got out of the hot tub.  No one ever said storm chasing was easy.  But let me back up.

Yesterday, even though the skiing was still good and NOAA was calling for more snow in the area, it felt like a good time to move on.  We bid Eric and Martha farewell, and while they were lapping their secret stashes on the pass, we drove west.  On the way we passed through Rexsburg and stopped to see one of my childhood best friends, Erika Nordfelt.  It was a quick catch up, but I was so glad I got a chance to see her.  We had to get back on the road, because our plan was to try and make it to Stevens Pass for the next storm cycle.  I was excited to see an area I had only read about, although I couldn’t help thinking about their tragedy last year.  On a sidecountry lap, there was a large slab avalanche that caused quite a few fatalities and had only one survivor.  But no use dwelling on only one event in an accident prone winter.  Although we could have taken a more direct approach to Washington, Jon wanted to check out an old ski hill called Lost Trail Pass.  To get there we drove north through Idaho, through a lot of rugged country which displayed evidence of the busy fire season.  There were also a lot of beautiful rivers, and you could tell this area was well known for their fishing.  Outside of a town called Salmon, we drove by two bald eagles, sitting side by side in a snag.  It was a very scenic drive.  Soon we were climbing up Lost Trail Pass, and although the bottom of the pass had only a small amount of snow, the top was a winter wonderland.  We pulled over at the summit and gazed up at the “resort”.  It had the exact same character as Wolf Creek Ski Area, and they both teeter on the Continental Divide, which made Jon and I fall in love with it right away.  We changed our plans and decided to stay in Missoula for the night and ski in the morning.

That night, as we waited to meet up with a friend of ours in Missoula, we were looking at some snow reports.  Mt. Baker had just received 27″ in 24 hours, and Stevens Pass was predicted to get 16″ that night.  Should we keep driving?  No, seeing friends is more important than skiing record breaking storms.  As long as we are skiing powder, we are happy.  So we stayed, got up at 6am this morning and drove treacherously icy roads back to the hills.  We arrived at around 9am, and there were only about 20 cars in the parking lot, which could have all been employees.  We walked up and purchased our $35 lift tickets and then skated right onto the the old two person lift to head to the top.  Every single employee we ran into had a big smile on their face.  When we dropped in on our first run, Jon and I were both shocked.  The snow was so light, we couldn’t even feel it under our skies.  It blew up around us to the point that I couldn’t even ski behind Jon because I was choking on the snowflakes his every turn kicked up.  This was the extreme opposite side of the spectrum from what we had skied the day before yesterday.  I believe this is some of the lightest, most incredible snow in existence.  The only downfall of snow like this is you are commonly skiing what is underneath it, even if it is blowing around and hitting you in the face.  So we decided to stay off the main runs and poke around in the trees.  I thought a lot of the terrain would be fairly mellow, since it reminded me so much of Wolf Creek, but on our second run we cut skiers left and ended up on top of a 60 degree slope covered with giant boulders.  It would have made a really fun pillow line if it wasn’t early December and they had more snow coverage, but right now it was just a meat grinder, so we cut left.  There we discovered untracked 40 degree trees.  We skied lightly because we weren’t sure about the snow coverage, but we didn’t have to be too careful.  Everything we bounced over didn’t uncover the ground.  The entire rest of the morning was spent tracking out those trees.  After lunch the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  It was starting to get so cold I wasn’t sure if I could keep skiing, but the snow was so perfect I didn’t want to stop.  At the top, we cut right and couldn’t believe our eyes.  We were standing on top of a mellow, untracked run, even though it was one o’clock in the afternoon.  We both dropped in together and hooted and hollered all the way down; we couldn’t contain our excitement.  It had been snowing all day so each lap just kept getting deeper and deeper and even though it kept getting colder and colder, we kept skiing until the chair closed.

Today was my all time favorite type of skiing.  It was lift accessed, even if only by old, slow two chairs.  It wasn’t crowded and stressful, just relaxed and low key, yet full of stoke.  And the entire mountain felt like our own personal powdery playground, filled with all our little snow ghost friends (the white, weighted down lodge poles).  There is so much of the mountain left un-skied, even after spinning laps all day.  It’s days like these we commonly have at Wolf Creek, but now we got the experience on this little gem.

By the time we got back to the camper, and got our boots off, neither of us could stop thinking about the hot tub our friend had told us about at the RV park down the road.  We decided to check it out, and now here we are.  Fed, warm and happy.

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