It was fun going to Bend and hanging out with McBride, but it was time to get serious again. Jon looked at NOAA and found the spot of red we had been hoping for. There was a Winter Storm Warning in effect for northern Idaho and Montana. We packed up our things, and drove back to the great white north. It was smooth sailing until Lookout Pass, on the border of Idaho and Montana, when the storm hit and the interstate got sloppy. There was wet slush all over the road and Semi trucks were flying by us, shaking the truck and causing us to turn our windshield wipers to full blast just to hope to see where we were going. We decided to pull over for a moment, and get our bearings. It was three and half more hours to Whitefish, which was our original plan, but we were nervous about the roads, and it was snowing here, right now. Why drive further? But we didn’t know this area, and if we stayed we would have to skin because Lookout Ski Area is only open Thursday through Sunday. In the middle of our decision making, we watched as four snowplows came around the corner and created a convoy to clear the interstate. That was all the incentive Jon needed, and he pulled in behind them so we got clear roads until we had dropped in elevation enough for the storm to turn to rain.
At around midnight, we pulled into the Walmart Supercenter in Kalispell next to the other creepy campers in the corner of the parking lot, and slept for a few hours. In the morning, we finished our push up to the mountain and were some of the first people to arrive. By the time they dropped the rope, there was a pretty big lift line, but we were on one of the first chairs. Again we were inexperienced, never having seen this mountain, and not being able to see it very well now. It was foggy and snowing which left us guessing where the good ski runs would be. Jon led me down the first cat track at the top of the lift, and then he just bailed off the side. I followed him and we were suddenly on an open, completely untracked fall line filled with ghost white trees and bottomless powder. It is such a crazy moment, when you realize how incredible this one time in your life will be and how much had to come together to make this instant possible. The 6″ they had reported was easily 15″, if not deeper. Every turn was a face shot, and somehow we had gotten here, before anyone else, and had this one run all to ourselves. Once we got back to the lift, that run would never look the same, at least not today, while we were here. But for those ten or fifteen seconds, we got to free fall, weightlessly, while cold white smoke covered our smiles. When we got to the bottom we traversed left, and hit another open, untracked slope. Then we had to hit a very long cat track that everyone was following back to the lift. Up to do it again, to try to find more open, untracked runs before fellow skiers and snowboarders could get there in front of us. Whitefish Ski Resort was only partially open, like many of the places we had been to already, because it is still early season and the skiing is just beginning. We thought the entire mountain would get tracked out quickly, but we kept ducking into tight trees and finding little open stashes for ourselves. We were able to ski fresh lines until last chair, all the time underneath snowy skies.