Lost Trail Powder Mountain, MT 20JAN02 & 21JAN02

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Lost Trail Powder Mountain, MT 20JAN02 & 21JAN02

Postby Jay Silveira » Fri Jan 25, 2002 2:51 am

Sunday <BR> <BR> As advertised, the big storm came in from the Pacific and Lost Trail reported another 12 inches of new snow on top of the foot they had already received in the past couple of days. The powder was getting serious. E and I joined some friends from the lab and got right to work on Thunder, a steep trail under lift 2. The latest round of snow had fallen really light, around 5% H2O, and it hardly slowed you down at all. We enjoyed a few runs down Thunder until it got pretty tracked up, then we headed into the trees. With the help of friends, we were also introduced to a secret meadow that lies between two trails and offers up some steep powder shots. We’ve been slowly learning the local tree stashes, and today found a few new ones that delivered some great deep powder. In the afternoon, when the others had left, E and I found an exceptionally tasty one to the right of Thunder and had it to ourselves for the rest of the day. <BR> <BR> <BR>Monday, MLK Day <BR> <BR> Hmmm, this snow is too deep to ski through, I’ll just use this track left by someone else and hustle my way over to the edge of Thunder. Ahh, now we’re moving, this should be fun, can’t wait to see what this powder is like… oh, hey that shot hit me in the face, gasp, gotta get that out of my mouth, cough, ack another, oh god, oh god, this snow is amazing, gasp, but I can’t breathe, this is too good to stop, choke, but I think I’m going to die, oh man do I need air this isn’t funny, this isn’t funny at all, I REALLY need to stop… <BR> <BR> Derek and I had just scared ourselves half to death. We’d dropped into Thunder and nearly suffocated on snow. After 10 turns, I stopped, gasping for breath, and looked to my left to see that Derek had done exactly the same thing. We were both scared as hell. “Oh my God I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know what to do, I had to stop!” Derek looked over at me and acknowledged that he was in exactly the same state of affairs. Once the adrenaline surge began to fade, we came to our senses and began to realize what was going on. This was not simply another average powder day. This was a, “Dammit, I know people are always joking about snorkels but I wish I had one right now just so I could breathe” day. As if the two feet we already had weren’t enough, another 18-20 inches had come down overnight and the maelstrom dragged on at an inch and hour right before our eyes. <BR> We gathered our thoughts and decided to time our breathing as we skied. It didn’t work. Even on the upstroke of a turn, the snow lingered in the air and left us gagging and coughing, the snow building up in our mouths until we just had to stop and breathe. I never thought I’d see the day when too much snow made the skiing LESS fun. I’d had big powder days back home in Vermont, days when face shots were everywhere, days when I’d get a few mouthfuls of snow and have to spit it out to get breathing again at the next sign of light. But never had I had difficulty like this. I remember the day that Dave called me from Bolton and said that they had been nailed with over 2 feet of champagne powder overnight, he explained how all the instructors were going nuts and you had to time your breathing. I couldn’t go up though because I was in the middle of an experiment at work, but I thought I had imagined correctly what he was going through. I hadn’t. It didn’t matter how we turned or how we tried to time our breathing, it was an all-out choke fest. We worked our way down the rest of the run trying to enjoy the amazing conditions the best we could, but hampered by the snow all the same. <BR> In the end, we found a simple solution. Since we didn’t have neck gaiters, we used the lower front portions of our hoods to cover up our mouths while we skied. This worked like a charm, and from then on all we had to do was focus on powder bliss. <BR> <BR>That morning, we spent a lot of time in the white room. <BR> <BR> After a couple of runs down Thunder, it started to get a bit tracked up, so we headed over to Moose Creek, a region just at the edge of the ski area which is not patrolled, but highly used. Derek knew a nice entrance through some trees that would maximize our vertical and steepness in Moose Creek, just what we needed with this snow. Through a combination of untracked snow from the previous couple of feet that fell, and protection from the wind, we found ourselves atop the 35 degree pitch into Moose Creek standing in thigh to waist deep snow. This was going to be absolutely absurd. Covering our gaping mouths with our hoods, we prepared ourselves for the experience. I pushed off slowly, the flat slope gradually gaining pitch, and I, gradually gaining speed. Within 2-3 turns I was in the thick of it and snow was everywhere. There are a few lone trees scattered about this area, and thankfully they were the only things we needed to worry about. Each turn was a blinding explosion of white which flew up to our chests, up to our mouths, into our eyes, over our heads. With the breathing problem solved, now the issue was vision. I can recall one run where I plotted my course from the top, just to the left of one of the lone trees, pushed off, and held on tight. The ride consisted of 90% white punctuated by short episodes of “There’s that tree… there it is again… now it’s close… there it goes… oh my god! Although Moose Creek only offers up a few hundred vertical feet before it ends in a cat track which brings you back to the lift, it was far too good, dare I say “Epic” to ignore. I will use Epic since this was undoubtedly one of my top 10 days, and my best day ever in the Western U.S. I’ve skied deeper snow, and steeper snow, and lighter snow, and longer runs, but as the ski industry would say, this was the longest-deepest-steepest-lightest snow I’d ever skied, or something to that effect. And this was unquestionably the “face-shotinnest day” I’d ever seen. We cycled Moose Creek a half dozen times, eventually meeting up with my supervisor Byron, and his supervisor Bruce. Technically, we were celebrating Martin Luther King Day (and boy were we celebrating) but I think the lab would have been devoid of skiers whatever day it had been. Everyone in town knew this was not a day to be missed. <BR> So, now it comes down to this. After 4 feet of snow in just the past week, we are left with the following forecast from the National Weather Service. <BR> <BR>URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE <BR>NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MISSOULA MT <BR>940 PM MST (840 PM PST) THU JAN 24 2002 <BR> <BR>NORTHERN CLEARWATER MOUNTAINS-SOUTHERN CLEARWATER MOUNTAINS-BITTERROOT/SAPPHIRE MOUNTAINS-BLACKFOOT REGION-INCLUDING...DRUMMOND...SEELEY LAKE...ELK RIVER...PIERCE...POWELL...ELK CITY...DIXIE...SULA <BR> <BR>...A HEAVY SNOW WARNING CONTINUES FOR THE MOUNTAINS OF WEST CENTRAL MONTANA AND NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO ABOVE 4000 FEET TONIGHT AND FRIDAY...SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 TO 12 INCHES ARE EXPECTED OVER THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO AND WEST CENTRAL MONTANA TONIGHT. TOTAL STORM ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 3 FEET WILL OCCUR THROUGH FRIDAY. HEAVIEST SNOWS WILL FALL OVER THE CLEARWATER...BITTERROOT AND MISSION MOUNTAINS. <BR> <BR> <BR> We’ve set ourselves at a 12-inch powder rule tomorrow which will determine whether we ski in the morning or not, but either way we’ll be out there on Saturday. If it comes anywhere close to MLK day it’ll be awesome. E (that lucky stiff) is out of school tomorrow with her 5th grade class for their first ski trip of the year up at Lost Trail. This day was planned months in advance, but boy can they pick ‘em. I haven’t heard any 1st hand reports, but everyone is thinking that the avalanche danger in the backcountry is pretty horrendous with all this new snow. Our friend James is due to arrive in Missoula by plane on Saturday evening. For his sake, I hope his flight can make it in. <BR> <BR> Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures from Monday (MLK) but I did get a few from Sunday. They can be found at the following address: <BR> <BR><A HREF="http://www.uvm.edu/~jsilveir/20JAN02.html" TARGET="_top">http://www.uvm.edu/~jsilveir/20JAN02.html</A> <BR> <BR>J.Spin
Jay Silveira
 
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