>Heather and I joined Justin and Beth along with some of their family for a day on Dry Ridge. We hauled 7 people up to the Wilderness boundary (about 7 miles) with one snow machine. Two riding on the sled and 5 in tow! We passed several X-country skiers down low on the groomed track and a few sled-necks higher up. I bet they had a good laugh watching the train roll on by!
We skied 4 different slopes; one south facing gooey cream cheese that wasn’t too bad, and three north facing shots down into upper reaches of Badger Creek. Conditions were night and day different from north to south, hence the 3 runs on the north side! This was Heather’s first full day out skiing in the back country. She marched right along with the rest of us, skied all 4 runs, skinned back up with a modest pace each time, and pretty much smiled the entire time. She was grateful for a seat on the sled coming out in the dark, while the rest of us battled for our lives down the icy and bumpy snow machine track!
MY THOUGHTS ON THE SNOW PACK
We’ve had a long period of stable weather which i feel has increased the stability of the snowpack…somewhat. We all know that we’re skiing on a very suspect crust and facet layer near the ground – and in my opinion it’s an unpredictable time bomb waiting for someone to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The absence of instability signs such as cracking and collapsing snow is leading to a false sense of security. There where three avalanche fatalities yesterday in SW Montana – all were recreating in the backcountry on the same problematic snowpack we have been skiing. One party was even being vigilant in avoiding suspect terrain.
The green light doesn’t come from skiing a slope once or twice without incident (think about the fatality in bounds at Teton Village) especially this season. Constant evaluation of the slope – it’s concave and convexity’s, angle, orientation to wind direction, and many of the other visible surface signs are only a part of it. Skiing slopes one at a time. Stopping in protected zones to watch and wait for others, or minimizing over all impact on the slope surface such as not huckin your meat off that sweet cornice onto that 38 degree slope with a nice convex rollover down below (yes, i really wanted to do it….but i had to many of these ???) are some of the important back country travel etiquette ideas i need to continue to adhere to. If you are gonna ski that slope, use the terrain to your advantage in providing maximum safety.
Like Turbo said below, let’s keep it in control, take our time, and err on the side of caution while we’re out skiing this winter. I’m not even close to being “knowledgeable” when it comes to understanding all things pertaining to snow stability so i’ll continue to take my time in making decisions of what i should or shouldn’t ski.
Good times with Heather in the snow!
Heather keepin’ it real. It’s easy to see she learned how to ski from me! Lookin’ good…lookin’ good… aaahhhhhhh! Make sure you’ve got the volume up on your speakers!!