Steve and Juliane Bantz arrived Sunday on Amtrak's Empire Builder. We planned to spend the week skiing several venues before heading to Hayward, Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner ski race.
The week featured a variety of skiing conditions that included frozen granular, wet granular and corn, frozen pine needle hardpack and a lot of fresh snow that came by the foot. Here's a report on the week.
Izaak Walton Inn, Monday February 14:
For a warm up Jen, Nancy, Steve, Juliane and I skied at Izaak Walton Inn. The previous several days saw high winds and very warm temperatures.
Nancy and I recorded winds of 79 mph at our house on Saturday. Winds of 114 mph were reported at the Choteau, Montana airport before the wind gauge broke. These were chinook winds that brought temperatures into the 50s and literally ate up the snow. By Monday morning it cooled into the 20s and skiing at Izaak Walton Inn was on frozen granular stuff that was at one time snow.
Homestake Lodge, Tuesday February 15:
Juliane, Steve and I planned on spending the rest of the week in West Yellowstone. To break the drive we stopped at Homestake Lodge. This delightful ski area is at 6,300 feet just east of Butte, Montana near Homestake Pass on the Continental Divide.
The lodge is a fantastic structure that offers a warm and friendly atmosphere. Our hosts for the day were Chris, Mandy and Lars.
The temps were pretty warm but Chris had groomed most of the trails that morning and skiing was great, especially early in the day. The scenery at the ski area included open aspen glades and pine forests all on a rolling terrain.
Steve and I decided to ski to the pass where we got a long view over to the Tobacco Root Mountains. The trail gained elevation steadily but it was not too steep. At the top we could see far off to the east but the warm air was quite hazy.
Skiing back down the trail brought more thrills as we passed from warm, sunny, wet snow areas into cool, shady, dry snow spots. Our skis would take off in the dry powder snow and slow down quickly in the sunny spots.
After a delicious lunch of a sandwich and soup we headed out to explore more of the trails. The Prospector, Busy Beaver, Meadow Road, and several other trails kept us busy until we were pooped.
West Yellowstone, Wednesday - Thursday February 16 ad 17:
We spent these two days in West Yellowstone skiing the Rendezvous Trails. If you are not familiar with this incredible ski area go to the Archives page and look for the many posts from there. The trails begin right in town.
Our first ski was on a hardened groomed surface but the recent winds dumped quite a few pine needles and other debris on the trails. This made for fast but difficult skiing.
The hardpack didn't last long because by Wednesday afternoon it began to snow. And snow. And snow. By the time we left West it had snowed well over a foot and it was still snowing.
The trails were regroomed on Thursday morning but by mid morning they were once again buried in new snow. We classic skied a variety of trails and the sun popped out for a while.
On Thursday afternoon the snow came down so hard that our skis were lost to view under the snow as Steve and I skied a 22 km loop that included the Volunteer, Dead Dog, Rendezvous and Deja View trails.
Lone Mountain Ranch, Friday February 18:
Leaving West Yellowstone and heading for home we interrupted our drive with a few hours of skiing at the Ranch. This excellent location features 100 km of groomed trails that cover a wide variety of terrain. Once again heavy snow fell while were were skiing and the normally fantastic views were obscured. So here's a photo on the Ranch Loop from a previous trip.
The four ski areas featured in this post offer some of the best groomed trail cross country skiing in the United States. If you get a chance to visit Montana in winter you just have to ski these fantastic locations.
Only 7 Days 'til the Birkie!
Ravens Attack Snowmobiles!
Posted February 18, 2011
Ravens are pretty interesting birds. They are intelligent and can solve many problems relate to finding food. During a rest period in our motel room in West Yellowstone Juliane head some commotion out the window.
A bunch of ravens were systematically searching several snowmobiles and opening various compartments. When they found goodies they pulled them out and ate anything edible. This included the owners lunches and trail snacks. In the photo above two ravens are pulling out plastic bags of goodies from one snowmobile while another raven watches. Several items are already on the ground awaiting further inspection.
Only 7 Days 'til the Birkie!