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Montana 2020

A couple weeks ago, I made the trek out to Whitefish, Montana for a ski trip for the fourth time. And for the third year in a row, I was flying directly into a storm. Pretty epic timing for planning the trip months in advance - I think it can be attributed to the persistent snowfall that Whitefish sees throughout the winter months. This year in particular they are having one of their best seasons in recent history, logging a settled base over 100" before the end of January. I was also signed up for a ski mountaineering race, really cool event, and it turns out some people are crazy fast at ski touring. Fun fact: I am not currently one of those people. Maybe someday soon.

We spent the first day skiing the resort, hitting all the usual spots, logging high quality turns. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

On day two we ventured off the backside of the Flower Point chair to see if we could find some fresh snow, and sure enough, we did. Not much needs to be said about skiing powder, it was good. I can almost guarantee whatever you were doing wasn't as much fun as what we were doing.

Woody getting after it in chest deep powder

Will in the white room

Day three was the mountaineering race, the Whitefish Whiteout. An annual event that takes you up to the top of Big Mountain, down some gnarly terrain, back up a boot pack and tour, and this continues if you're crazy enough to sign up for the medium or long courses. I was not that bold, I stuck with the short course as this was the first event like this I had done and I am thankful I only did the short course. This course beat me down, I was toast at the end. My gear probably wasn't ideal. I have full frame touring bindings, Marker Dukes, which are great for going downhill but rather heavy on the uphill (gear tip: tech-ier, lightweight bindings are a must for ski mountaineering).

Skin track up Tony Matt during the Whitefish Whiteout

Me on the boot pack section in Hellroaring Basin. Photo: Mountain Life Photography

Day four was a full touring day. Will and I headed out further from the Flower Point chair than we did on day two. The avalanche report stated moderate danger for avalanches, so we played it safe and found some really awesome low angle, low risk tree skiing. Turns were DEEP. The snow was blasting into my face, I couldn't help but hoot a few times on the way down. I didn't spend much time taking photos - skiing was too good to stop and shoot.

Day five was a much needed rest day. Mostly sleep with a little bit of shop work on some projects Will and I have been working on developing - more on those projects at a later date.

Day six was a backcountry touring day. Will and I headed out to the Bob Marshall Wilderness just to the east of Glacier National Park. The skin track was narrow for my 120mm Atomic Bentchetlers, so I had a tough time going up hill. Skins were freezing and getting gummed up with snow as well, which really was not enjoyable. We didn't make it as far up the slope as we had planned due to some concerns with the incoming weather, heavy winds, fog, and some snow instability as we crossed some questionable areas. Will felt some collapsing on an open slope and we decided that was as high as we were going to go. Getting home alive is very underrated these days and we were not going to test our luck with an avalanche. Even though we stopped short of out objective, the turns we did get were DEEP. Probably better than the ones from day four, just much fewer of them to link together. Some of the softest, fluffiest snow I have ever skied.

Bob Marshall Wilderness

With those epic turns, that concluded my trip. My flight out was at 11AM the next morning.

At the airport, I was looking out the window toward Whitefish. The resort was sitting peacefully above the small mountain town, inviting all visitors to get up there and enjoy the terrain. I couldn't help but think about living there, what would it be like, potentially skiing that fluffy, champagne powder everyday throughout the Flathead Valley, or elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. It's a special place, one I will certainly be visiting again.

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