Day 15 Mon Feb 6. Grangeville – Brundage – McCall 4200m vertical (43600 total)

What a great way to start the final week!

Warm (relatively) and windy leaving Grangeville this morning as first light starting to appear.  Most of the latter part of the drive  yesterday and at first this morning wasn’t all that exciting but I’ve had plenty of driving excitement the last few days so I can live with that!  But took a dramatic turn for the better as started another long winding descent down into and then along the Salmon River valley.  This is after the river emerges from its ‘River of No Return’ zone and carves a magnificent gorge through the barren hills.  And the Hells Canyon gorge on the Snake River – the deepest in the US – is only about 15 km in a straight line to the west.  It’s a big part of the appeal of driving around these areas – the rivers are just stunning.

Tempting to take even more photo stops but fresh snow was calling and from Riggins (where there was coffee!) followed  the Little Salmon upstream almost all the way to Brundage.  Intermittent rain turned to snow before the final climb up to the hill and was snowing steadily at the base.  Arrived just as the main chair started loading but this place doesn’t do crowds midweek and within 2 minutes most chairs were going up empty.  Visibility at the top varied between not much and Sweet FA but knew my way from previous visits so headed straight for Lakeview – which didn’t seem to be running – so started heading back toward base – when I realised that it wasn’t Lakeview after all but another chair that never runs midweek.  Why would I trust my memory about anything?

Back to base, up to the top and this time managed to get to the correct lift.  Have had some great skiing in here previous trips and while the snow was a little heavy (but MUCH better than yesterday) it was great fun with only a few sets of tracks.  Did a few runs over here thenafter catching the main chair back up did runs on Main Street and North and ducked off North into some lovely deep soft bumps on Stair Step.  Top half of runs were skiing by braille and as you got further down the hill visibility improved markedly.  LOTS of teles with occasional forays back onto the groomed to save the knees.

Grabbed some chilli for lunch out for a couple more runs then caught a different chair up to the mid mountain eatery only to find it closed.  Headed off down an ungroomed run which looked OK from the top but devolved into HUGE soft bumps half way down.  By the time I got to the bottom I was ready to chuck it in.  But then a strange light appeared in the sky and I could actually see!  So one last chair ride and another run down North and Stair Step – in some ways good that you could now see the terrain but also slightly disconcerting that you could see how far you were going to slide if you missed a turn!  Slow but uneventful drive down the hill and after grabbing some supplies and a coffee checked into my very comfortable little bungalow.

Very warm and wet storms forecast for later in the week for all areas I could possibly get to so not sure what the final plan will be yet, but the legs are telling me that tomorrow might be an XC day.

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