It shouldn’t come as a great shock that I was a little late in departing today – the longer I nest in the one spot, the harder it seems to be to pack up and leave. With a final coffee and a final crossing of the Clark Fork it was a fairly slow drive up the lower Bitterroot valley. Had my 4th deer sighting for the trip this morning – the first three had surprisingly good road sense and kept well out of the way but this was in the middle of the road as I approached. I’d seen it from some distance off so was already slowing when its head went one way and its feet went another and the silly bugger fell over! Thankfully got it together and was up and running OFF the road after that. Was finally up at the parking lot about 10.30. Had feared a busy day but it was only half full.
Just enough breeze to make it one of those days when the cold eats through you. Another rather cheap lift ticket – $38 for ‘Golden Agers’ so seemed worth a few hours on the way through. No new snow but had picked up about a foot over the last week. Pretty much straight on to the chair from the base and when I saw at the top that chairs were coming up empty on Chair 2 figured I’d take the same start as last year. Delightful lightly tracked snow on meadow to start and headed off to the right from the traverse. Bad move! Very firm bumps everywhere, including on the escape track that takes you back to the chair. Not the ideal first run.
So back at the top took an easier path over toward Saddle Mountain. Snow was generally pretty firm but still skiing quite nicely. A few low angle soft patches in the trees. Then the 15 minute ride up the old double chair – possibly the longest chair ride in existence. And did I mention it was a tad chilly? From the top traversed across toward the top of SacJac trees. Tried a little of the ungroomed the other side of the groomed run and it was a little challenging so ended up sticking more on the groomed. Really nice up the top but got progressively more concrete like toward the bottom – another place where the r@!n had obviously got into the mix at some stages.
Once I figured it wasn’t going to be the soft powder conditions I was used to here I adjusted my expectations and just cruised around a bit and explored a couple of spots I hadn’t skied before. Ended up back on Saddle Mountain, then took the rope tow to the top and headed back toward the base. Of course it was at this point that I found my nicest run of the day on Lower Oreo. Would have been nice to do a repeat, but the time and effort required to do a second lap just seemed a bit much, so headed back to base and called it quits. Just a few hours but a fun ski and worth the visit.
The other appeal of this approach for the day – other that skiing Lost Trail – was to be able to drive a stretch of the Salmon River. Quite a steep descent to North Fork, where the river turns its back on civilization and turns into the River of No Return. The next few km from here as you follow the Salmon back upstream are just spectacular. Would have been nice to keep following it up to Challis but that would have added more than an hour to an already long day, so at Salmon township headed up ID28 following the far less impressive Lehmi River upstream with the continental divide just a few km to the east.
Ended up at the Motel 6 in Rexburg as couldn’t be stuffed doing the extra driving through to Driggs. And yes the promised snow for Targhee for tonight into tomorrow morning is looking progressively less likely. Oh well.