December to Remember

The winter of 2014/15 was about as lackluster as they come. Finding the silver lining in a winter rife with complete resort closures is hard for any skier, much less the powder junkies of the Northern Rockies. The following summer was the driest ever recorded; homes evacuated, wildfires blazing on the horizon, and billions of dollars spent fighting them. By the time fall arrived rumors of El Nino and a low tide winter had become the mantra for the seasonally depressed. Every powder day of the past where that “one more run” was skipped seemed to haunt even the waking hours.  …You fool… you wasted it…

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Alas, despite the forecasts, prognostications, and outright winter blasphemy a beautiful December storm graced Northwest Montana with its snowy holiness. As the snow steadily accumulated and temperatures continued dropping the anticipation of a big powder day became palpable. Alarms would be set extra early, coffee would be pre-brewed, skis waxed, bags packed, boots readied by the door. No stash would be untouched, no hike would be too long, and burning legs would suffer. The haunting ghosts of powder turns past would be avenged.

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And so it was. The Christmas storm delivered in a way that only fat jolly men who ride in mythical sleighs can. Snow was deep, smiles were wide, and stories were told. While the season may yet unfurl into a boney, corn skiing madness no one yet knows. But we’ll rest assured knowing we gave it all when we had the chance and that no turns were wasted.

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All the shots in this post were shot in December around Whitefish Mountain Resort and the Whitefish Range. We hope you enjoyed the start to the 2016 season as much as we did. Happy New Year!

Bro, Bro, Bro! Merry Christmas!

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Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the zone.
Not a ski bum was hiking, not even on Lone.

The ski socks were hung by the wood stove with care,
In hopes that deep powder soon would be there.

The nuggets were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of pillow lines danced in their heads.

And hottie in her ‘kerchief, and I in my beanie,
Had just fired the grill for brews and a weenie.

When out on the porch there arose such a clatter,
The couch surfer sprang up see what was the matter.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and spilled his chron stash.

The moon on the carpet of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of bluebird to pockets below.

When what to his bloodshot eyes should appear,
But a huge fatty sled, and eight massive reindeer.

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With a crusty old driver, yet lively and quick,
We knew in a moment “Whoa, that dude is SICK!”

More rapid than Bode his rippers they came,
And he whistled, and bellowed, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the mountain! To the top of the headwall!
Now slash away! Slash away! Slash away all!”

As dry leaves that smoke before the powder does fly,
When meet with an obstacle, they huck huge to the sky.

So up to the A-Frame the rippers they flew,
With the sled full of toys, and that gnarly dude too.

And then, in a twinkling, we heard on the roof
The pounding and pawing of each mega hoof.

As we drew in our heads, and were turning around,
Down the chimney the jolly Dude came with a bound.

He was dressed super steezy, from his dome to his foot,
Yet his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.

A bundle of Toys he had in a sack,
He looked like Patrol, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples were merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose totally cherry!

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His stoke was quite epic, his pants hung quite low,
And the beard on his face was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his grill,
And the smoke as circled his head was quite chill.

He had a broad face and a gi-normous belly,
That rocked the cabin as he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was massive and plump, laughing like Buddy The Elf,
And broski he cheezed out in spite of himself!

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Told us he was irie like the most natty dread.

He spoke not a curse word, but got straight to his work,
And stuffed all the ski socks, then turned with a jerk.

And laying his digits aside of his beak,
And giving a nod, rose straight up to the peak!

He sprang to his sled, to his team gave a yammer,
And away they all flew, they were dropping the hammer.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he launched out of sight,
“Happy Ski Season to all, and to all a good-night!”

What Dreams May Come

It is about this time of year that our first skiing dreams make their  appearance.  We’re not sure what sparks these annual visions; the drop in temperatures, the first ski rag landing on our doorstep, the titling of the earth, or perhaps it is something far more preternatural.

Billy Marcial enjoying Evan's  Heaven December 22, 2014.  Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com

Billy Marcial enjoying Evan’s Heaven December 22, 2014. Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com 2014

The format and mental cinematography of the dreams may vary but the excitement is always the same.   In some dreams there are endless spines and  rolling high alpine powder fields as far as the eye can see.  In others there are sub alpine firs encrusted in snow and coming alive as we dart between them giving a eerie creak that haunt us in our waking hours.  Dark forests blanketed with snow disappearing beneath our feet as we soar off a cornice into an unbelievably epic air that somehow ends in an amazingly perfect soft landing.  ‘Snorkelfests of pillow lines through deciduous trees that ends in a seascape along an unknown shore; those strange combinations of geographies that only exist in our imaginations.

Erick Gelbke and Kate Atha soak in the morning sun at Whitefish Mountain Resort on December 16, 2014.  Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com 2014

Erick Gelbke and Kate Atha soak in the morning sun at Whitefish Mountain Resort on December 16, 2014. Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com 2014

If the dreams have yet to arrive this fall we suggest you visit your local ski shop, get tactile with some new gear, check your favorite ski blog, and buy a few tickets to the annual lineup of winter films like The Banff Mountain Film Tour

Kyle Taylor  dreaming big in deep powder at Whitefish Mountain Resort.  Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com 2014

Kyle Taylor dreaming big in deep powder at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com 2014

ENSOmuch

 

It’s Spanish for “The Nino!”  Depending on where you live, you either love that little boy or you hate him with a passion — pun intended.   There have been some serious El Nino doomsday predictions floating around the interwebs recently.  But no need to nerd out on those stories because we’re going to drop some science here on the GlacierLife.

Only the man made snow holds around Chair 6 at Whitefish Mountain Resort on April 9, 2015.  Photo (C) Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com Inc. 2015

Only the man made snow holds around Chair 6 at Whitefish Mountain Resort on April 9, 2015. Photo (C) Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com Inc. 2015

We’ve all heard of El Nino and La Nina, but what happens when you’re shifting between these weather cycles and where does it all come from?  The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a naturally occurring phenomenon that involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The warmer waters essentially slosh, or oscillate, back and forth across the Pacific, much like water in a bath tub. For North America and much of the globe, the phenomenon is known as a dominant force causing variations in regional climate patterns.  Sum up… Nino is warming waters and Nina is cooling waters in the Pacific Ocean and they run global warming like Rick Rubin.

2014-15 winter’s ENSO report from the NOAA is chalk full of charts, graphs and data that would make even the most hardcore amateur meteorologist’s head spin like Candide Thovex.  On average during ENSO ‘tweener cycles the Northern Rockies generally receive above average snowfall, but we’re talking from Missoula, MT north into Canada.  Last winter the switch to El Nino took hold which meant warmer and dryer temps throughout the inland Northwest and parts of the Northern Rockies.  In like a Lion and out like a Lamb.

Last fall during the Northern Rockies Avalanche Workshop Greg Pederson of the USGS gave a talk on snowpack history that was pretty revealing regarding high and low snowpack years i.e. while on average our climate is getting warmer and dryer there is always variability and spikes in snowfalls can happen during even the worst cycles.  So, regardless of the averages it is no excuse to throw in the towel.  In fact it is even more incentive to pump your quads, prime the sled, re-glue your skins, wax up those fatty’s, double check that beacon and get ready for winter because you might have to hike a little higher or a little farther to get the goods.  They’ll still be there waiting for you.

Drew Pogge skins along the northeast face of Mount Stimson that rises to 10,141 feet above sea level. Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com

Drew Pogge skins below the northeast face of Mount Stimson that rises to 10,141 feet above sea level. Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com

Feeling charitable regarding the climate?  Visit POW and make a donation (or buy some swag).  Curious about global implications of changing weather?  Read the latest from and The Guardian

 

Fire on the Mountain

Bucket work on Glacier Rim Fire along the North Fork of the Flathead River near Columbia Falls, Montana on June, 28, 2015

Bucket work on Glacier Rim Fire along the North Fork of the Flathead River near Columbia Falls, Montana on June, 28, 2015 – Photo (C) Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com Inc. 2015

While smokey air chokes the lungs and images of soot faced fire fighters and fire refugees covers front pages it is not hard to believe that the summer of 2015 is on record as the driest in history.  The last conditions were as dry was 1929  when epic fires raged across the west with far less resistance from mankind.  Some people were evacuated, some lost their homes, and sadly some their lives.  Seeing an awesome force of nature first hand, whether it be avalanche, tornado, or wildfire puts a lot of things into perspective.  The clear insignificance of mankind against nature becomes overly apparent.  While scary, this sense of fear and  smallness is what often times brings us closer to nature and sometimes each other.  It is an odd paradox but one that exists nonetheless and even more so it seems in mountain communities like ours.   Our hearts and thoughts go out to all those effected by the fire and to those who fought to contain it.

North American Interactive Wildfire Map http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us

Bucket work on Glacier Rim Fire near Columbia Falls, Montana on June, 28, 2015

Bucket work on Glacier Rim Fire near Columbia Falls, Montana on June, 28, 2015 – (C) Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com Inc. 2015

US Highway 2 near West Glacier as the Thompson Creek Fire grows in the afternoon wind on August 11, 2015. (C) Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com Inc. 2015

US Highway 2 near West Glacier as the Thompson Creek Fire grows in the afternoon wind on August 11, 2015. (C) Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com Inc. 2015

Big Sky Resort Powder Dreams

This winter we made our 14th annual trip to Big Sky Resort. This year we connected with two Big Sky locals – Brad Biolo and Dan K. Over two storm days we toured all over Big Sky Resort finding deep powder and hidden lines that seemed to go on for miles. While we hoped for some sunshine we got nothing but blower powder. If its not going to be sunny it better be snowing. It snowed for almost 30 days strait at Big Sky and we were there during the middle of it! We wish we had more time to explore the largest skiing in America during our time at Big Sky. Enjoy the images and keep your eyes open, a few of these may pop up in some tourism and skiing related media. Thanks Dan, Brad, Big Sky Resort, 810 Mtn Crew, Mystery Ranch, Montana Ski Company and GlacierWorld.com photography.

Brad playing in the Big Sky Resort powder.

Brad playing in the Big Sky Resort powder.

Powder was the name of the game at Big Sky Resort.

Powder was the name of the game at Big Sky Resort.

Brad dropping in the forest on a powder day.

Brad dropping in the forest on a powder day.

Brad booting up from one of the tree forts around Big Sky Resort.

Brad booting up from one of the tree forts around Big Sky Resort.

The Big Sky Resort Mountain Mall got a face lift and looks even better with a fresh coating of white.

The Big Sky Resort Mountain Mall got a face lift and looks even better with a fresh coating of white.

The Big Sky Resort village is the starting place for all things fun at Big Sky.

The Big Sky Resort village is the starting place for all things fun at Big Sky.

A new breakfast and lunch spot on the resort above Rice Bowl.

A new breakfast and lunch spot on the resort above Rice Bowl.

Dan loving this powder day.

Dan loving this powder day.

Dan in the old forest near Dakota Lift.

Dan in the old forest near Dakota Lift.

Dan charging down the lower section of Lone Peak.

Dan charging down the lower section of Lone Peak.

Brad airing out a cliff near Lone Pine on the Moonlight side of Lone Peak.

Brad airing out a cliff near Lone Pine on the Moonlight side of Lone Peak.

Brad cruising down Three Forks Chute on the Moonlight side of Lone Peak.

Brad cruising down Three Forks Chute on the Moonlight side of Lone Peak.

Brad enjoying the powder on Bone Crusher with Challenger lift in the background.

Brad enjoying the powder on Bone Crusher with Challenger lift in the background.