Saturday, February 28th, 2004 - Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Montana
If you'd like to use a map to orient yourself while reading the report, click on the image below to open a high resolution trail map of Lost Trail Powder Mountain in a new window.
Now that we were back from our Big Sky/Moonlight Basin trip, we could all head to Lost Trail for the day and hopefully get some more good stills and video. It was an overcast day, and new snowfall had been minimal, but I knew the north facing terrain would still be loaded with powder for the picking. Since Greg had missed last year's Lost Trail days when we had explored the Hollywood Chutes (on a blue sky day with 2-3 feet of fresh), I wanted to make sure he got a chance to check them out, even if conditions weren't that great.
We worked our way over to chair 4, and found that the conditions in Hollywood Bowl basically sucked. The south-facing terrain had been cooked by the sun, and no new snow meant that it was a crusty, chunky mess. The Hollywood Chutes were in identical shape, but since they were even steeper than the bowl, it was really survival skiing to get down. As I worked my way down what was usually some of the most fantastic terrain on the mountain, I couldn't wait for the run to end. It was frustrating to look at a huge rock outcropping that I'd launched off the previous year in a blinding explosion of snow, which was now essentially unskiable due to exposed rock and death crust. But, that's what Mother Nature threw at us for the day, and we had to take it.
Finally, I escaped the chutes and made my way into the snowfield below. At first, the surface was a challenging field of crust, but as I made my way further down into areas shaded by trees, the surface was instantly transformed into beautiful powder. All of a sudden, I went from chopping through chunks to gliding through deep white bliss. I dove down into the trees and was back at the Lost Trail Powder Mountain we all knew and loved. The others followed suit and soon we were gliding among the evergreens, the sounds of crunchy snow replaced by powder "woo hoos". We stopped for a photo and video shoot on my favorite line in the area, with a big log making a centerpiece for punctuating powder turns with a little air. After experiencing the skiing in the trees there, I knew there was no point in going near anything that had been touched by the sun.
Realizing this fact, I brought the group to the north side of the Bear Claw Ridge at the top of Elk Basin, where Greg and I had explored the previous weekend. We'd conserved a lot of fresh lines in the area just for this occasion, but even where we had put down tracks, the snow was almost pristine. Small snowfalls throughout the week had all but buried our tracks. We shot some great stills and video in a nice open area, and then snaked our way through the trees below.
Jay catches some air at the top of Elk Basin (click on the picture for a larger image)
For the next run, we headed over to a northeast-facing corner of the ridge, an area with a couple of considerable drops that Greg and I had scoped out for the group on the previous weekend. Now that we had a full crew to document the event, it was time to test things out. We began by skiing down the open chute along the spine, which had fantastic powder and some small terrain features, then, we set up for launching off the big kicker we'd discovered. One of the best features of this jump is the scenic potential. It's a big jagged bulge of rock that pops out of the ridge, and a profile shot is right in line with a background of the Hollywood Bowl area. Further, there is a huge tree lying at an angle below the jump, and both the tree and the rock are topped with pillowy powder. It's like one of those shots you'd see in a magazine. The technical aspects of the jump are pretty good as well. It's essentially a flat takeoff, and the area below has a nice snow collection pocket. Despite the fact that it's probably a 15-20 foot drop, depending on how lean you hit it, you could actually ski out of it into the small snowfield below (before the trees close in and you have to start threading the needle.
When I first got on top of the thing, I looked down at the landing 15-20 feet below and thought "no way", and was ready to walk away. But, Greg also took a look and felt it was safe enough. After a bit of discussion, I was convinced that the snow was deep enough below to supply a good cushion, and I could hit it and actually ski out of it. Greg had even decided that he was going to pounce on the pillow formed by the log I mentioned above, and hope for the best. I think the rest of us were somewhat uncomfortable with this idea, since we couldn't tell how jagged the log was, or what kinds of branches might be buried in the pillow. It took a lot of convincing, but Greg decided against it (really only to make the rest of us comfortable). If we hadn't pushed hard against the idea, I'm sure he would have done it. It might have made for an amazing shot, but it might also have been a mess.
We got everyone set, James and Dave with video cameras and Chris with the still cam, then Greg went off the rock. His plan was to go pretty hard, and not really try to ski out of it. The jump went well, and once he landed, he praised the depth of the powder, indicating that you could almost do whatever you wanted with little worry. I still took it a bit more conservatively, hoping to ski out of it as I had planned. I was pretty happy with the result, and did manage to ski out of it, but once I felt the depth of the snow in the landing zone I knew I could have gone bigger. Regardless, we got some good shots and had some fun. Greg and I had been calling it James' jump all week, anticipating that we'd be able to get him to go off it, but in the end he decided against it, maybe next time.
Greg heads off the big jump, while James catches video from below.
Jay follows Greg's lead.
The planned jump was really at the top of the vertical for the run, so we had plenty more skiing to do. As we made our way further down, we came across an area I call "The Knob" which features some fantastic rock faces that seem to come out of nowhere. Unfortunately, this terrain also faces mostly south, and gets cooked by the sun. On this occasion however, we came in at the far skier's right of The Knob, in a sheltered area. We found a big line with good snow, and Greg decided to hit it. I don't think it went quite as well as planned, but the result wasn't too bad. We next cut right into the trees and headed over to some of the "dead end trails" that drop off the northeast part of the Bear Claw Ridge. We attempted some synchronized skiing in the powder, but screwed it up for the most part.
I can't recall all the runs that day, but we didn't do too many since we focused on getting some quality video in specific areas. Once we felt we'd tired ourselves out enough, we hit the steep terrain above North Bowl to get us back to the main lifts. We had to stay in the shaded areas as usual, but we found a few good lines to finish off the day. All told, we had a great "non powder day", if you could call it that with all the powder skiing we did. We were unsure about our plans for Sunday though. Without a big storm to really jazz everyone up, taking a day off was really looking likely after a solid week of skiing.
James tackling the powdery steeps above North Bowl
Dave above North Bowl
More of James on the steeps above North Bowl, with Jay shooting stills from the lower left
(A day off from skiing?)
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