1-15-2011 Downing Mountain

January 15, 2011 at 13:41 | Posted in Skiing at Downing Mountain Lodge | 2 Comments
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I headed up to the Downing Mountain Lodge  again yesterday. It was pretty ugly on approach with the full meltdown rendering the access road an icy prospect. Wisely we chained up by the mailboxes on ice free pavement and then proceeded to drive just passed the gate onto the slush. Up at the lodge it was 35 degrees and also in full meltdown. We persevered as looking up the mountain we could see the snowline maybe 700 vertical above. We broke out the trail again and found deep powder and freezing temps above 7000′. At the top of Little Downing Mountain at 8100′ there was about two feet of fresh, heavy and dense, but not wet. On Voile Drifters I stayed completely afloat and enjoyed some great powder skiing. Colin on the Dynafit Manaslus found the skiing really good as well, with a bit more ski penetration. We did not notice any obvious signs of widespread instability, but relying on the golden rule of staying out of avalanche terrain with this amount of heavy fresh snow we skied terrain in the 28-30 degree zone and managed to pull down about 7000′ vertical between noon and five thirty. Having lived in the Bitterroot for long enough to know meltdowns are part of the price of west slope geography and lower elevation, it is always interesting to head out on days when town looks like hell and all the senses say skiing is foolish. Driving the body onward using only the fuel of hope and will, the dedicated skier finds themselves eventually above the mush and back into the winter wonderland. In weather conditions like this of course starting at the highest possible elevation surely helps. With few high elevation access points available to us in the Bitterroot Mountains, it is sure nice to have Downing Mountain Lodge to rely on for staging from 2000 feet above the valley floor. I wonder how much more backcountry skiing would get accomplished here  in the Bitterroot if one of the trailheads to Gash Point, Camas Peak, or St. Mary’s were kept plowed open like the private road to Downing Mountain Lodge…


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  1. Nice report, good to hear things are holding up in the high country.

    • I heard furthermore from today that the snow skied okay up high and that is was so dense that there was little ski penetration at all. Up on top of the 6 foot snowpack sounds pretty good to me, I will keep my eyes shut below 6500′ and hope for some snow with the refreeze on monday night…

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