Making It to the Top & More Random Thoughts About Snow & Skiing

Our Valley So Sweet, as seen from the Little Ellis area
Today I took a look at the stats for my blog, which revealed that this post out performed the "Where Tito Once Roamed" post from 2013. While I think the Tito post is much more interesting, I am not surprised that my Types of Snow post moved into the top position. It is winter, after all, so it is little wonder it is showing up on web searches and people are checking it out with great enthusiasm.

(If you're curious about my posts, of my top five, two are about skiing, two are about travel in the Balkans and one is about the movie Scrapple, which is indirectly about skiing. You can check out my top five "Greatest Hits" by clicking on the sidebar found on the right-hand side of my blog.  As for the top ten, you'll find more about skiing with posts about good tunes, gymnastics, and holiday entertaining working their way into the list.)

Interestingly, I just updated the Types of Snow post as I recently discovered of a few more types. Sub-types actually as the Utah Avalanche Center mentioned several types of crust in a recent advisory. Bummer for them.

Winter and ski conditions have varied a lot recently with on-going temperature fluctuations being the norm. We've gone back forth between winter and fall/spring-like weather. Everything from cold temps and soft snow to warm, dry days to cool cloudy days to a crazy rain/fog/rime event (No one was really sure what it was). It was interesting to hear that Utah has similar, variable conditions as that area usually has the best and most consistent snow conditions in the lower 48, some would say the world. I'm not going to argue about it since I haven't skied much in Utah nor have I skied all of the world, but I do welcome your input.

Little Ellis in all it's glory.
Backcountry ski conditions were on a promising upswing around New Year's. Some nice storms and cold temps hit Southwest Monatna but it didn't last. It was tough to decide where to ski this weekend as warm weather and lack of snow didn't do backcountry ski conditions any favors. We decided on skate skiing at the Big Sky golf course on Saturday as I had to go there to pick up a new pair of recently mounted skis (Thanks Mike!). While skate skiing was not what we would have preferred to do, it was better than sulking around home in our hoodies wishing for better backcountry skiing. The skate ski track was in great shape and appeared to be groomed that morning. There were few tracks on it and other than a brief encounter with some out of control dogs and their negligent owners, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Faced with the same dilemma on Sunday, where to ski, I decided to do an exploratory tour up Little Ellis. This is the closest backcountry skiing to Bozeman but given it's low elevation, it can be a hit or miss proposition early in the season or in low snowpack years. I hadn't been up there this year and had only skied it during really good snow storms in the past so I was unsure of what I'd find. Skiing in the clear cuts was thin and to be avoided but coverage was okay elsewhere. You could ski but it was wise to take it easy. The real problem came with the firm crusty layer of snow at the lower elevations. The conditions weren't great but luckily it did not require survival skiing skills.

It was great to ski Little Ellis for the first time last year. I had heard about it but had never been there so when I found myself with time on my hands, I was able to get out and explore the area when the conditions were right. Beyond the clear cuts you can see from town lie lots of skiable terrain, much more that I had expected.  Little Ellis offers an estimated 2,500 feet of skinning with relatively straight-forward route finding. It is an easy (Read plowed) drive from town and the only thing making it too good to be true is the fact that the trailhead sits at about 5,500 feet so the area is susceptible to warmer weather and crusty conditions. I plan on skiing it more in the coming weeks, even it's just to figure out the terrain a bit better and get a better sense of snow coverage. Keep your fingers crossed for more snow and colder temperatures!