Friday, December 31, 2010

White December in Missoula

December has been a good month for Missoula, that is if you enjoy the cold and snow. I'm fresh off a powder bender, with over 2 feet of new snow this week at Snowbowl (15" day & 10" day). Being a skier and winter lover in the north country makes life more enjoyable. When the valley murk, gray and mist get me down, my mind is refreshed on the chairlift as fat flakes fall in my lap.

Wednesday was the classic storm skiing day that I have come to love. The trees allow you to see better when visibility drops, snow also tends to collect there. It sounds cheesy, but it's as if time stand still as the flakes pile up in the quiet shadows of the forest. I had the opportunity for thigh deep first tracks on one of my favorite runs. That same run called my name 4 more times, fabulous.

The day started off with valley rain falling most of the night. As I peeked at the mountains off and on through the night, darkness cloaked everything above the valley floor. The news channels were abuzz with winter storms warnings, you could feel the skiers stirring in their houses. Missoula skiers weren't fooled by the wet valley floor. Even before 9am, the lift line morphed into swollen monstrosity of an excited tentacled beast. I'd argue it's hard to find a happier bunch of people. Especially when Snowbowl's base is 48" and the summit has 78". That has to be one of the better starts to a winter in a long time. Does anyone remember what the base was during the big winter of 96-97 was?

Geeking out on the NOAA weather data, I gathered up a few stats. I had been curious as it seems that we've in the proverbial freezer (relative for Missoula) since Mid November.
  • first snowfall, 3" on Nov. 22 and the snow has not melted since. Total of 10" for Nov.
  • The thermometer did not crack 30deg for the last 11 days of the month.
  • December hasn't warmed much either; Avg of 29 degrees with 13" of snowfall.
The twins are adapting well and are now comfortable getting their snowsuits on playing or riding their bikes on the patio in 10 degree temps. We've stomped around the yard in their skis and shredded our snowbanks multiple times. They've come to terms with mittens and their associated lack of dexterity. We're all excited to share some family time at the ski hill. In the meantime we actually skied our friends backyard, they had a blast. A few snow angels and some hot cocoa, time well spent.

We found our new favorite sled hill in Missoula, the girls and I enjoyed some a luge track filled powder. They didn't think twice about enjoying the playground swings and slide despite the 20 degrees and snow falling. Check out Gwynn's version of a face shot.

I thought I'd leave off with a few shots of classic Montana stuff. Things that remind me of why I live here. Happy New Year to all, let it be as successful and joy filled as the last.

Smiles on the skin track

Firing up the old smokester for the first time this season

Eat it Soccer Moms!

Just another day in paradise

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Greg Hill pushing for 2 million vertical feet (human powered)

Greg Hill, the superhuman leg and lung machine is pushing for his goal to achieve 2 million vertical feet skied & climbed in one year. He's got till the end of this year to rack up the last 100k vertical, that's only 10k a day. He's already done 1 million in a year, so it's no joke. Greg also set the record for climbing and skiing 50,000 vert in 24 hours. I can't fathom what he has been through, not even one bit. For me a 5000ft day is a pretty big accomplishment.

If you got 9 minutes to spare, watch the video below. It gives you a great sense for the backing and support that he has from his friends and family. Kudos to those that support people with serious skiing addictions. I like to think I take it pretty seriously, but at this point can't even hold a candle to him. GO GREG! Inspiring.........

2 Million With Greg Hill from FD Productions on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snowbowl lift issues

A recent article was published in the Missoula Independent that I thought might stir up some opinions. The article addresses some of the mechanical difficulties that Snowbowl has had at the beginning of this season and a local Rep's idea on dealing with them. If you take the time to read the comments, there are some great rebuttals.

As for my opinion on the matter (not that you probably care), I think Mrs. Hands heart is in the right place, but is going down the wrong road. We don't need government to rectify Snowbowl's issues with the lift. We need the owners to take responsibility.

From the Independent:
Montana Snowbowl opened Nov. 27 to a crowd of some 1,000 skiers and snowboarders in what co-owner Brad Morris describes as "the strongest start we've had that I can remember." The near tripling of the resort's opening day average resulted from the onset of what is expected to be a major powder year; snow depth at Snowbowl's summit has already reached 54 inches. But a day-one mechanical glitch on the Grizzly chairlift set the tone for a more troublesome early season trend: lengthy delays.

Morris confirmed that in the first four days of the season, Snowbowl's Griz lift shut down three times due to separate mechanical issues. The first incident, which led to the evacuation of several passengers by rope, occurred after ice formed on the lift's haul line, something Morris says is extremely uncommon at the resort. Concerns over a faulty brake and loose drive belt led to the second and third shutdowns respectively.

"It could happen any time, and those things are tested and the lift is inspected by the engineers from the insurance company before we even operate it," Morris says. "That was the first time we've ever had ice on the lift. It's a common problem in the West, where there's more precipitation. We've never even on the Lavelle [Creek] lift had that problem.".........

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Toddler transportation from Montana to Southern California

Thanks for coming back for the second installment of Roadtripping with Twins. The first look into the insanity of toddler transportation can be found on this post. We've just recently completed our second major roadtrip, this time to southern California. The Highlander rallied the 2364 miles and 36+ hours travel time (roundtrip) with no problems. This time we were armed with less baby gear (see pack'n'plays etc) but an insane amount of toddler distractions. Coloring books, movies, crayons, reading books, dinosaurs and an army of babies littered the back seat.

I can proudly say that I can now recite Mickey Mouse's Christmas Carol (1983) verbatim after listening to it 52 times. But I take a little pride in the girls old school taste in cartoons - Scooby Doo and Smurfs are favorites as well. The roads were clear of snow until we hit the San Bernardino Mtns, we're we had apparently dragged in the cold and snow with us. We checked in with my sister's family and began a years worth of catching up crammed into a week. The cousins were thrilled to see one another and had a blast.

We headed down into the LA valley murk for some sightseeing and fun for a day. The Los Angeles Zoo and its 1100+ animals held the kids attention for a few hours. The highlights seemed to be the loud Guenon monkey and the incessant requests to find and look at the llamas and horses. Strange, you would have thought the kids had seen enough horses and llamas here in Montana. Avoiding the stream of traffic that flows out of LA everynight we decided to try and soak up some ocean time. Santa Monica Pier has many shops and rides, along with a plethora of entertainers (think Venice Beach on a smaller scale). We were sucked into the tourist allure of Bubba Gump's with some tantalizing shrimp.

The remainder of the week we watched as our 4 toddler's friendship grew. Finger painting chaos, princess outfits, Santa visits, a Nutcracker ballet and candy shop pillaging made the week fly by. We also hit the weather right in the desert and soaked up some 70's around the pools in Desert Hot Springs. And of course no SoCal trip would be considered a success without multiple In N' Burgers. I even squeezed in a run to the best burrito in all of America, Rosa Marias (5 frozen burritos were smuggled back into Montana).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The first Pinneaple Express

I'm pretty sure this is what it's called, if nothing else its gonna be wet and heavy the next few days in Western Montana. They're calling for snow levels at 6500 ft on Sunday raising slightly on Monday. At least it's going to settle the already bomber base we've got in most places. The snow has been sticking around in the valley for a while, something I hope continues through the winter. The 10 day forecast is calling for a chance of snow every day!

Late Afternoon: Snow likely after 5pm. Cloudy, with a high near 28. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Tonight: Snow. Temperature rising to around 32 by 5am. Southeast wind between 3 and 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

Sunday: Snow. High near 37. South wind between 6 and 13 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.

Sunday Night: Rain. Snow level 6500 feet. Low around 32. West southwest wind around 17 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Monday: Rain and snow likely. Snow level 5700 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 36. South southwest wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Monday Night: A 50 percent chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 28. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.

Tuesday: Snow. High near 33. Chance of precipitation is

Thursday, December 9, 2010

First lift served day of the 2010-11 season

And on new sticks! Great first day at Snowbowl today with excellent coverage. One of the better starts to the snow year that they've had in quite sometime. The mountain is 100% open, but only Thurs. - Sunday right now. Cautiously optimistic for a full week opening . The tree shots are filling in with a few lurking logs. Paradise is in as good of shape as ever, no rocks at all and smooth (f0r Snowbowl).

I was on a new pair of skis today that have just made my season that much better, a pair of 188 4FRNT CRJ's. Today's conditions gave me an excellent insight into what to expect for the season....SLARVE! Slarve defined by Shane McConkey: No effort = slarving = piece-of-cake- powder-turns. Or simply put a sliding carve. The CRJ's were fun to ski and very easy. If you wanted to shrub some speed, just throw'em sideway. The groomers were fun too, easily initiating into carves and holding a good edge. Crud was a breeze with not much deflection. The only thing I didn't sample today was much powder, but with the 2" new I did get a feeling for what surfing them will be like. I now have my favorite quiver to date: 1. 186 Dynastar Ledgend Pro's - a bomber superG-like ski that powers through anything; not a lot of float for the powder though. 2. 188 4FRNT CRJ - effortless fun and sure to be a badass powder machine.

The specs and description for anyone that cares:

Pro model with gradual rocker and reverse sidecut at the tip and tail to float. Normal camber and traditional sidecut underfoot. Fun-seeking attitude lives on inside this versatile, powder-hungry stick. [188cm] 130 / 118 / 128 with a 28 meter turn radius

Earlier this week a few of us got out and stretched the legs at Lolo Pass. The Snotel site is showing 24" with is about 80% of normal. Another 2-3 feet will cover up most of the hazards. It's coming though, I can smell it. Some small vertical, sampling some of the shaded aspects on the Granite Pass side. Gloppy melt bombs had dumped into the treed areas but the open shots in the shade were better than expected.

ViVa La NiNa!!!!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010