On a grey bird Sunday, we shook off small hangovers and embarked on the the 14 mile trek from the shores of Lake Flathead to the heights of the Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. It’s certainly an incredibly scenic and twisty road — which begs the question how accessible Blacktail is during a powder storm. Not a problem for the crew today with just a dusting of an inch accompanied with grumblings that Whitefish, just 45 minutes up the road, got half a foot.
A blustery wind greeted us in the parking lot which did little to alleviate stuffy heads, but we immediately found protection on the northern facing slopes — a fact that Blacktail brags about on their trail map. With only a few hours before heading back to Bozeman, we didn’t get a chance to fully scope out the entire area (then again, I rarely do), but like most of the family hills in Montana, there’s a firm sense of community in the lodge and on the slopes.
We spent the bulk of our time farming out the leftover snow on top of the Thunderhead Double. Head over to The Glades, Badrock, and Pocehlon’s Powder for some trees. If you want to stick to the top and the aforementioned trees, there’s even a midstation (load-on only) on the Thunderhead and for those seeking to show off for a crowd, check out the lower liftline. It’s still a bit sparse, but has more than enough rocks and jibs to keep it interesting.
Blacktail’s size as we kept discovering is deceptively large with super long and nicely steeped intermediates that provide a decent run. Its best feature, however, may be the shortened week. Only open from Wednesday thru Sunday, I can only imagine that early week storms must turn this place into an absolute playground of powder. And after Whitefish, the chill atmosphere and smaller crowds were a perfect fit for some lazy Sunday turns.
TSJ Ticket Tips: Pick up cheap lift tickets at Costco in Kalispell (we paid $27/ticket). Ski half price with any Montana season pass. $25 lift tickets on Thursdays.
Tamarack Brewing Company
Actually, our apres-ski included two cases of beer as we made the six hour journey back to Bozeman, but our local guide told us that this was the place to tie one on after a day of shredding Blacktail. You can’t miss it right on the road up to the ski area.
This is not a “best of” lineup, just some ski areas to keep on your radar if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
1. Angel Fire, NM
Technically, this wasn’t part of 100 Days of Winter, but I had to include it because one of the best days of the season took place here. Maybe it was because New Mexico got pounded with early season storms or maybe it was the free tickets. But it was probably because almost nobody here likes to hike which meant hours of knee deep turns.
2. Moonlight Basin, MT
Moonlight is the newest addition to the Big Sky area and my winter base for the last three years. There’s a reason I picked Moonlight. No crowds and tons of snow. Warm up on the Lone Peak Chair and then spend the afternoon hiking the Headwaters for an epic day on the mountain.
3. Mt. Rose, NV
There are certainly gnarlier lines around the Lake Tahoe area, but this ski area (the closest to Reno) does offer some hella easy access to a big old bowl of powder.
4. Alpental, WA
This throwback with its European style lodge at the base is actually owned by Summit at Snoqualmie down the street. I hit it up on an icy Wednesday and was impressed by the amount and variation of terrain that this tiny ski area offers. I can’t speak on the backcountry as the conditions were too treacherous, but it looked interesting enough to warrant a trip back.
5. Wolf Creek, CO
I used to live in Steamboat Springs, and whenever we got twelve inches of snow, the local paper would say Wolf Creek received thirty. I have always wanted to ride the snowiest ski area in Colorado, and this year found me in a two foot “best day of the winter” type of trip.
6. Monarch, CO
This Colorado gem sits in the middle of the state, well away from the maddening crowds of Summit County. The staff here is beyond friendly, but what really won me over was easy inbounds hiking. Just down the road is Salida, a laid back ski town worth dropping by for an afternoon.
7. Willamette Pass, OR
This family owned resort sits 30 miles west of Eugene, Oregon. It’s small and the terrain doesn’t have tons of steeps but it does have very special quality that I search out in small resorts — It’s only open four days a week. That means while everyone else is enjoying scraped off snow from a early week storm you are grabbing knee deep turns.
We followed a big old storm down into Southern Colorado and Arizona this week. Lots of nice deep turns at some classic ski areas. We also managed to track down some hot springs and some hot spots. Check it all out below.
[via 100 Days of Winter]]]>
It’s hard to believe, but we somehow managed to knock off the first half of the 50 resorts in the 100 Days of Winter Challenge. And do we ever have some stories. Check out some of the links below or click over here to see our photo gallery. It’s been a hell of a adventure so far, and we’re excited to see what the back half brings.
It’s been another jam packed week for The Snow Junkies and 100 Days of Winter. We kicked off the week with a bender down in Reno, then headed back up into the hills and took on the next four mountains. Conditions were great with fresh snow almost every day. We also picked up another sponsor — The Slanket. Here is the rundown of the week:
Ski Resort #12: Alpine Meadows, CA
Ski Resort #11: Donner Ski Ranch, CA
Ski Resort #10: Mt Rose, NV
Ski Resort #9: Diamond Peak, NV
Why We Love Reno…
In case you haven’t noticed the huge banners posted around the site, The Snow Junkies are on the road this winter. 50 ski areas in 100 days. We just finished up our first week shredding the great state of Utah.
Here’s the rundown of the last seven days:
Day 1: The Arrival, Utah
Day 2: The Canyons, Utah
Day 3: Snowbird, Utah
Day 4: Solitude, Utah
Day 5: Sundance Resort, Utah
Day 6: Powder Mountain, Utah
Day 7: Partying in Reno
Some folk like to spend their whole ski vacation in one place. Not us. We like roadtrips. We hit the road in mid-December. Seven ski areas in seven days. We started in Colorado and chased a big storm down to New Mexico.
Our first stop was Angel Fire. We didn’t know what to expect, but what we found was an upper mountain with the best early season conditions in our week long trip. The patrollers had dropped ropes all over the mountain including a “best-case-scenario”, where they opened three hiking trails, but someone forgot to take down the CLOSED sign. What followed was an uninterrupted afternoon of thigh high powder runs.
The next day we went to Red River to cash on their half price weekend. This means 50% off lift tickets, rentals, lessons — and even lodging. We found a $50 one bedroom apartment within walking distance of the lifts. You won’t ever find that in Colorado. Red River had been open since Thanksgiving, so most of the good stuff was tracked out. We still found some nice hits on the ridge line under the Red Chair.
Our final stop was Sipapu, about twenty miles from Taos. And for the first time in a week, the sun finally made an appearance. This family friendly resort has a whole mess of discounted tickets — more than we’ve seen for just about any ski area. They’ve got a cozy old school lodge and less crowds than we’re used to seeing. The upper mountain hadn’t been opened yet on our trip. Too bad for us we had to leave. There looked like some sweet glade skiing tucked up there.
Some of our favorites from New Mexico:
Favorite Ski Trail Name: Glory Hole at Angel Fire.
Best Bar to Throw Back a Beer: Bull O’ The Woods Saloon in Red River. And if you’re there on Sunday, they’ve got a $10 buffet during football season. Score!
Best Powder Stashes: Angel Fire by about sixteen inches of powder. The upper mountain got socked by early season storms and if you don’t mind hiking, there’s even more to explore.
Best Place to Crash for the Night: Most resorts give you free lift tickets when you purchase lodging. Sipapu gives you a free place to stay when you buy a ticket. There’s deals for free overnight stays in Taos and Las Vegas, but we recommend staying right at the slopeside lodge.
Runner Up Place to Crash: 1/2 price weekend in Red River means 1/2 price lodging around town. We stayed at the Ponderosa, a quirky seventies style pad that boasted a one room apartment with fireplace and kitchen for an amazing $50 bucks a night.
We based ourselves out of centrally located Frisco on I-70. Not much of a night life, but it’s less than a 30 minute drive to six different ski areas. And if you need a party, Breckenridge is just a few miles away. Hop onto the free Summit Stage and avoid the heavily patrolled road.
The first two stops, A-Basin and Loveland, tested our cold weather hardiness with those cold Summit County winds keeping temps well below -20. They both had limited terrain open, mostly blue groomers with a lovely three inches of powder covering them.
Winter Park had the most terrain open this early in the season. We spent the day cruising groomers although the trees were tempting. And finally at Copper, we were lucky enough to be first in line for a few rope drops leaving us hungry for more powder.
Here are a few tips from our Summit County sojurn:
Best Lift Ticket Deal: We picked up a couple on-sale Descente Jackets for the season which provide an insane amount of free tickets — and three resorts which are less than an hour from Denver.
Best Runner Up Ticket Deal: The Colorado Gem Card. Our favorite $10 deal period. When we ran out of free tickets, this card got us 2 for 1 at Loveland Basin.
Best Lodging Deal: The cheapest one star motel in Summit County runs around $60. On a weekday. That’s why we swear by Priceline where we came across an astounding $35 Ramada Limited. The rooms, while tiny, come with free Internet and free breakfast.
Best Summit County Perk: The Summit Stage is a free bus takes you just about anywhere you want to go. It runs to all the mountains and goes late enough to get your fill of the bars.
Best Apres-Ski: The Dillon Dam Brewery. $2.50 pints of apps and huge 1/2 price appetizers (or what we call “splurging on a big dinner”)
Best $2 Dinner: That would be Ollie’s Pub & Grub in Frisco. Wednesday night is burger night. Buy a beer, get a $2.00 burger. Fixins are extra — one of our burgers ended up costing a whopping $4 bucks.
For the Return Trip: Stock up on Vitamin Water. Why? Because 10 of these will get you a 10 midweek voucher to Winter Park or Copper.
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