Back out there - Big Sky, Teton Valley and westward

The idea was always to get back out there after trip #1 where I/we suffered through so many RV challenges. Ski with my son again and hopefully a few friends going to little known places that are getting snow so we can ski powder.

There were a few small improvements that a local repair shop was making to the camper but unfortunately we were still in the nasty polar vortex so the shop delayed the repairs until the temperature at least broke 10 degrees.

While I waited, countless hours were spent pouring over the app, Open Snow. If you want snow forecasts and current snow conditions of ski areas around the world I can’t say enough good things about this app. With a couple clicks see all the resorts in North America ranked in order of snow forecast for the next 5 or 10 days. Even sorted by pass type if you like. (Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective or Indy.) A year ago we used this app to escape from a location in Oregon (2 inches of snow on top of ice) and drove all the way to Baker Mountain near the Canadian border in Washington based on their snow forecast. It saved the vacation. The only downside this time was I became a bit obsessed with it. I think we changed our mind on location every day for 5 days leading up to my departure date.

In this season of life I have much more time flexibility then son Ryan does. He is early in his career with limited time off. Ryan lives in Bozeman so the choices seemed be Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, Targhee or Jackson. The other decision was whether to activate the Ikon pass or to defer to next year. Unfortunately the only Indy resort within a few hours drive of Bozeman was Red Lodge. I love Red Lodge (spent a season there in my youth) but they were not getting snow.

Big Sky made a change in their policy this year and now allows overnight RV parking in the Levinski parking lot. This tipped the scale to Big Sky even though we have skied it many times in years past and the forecast was OK but not great. Surprisingly, the parking lot is somewhat convenient to skiing. A moderate uphill walk to the hill and and an easy downhill ski to the lot from the base area. After the first day of driving from Minneapolis we committed to Big Sky and I pulled into Levinski and waited for Ryan to arrive after working.

Neither of us have eaten at a Restaurant since Covid came on strong but since things seemed to have been improving on the COVID front we broke one of our rules and ate at “Jacks” in the village. Jacks removed about 50% of their tables and many of those tables were open. We picked a table away from other people and had a nice dinner. It felt reasonably safe but the typical fun factor meter was dialed way down with so few people in the restaurant.

The next morning I made the decision to not use the Ikon pass. Ryan only had two days off and the forecast was not looking so great. So I braced myself for another rudely priced lift ticket. Rude is right, even more than Jackson. Over $200 person. That is ok for a great day of powder skiing but it doesn’t feel so good for average conditions. We made our way over to the far skiers right, the Dakota lift. No lift lines and decent tree skiing if there is any powder to be found. On this day it was strange conditions, bad light and wind blown little pockets of snow between trees. Not a problem in my prime. Can’t say I was skiing at prime level so I punched out. We skied in some more open tree areas and a groomer or two. Then, as often happens at Big Sky, the wind came up and they shut down the Dakota lift. Of course we skied to the lift and had to walk up the cat track to make our escape.

At this point we were a little disgusted and decided to hit the opposite side of Big Sky, Moonlight Basin, looking for out of the wind groomers. We never ski Moonlight Basin and now I remember why. More people, worse snow conditions and boring runs.

One of the disadvantages of skiing for over 50 years with many laps in amazing places/conditions is that one becomes a bit jaded. Even Ryan had enough by 3 pm. So we retired to the camper and hung out for the evening. I am so lucky that Ryan is still willing to spend time with his dad and we get along in a small space.

Back to open snow to see what tomorrow had in store for us. No new snow, wind gusts to 40 mph. Not good. Forecasts do not always come true so we tried to stay positive.

All night the camper shook in the wind. Morning came and things did not look any better. OK, let’s wait and see if it improves and get a half day ticket. So I checked, how much is a half day ticket? 30 or 40% off? Guess again, I think it was close to 10% off. We waited, and waited. The camper continued to bounce around in the wind gusts. We finally surrendered to the the circumstances. How can I spend almost $400 to ski crappy conditions in 40 mph wind while freezing my ass off? Ryan suggested a little walk to Ousel Falls. Great idea, a nice me pick me up to finish the day as Ryan then drove back to Bozeman and I went to back to the little camper. Alone.

A great friend of mine was now in Teton Valley staying at the same campground we were at in the prior trip. I preferred going someplace new, but he needed to go back soon and Targhee was due to get more powder. So on to Victor Idaho via West Yellowstone. The temperature was forecast to drop so I dumped the water at Big Sky prior to the drive knowing a great shower at the camp ground was waiting for me.

As the temperature dropped we enjoyed a nice campfire that evening.

As I mentioned, the forecast was for big snow. Unfortunately Teton Valley is not a good place to drive out of in snow. My friend need to get home by Sunday so he bailed the next morning. Disappointing but understandable. Hey, things could be worse. I am teed up for two days of powder skiing at Targhee! The snow was not due to arrive until the next day so my plan was to read in the morning then go snow shoeing in Darby Canyon that afternoon. A good walk in the woods would cheer me up. Rather than deal with the walk up ticket window, thought I would be smart and buy tickets for Friday and Saturday on line. Going on line, Saturday was grayed out. Nooooooo…..this can’t be. I called, yes this can be. Sold out for Saturday. I could ski Friday but not Saturday. My original plan was to ski the smaller Indy resorts in Idaho. The snow coming to Targhee was also forecast to hit these places. Time to change plans once more. The next Indy place down the road in Idaho is Pomerelle. A small local ski area. The forecast was for snow; time to get there before I have to drive in it.

I looked at the map again. Maybe 5 hours or so, easy peasy right? But now I will be closer to the Pacific Ocean than home. 13 hour drive to Seattle, 20 hours to Minneapolis. The tentative plan was to fly Ryan to Seattle, then ski 2 days at Baker or White Pass. Both places are a 3 hour drive from Seattle. Doubts are now creeping into my mind. So much driving, so much alone time in a pick up / camper.

Next post, driving to and skiing Pomerelle.