The day after the road trip to Preston in Idaho, Searle and I decided to make a small road trip up to Island Park, Idaho to do a little exploring…the never ending search for snow. Considering it was late January, one might think we were disappointed in the amount of snow we found. Unfortunately, a less than favorable snow year had conditioned us so that the snow we did find left us feeling very lucky to find such epic deep powder at least 9 inches deep. How bad are snow conditions when 9 inches of powder on top of a 2.5 foot base leave you feeling happy and rewarded?
In knowing that Searle and I were bent on riding either Saturday or Monday we started checking the SnoTel sites all around us in search of the illusive snow all that week. After searching and searching the Black Bear/Black Canyon Loop was recording the most amount of snow by a decent margin so Island Park was our destination (that’s where the Black Bear/Black Canyon Loop is). Searle and I got on the phone and decided on the we’ll go Saturday.
Saturday and we got out of dodge expecting the worst and prepared for the worst in hopes that whatever we found would exceed our expectations. It’s easy to get more than you expect when you expect so little.
We took BPA’s power line in order to “B” line our way to the Black Bear area and we did just that. We took the power line all the way back to where it angles and takes off towards West Yellowstone. This where we got our first surprise of the day. At the start of the power line and at the midway point the snow was semi-favorable, and in some spot enjoyable, we only kept going to try to find the 54 inches of powder the SnoTel site had recorded for the area. So, by the time we had gotten to the angle point, the surprise was that the snow had gone to pot in a bad way, it went from boderline enjoyable to hard, crusty, sun-baked and maybe 2 feet deep to be optimistic.
Needless to say we turned back to pursue some of the offshoots we saw heading into the trees off of the powerline route. After finding a few offshoot dead ends we finally struck gold almost two-thirds back the powerline. We worked our way up a gully/swell and found that the hillside along it were awesome technical climbs as much as our little hearts desired. What did we do, we started tearing it up.
At first we didn’t realize the valley kept on going, we were just playing on this small hillside picking our way up through and back down the trees having a great time till we realized that the hill kept opening up as we climbed. Searle made a climb up through that was more of a sidehill, this sidehill climb took him up the valley. When he dropped down we could see that it was still just as wide open as everything else was so we pointed the sleds that direction and took off.
It was fantastic, the powder was there (not a ton about 12 to 15 inches on 3 to 4 ft base) which kept it from being “go anywhere” yet we had room for error as we picked our way up the valley, over ridges, hill and dale just getting giddy excited finding such technical yet fun terrain. As we worked up through we would work on sidehills, highmark up to the adjacent ridges and pick our way through the trees making the trip a success.
To put it simply, first and fore most I was just happy to be sledding. Searle and I have been sledding together since we 14 years old, so to be with my oldest riding buddy and find way fun technical terrain, then add almost great snow conditions…who couldn’t love that?