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So you’re up at Whitefish Mountain, it hasn’t snowed for a few days and you’ve had enough of the groomers. Sure, there’s a hidden slash here and there in the trees, but she’s pretty well used up until the next storm. Here’s what you do:

Load up on the “Glacier Chaser” quad lift and make your way to the top of the resort. After unloading, move past the Summit House and start down “Russ’s Street”, a popular Intermediate run heading down and East from the summit. Watch for signs leading to the “Bigfoot T-Bar” and make your way to the bottom of this out-of-the way lift. Ride Bigfoot up and head down Lodi Ridge far to the skier's left. About one-third of the way down you’ll take a sharp left onto a mostly uphill road that should show signs of foot traffic. You’ll unstrap here and start the relatively short hike. Note that you’re now leaving the ski area and heading into “avalanche territory”. There are a couple signs here to remind you as well.

Follow the tracks up the road for a spell until you see a steeper slope up to your left and a well-defined bootpack. Charge up this pitch until you reach the top of the ridge. You should see plenty of yellow snow to let you know that you’re in the right place.

From here, you’ve got a decision to make. You’ll likely find deeper turns if you veer to your right when you drop in (on the north side of the ridge) but you’ll also have a longer hike back out. If you drop in left, hugging this ridge on your way down, or even working your way to its left side, you can avoid the return hike altogether. If you choose to go straight fall line from this drop-in spot, the jaunt back out is very reasonable. Make your route choice and enjoy every turn; this is about as good as “side country” Montana skiing gets. These north-facing slopes are drenched in snow by mid winter and sections in here are STEEP. This spot is dope.

When you pop out at the bottom you’ll be standing on a snowmobile track that heads up this way from the Columbia Falls area. It is a popular area for sledders as they too can get all the way up to the resort’s Summit House from this direction. Keep an eye peeled for these machines and maybe show some skin to get one of them to give you a lift back up a ways. Also, be careful in this canyon, you’re somewhat exposed to slopes on either side of you and if a slide kicked off, you’d be trapped. So, don’t lollygag down here and head back up the road until you reach the connecting trail that leads back around to the “North Side” (Chair 7) of the resort. Once you’ve traversed your way around, hop on the lift and you’ll be whisked back up to the summit to do it all over again.

Technically, you could do this run without a lift ticket (given Whitefish Resort’s awesome/lenient policies regarding uphill travel - http://skiwhitefish.com/uphill/) but it’d be a pretty round trip big push. If you’re game for the challenge, chances are pretty good that you can figure out the revised uphill routes based on what is presented here.

Ross Peterson

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