Here's the conclusion of the trip report; pictures with integrated text and links are at:
We returned to the summit after lunch, and headed for the back (or
Rainbow Ridge wrapped around the skier's right of the area's backside terrain, and eventually dropped us at the mountain's backside lift, which is a fixed grip double chair like the one on the front side. In tune with the lift operator on the front side, the back side operator was very cheerful and made us feel like we were one of the few special guests at the mountain for the day (which we sort of were anyway). He was really helpful with regard to loading the boys on the lift and provided lots of personal attention. I guess you can get a lot of attention when not only is there nobody else in the lift queue, there isn't even anyone else in sight. The steepest terrain on the back side of the mountain is also directly under the lift line, with a couple of advanced trails called Sun Dance (directly under the lift) and Whitetail (to the skier's right of Sun Dance). You'd never know it from the trail map, but there was a lot of interesting terrain between these two trails. I was especially intrigued by a long gully that emerged from the trees between the two trails. As I cruised above it on the lift, I vowed to check it out later in the afternoon if I got the chance. E said that because the unloading area of the backside lift was rather low to the ground, Ty was able to unload by himself. Lookout's lifts were certainly making a good impression on Ty.
For our next run we moved one trail to the skier's left of Rainbow Ridge and tried out Cloud 9, which looked to be the next step up in steepness. There are actually only five marked runs in total on the back side of the mountain (three intermediate runs and two advanced), and it basically looks as though they gradually increase in pitch as you move from skier's right to left. Cloud 9 was certainly a step up in steepness from Rainbow Ridge, and there were some pitches on Cloud 9 that were getting a bit "blackish" in difficulty. Ty took the trail pretty slowly, and had to rest more often, so we knew he was approaching the end of his day. However, he still had some legs left in him, and on the more moderate pitches of the trail I recall that he would ski with his arms out, pretending that he was flying like an airplane. We found that the snow was still in good shape everywhere we went on the groomed or more popular trails, but once we were done with that run we decided it was time to head to the front side for a final descent. It was better to be on the front side BEFORE Ty's energy reserves and good disposition were depleted.
We'd sort of been stepping up the pitch of the runs throughout the day, so for our final descent together, we figured we'd give Montana Face a shot. It's probably one of the steepest "marked" runs that we saw, but the steep stuff (the area with pitches in the range of roughly 30 degrees or so) only lasts for probably 100-200 vertical feet. I'm sure that area is a blast on a typical powder day. The snow that we actually encountered in the Montana Face area was a little trickier than anything else we'd encountered that day, because up to that point we'd really just dealt with groomed runs. Therefore, the snow was further away from corn and a bit mushier and stickier. Some skier traffic in the area had helped to at least partially settle it down though. With the combination of snow and pitch, I actually had to focus on making good steady turns with Dylan on my back, so it wasn't surprising that Ty had some difficulty. I'm not sure if he could have tackled the slope more easily earlier on when he was in the prime of his day, but he had some episodes where he'd freeze up and be unable to commit to a turn because of the snow consistency and pitch. Fortunately the steep section was not too long, so we were able to get him down it with a combination of taking it slow and eventually traversing out into more moderate terrain on the skier's right. We finished off the run and Ty certainly seemed to be done for the day, so we all headed into the lodge.
We still had some time before the lifts closed, and since E was OK with hanging out with the boys in the lodge for a bit, I decided to explore the mountain for a couple of runs by myself. The rain had gradually been increasing in intensity throughout the afternoon, and by the time I headed back out to the slopes I encountered a cold, steady rain. Most people were heading into the lodge at that point so the mountain was even more deserted than before. My plan was to head to the back side of the mountain and check out that cool gully I'd seen from the lift, so as soon as I got off the front side lift I headed straight down the back side lift line. It wasn't long before I realized that I was going to be in for quite an experience – although not a really enjoyable one. The run under the lift (Sun Dance) had not been groomed, nor had it seen much in the way of skier traffic aside from a few random tracks. The snow surface was a different world from anything I'd encountered up to that point in the day. It was far from corn, but not too far from sludge. I couldn't believe how difficult it was to ski, and I was really thankful for the grooming that had allowed us to have such a fun day. I really had to pick my way down that slope, and while I still had that gully on my mind, by the time I got to it all I could do was traverse into its lower section and sample it a bit because aggressive skiing there was just not going to happen. The snow was so tough to turn in that it felt like I'd just be begging for an end of the day injury. I did pass a couple of
The rain continued to pour down as I rode the lift back to the summit, and it was plentiful enough that I even had trouble getting photos without raindrops spotting up my camera filter. E and the boys called me on the radio and asked where I was, and I let them know that I was riding the lift and would soon come back down the front side to finish off my day. I was sitting there lamenting the fact we hadn't had the chance to experience Lookout on a powder day, and half enjoying the rain because of the way my Gore Tex was so nicely keeping me dry, when something interesting happened. I was about 200 vertical feet from the summit when the rain suddenly changed to snow. It was really cool to be among winter again, and I radioed down to E and the boys and let them know that it was snowing up higher on the mountain. I paused for a few moments at the summit to enjoy the snowfall, and then took off in the direction of the Huckleberry Ridge trail. After battling the sludge on Sun Dance, I was looking for some nicely groomed terrain where I could enjoy some smooth carves. I ended up heading down one of the intermediate trails like Gold, getting to some of the open terrain in the middle of the mountain and skiing out to the lodge to meet up with E and the boys.
Based on the few times we'd stopped in at
We once again enjoyed the relatively warm lodge as we changed into drier clothes and packed up the gear from the wet day. Although I don't recall it raining extremely hard when we finally got ready to leave, I loaded the car and warmed it up so the others could stay out of the precipitation. It was definitely one of those days where you really appreciate the chance to sit in a nice warm car after skiing. As we headed east on I-90 toward
We actually didn't head home to
The next day we headed home to
The integrated (text, links, and pictures) version of the report can be found at:
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