We had plans for a a full day in the Bitterroot Mountains on Feb. 27, but a late start ruled out any chance of getting up something big. So instead we did what so many Missoulians do when craving low-committment face-shots: we headed up to Lolo Pass to slay some roadside stash. Three major Montana-side parking areas are maintained in the winter (read: "plowed") below the pass where Highway 12 crosses into Idaho. Each provides reasonable access to oodles of mostly-moderate glades, clearcuts and pillow skiing, most of it on the north side of the highway.
Although 7 cars already clogged the small plowed-out area of the first pull-out, my party of three pulled in anyway and were skinning uphill within minutes. A week of single-digit highs had kept the snow in perfect shape. I couldn't say the same about me. But a perfect balance of the right layers and a stiff 20-degree breeze kept my temperature regulated and soon we were at the top, ripping skins and bundling up for a descent through the white room.
There may have been another half-dozen parties lapping the bowl that day, (its a small world, we recognized three), but we still found excellent snow and barely had to cross tracks as we blazed through through recently-opened glades.
We took two top-to-bottom laps—both of them filled with plenty of face shots, pillows and airs, and by 3 p.m. we were drinking beers and reveling in the sublime quality of Missoula's closest roadside powder stash.