Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thief Creek Skiing

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 2:19 PM

We awoke early of Feb 27 in Dillon, with two equally important objectives for the day.

First, we had to slay some pow. Eighteen inches of cold smoke had fallen in the area, according to a nearby Snotel, and we were eager to hit it. The second priority of the day was to get a cord of firewood bucked up, as my ski buddy Alex was low on wood and temps would be dropping to zero within the week.

Already conserving wood, the house was chilly, so on our way out the door we threw two more logs on the fire and blew out, headed toward the East Pioneers. This range—often ogled, infrequently explored—is comprised of the tall, granitic peaks towering to the West as you drive along I-90 north of Dillon.

We chose an obscure line Alex had skied the week before. It's north facing and fall-line direct, tumbling from an unnamed point at 9600' through granite boulder fields for 1600 feet of featureful terrain above Thief Creek on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Its not a perfect line—trees are too thick to the west, and the bare tallus to the east was so scoured as to be unskiable. But by carefully selecting our route we found thigh- and waist-deep shots all the way down to the approach/logging road. We suffered no core shots.

A high in the lower-teens kept the champagne blower all the way down, and we whooped it up. Before we knew it we were flying along the logging road, atop our uptrack, which took us downhill all the way to the rig.

Immediately, out came the chainsaw, beers and sled, and soon we were sweating as we hauled hefty, beetle-killed Doug fir rounds back to the truck through thigh-deep, breakable crust. Two hours later, we threw a couple of the fresh-cut logs in the stove and got it cranking.

We downed some Advil and beers before ordering up some fat Mexi food from La Fiesta Mexicana, aka "The Taco Bus." The Burrito Verde is world class, although I imagine that could be said about most of their expansive and authentic menu.

I'd hoped to return to Missoula that night, but after two days of skiing and cutting firewood, not to mention a couple beers, I just couldn't do it. So crashed on the couch and returned to Missoula so early in the morning that it was still too dark to see the Pioneer's iconic eastern face.

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