This past weekend was bittersweet. We were at Altoona Ridge Lodge for what was our last backcountry ski trip. It was our first time to this particular area and our first stay at the lodge.
Altoona Ridge Lodge is located about 90 miles from Missoula in the Flint Creek Mountain range.
The experience was similar to our Yurt trip, where you haul all of your gear in by snowmobile…think ski gear, food, beer and this time around, a small child. Fortunately the trek was only 5 miles and used an old mining road that still had several old abandoned mining claims along the way. It was really cool to see some of the old buildings. Unfortunately, old mining roads aren’t exactly what I would call maintained, so the ride in (even on a snowmobile) was pretty sketchy. But we made it despite a small dramatic episode by yours truly. That is, if you call fainting after crashing your snowmobile with you and your best friend on it a “small dramatic episode.” I kinda do. But that’s another story for another day when I can devote proper time to explain my fainting
So yes, despite a pretty banged up knee, we all made it in safely (yes dudes, the snowmobile is fine). The Lodge was perfect…just big enough for the six of us with one of the most amazing views. Which, after winding up, down and around through the trees for five miles it was hard to believe that we’d ever get to a clear vantage point….but wow. Here’s the view from the deck of the lodge.
I wish you could see the mountains in the distance more clearly…it felt like you could see forever.
The lodge itself was great. It was three buildings that were all connected by a large deck and wooden path. The first building housed the kitchen, small living room and dining room. The second was essentially a bunk house that could sleep up to 8 people. The third building had a sauna and several showers. I’d never seen anything with that sort of setup, but it actually worked out great because people could go to bed early or late and not be disturbed by people who did the opposite.
I have a picture of a couple of the boys enjoying the sauna…but don’t think they’d appreciate me posted them on the ‘ol blog. Just take my word for it that the sauna was indeed enjoyed as well.
Some of you may have noticed that I mentioned a small child earlier…haha. And in fact I did. Our friend’s 21 month-old son Tor joined us on the trip and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. Truth-be-told, I’m not sure what we would have done for entertainment without him there! He’s quite the charmer.
But I digress. We were there for skiing right? Right. Too bad we woke up Saturday morning to the storm or all storms….and not the good kind. It was the kind that started out with fog, lots and lots of fog. Then rain. Then wind. Then snow. Lots and lots of snow. Big, wet, heavy snow…and more freezing cold wind.
We held off until about noon and decided that we couldn’t wait anymore. So we headed out in the rain/snow/wind and started touring up the ridge behind the Lodge.
I was pretty bummed to get to the top and miss out on what I know would have been some amazing views. Plus, the wind on top of the ridge was incredibly cold…so the best thing was to keep your head down and keep going!
We hiked up the ridge a ways until we found a slope that looked good to ski back down towards the lodge. Two turns into the run and I realized this was not going to be easy. It’s too cold to be spring skiing but not cold enough to be powder skiing; so what you have is a weird mixture of new “spring-like” snow on top of a crusty layer filled with snow snakes. You know what snow snakes are right? Little critters that grab your skis when you’re turning and try to make you fall. Yeah, this snowpack was full of’em. And it turns out that the only thing that gets rid of snow snakes is whiskey – so we decided we best head back to the lodge and get some.
So in the end…bittersweet it was. An amazing and beautiful place, which actually would have some sweet terrain in better conditions. It’s just unfortunate that we hit it when we did. I mean, who woulda thought that we would have anything but spring skiing in April? If you’re The Hubs, it just means that there’s that much more skiing to be had this year. If you’re me…well…it might mean I just don’t get any spring skiing this year.
P.S. Anyone interested in learning more about Altoona Ridge Lodge can look here. They do book the lodge year-round. In the summer you can drive straight there, so no need to worry about fainting episodes.