Skiers worship “epic” powder Sunday on Lolo Pass, Whitefish Mountain

By PAUL QUENEAU

A week of storms might have only added a few inches of snow to the Missoula valley, but Lolo Pass, Whitefish Mountain and several other locations are busy marking one of the great powder days of recenttimes.

At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, the Snotel measuring station on Lolo Pass clocked in at 16 inches of fresh in the past 24 hours with 97 inches total now on the ground, which, ironically enough, puts it at 97 percent of average for this date.  From what I heard from friends yesterday, there is so much powder at Lolo Pass that backcountry skiers were having trouble turning.

Powder-mania had similarly washed over Whitefish Mountain, with its website reporting 17 inches overnight and 22  in 24 hours, with snow still falling.

“This could be one of the deepest days I have ever skied here on the Big Mountain!” staffers wrote on Whitefish Mountain’s website ski report. “We have had over 4 feet of snow this last week! It has been snowing so hard all night the Groomers said they were cutting snow with their windshields at times!!”

Snotel sites around northwestern Montana appeared to back up this hysteria. The most impressive number I could find was at the 5,400-foot Bear Mountain site on the Montana-Idaho border southeast of Troy, where the snowpack went from 124 inches at 11 p.m. Friday night to 158 inches of snow at 7 a.m. Sunday—a 34 inch gain in 32 hours. Skiers rejoiced on Thursday after Lost Trail-Powder Mountain received 36 inches in the first big hit of the storm.

Other impressive numbers: Lookout Pass reported a storm total of 17 inches, the Many Glacier snotel station west of Babb in Glacier National Park picked up 17 inches in the past 24 hours, as did Grave Creek east of Eureka. National Weather Service spotters reported 14 inches northeast of Essex and 10 inches at Lake McDonald in Flathead County.

This storm pushed every snow-measuring site in the Bitterroots to near or above 100 percent of average snowpack, with Twelvemile Creek southwest of Hamilton now sitting at 120 percent of average. In the Rattlesnake Mountains, Stuart Mountain in the now at 96 percent of average and Sleeping Woman at 109 percent.  (source)

Looking forward through next Saturday, snow is possible for Missoula everyday except Tuesday, which looks to mostly sunny.

More snow reports:

http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/updatesur/update-mt.html

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/total_forecast/getprod.php?wfo=mso&sid=MSO&pil=LSR

 

Get more of Montana’s great outdoors with some of Paul’s other posts, 2011’s Top 20 Montana Outdoor Photos and How to Lose a Staring Contest with an Elk, or visit his blog archive.

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Paul Queneau is an avid outdoor recreationist, naturalist, and hunter. He works as conservation editor of Bugle Magazine at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, where he writes about, photographs, edits, and films wildlife. See and read more of his work on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s website and Paul’s photoportfolio.