I have had a love affair with Rogers Pass since my first trip in 2008. At that point I had only ski toured about 10 times but was hooked on the experience. Back in those days, Glacier Park Lodge was up and running and it was such a simple affair to zip down to the Discovery Center to get your permit, and when most terrain was closed, Grizzly Shoulder was always an option (now a permitted area). It was much less busy back then and trail breaking was a given. Gear was way different with tech bindings only a fringe item and 95mm underfoot was wide. So much has changed in six years.
Today was different, however, a storm had hit the Pass and snowflakes were skill dropping on my head as I skinned up without another soul in the park – a rarity even in early season. Seeing the valley so heavily guarded by alder and creek crossings wasn’t something I was used to as this is by far the earliest I have even set foot in the pass.
It was clear after making the way up the valley that skiing would be limited and creek crossings aplenty. But it was good to stretch the legs. It was actually a little comforting going through the valley without the huge smooth slide paths waiting to grab you at a moments notice.
Making it to Balu Pass in a little over two hours my mindset changed from hike mode to ski mode. The slight change in elevation transformed the terrain into a little mini ski slope. That was after a few sporty creek crossings that almost mockingly tried to slow my skins down permanently for the day. With visibility poor and a nice protected slope the second ski day of the year turned into boot top pow.
I think I enjoy the early season sometimes more than any other time as you reconnect with your roots. The peacefulness of the mountains and the disconnection from all the technology that bogs you down everyday. The mental reset and the reaffirmation that the world is just fine without you for a day. Even if it means a new set of skins from some serious rock abuse.