Everything is open. You can ski around all of Red Lodge Mountain, from Lodge Trail to Columbine, from Nichols Peak to Lower Miami Beach. It's the time to explore runs we seldom ski because of limitations, our own or the snow's. This year, with plenty of snow, there are no excuses.
That's what got me to the face of Black Powder. It's a run that has everything, most of it in view from the Cole Creek chairlift. The snow was thick and soft. The top is almost like a meadow with a deceptively gradual drop that ends at this very, very, very steep face. It took a few wide turns, some second thoughts and sideslips, and a few good turns to get down it. Blessedly short, it ends at a left turn into a twisty narrow chute. The chute is easy compared to the face, which looks more manageable from the lift. When I tell our friend Bob Nickoloff that I got down a run but couldn't say I skied it, he always asks, "Were you on skis?" I was definitely on skis. There was no other way out, and it was a thrill.
When strong winds close the upper mountain, we ski the little runs that don't get our attention but should, like Chase's which often turns to ice and Big Fred's, a grown-up Rabbit Trails. We ski to the views that sneak up on us, coming at the end of the track to Royal's where the Crazies loom impossibly close, and all the gulches in between are traced with snow.
On weekdays, we glide down Meeteetse Trail and #4 Road when both are empty, lined with trees and silence, and the only disturbance is the blue flash of a Steller's Jay. It's hard to imagine wanting to be anywhere else.