August skiing on The Laser

August 19th, 2008

Steve with the Laser in the background

The Laser, on Elephant MountainAs I mentioned briefly in my previous post, one of the main attractions to visiting Bozeman for a few days was getting my Dynafit bindings mounted on my new skis. I’ll go into more depth on my new backcountry ski setup (and compare it to my old one) at a later date, but suffice it to day it’s a Dynafit setup, and it’s awesome. I got the bindings on while I was in Driggs, and had left my new skis in Bozeman since I got them at Barrel Mountaineering and would have to return there to take advantage of their free binding mount deal anyway. So I finally made the trip to put the skis and bindings together, and luckily my long time ski buddy Steve wanted to get an August ski day that same weekend!

Slightly enhanced field of wildflowersThe staples of summer skiing in Bozeman are the Great One on Sac (early season), the Blaze mountain in the Northern Madisons (pretty much all summer), and I think there are some other spots farther away in the Beartooths and Absarokees. Apparently there is another! Although it is kind of freakish that it was still filled in enough to ski in August this year (the legacy of our big winter and June powder days), on Elephant Mountain (across from Mount Blackmore) there is a chute of snow called “The Laser”. Not only is the Laser a shorter hike (and drive) than the Blaze, I’d already skied the Blaze in June so I was excited to ski a new summer line. I’ll probably be skiing the Blaze again in early September anyway.

Me booting up with solid LaserThe Laser is actually visible from the valley. You hike the Mount Blackmore trail to get to it. It’s just about a 1.5 hour hike up to it… I forget how much vertical gain it is from Hyalite Reservior, but not too bad. It was just Steve and I, and we’d been out the night before so we didn’t even leave town until after noon. I was worried the snow would be too rotten to ski that late in the afternoon in August, but for the same reason the line persists this long into the summer it was still rock hard when we got on the snow around 3PM. We’d brought crampons and axes just in case… but it was still a bit surprising. Steve at the sketchy top of the runAnd totally funny to me to put my crampons on in August. The boot was short and uneventful but the top was very narrow and steep and icy and I lost confidence in my brand new and untested skis/boots/bindings so I stopped about 50ft short of the top. I’m glad I did, because jumping onto icy, steep, sun-pocked snow with short skis after a month on my bike was hard. I don’t fall a lot anymore, and I almost fell. Even Steve almost slipped into a rock-well at the very top! Lower it was better, and we shredded our 500′ August ski line. My first August ski run!! Just gotta hit the Blaze in September, and I should be home-free when the snow starts falling in October!

Flowers that just melted out... in AugustSteve finishing out the LaserSo pretty!

My trial by fire with new gear on hard snow

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