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January through March, 2008

Face Shots!

Face shots are what happens when you ski through deep powder and the snow flies up in your face. Lack of visibility can be quite disorienting. And one can get the sensation of drowning if one inhales, so some people use a snorkel. As of mid-January, we have had several days of face shot skiing and there is more to come. Unlike last year, this year's 10 dollar day at Bridger Bowl* coincided with a big dump of powder. The result was huge crowds. We were on the highway at 8:10am and at Bridger Bowl by 8:25; lines were already forming at the lifts (loading starts at 9:00). We caught one of the first chairs up and made 4 runs on the upper lifts before the crowds caught up with us and we had to wait in line almost 10 minutes. Spoiled as we are by good snow and no lines, we packed our gear into the locker and were home by 11:00. It's a tough life !

Face shots also happen when Gary plows the drive (click on the picture for a 2.3MB movie.) In order to throw the snow off the drive and down into the ravine formed by Place Creek, it is necessary to keep up some speed (in this case, about 20MPH). But snow also flies up over the plow at times and reduces visibility to zero – very disconcerting when driving on a curve at the edge of a long drop! The powder gets into the air intakes and melts as it goes through the heating system, creating humidity that fogs up the windows and further limits visibility. The cure for this is to switch from heat to A/C (even though the temperature is below freezing).

View from the Main House

This mountain to the southwest is often lost against the sky, but on this particular morning it caught the sun peeking under the overcast at sunrise. We have heard many opinions regarding which mountain this is, including Gallatin Peak, Wilson Peak and others, all near the Big Sky ski area and all over 10,000'. Using Google Earth, we were able to reproduce the view from the Main House and take a virtual flight to the mountain: Gallatin Peak (11,015’).

We have been in the house long enough to determine that the wine cellar stays at near ideal conditions with no mechanical assists, so there was no reason to delay putting up wine racks. Once the racks were up, the wine could be unpacked and organized. Those with large wine inventories may be interested in how the wine cellar is designed and organized.

Since just before Christmas, the elk have hung out at our place regularly. This dismays Pumpkin, who must stay in while they are nearby; otherwise, she tries to herd them – they mostly ignore her but some bulls take offense. One day the herd spooked and ran east across the drive as Gary was driving up; suddenly our little truck was surrounded by stampeding elk and all he could see was legs!

A few days of wind and snow after the above photo we gave up shovelling the South Patio. (Note the handle of the snow shovel sticking out of the drift.) The elk moved to more protected grazing for a while, returning once the storm subsided. The area they frequent is very windy, which keeps the snow cover thin and makes it easier to paw down to some grass.

After the storm, we got our first sub-zero temperatures: −15°F at the Main House and −25°F at the Carriage House. Being out of the gully makes a big difference on calm days. Gary braved −21°F at Bridger Bowl for a few runs; Pauline stayed home! The high was −6°F, but solar gain raised the Great Room temperature to a balmy 72°F (we set the daytime thermostats to 66°F).

Cork and Fork is a Bridger Canyon tradition: canyonites get together each of the 6 Winter months for dinner. Participation has grown beyond the point that anyone can host everyone, so the Women's Club assigns sets of hosts, guest couples and themes. This February we were one of the hosts and had 10 assigned guests. Each couple brings a bottle of wine and a dish befitting the theme. The theme was "Men's Night to Cook (Pizza)" and the men (supposedly) prepared the food.

The advantage of a southern exposure is that a week of sun will do a great job of snow removal. Note that Neko is standing next to some open windows – even with temperatures barely above freezing, we sometimes open windows to keep from getting too warm inside.

Of course, these clear skies in late February meant that skiing was not so good. Snow got slushy and tracked up in the late afternoon then froze during the night, leaving icy ruts for the next morning. The advantage of clear skies was that we got a good view of the lunar eclipse. As the moon entered the umbra, every coyote in the canyon started to howl.

On March 1 we get our burn permit for the year. Our remaining three slash piles are large. Experience tells us they could burn for over 2 months; there could be a dry spell before they go out. We took a chain saw to one pile, separated out wood for someone's fireplace and created two smaller piles to burn. Still, more than half the original pile was left to deal with later. We're planning to get heavy equipment to pry the piles apart and do many small burns next Fall.

March is not the end of skiing; it has almost as much precipitation as January and February combined, and that means snow at Bridger Bowl. Pauline bought a second pair of skis; she now has a pair for packed and a pair for powder. March gave her opportunities to practice laying down fresh tracks with the new skis. Unfortunately, time and conditions conspired to prevent photographs of her skiing.

In Memoriam

Ina Denton died on the morning of 18 February, just short of her 96 th birthday. Ina was a member of the Christie family, and an aunt of George Christie. Gary met her son (Duane Denton) when he attended the forestry course in July 2003, and her daughter (Eva Veltkamp) has become a close friend. Ina was born in Bridger Canyon and lived most of her life in the canyon and in Bozeman. As a child, she lived at the Christie farm (directly across the highway from us) and attended Lower Bridger School before there was electricity in Bridger Canyon. She was fortunate to maintain her good health until shortly before her death, so we were able to bring her up to the new house to see what we are doing with the property where she herded cows as a child. She filled us in on some of the history of the property. An extensive obituary is available from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.


Main House Progress
Snow and ice.

Pumpkin's Progress
The Cut Bank Animal Shelter keeps track of adoptions...

Parting Shot
Cougars Among Us

Last quarter, we mentioned that three mountain lions (aka Cougars) had visited a home to the north of us and had fled down Place Creek through our property. This picture (a young female) was taken by the neighbor before they called FWP. We have not seen a mountain lion ourselves (yet). They are very secretive; but, like bears, they can learn to approach homes when people are careless about leaving things out that attract them.

The growing elk and deer population provides a food source that results in a growing predator population. In addition to mountain lions, we were recently informed that wolves were spotted inside the northeast corner of our property. Email from one neighbor who spotted wolves gave us yet more reason to keep a close rein on Pumpkin and Neko. One day, we were surprised to see a yellow Piper Super Cub fly so low and slow over us that we thought it was making an emergency landing. We later found that this airplane is used to survey the wolf population in Yellowstone Park and may be looking for wolves here.

* The article quotes Rich Lane, whose father was nice enough to let him ski instead of work. Rich and his father did the electrical work on our house. When we ran into Rich's father a couple of weeks after $10 day, he told us a different story! As people in Bozeman say: there are no friends on a powder day. You take 'em when you get 'em, no matter what.

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