I get great satisfaction out of many things in life- managing a project on budget, sending a big ice line, or making a new friend.  None of these things puts a shit eating grin on my face quite like a perfect day of backcountry skiing.

The Crystal Theater is 50 minutes drive from my desk, and perfect for a Friday afternoon.

This weekend I got two of them.  My face hurts from so much smiling.

I’ve learned to make plans that keep me away from work.  For example- if I tell my friend Gwen that I think I can get out of work to ski on Friday afternoon, then I feel compelled to honor that statement, rather than spending my Friday afternoon accomplishing work that could just as well be accomplished later (possible on Saturday or Sunday, but more optimally on Monday).  So that’s what we did, and it was perfect.

Way better than my desk.

We started skinning into “the Crystal Theater” exactly 1h 10min after leaving Gwen’s house, and found 18″ of deliciously dry powder and stable avalanche conditions.  Full of stoke, we boogied to the top of the highest thing we could see well before the sun dropped behind the ridge, and proceeded to enjoy face shots almost all the way back to the flats.

Unbelievable snow.

We had such a good time, the only logical thing to do was do it again, so early Sunday morning we headed back up to Lolo Pass proper and skinned as far away from the snowmobiles as possible.  We missed Gwen’s boyfriend Ross joining in the fun, but we made sure to get in some extra laps for him.

Gwen's got the grin too.

Our first run was “exploratory” as the cold temps and bright sun had definitely baked the south aspect, but we headed deep into new territory and found the goods on round two.

Perfect glades full of powder.

We also took note of some of the tallest hoarfrost I’ve ever seen.  While we were largely skiing low angle slopes, this layer might create some interesting avy conditions if we get dumped on again in the next few days.

Huge hoarfrost "crisps!"

The bottom of run two put us on a forest service road, and while skinning back towards more familiar terrain, we both noticed a beautiful east facing slope with just a few tracks on it.  We were psyched to work a little more, and found some of the best snow of the day. Round 3 was not the end of the day.

Getting the goods on round 4, cutting across our own tracks from round 3.

We had a mix of broken trail, well laid skin track, and snowmobile pack, but by the time we got to the car our legs were feeling the work.

Willow gets mad credit for breaking trail most of the day.

Nothing quite like a perfect sunny day in a (mostly) quiet forest full of snow.  SO GOOD.  Many thanks to Gwen for being quick on her skins and eager to work hard- thanks lady!

The dropping sun leaves behind perfect colors.

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