News & Features

Last Blast of Winter

The death knell of winter hasn't tolled yet, with plenty of fresh fun on tap before 2016 goes out like a lamb

Anyone who accepted last fall’s dreary, El Nino-influenced winter snowpack predictions as gospel was pleasantly surprised by the glut of snowfall in late December and January, which helped shore up mountain snowpack in Northwest Montana on the heels of a historically dry summer.

And while snowfall has tapered off at lower elevations in recent weeks, precipitation has continued to converge on the Flathead Valley – albeit often in the form of rain – bumming out powder-hounds but bolstering confidence in a productive runoff following a parched fire season last summer.

“We are not even close to being in the same boat as last year, which is good news,” Lucas Zukiewicz, water supply specialist with the state’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, said.

Snow water equivalent, a common snowpack measurement that determines the depth of water that will likely result from snow melt, is at or near the average for the year in the region’s two main river basins, according to a monthly report from the National Resources Conservation Service.

Flathead River Basin improved to 98 percent of normal snowpack and the Kootenai River Basin was at 100 percent of normal as of March 14. The Flathead tallied 103 percent of the average year-to-date precipitation, while the Kootenai was at 117 percent.

Those numbers are both higher than a year ago.

“For now we are looking good,” Zukiewicz said. “We just have to remember that whatever we get this spring is also really important. Snowpack on the ground has built a good foundation, but what we see in March and April and how that translates to our river flows in the spring will be key. But right now we are looking good.”

Meanwhile, local ski areas and communities in the Flathead have a slate of end-of-winter activities on tap, and this week’s edition of the Beacon features some of the upcoming goings-on. — Tristan Scott

 


 

Ken Jones skis at Whitefish Mountain Resort on March 10, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Ken Jones skis at Whitefish Mountain Resort on March 10, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

First Time Pass Holder Surpasses 6 Million Vertical Feet and Counting

Back on skis for the first time in 24 years, Ken Jones is having a legendary winter on Big Mountain

By Dillon Tabish

Last fall, after saving money from a construction career, Ken Jones moved from the flatland of Lincoln, Nebraska to Whitefish, where he was excited to strap into skis for the first time in 24 years. READ MORE »»»

 


 

Erich Peitzsch, with the Flathead Avalanche Center, checks conditions near Whitefish Mountain Resort on March 10, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Erich Peitzsch, with the Flathead Avalanche Center, checks conditions near Whitefish Mountain Resort on March 10, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Behind the Scenes: Creating the Avalanche Advisory

The Flathead Avalanche Center is issuing daily advisories this season for the first time. What goes into producing this regular report?

By Clare Menzel

It’s just before 6 a.m. and Erich Peitzsch, the director of the Flathead Avalanche Center, is at his computer in his office at the Hungry Horse Ranger Station, scrolling through projected hourly models of cloud coverage across the valley. READ MORE »»»

 


 

Steve Spencer, founder of Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, was recently inducted into the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation’s hall of fame. He is pictured at Blacktail Mountain on March 9, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Steve Spencer, founder of Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, was recently inducted into the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation’s hall of fame. He is pictured at Blacktail Mountain on March 9, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Forty Years on the Slopes

Blacktail’s Steve Spencer is one of four inductees into the Flathead ski hall of fame

By Justin Franz

On a recent Wednesday morning, Steve Spencer rushed around the lodge trying to outfit an entire busload of middle school students with gear for a day of skiing and riding atop Blacktail Mountain. READ MORE »»»

 


 

Jason Forrest leads a heat down the boardercross course at Whitefish Mountain Resort during the Nate Chute Classic. Beacon File Photo

Jason Forrest leads a heat down the boardercross course at Whitefish Mountain Resort during the Nate Chute Classic. Beacon File Photo

Snowboard Contest Raises Support for Suicide Awareness

Competitors in 17th annual Nate Chute Classic use humorous videos to gather funds

By Tristan Scott

In a cringe-inducing twist to the traditional charity event, big gulps of emulsified McDonald’s Happy Meals and vomit-inducing “beer miles” are proving to be a lucrative means of raising money and awareness for suicide prevention. READ MORE »»»

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