Due to the Jetstream being so far south this week we got 8 inches of powder in the mountains last night. It was a rare chance for some good spring cross country skiing. It was a good day to set life aside and spend time in the mountains. Although there was a broken cloud layer only, the pressure was on a slow drop and there was a cell on the radar in western Utah slowly moving east. With a temp/dewpoint spread at my house of 34/23, I roughly figured the cloud base level would be at about 9,500 feet, which should let me reach any of the higher peaks in the Bear River range before dealing with low vis. I decided to ski from Bear Creek to the Tony Grove trail, following it up to the lake and then ascend Naomi peak. I wanted to make good time on this long and steep trail since it was secondarily replacing a long training run for a marathon coming up. The weather also meant that I would have to carry a heavier pack with extra clothing layers and contingency equip. I had a new set of light skis and debated carrying along snowshoes as well, but eventually just decided to chance it with just the cross country skis.
Starting out at Bear Creek I had no trail to follow, just aiming at the three peaks that I knew were in front of Tony Grove. It was virgin powder over about 4 feet of old snow, just a beautiful day and I was able to start off in just a t-shirt. As I headed up through the aspens I immediately was climbing the first mountain and began to question not having the snowshoes but when I tacked across it became very manageable and I got a good pace going. Skiing is such a different way to travel. I've climbed the trails here since I was little, but I always enjoy the skiing more. There is nothing like simply aiming where you want to go and traveling over all the brush on top of the snow. The sun was out and with the snow layer it was tombstone quiet. After about three miles, somewhere around 6,500 feet, I had to get the second layer out. Some gusts would pick up every now and then and whip the new powder into mini storms that would just cover me. I came across the trail to Tony Grove Lake and turned north on it. Now I could really pick it up on the flat trail and was back on familiar ground. When I came up to the 7,500 foot line and the more gradual couple of miles to the lake, the wind really picked up and I had to pull my hood down and bow into it for a while. I kept the skis perpendicular to the ridges on the snow in front of me and kept as good a pace as I could, knowing that I would be in the lee of the mountains around the lake and have some shelter. The sun was blazing again now. I made my first stop at the lake and pulled out some quick lunch in a little cove around some trees. I got cold fast and just about called it a day right there since it hit so hard. As I crossed the lake towards the last climb I could see the mountain was now in the clouds. I was soon in it and really didn't get warm the last 1,500 feet despite three layers. There wasn't much to see and I was too cold to stay even a few minutes at the top, so I headed right back down.
Now crossing the lake, the wind was at my back and when the sun came out I warmed up within just a few minutes and was making good time again. Reaching about the 7,500 elevation it was so nice that I went back to single layer and started getting some pictures again. The last 5 miles were just plain fun.