May 23, 2001, West Cady Ridge, MBSNF
Andy and I parked at the trailhead and headed up the snow-free trail under blue skies and warm temperatures. Patches of snow appeared at about 3500 ft, and the snow became continuous, 2-3 feet deep, as we gained the ridge at about 4400 ft. We put on the waxless skis and began the climb over the bumps as we travelled the ridge - perfect snow for ascending without skins, a firm base with 1-4 inches of soft snow on top. Did a couple of runs off the ridge after lunch. On the north side there was still some clean, relatively recent snow which was fairly mushy, and on the steepest parts we triggered some snowballs which grew in size at an alarming rate, but no actual slides. On the south side the snow was more corned, ranging from perfect spring conditions to very airy, large-grained snow up to 6 inches deep. Then we finished skiing up the ridge to the top of Benchmark Mountain, and were rewarded with tremendous views in a 360 degree panorama. The south sides of ridges in the area are melting out fast, especially below 5000 ft, but north sides still have a good snowpack. We couldn't resist one more run off the south side, then began the long transit back along the ridge, with a number of fun, short runs through the trees as we descended each bump. We were able to ski back down the snow-covered trail to about 4000 ft, and then had a short distance to reach the melted out trail. To save my feet the agony of 1200 ft of trail descent in plastic boots, I tried sandals, which turned out to be a very comfortable way to come down this beautiful trail.