Higher Ground

Terrain, snow quality and hospitality — Monashee has it all

Once again, the Pacific Northwest had been having a winter of epic proportion — December snowfall had set records at some resorts. With that type of accumulation, we knew our friends north of the border were getting pounded with deep, fresh powder. The crew from Freeride Media hit the road and headed to Cherryville, B.C., home to Monashee Powder Snowcats, to start filming for their upcoming TV shows.

The crew consisted of Desiree Leipham, Tommy Frey, Devon Dufenhorst, Landon Gardner, Daryl Treadway and videographer Vance Shaw.

Bob Legasa

After a seven-hour drive from Sandpoint, we were met by Monashee Powder owner Tom Morgan and his snowcat, which holds 12 guests. After loading all our gear in the cat — I mean a lot of gear, considering Devin has a large bag just for his hair-care products — it was a short 40-minute ride up to the lodge, just enough time to have a couple of cold ones and the celebratory shot of Jägermeister to kick the adventure into gear. We were greeted at the Monashee lodge by a spectacular sunset under clear, crisp skies. This type of reception made the wait through the night seem endless.

We obviously did something right; the skies held clear through the night, giving us a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. "Pretty impressive" is an understatement. After transceiver training, we loaded up the cat and headed for higher ground, where our two young guns, Daryl and Landon, scoped for drops off the rocky cliffs.

As soon as that cat door swung open, we were on it, hot-lapping one powder run after another under bluebird skies. We had the intermittent break to watch Daryl and Landon "send it" off anything with drop time — these young guns were in heaven.

With the threat of snowfall coming in later that night, we charged hard all day — sunny deep-powder opportunities don't come that often. Back at the lodge, which holds 36 powder-obsessed guests, everyone was greeted with appetizers as we unwound, swapping stories with the other guests before dinner, a first-class affair. This particular night was fresh British Columbia salmon, with a sauce that made your taste buds go into sensory overload. It was that good!

Day Two, we awoke to an overnight accumulation of 8 inches of fresh snow from Ullr the snow god, and it was still coming down. Coupled with the continual pounding all day, it made for some magical skiing. With visibility somewhat limited due to the driving snowfall, our guide Ken Bibby brought us into some steep, nicely spaced trees. Everyone in our group was loving life at Monashee. The skiing got better and better as the day went on, eventually adding up to 15 inches in 24 hours. Not bad!

On Day Three, we were teased with an incredible sunrise, which quickly turned to more snowfall. Apparently, Ullr thought the area needed a little freshening up. We ventured over to one of Monashee's signature zones, the Burn, given that name after a forest fire rolled through that section of timber back in 2004. The Burn is loaded with all sorts of cool, photogenic features, and the area offers open, steep lines through the burned-out forest, making it an ideal way to cap off our adventure.

Every time I visit Monashee, I'm in awe of the terrain, the quality of snow and the hospitality. This place is legit; whether you're an intermediate or expert, Tom and Carolyn Morgan's team knows how to serve it up first rate. If you've never been snowcat skiing, you need to do it least once in your lifetime. ♦

53rd Annual Art on the Green @ North Idaho College

Fri., July 30, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat., July 31, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
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