Rogers Pass – the Montana version, not the more famous one in British Columbia – marks a noticeable transition for travelers. West of here stand the dark forests and tall peaks of the Northern Rockies, while just a few miles to the east the mountains end abruptly and the plains begin. As such, Rogers Pass is not only a visual transition zone, but a meteorological one as well. Snow piles up deep, while the wind can howl and seriously cold air can settle in. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the Lower 48 was reported here, on Jan. 20, 1954, when the temperature fell to -70F. It’s not often that cold, however, and I can say I've had many happy days here under sparkling blue skies and semi-warmth. Rogers Pass, at 5,610 feet, is a crossing of the Continental Divide; the Continental Divide Trail crosses the pass. In summer, the trail offers easy access to open grassy slopes, some of which are marked by steep east-facing cliffs as the mountains taper off to the plains; it can be hiked and biked. In winter, both the north side and south side of the pass are ski-able. Of the two, the south side has better skiing and more sheltered slopes. Old roads which leave from the pass, meanwhile, are suitable for cross-country skiing.
Copper Creek separates Stonewall from Red Mountain. It's a popular spot on the edge of the alpine, but accessible by road in summer only. This spring's early melt moved that up by a month or more, so bright and early on Saturday Adam and Brandt and I were tooling through Lincoln and up Copper Creek. The timing was perfect -- the road was drivable to the trailihead and snow started just 300 yards later. Within two hours we were at the summit, ready to ski just as the first snowmobilers were showing up far below. (This spot is only really accessible by snowmobile in winter and still sees a fair bit of snowmobile use in mid and late spring.) We made one run on the main face, skinned back up, and made a second on the adjacent bowl. We were contemplating a third when we look at the time -- just enough remained to get down, crack open some creek-cooled beers, and get home before the wives left for girls night.