Chief Joseph Pass 12/9/2022

Most ski trails at Chief Joseph Pass were groomed Thursday, with the exception of Banshee, Middle Fork, and Joseph Creek, which still need a little more snow to fill in some of the creek crossings.

Last weekend we reached the point in the season where grooming at Chief Joseph Pass switches from our volunteers on snowmobiles to a Snowcat from Lost Trail ski area. Because of the abundant early snow this happened several weeks earlier than the last few seasons. This means wide flat trails, nearly perfect corduroy, and tracks on most trails. This also allowed our volunteer crew to shift their efforts to other locations: Lake Como, The Ravalli County Fairgrounds, and a new location we are going to try out grooming(More info on that soon).

We will be having a club meeting in the parking lot at Chief Joseph Pass this Saturday, December 9 at noon. Please join us to meet other club members, talk about what you want from the ski club, and help elect a new board of directors.

Hamilton Fairgrounds

Fairgrounds update from our chief groomer Tony:

Still going! Was able to do laps tonight with the Ginzu groomer and it cleaned up nicely!

Great place to learn or practice your skate skiing!

Not enough snow for tracks, we’re working with a hard 3″-5″ platform of snow over grass and dirt, keeping our fingers crossed for more!


After spending all day friday at Como, our chief groomer Tony headed back out to the fairgrounds friday night. Here is his report:

Como didn’t quite wear me out, so I went over to the Fairgrounds with the Ginzu groomer this evening and cleaned up the skate lanes.

We somehow made it through another warm spell, track is firm with just a few thin spots.

Still need more new snow to re set the tracks.

Should be good skating in the morning!

Como 12/2/2022

The volunteer grooming crew were able to get “ALL” of the trails at Como rough packed today!

Probably too soft for skating, we packed down some deep snow today with just rollers so there is not a lot of compaction yet.

Same goes for bikes, please don’t even try, it’s too soft with no base.

A reminder to the bike crowd, these are ski trails, not multi use trails. We ask that riders stay off the corduroy if they are sinking more than1/2″ and/or leaving more than tread marks, ruts are not cool.

Also same goes for hikers, these are ski trails, not hiking routes, if you are sinking in, please stop and find somewhere else to hike.

Otherwise, park at the Boat ramp parking, hike up the footpath to the 550/550A intersection and ski from there, everything is packed!

The touring conditions will be awesome!

Chief Joseph Pass 12/1/2022

Our volunteer grooming crew was at Chief Joseph Pass yesterday getting the trails ready for ski season. Some days of grooming feel like just going for a ride through the woods, and some are hard work, as much shoveling as driving. Yesterday was definitely the later category. All trails have been compacted, but some are still only 4 feet wide, and some may still be pretty soft. Definitely not skate skiing conditions yet, but everything is skiable, the cabin is open and the benches are out.

Snowcat grooming is currently planned to start sometime in the next few days.

A big thank you to the Dave from the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest for assisting with clearing downed logs and hazard trees yesterday, so our crew could focus on the snow.

Hamilton Fairgrounds

The fairgrounds trails currently have 2 inches of light fluffy snow on top of very firm grooming. The classic tracks have melted out and are not usable in most places, but conditions are still great for skate skiing.

Hamilton Fairgrounds

Update from our chief groomer Tony Neaves:

The stars aligned and there is skiing at the Hamilton Fairgrounds (at least till Wed.)!

Last time we were able to do this was 2017, its rare and it does not last long! Everyone’s help in keeping the groomed trail intact goes a long way, it’s a fragile 3″ thick layer of packed snow, just firm enough for skis (please no fat bikes either).

Walking on it or letting dogs run and play on it ruins it really quick and any warm spell like the upcoming one later in the week weather melts out any thin spots or holes in the trail quickly, so please no dogs on loop #1 and #2. Between last night when I first started packing it and this afternoon someone with a dog did quite an amount of damage already, the lack of courtesy sometimes just amazes me!

I have 3 areas packed out, they are not connected like we used to due to security reasons now, too much vandalism occurring.

The main loop is the southside field next to Fairgrounds road, there is a set track around it and a wide skate lane. the trail starts on the northern edge of the parking lot.

To the northeast is another loop that goes all over eastern and northeast corner side, I was told there is a small gate to get into it by the main grandstands, but I have not found it yet because I’m grooming out there at night and haven’t seen it yet. I’ll report back tomorrow when we ski around in the day light.

The 3rd loop was an experimental loop I did last night, it’s to the north on the northwestern side of the main grandstand entrance. This evening I decided to call it the dog ski loop, it’s a rougher trail and it won’t hurt my feelings to let it get torn up, so wear out the pooch over there and then put them in the car and go rip around the rest!

There are tracks set on loop 1 and 2, enjoy!

Part of the agreement I had to work out with the Fair office was liability waivers, their lawyers require everyone doing any sport have on file (including pickle ball!)! What we agreed upon was that I put out a box at the start of the loop #1 ski trail with waivers inside and a pencil. Please fill one out and leave it at the office, you only have to do this once a year, not every time. I was also told that if the office is closed to just stick the waiver into the office cat door (it’s their standard practice)!

Enjoy it while it lasts!


Skiing? Yes!

The snow is really starting to pile up at Chief Joseph Pass. There is over 2 feet on the ground and the DOT has plowed out the parking lot. We are still a few weeks away from starting to groom, but many trails already have tracks skied in, and it should be great conditions for ski touring this weekend.

If you are out skiing on a trail that already has tracks, please consider skiing in a second set of tracks a few feet over. This makes the initial grooming much easier, as the snowmobiles are able to stay up on the ski tracks.

There are downed trees on many trails right now, so use caution, especially while skiing downhill. Several trails still have open water, including Banshee, Joseph Creek and Whoopee. These trees will be cleared by our grooming crews once grooming starts.

The Gordon Reese Cabin is not open for day use, but will be open when our season officially starts on December 1.

Dogs are allowed on trails until the end of November, but please pick up after your dog. Please remember that many users of the Gordon Reese Cabin melt snow for water, so please avoid getting dog waste in the snow in that area.


Chief Joseph Pass has received 2 feet of snow since friday, and most trails have enough snow for skiing. The parking lot has not been plowed(as of noon Sunday), so be prepared to park along the highway, and bring a shovel.

We are still a few weeks away from starting to groom, but with the current snow, and the forecast for the next week we are on track to be able to groom most trails late November.

It is currently hunting season, and there have been many elk hunters in the area, so wearing orange is recommended.