XC ski Lolo Pass to Crystal Ampitheater January 6, 2024

This route is an interesting cross country alternative to the groomed Lolo pass ski trails. It is a 6 mile out-and-back skier-packed trail to the vicinity of Crystal Ampitheater. Participants: Julie and Dave Kahl, Alden Wright

The trail starts across the highway from the Lolo Pass visitor center. We had to walk from the visitor center parking lot to the start of the trail because nothing was plowed on that side of the road. After 0.15 miles of climbing, this well-packed road joins FS road 595. We met an AVI training class, and there was enough snow to backcountry ski in this area. It is 0.5 miles to the turn off to the Crystal park trail which is downhill to a metal gate. The trail had ski tracks but minimal snowmobile traffic. About 0.1 miles past the turnoff, there is an old deadend logging road which goes to the right, but most ski traffic did not take this turnoff. But as we got further away from the Montana-Idaho line, snow cover decreased and backcountry skiing would have been difficult. As we went got closer to Crystal Park, there were additional ski tracks presumably coming up from the highway. We turned around where the trail ended 3 miles from Lolo Pass which is close but not right at where people back country ski. There was not much elevation gain/loss on the trail. We saw what we thought were martin tracks, but I neglected to take a picture.

This was the scheduled date of the Winterfest (which was then postpone for lack of snow for backcountry skiing). Julie and Dave had rented a cabin at Lolo Hot Springs for that night, and Alden stopped and had a beer and popcorn on the way home.

Route of our tour.
Julie just past the turnoff from the snowmobile trail.
At the cabin after the ski.

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