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Big Sky snowboarder makes splash on world stage


BIG SKY – Lone Peak High School junior Holden Samuels traveled from his home in the small resort community of Big Sky to a tiny nation nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains to take seventh in a Freeride World Tour event Feb. 4.

The 17-year-old snowboarder qualified for the competition in the Principality of Andorra by winning the point total last winter on the International Freeskiers Association’s junior tour and the IFSA’s culminating event at Whistler, British Columbia in April. Either victory would have punched his ticket to the Grandvalira resort, in the country located between the France and Spain borders.

This was Samuels’ first time snowboarding, let alone competing, in Europe and the conditions weren’t ideal, he said.

“The snow conditions were pretty variable, and it had been pretty windy before the event,” Samuels said. “The snow piled up in some spots, but was scoured and icy in other spots.” The competition was scheduled for the morning, but pushed to the afternoon due to fog.

Visibility was poor and Samuels said the light was so flat that he couldn’t make out any definition in the snow. “[They were] not optimal conditions.” However, the circumstances at the event didn’t dampen his experience across the Atlantic.

“It was an amazing trip. It’s great that snowboarding has taken me all these places,” Samuels said. “I had never been to Europe before … it was a really cool experience.”

Samuels, who is sponsored by Never Summer Snowboards, will compete on the IFSA junior tour at Red Lodge, Montana Feb. 27-28, followed by events at Crystal Mountain in Washington, the Big Sky Resort Headwaters Runoff and then at Grand Targhee Resort.

Feb. 4 fire severely damages home


BIG SKY – The Big Sky Fire Department responded to a fire at an unoccupied residence the evening of Feb. 4. The house, which is located to the west of Firelight Meadows at 230 Running Dog Road, is listed for sale.

According to BSFD Chief William Farhat, firefighters arrived to heavy fire burning under the deck at the back end of the house.

“Crews had to maneuver through heavy snow to get to the back side of the house, but were able to stop the fire from extending farther into the home,” Farhat said, adding that the blaze had already caused windows on the structure to break and was starting to consume the inside of the house when the department arrived.

The deck and hot tub area of the residence was significantly burned and the lower level of the house sustained smoke and water damage.

“Right now the guys are assisting the owner by boarding it up for him because you can’t find anyone to board it up on Superbowl Sunday,” Farhat said Feb. 5.

The Yellowstone Club Fire Department and Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the response. Farhat said the fire department’s investigation indicates that a mechanical malfunction in the hot tub started the fire.”

Storms pass south again in January, resulting in decreased Montana snowpack


Hit or miss may be the best way to describe this winter in terms of precipitation. October and November brought well above average precipitation across Montana, while November and January were well below average with regards to mountain and valley precipitation.

Two storm systems brought the bulk of the snowfall in January, and did increase the snowpack, but not enough snow fell during these events to keep the basin snowpack percentages from falling, according to snow survey data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Significant moisture stayed just south of most of the state again in January, but did drop snow on the southern ranges that feed Montana’s rivers. While January wasn’t wet, it certainly was cold. Daily average temperatures through the month were well below average across the state, and temperatures plummeted below zero for extended periods at the beginning and middle parts of the month.

Northern river basins received 35-65 percent of average precipitation at mountain SNOTEL locations for the month, while southern basins received 80-131 percent.

Most river basins were well below normal as of Feb. 1, except the Upper Yellowstone, which remained slightly above normal. Compared to last year, most basins had snowpack totals for Feb. 1 that were lower than last year at this time.

Montana NorthWestern Energy customers using record electricity, natural gas this winter

Montana has had its fair share of winter weather this season and it’s reflected in customer bills.
Through January, the winter season in NorthWestern Energy’s service territory has been colder than normal—16 percent colder in December and 26 percent colder than normal in January. This is a wide departure from this time last year when the weather started out average and then turned warmer than average in February.
NorthWestern Energy set a record for natural gas outflows in December 2016 from its storage fields located at the northern and southern points on the system, and set an overall record for on-system deliveries to customers. That system record was subsequently broken the following month in January with a new record of 6.7 billion cubic feet of delivered natural gas. Its electric system hit a new peak load of 1808 megawatts in mid-December.
This demand is showing up in customer bills as usage increased significantly due to the prolonged and persistent deep cold. Customers are encouraged to look closely at the comparisons provided on their bill that displays usage patterns for the current billing period compared to the previous billing period and the same time last year. The corresponding average daily temperatures over the periods are provided to highlight the correlation between usage and weather.
Customers are also encouraged to call NorthWestern Energy immediately if they are worried about their ability to pay high winter bills.

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