Saturday, February 17, 2018

a drop in the bucket

A little storm moved through last Saturday, as H and I hunkered down at home to watch the Olympics (and I coughed and coughed).  We didn't feel like we were missing much skiing-wise that day, since the Alta webcams showed that it was dark and windy, and the snow wasn't stacking up very fast.  It kept going through the evening, however, and ended up leaving behind about eight inches of new snow - just a drop in the echoingly empty bucket that is the current northern Utah snowpack, but welcome nonetheless.

Now, that's a view

The storm moved out overnight, leaving mostly blue skies for Sunday.  With my cough, I wasn't up for skiing myself.  But I sensed H was getting fidgety and I gladly sent him up to Alta for the day.  He said that the bus was busy but not completely packed, and while the initial corral at Collins was full, things seemed to clear out fairly quickly.  Eight inches didn't do a whole lot of good but it did soften things up a bit and he enjoyed moderately soft turns until around 2 before catching the bus back home.

That little storm seems to have woken things up snowstorm-wise around here too.  We got a nice Thursday storm and now, as I write this on February 17th, what may be the biggest storm of the season is heading our way.  Better late than never - bring it on.

Monday, February 12, 2018

love the olympics

With recent traveling and then this past weekend of holding the couch down in between fits of coughing, I have not been skiing for three weekends in a row - that's crazy!  To be sure, I don't think I've been missing all that much but still.  My 2017/2018 ski days count is going to be way down.

But the Olympics are on, and that's some consolation.  H and I love the Olympics (except for all the figure skating) and we pack our DVR full of everything we can get (except the figure skating), which enables us to fast-forward through all the commercials (and the figure skating).  We are omnivorous viewers but we especially enjoy the cross-country skiing, because the athletes just collapse, gasping and drooling at the finish line, and the snowboard cross, which is just such a nutso event. NPR has a page where you can see where the U.S. athletes come from; unsurprisingly, there are a bunch who call Utah home (sixteen) and a total of twenty-one athletes are enrolled at Westminster College in Salt Lake City (they have a deal with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Federation: four days of class and three days on the hill).

So even though the snow here isn't what it should be, and until my lungs get back to where they should be, we can appreciate those talented, driven athletes out there on the snow and ice of the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

Monday, February 5, 2018

we could use a change in the weather

Thanks for your patience with the lack of posts around here.  As it turns out, both H and I had to travel recently, which sort of threw us all out of our usual routine.  I didn't ski at all the last two weekends; H skied both days two weekends ago and then just Saturday this past weekend, crying uncle at noon because the conditions were so bad.  We are definitely closing in on Utah's worst snow year of all time if things don't turn around soon.  It's always possible that February, March and April will bring storm after storm after storm, and we have had very snowy springs over the last couple of years.  But at this point, it doesn't look like anything significant is going to hit us until mid-February at the earliest. 

H's new set-up in action

Chair with a view, January 28th

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

building a base

Down in the Salt Lake valley, we got just a dusting of snow overnight.  Up at Alta, however, the snow really kicked into gear once the lifts stopped turning Saturday afternoon, dropping ten more inches to bring the storm total to 21".  In a regular year, it wouldn't be a big deal - this year, it was great news.  It kept snowing off and on all day too and temperatures stayed cold (ranging from 5F to a maximum of 20F), which kept the snow dry. It was busy on the bus and in the parking lot at Goldminer's Daughter, and the lodges were definitely full throughout the day with people warming up over hot chocolates, but once the initial Collins lift line cleared out, we hardly ever had to wait in line.  We thought that was weird - where are all the people? - but we certainly weren't complaining about it.

The new snow was light and fluffy and H was becoming very pleased with his new gear.  The Blizzard Cochises with the new NTN bindings handled the deeper snow so much better than his K2s/traditional bindings, plus they allowed him to ski faster too.  With the bulk of the snow coming overnight, ski patrol wasn't able to clear all that much terrain (and Devil's Castle is STILL closed, almost into February).  We stuck to the usual routes, doing four laps on Collins, then moving to Sugarloaf.  At that point, I had to go in for fifteen minutes to warm my toes.  We stayed at Supreme and Sugarloaf for the rest of the day, seeking out soft, deep spots wherever we could.

Well, there's some snow

Despite the nearly non-existent lift lines, things did get tracked out fast: there were hundreds of people going into Catherine's Area.  When we did a Cabin Run, we did manage to have that area all to ourselves and H looked great on his new set-up, turning very quickly in the narrow trees.  Other items of note on the day:  there were two Lucy-the-ski-patrol-dog sightings, one as she loaded the Sugarloaf lift with her handler, and another one later on, when she "helped" her handler reposition some rope lines.

At 2 p.m., we poled our way around a very wind-blown EBT and skied out down Collins face.  H saw that Main Street had been recently opened and went that way, enjoying the soft, swooping bumps.  The bus down canyon was as packed as it ever has been but since the road was clear, we were back at home at 3:30 p.m. - which was a LOT better than 7:30 p.m.  Also a lot better?  Getting an additional 20+ inches of snow.  If we could just start getting storms like this on a regular basis, it would do northern Utah a world of good.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

new snow saturday

To the delight of all (who like winter), it started to snow Friday evening.  It stacked up quickly down in the valley: by Saturday morning we had gotten close to eleven inches and we saw reports of 20" on the Draper benches.  This got everyone's engines revving, of course, and the ski bus was busy, standing room only.  We were somewhat dismayed to see, upon our arrival at Alta, that they had only gotten six inches overnight.  The corral was already full and cars were pouring into the parking lot.  All that for just six inches?  Since it was still snowing, we waited in the lodge until the lift line started to move and even once we got out there, decided against skiing on Collins because the lines were just so long.

Ski Patrol had signs like this at every lift

The conditions were okay but not great, but skiers have been starved for snow and are willing to take whatever there is at this point.  As you can see from the photo, ski patrol was concerned that the new snow would make people forget that there are still a LOT of rocks around at Alta.  Any high traffic areas got scraped off and bumped up quickly so the snow was better in less popular areas.  This was H's first time on his new NTN telemark set-up and it took him a little while to get used to it.  For me, my wider Rossignols went through the puffs well even though I still tend to get owned by those skis when I have to turn quickly (or a lot). We did laps on Sugarloaf and Supreme, switching from one to the other if the lines ever got long - which they never really did, given the amount of cars parked in the lots and along the road.

When everything got thoroughly tracked out, we stopped in at the Goldminer's Daughter Saloon for a couple of beers.  Our intention was to catch the 4:04 p.m. bus down the canyon.  Our plans were thwarted somewhat when we had to wait for an hour for our bus to show up.  Then the trip down was very, very slow due to the heavy down-canyon traffic: the dreaded "red snake" of taillights inching its way back to the valley.  We finally got home at 7:30 p.m., making it a solid twelve-hour day.  It was still snowing, however, which we thought might bode well for Sunday.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Life sometimes gets in the way of new blog posts.  That is what is happening now, so until we're able to get our ducks in a row, here are some photos of various Utah ski resorts' patrol dogs:

Image result for utah ski patrol dogs 
Sugar Bear (Brighton)

Image result for deer valley ski patrol dogs 
Rooster (Deer Valley)

Image result for alta lucy ski patrol dogs 
Fitz and baby Lucy back in the day

Monday, January 22, 2018

more of the same

Monday's weather was more of the same: sunny and clear blue skies.  There were noticeably fewer people up at Alta although there were still plenty of lift line doofuses.  We had to get up there first, however, and we found ourselves on a ski bus driven by a crazy bus driver: he got us up there ten minutes early, due to stomping on the accelerator/brakes and skipping stops, and we were grateful that the road was clear and dry.

When we got out on the hill, I was also grateful to find that my skis were running slightly better on the groomers, no doubt because the edges were starting to dull a little, muting whatever it was had been done to them.  We did four runs on Collins and then one at Sugarloaf.  The lift lines started stacking up at that point so we again switched to Supreme for the rest of the day.

Cliff area

We waited until after lunch to give Catherine's Area a try, figuring that the Sunday afternoon sun would have made the exposed areas crusty.  We were right - the run-out was crusty in spots but the upper areas were still pretty good, although skied out.  We also did a number of runs through the top gates and in the trees above Rock N' Roll.  The snow is protected from the sun in there both by the trees and by the cliffs of East Castle and Devil's Castle, so it stays soft long after the storm has moved on.  

We too were ready to move on shortly after 2 p.m., our feet hurting from three days in a row in unforgiving ski boots.  After beers at Goldminer's Daughter, we hopped onto a busy bus and were grateful for a much calmer bus driver to bring us home.