Friday, December 15, 2017

pretty much eastern skiing

With H already three days ahead of me in the ski-day count, I knew I had to get out there for Sunday.  After much waffling about my layering options (bright sun and 30s but groomer skiing and low sun angle), worry about my stiff new boot liners (I got new liners put in my old boots in an attempt to put off buying new boots for at least a year) and triple-checking that I had my mittens AND my ski pass, we boarded the ski bus and went up to Alta.

It was another gorgeous day up in Little Cottonwood Canyon, even as the inversion built up in the valley below.  It was pretty warm, however, keeping mountain operations from making any snow.  And boy do they need snow!  For those of us who grew up skiing in New England, the conditions seemed decent: firm, fast hardpack.  The problem is, even though there weren't that many people skiing, we were all confined to just a couple of trails, so it got skied off fast.

Collins pass with Supreme behind me

The snow was better off of the Sugarloaf lift but they were only loading every other chair, trying to keep the one skiable trail from overcrowding.  It was less frustrating on the Collins side, where you had three(-ish) trails to choose from - and didn't have to wait in line since they filled every chair. 

I called it for us at 1 p.m.  I was skidding out a lot on the skied-off bits (my edges were not sharpened quite as much as I had hoped when I took my skis in for pre-season tuning) and my shins were a little sore from the stiff new boot liners.  It hadn't been the best day of skiing but it was a day of skiing and there's never anything wrong with that.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

gorgeous day / no new snow

After a nice storm early in the week which dropped about 18" up at Alta, northern Utah has become mired in a truly terrible weather pattern: a massive high pressure ridge keeping the storms out of the area and growing inversions in the valleys.  Knowing that it didn't take any time for that new snow to get skied off, I again opted out of skiing on Saturday, wanting to take care of some things around the house.

Love that color blue (although would prefer to see it dark and stormy)

So while I did laundry, baked two batches of cookies, worked on boxes to mail back east for Christmas, dusted and put out some Christmas decorations, H took the ski bus up to Alta to get his runs in.  He ended up skiing until 2 p.m., at which point it was Miller time (or more correctly, PBR time).  He reported that the conditions were definitely better than last time - but also it was such a nice day up there that he didn't want to quit.

Nice day indeed

Notable mentions on the day:  (1) H got carded (!!!), buying his PBR at Goldminer's Daughter; and (2) he made a new friend on the bus ride down: a ten year old Snowbird race team member who had had a great day on the hill and who was totally bummed that he had to go to a birthday party in Idaho Falls on Sunday instead of more skiing.  At this point, all my chores in good order, I was willing to hit the slopes on his behalf.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

in which i can't be convinced to go skiing

When we woke up Sunday morning, there was quite a lot of waffling.  I didn't really think I wanted to ski - H certainly hadn't sold me on it based on his description of opening day.  H was unsure too: conditions hadn't changed overnight and based on the cloud cover, it looked to be flat light.  He fretted about it for a while and then, in a burst of activity, threw his gear on, snarfed down some breakfast and headed for the bus stop, rightly figuring that if he didn't go, he would drive himself nuts with the second-guessing.  This way, he could get it out of his system.

So while I changed batteries in smoke detectors, took a walk and made both brownies and gingerbread cookies, I got these texts:

On the bus (8:13 a.m.)

And when I asked if he got a seat: Only two of us, so yes

Goldminer's Daughter (8:40 a.m.)

And when I asked if he got a seat: Lots to choose from

Done.  Crazy-windy (12:18 p.m.)

Made the 12:34 bus [with a seat]

There were fewer people on Sunday than there had been for opening day but it was still precarious: when H was on the narrow, single-file ribbon of snow comprising the EBT, returning to Collins from Sugarloaf, the guy in front of him fell hard, losing a ski and sprawling across the ski way.  With dirt and rocks on either side, H had to bunnyhop the guy's skis to keep from hitting him.  Sorry I missed it.

Have I mentioned 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

opening day, 2017

Last year, Alta's opening day was delayed until Friday, December 2, because there was no snow at Thanksgiving (historically, they open the day before Thanksgiving).  Then there was an amazing snowstorm that just dropped a ton of snow and, in H's words, "[f]or an opening day, I'd say it was excellent.  This year, Alta's opening day was delayed until Saturday, December 2, because there was no snow.  The difference for 2017, however, is that there STILL isn't any snow: no natural and it's been so warm that the resorts can barely produce any man-made.  Not good.

Sparsely populated corral (note no snow 
on south-facing slopes)

Waiting and second in the singles line

I was on the fence as to whether I'd ski.  Typically, opening day is very busy, even when it's on a weekday.  This year, with it being on a Saturday, I thought it might be especially crowded with first-day folks, especially with the limited terrain.  Plus, I was pretty sure that it wasn't going to be any good [see above re no snow].  H was determined to go, however, because he has been waiting - impatiently - to be able to get on skis again.  I sent him off with the promise that he would take photos and text me anything I needed to know.

It doesn't look that bad - if you're an eastern skier

So while I did laundry, took a walk, changed the guest bed, cleaned bathrooms, made cookies and started up a batch of homemade limoncello, H drove up to Alta to get his opening day on.  At 8:30 a.m. he texted me: "Not crowded.  No snow."  It's a good thing that there weren't as many people there as on a more normal opening day because of the severely limited conditions: Alta is running two lifts - Collins and Sugarloaf - and there is one trail available for each.  There is so little natural snow that you can't even get to Alf's (which isn't open anyway) from the bottom of the Sugarloaf lift; and when you're done skiing the one trail on that side and want to get back to your car, you have to take the EBT around, doing your best to dodge all the rocks working their way through the frozen man-made snow.

Hardpack underfoot (and no snow on the south-facing slopes)

H was only able to do a marginal job of rock-dodging, bringing his skis home with quite a few dings and scrapes although luckily no core shots.  He lasted until 1:15 p.m., which was longer than I expected him to put up with the conditions, but which was long enough for him to note that lots of spring, summer and fall bicycling does not really put one's legs in skiing condition.  More skiing will put one's legs in skiing condition ... but we're going to need some snow for that.

But at least he's back on a chairlift

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

pleasant but unseasonable

We are stuck in a terrible (if you like winter, which we do, and if you like building up the watershed, which everyone should) weather pattern: dry and much warmer than we should be for the end of November.  There are about twelve ski runs in all of Utah to ski on right now.  The last storm of note was weeks ago and it hasn't even been cold enough for the resorts to blow snow.  Not good at all.  But after a couple of days of moping and going out for road rides/runs/beers on the patio, we decided that we needed to take a little hike at least.  H didn't want to go into the Cottonwood canyons for fear of seeing how little snow was up there so that left us with Millcreek Canyon (since none of us was up for the drive to Antelope Island).

On the Pipeline trail (no snow anywhere)

Despite our late start (we had to hunt up all the hiking gear that we had stowed away for the winter), the notoriously busy Millcreek was not that crowded, certainly not to summer levels.  We drove up to the Terraces parking areas, then walked back down the road to the Burch Hollow entrance to the Pipeline Trail.  We usually do this loop the other way - up via Terraces, along the ridge and down to Elbow Fork, then down-canyon via the Pipeline Trail - but decided to reverse it.  I always forget how much elevation the Pipeline Trail gains but those switchbacks reminded us in a hurry.  The trail was mostly dry (unfortunately) and when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, it got pretty warm.

Looking down toward the Salt Lake Valley (no snow anywhere)

It was an on-leash day in Millcreek Canyon (dogs allowed off-leash on odd-numbered days; dogs on-leash/MTBs on trails on even-numbered days) but we didn't see any MTBs on the trails, and not that many dogs either.  We crossed the canyon road at the end of the Pipeline Trail - there were a fair number of MTBers and road cyclists on the road, taking advantage of the closed gates and no automobile traffic - and headed up the Elbow Fork trail, climbing up and then following the ridge west towards the Terraces end.  It was quite peaceful with few other hikers and no road noise from below.  It's pretty easy walking too, even with the few steep parts and the side-hill sections, and H quickly got ahead of me.

H on Elbow Fork bridge (there's a little snow)

H had to wait for me even more right at the end when I stopped to pat a chunky and very friendly puggle - who had also gotten some pats from H on his way through.  We walked out together through the Terraces picnic areas, then paused for a post-hike beer, as one does.  It wasn't the nicest day for a hike, and we'd certainly rather be skiing, but getting outside is always a good way to shake out the cobwebs.

Seasonal tidbit:  We got more snow in September than we have in both October and November together.  Yeesh.

Friday, November 24, 2017

going cold turkey

Unlike last year, we still haven't had a good storm come in and on Thanksgiving morning, the day of the Cold Turkey City Creek 6k, the temperatures were as balmy as they've ever been.  Although slightly overcast, it was about 45 F at 9 a.m. as we gathered up behind the Capitol; there were lots of people there - seemingly way more than past years when it's been in the low 30s or colder - lots of people wearing shorts, lots of stroller-runners, lots of runners with dogs.  For me, I was wearing thin layers and cotton socks and didn't even bother with gloves.

Squinting at the start

Totally awkward "action" shot

Eyes completely shut at the finish (so photogenic)

Right away I felt slow.  Lots of people passed me on the flat, which didn't surprise me, but even once we started climbing, I was getting passed a lot.  That hasn't happened so much in past years.  I make sure to do uphill training so usually I can hold my own.  Once we hit the turnaround (in its correct place this time), I was able to pick up the pace a little bit.  But then a side stitch started making its presence known and I had to fight that.  Once the finish line was in sight, I pushed as hard as I could - side stitch be damned - and passed the one guy I had been following the whole way down.  When I found H in the crowd, I admitted that it didn't seem to be my best, not by a long shot.  But at least I burned enough calories for extra pie!

Race results (and history)
2017: 35:59.78, 7 out of 20 in age group, 225/654 overall
2016:  53:23.51, 4 out of 14 in age group, 159/544 overall, +/-10k 8.4k* distance
2015:  35:17.18, 6 out of 19 in age group, 186/593 overall
2014:  34:14:58, 10 out of 26 in age group, 174/656 overall
2013:  35:44.40, 7 out of 24 in age group, 243/682 overall
2012:  n/a (Thanksgiving in California)
2011:  35:41.33, 249/656 overall
2010:  37:22.76 (course changed due to ice/uphill finish), top half of finishers
2009:  35:53.32, top half of finishers

The numbers prove it.  I was slow - my slowest time out of all the year of the regular course.  My historical average has been 35:22 so this year I was 1.8% slower than average (thanks to H for doing all the math).  Guess that gives me a goal for 2018: go faster.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

holding pattern

We are absolutely in a holding pattern in greater Salt Lake: winter has not yet arrived and it is almost Thanksgiving.  That is not good: the ski resorts are pushing back their openings because there is scarcely any natural snow, plus it has been so warm that they haven't been able to make much snow either.  Last year at this time, it had been a bare early November but had starting snowing in earnest right around now; right now, the forecast looks pretty bleak for the near future.

We did get over to Park City (again) last Saturday to have lunch with our friend Ted, with whom we skied once last year.  He has a condo in Park City and was in town to set the place up for winter so we met him at Squatter's to catch up.  And then on Sunday, we drove up to Alta and picked up our season passes ... so if winter does actually show up, we're ready to hit the slopes.