Tuesday, February 19, 2019

at least the beer stayed cold


Come to the desert, they said.  It'll be dry and sunny, they said.

Our beer cartons got soggy

I'm putting together a post about our long holiday weekend in Moab but as you can see, it snowed.  A lot, for the area.  This is the coldest, wettest winter Moab has had in years, apparently.  Because of course it is.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

not complaining

Northern Utah has been getting pounded by snow lately and I am absolutely not complaining about that.  It covers the rocks on the ski trails and helps our water situation.  It would be nice, however - and I realize that this makes me sound very, very spoiled - to get to ski under some bluebird skies for a change: H has 20+ days of skiing so far and only five of them have had any sunshine.  What's good for the slopes is not good for the goggle-tan, I guess.

This past Sunday was no exception to the weather we've been having of late: blustery, overcast and cold.  I begged off and stayed home, walking Milton, making two kinds of soup (peanut-sweet potato-red bean stew and New Mexico green chile stew), baking (brownies and a coconut loaf) and catching up on laundry.  H grabbed up his telemark gear, however, and headed up to Alta, catching a 7:40 a.m. SRO bus.  From the chatter over the bus's radio, it sounded like they were all SRO, and leaving some people behind at the bus stops too.  When he got to Wildcat base at 8:35, the corral was already more than half-full and there were no available seats inside the Goldminer's Daughter - people were standing around, awkwardly holding trays and trying to eat breakfast standing up.

As the latest storm rolls in

H skied straight through - "Cloudy.  Windy.  Cold.  Snow is great" was the text I got - until catching a 2 p.m. bus, in order to get out of the canyon before the afternoon/evening wave of snow started up.  He got home just fine and we were ensconced inside, eating soup, when the storm kicked into gear.  At 8:30 p.m., when Milton and I went out for one last walk around the block, there was six inches of snow on the ground; at 10 p.m., before I went to bed, it was still coming down, despite my whispered, plea of "That's enough!"  You see, I am not - NOT! - complaining and it can snow all it wants to up in the mountains ... but I'm pretty much over it with the white stuff down at the house.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

the snowpack increaseth

Incredibly, it had been three weeks since I had been on my skis, due to weather, visitor, work and travel situations.  This past week has brought a lot of snow to Utah's mountains, with the Wasatch getting 5+ feet in four days, plus active systems are continuing to roll in.  It is now officially the second snowiest winter since we moved out here - and the water is very, very welcome.  We anticipated crowds for Saturday, what with all the recent snow (plus it seems to always be crowded these days, no matter what) so we took an earlier bus; by the time we moseyed out to the lift line, the corral was chock-full of folks.  The singles line moved very quickly, however (shout out to lifties who call out full chairs of singles!), so that was just fine.  Although we had seen some patches of blue sky when we first got up to Alta, the clouds soon rolled in.  It was cold and windy all day and my feet got very cold, especially since I was just skiing groomers: I brought my wider Rossignols, thinking that they might open some new terrain.  These would turn out to be the wrong skis for the day and I really should have known better, what with it being two days post-storm, plus flat light, plus out-of-shape legs.  The old Rossignols with their funky graphics did get multiple comments for style throughout the day, though, which was a little weird but appreciated all the same.

 Supreme Bowl

After the second run through Racecourse I realized I needed to focus on getting my legs back into shape - my Rossignols shudder and fight when I try to make short, quick turns, which gets tiring for me - so I suggested that H and I split up until 11:30.  I did laps on Sugarloaf, which was very cold and windy, and Supreme, which was slightly more protected.  H later said his best runs of the morning were around Chartreuse and Extrovert.  A lot of terrain was still closed because the avalanche danger is very high - even in-bounds - with lots of heavy, wind-loaded snow.  Ski patrol wasn't even setting off charges for control work, and Ballroom, Backside, Devil's Castle, East Castle, EBT all stayed closed for the duration.

The ice beard makes an appearance

Lunch was a slight ordeal since Alf's was very busy and crowded, as people were lingering to avoid the cold.  Afterwards, we skied together on Supreme as it warmed up just a touch and started snowing.  I skied out at 2 to catch the 2:30 bus, wanting to get home in a timely fashion for Milton.  H stayed until closing and reported that the conditions got better as the day went on.  He did a couple runs in Supreme Bowl for the first time this year and also a couple Catherine's runs, which weren't fantastic as the snow was stiff and difficult to turn in.  Extra bonus: with all the new snow, most of the rocks are covered!

Catherine's Area

At this point, the little storm was kicking into gear and snow starting to accumulate on the canyon road.  H grabbed a seat on a 4:45 bus and then found it slow going once below Snowbird due to traffic volume and road conditions.  Plus, the bus got stuck behind a very nervous driver who held things up - until the cops pulled the guy over for going too slowly!  (There was some mockery from bus riders for that.)  He got home later than expected, but safe and sound, and just in time for homemade soup to take the chill off.

Monday, February 4, 2019

interlude

Apologies for the gap in posting: I had to go out of town and H has had to work rather a lot, both of which things curtail the participation in post-worthy activities.  On the plus side, northern Utah has had some good snowfall and Alta's forecast for this week is looking just delightful.  Skiing should be good this weekend and we're hoping to get up there - it's been far too long.

Also on the plus side, here's our good boy Milton:





Tuesday, January 29, 2019

alta done right

Tuesday was when Alta gave our ski guests the goods.  Both H and I were back at work but the canyon road opened and the interlodge was lifted at 7:52 a.m., so J and S headed up there under blue skies and bright sunshine.


The drive up was a little slow because traffic was unusually heavy for a Tuesday - although not surprisingly so given all the new snow.


At first not much terrain was open but, judging from J and S's photos (which I totally stole from their Instagrams), ropes were dropped throughout the day.  Goods were gotten.


S said she wiped out a lot - it takes a while to figure out skiing deep when you've learned to ski in the icy East (and some of us (ahem) still haven't quite figured it out - but she also said it was awesome.


You know what else was awesome?  Having these two come visit.  I think it's safe to say that S is hooked and we won't have to do much convincing to have her come back out to ski again.

Friday, January 25, 2019

adventures in interlodging

So apparently my brother has a habit of bringing snowstorms with him when he comes to visit.  After the 42 inches we got Thursday/Friday, it started snowing again Sunday night.  When Monday morning rolled around, the valley roads were already snow-covered.  H grumbled that the canyon road was going to be a nightmare but he was too tempted by the possibility of deep storm skiing to stay away.  He, J and S got their gear together and headed out around 7:15 a.m. to catch the standing room only bus while I had to go into work.  It took me about an hour: although the roads were messy, there was scarcely any traffic.

J and S were able to use their Ikon passes to get on the bus, which took two hours to get up to Alta, due to traffic volume and snowy conditions.  They were lucky, however, because the authorities closed the road at 10:30 a.m. for avalanche control and, due to the increasing slide danger, never opened the road to uphill traffic for the rest of the day.

Only the finest in interlodge dining

The snow was fantastic.  S fell a couple of times before she figured it out but then they had some great runs.  Very little was open - just the groomed runs (not so groomed) off Collins, plus Wildcat - but it was snowing two inches an hour and started to add up.  Unfortunately, the resort closed at 1 p.m. and all skiers were interlodged at the Goldminer's Daughter.  Interlodged means people have to go indoors (skiers to the ski lodge; residents to their homes) and stay indoors - to be caught outside during an interlodge means fines of around $1,000.  They tried to open the road for downhill traffic only - and three ski buses headed down from Albion without stopping at Goldminer's - but had to close it again immediately because of a natural slide that came onto the road.

At 2 p.m., H texted me that they might not be making it home that night.  I left work around 2:30 p.m. and the roads were clear until I got to our neighborhood.  I shoveled for two hours as there was about a foot of heavy snow; then at 7:30 p.m., I had to go out again to clean up after the plow went by.

The doors were finally unlocked

Meanwhile, H, J and S entertained themselves as best they could for five hours. They managed to score a table, bought a deck of playing cards and dined on crackers and sardines that J had stashed in his pack, and luckily the bar hadn't run out of beer (or chai, for S).  Just before 6 p.m., it was announced that the road was open for downhill traffic only and if anyone wanted to get on a ski bus, they better do it now.  There was a mad rush for the exit.  And even though the bus was crowded, everyone on it was in a pretty good mood since they would be getting home that night.  One woman even shared her Jim Beam and Coke with H after they bonded over Hall & Oates.

They pulled into the driveway a little before 8 p.m., super-happy to be home.  They didn't get much skiing in, true, but they got away with good stories.




Tuesday, January 22, 2019

january houseguests

It's been a little while since we've had ski guests (since Christmas 2017), and even longer since my brother J came out to ski with us (since February 2014).  This time he brought his daughter S with him; as we understand it, she's been wanting to ski out west for years now - she's twelve - and finally convinced her dad that this was the right time.

They almost didn't make it with weather cancelling the second leg of their trip from Chicago to SLC; instead they went Portland (ME) to Washington D.C., to Pensacola, to Dallas, to SLC.  Unfortunately, their ski gear didn't make the exact same journey, getting hung up in D.C. and finally getting here Sunday afternoon.  This meant that we three didn't ski.  We managed to fill the afternoon after J got their missing luggage sorted out: a walk in Dimple Dell with Milton, a walk up the very snowy Millcreek Road, from the gate closure to the Lamb's Canyon/Mt. Aire/Elbow Fork trailheads, and lunch at the Porcupine.  I had never been up in Millcreek Canyon in the winter before since we're usually skiing and I was amazed: all the trailhead parking lots were full and there were tons of people out, with back country skis, with fat bikes, with dogs, with nordic skis, with sleds.  It was wonderful to see so many people getting out in the winter (and even better to note that none of them seemed inclined to be downhill skiing).

When the sky is the same color as the ground

While J, S and I were thus entertaining ourselves, H went up to Alta.  It was very busy in the morning, the light was extremely flat and the snow had stiffened up overnight.  Nonetheless, he skied opening to closing and was pretty tired by the time he got home.  We all had dinner together - tacos - and then, after H went to bed, the other three of us (oh, and Milton) kept going outside to check out the super/blood/wolf moon eclipse.  It was pretty clear all through the evening - sure didn't seem like it was going to be a big snow day for Monday.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

ooh snow

If you follow the northern Utah news or ski social media, you probably know that a big ol' storm came through Thursday and Friday, leaving fantastic inches of snow for us.  Alta reported a 42" storm total.  That sort of snow can cover a LOT of rocks (and help bring our snowpack towards "normal").  Neither of us could ski on Friday but we geared up for Saturday, albeit with a little trepidation about what the crowds would be like on a holiday weekend after a storm.

To try to get ahead of the crowds a bit, we took the bus before our usual bus; it was crowded, but not the most crowded we've seen.  The roads were actually clear but it took a while to get up there simply from all the other traffic.  We got to Wildcat base at time our normal bus (with normal conditions and traffic) would have arrived, but ahead of everyone else stacked up behind us.  Although the lodge was crowded, we somehow found two chairs and took our time getting ready.  The lines extended far past the corral - although not as much of a mob scene as we have seen before - but everyone was very chill and civilized and the singles line moved much faster than I expected.

All smiles in Catherine's Area

At the top of Collins, everyone else seemed to be hiking up the High T so we did a warm up run down the front side.  H immediately dropped into Fred's Trees while I did a combination of groomer and off-piste.  We were both wearing our powder skis and our legs reminded us immediately that we hadn't been doing much off-piste so far this year.  I could tell that H was itching to charge off into all that snow so I suggested that we split up until 11 a.m., and meet up at the bottom of the Supreme lift then.  That way he could ski what he wanted without waiting (and waiting and waiting) for me and I could ski what I wanted without feeling guilty that I was holding him up.

While he did more Fred's Trees and Racecourse and Sunspot and lower High Rustler and some of the Backside, I had planned to go straight to Supreme to ski the gullies.  But Supreme was on a delayed opening and there were hordes of people waiting for it to start up.  Even once they started loading the chair, there were tons and tons of people in line - whereas I was able to pretty much ski right onto the lift at Sugarloaf.  I played around over there, on Razorback, some Cabin Runs, down Chartreuse/Nose and lower Extrovert. 

Snowy trees off of 3 Bears

At the agreed-upon time, H and I met up at Supreme, decided not to deal with the hordes of people and kept skiing Sugarloaf before an early lunch.  After lunch, the Supreme crowds had dispersed so we headed up and went into Catherine's Area.  The initial bootpack up was still too soft so we had to sidestep (exhausting!) and then went into the second meadow.  The snow was very soft but also pretty heavy.  The combination of heavy snow and tracked out/bumped up conditions made us both realize that we were on the wrong skis, despite the depth: our powder skis just don't turn easily.  We stuck it out at Supreme, doing the gates off Rock N'Roll and a run through the trees off of 3 Bears.

By 2 p.m. my legs were done, suffering from the combination of heavy snow and unwieldy skis, so I skied out and caught the 2:30 p.m. bus.  H kept going for a while longer - including the first run of the year down Challenger and a dip into the Supreme Bowl, which was quite bumped up.  He just managed to catch the 3:15 bus home, where our afternoon and evening was taken up by soup- and brownie-making.  The day had been full of surprises - warm temperatures, heavy snow, quick lift lines for the numbers of skiers present - the upcoming unsettled weather may bring us some more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

quickie

While H was travelling for work all last week, Milton and I were at home as an inversion settled in, trapping cold air and smog in the Salt Lake valley.  Up in the mountains it was sunshine and blue skies but down in the valley it looked like the coast of Maine when the fog rolls in.  When H got back Friday night, we decided to escape the inversion and head to the desert instead, just for a quick trip. 
We've always wanted to see what Moab and the Utah desert are like in the wintertime/off-season.  We just have to make the trips weather-dependent: there is a sixty mile stretch between Spanish Fork and Price, where the road winds up, over and down the mountain pass through Spanish Fork and Price Canyons, and that is not a stretch of road to be attempted in any sort of winter weather.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

We were in luck for this trip.  The same high pressure system that brought the inversion to the valleys also brought fair weather so the roads were clear and dry.  It was cold though.  That photo above was the cold point of the drive, bottoming out at -4 F just past the high point of Soldier Summit.  The car's defrost system was sorely tested on that stretch, between the extra cold temperatures and Milton's car-nervousness drooling put extra moisture in the air.  It didn't last long - and the windows cleared right up as soon as we got lower and back into the sun.  It stayed relatively chilly for the rest of the weekend, however, in the 20s overnight and only up to the low 40s by mid-afternoon in the sun. 

Mill Creek

We didn't actually do that much this trip because poor H ended up having to work quite a lot.  But M and I were able to take a bunch of walks (he especially likes to startle songbirds out of bushes).  Quite frankly, it was lovely to be in town during the true off-season.  When we came down over Christmas, it still seemed a little busy with local folk fussing around for the holiday.  This time, Moab was REALLY quiet.  Woody's was closed for renovations and the Moab Brewery was closed for cleaning (on a Saturday!), so we ended up having a couple of beers at Zax - and were the only customers sitting at the bar the whole time we were there.  Weird.

M in motion (he saw another dog)

Sunday morning was gorgeous and clear and as soon as it warmed up just a bit, the three of us drove out towards the Sand Flats Recreation Area.  We pulled off onto a parking area before the park, however, and took a hiking-only trail that H had noticed on his bike ride over Christmas weekend.  We were only out an hour, walking a pleasant trail under a huge wall out to a dramatic viewpoint overlooking Mill Creek, where we spotted more trails for explorations on subsequent trips.  We had the place to ourselves.  It was cool. 

Walk along a wall

Even cooler: as we were driving out, we noticed a woman walking a Great Dane and a miniature poodle.  Both H and I exclaimed, "Is that Amy? That's Amy!" and we pulled over and hopped out so M could have a reunion with his former foster mom.  We chatted with her for several minutes and she gave us each big hugs for taking such good care of her boy.

The boys

And that was it.  We were back in the car, heading north, at 2:30 p.m.  Amazingly, since the roads were dry and the traffic was light (and none of the three of us needed to stop for a rest break), we made it home in 3.5 hours.  As we pulled into the garage, H just shook his head, saying that twice now it has taken him longer than that to get home from a ski day at Alta, less than twenty miles from our house.  I did say it was a quickie this time.

This is blurry because my phone fogged up: I had to
keep it in my shirt so it wouldn't shut itself down in the cold

Friday, January 11, 2019

not a big change

We didn't ski on Sunday, despite the fact that a storm had rolled in to leave new snow - or rather, because a daytime storm had rolled in to leave new snow.  Gunshy from H's recent experiences with 3-5 hour bus rides home on storm days, we weren't willing to risk the potential red snake of down-canyon traffic.  Instead, we used the day to take do laundry, pick up the house a little, take Milton for walks, shovel snow and try out a couple of new recipes for lunch and dinner (with mixed success).

Since that isn't much of a post, I offer you this.  This photo we took on Saturday, with the two of us on the Supreme chair:



And then, digging back through the archives, this photo of the two of us on the Sugarloaf chair, from December 6, 2015:


A little younger, a little less gray, a little less faded - but the same nonetheless.