Friday, March 23, 2018

ooooo fun stuff

The snow kept coming overnight and into Sunday, a very welcome thing for those of us in northern Utah.  When we got up Sunday morning, the canyon alerts told us that the canyon would be closed for avalanche control until 8 a.m.; given H's brutal bus rides earlier this season, we decided that it would be best if we got on the 7 a.m. bus rather than the 7:30 a.m. one (*all bus times are actually departure-from-the-house times).  We got to the bus stop, where there were only a couple other people, and when the bus pulled up, it was full enough that we had to stand but not jam-packed.  The bus headed up 9400 South and easily made it across Wasatch Boulevard before stopping in the line of traffic waiting for the canyon road to open.  The traffic gods were smiling on us, it seems, because the powers-that-be opened the road before 8 and it only took us 1.5 hours from our house to Goldminer's Daughter.  The snow had stayed high and the road had stayed clear.  It was a good omen.

In the trees through the first gate off
So Long in Catherine's Area

It was still snowing - not heavily but steadily - and it was cold (8F at the top), which kept the snow light and fluffy.  The crowd waiting for Collins to open was massive - although not nearly as bad as H experienced on Saturday - so we thought we'd head straight to Supreme to see if we could get into Catherine's Area ahead of the crowds.  We did get in there and the snow was great.  We cruised down So Long and went into our favorite gate there, with deep snow under the trees.  We stayed at Supreme for the whole morning, actually, skiing areas,  that I haven't skied all season due to the low snow conditions: the Spiney Chutes in Supreme Bowl, under the chair in Hammerhead/White Squaw, Vicky's, all the way out to Last Chance.  The snow was great and I felt like I wasn't fighting too much given how light and fluffy it was.  H also gave me some coaching and I tried to keep my hands forward and not drop my arm behind me in the turns.

About to shoot the chute

I did have to go in to warm my toes up for a bit but around that and lunch (large bucket of fries because we were starving), we stayed at Supreme and Sugarloaf: the trees off Rock N' Roll, Razorback, Extrovert, Chartreuse, etc.  Even with the ski traffic, the snow was light enough that it wasn't getting clumped up, plus it really didn't seem that crowded, all things considered.

At 2ish my legs were tired: I just haven't skied that much off-piste this year.  H did another couple of runs off Collins before joining me in the lodge.  We had a couple of quick beers and caught the 3:04 bus down.  We got seats and traffic wasn't too bad at that hour.  Soon enough we were back home, heating up homemade soup for dinner, our [my] tired legs complaining a little.  But we weren't complaining - what a great day of skiing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

the luck of the irish

That overnight storm (Friday into Saturday) was an overproducer, dropping a good 9" on Alta to start the day.  It would continue snowing all day as well, providing free refills and amping up the avalanche danger.  I continued my recent trend of psyching myself out and didn't go up (instead making scratch brownies and curried red lentil soup, as well as ticking some chores off my list) but H did, and eagerly. 

When he got up to Alta at 8:25 a.m., he reported that Goldminer's Daughter Lodge was full and the corral was half full with 50 minutes until opening.  By the time he got out there to stake his claim in the singles line, he was pretty much standing on the front steps to the skiers' services building and it took him 35 minutes to actually get on a chair once the lifts opened.  Because of all the recent new snow - Alta finally hit the 100" base depth mark on St. Patrick's Day - a lot of terrain was closed.  The best available skiing was thus on the front side which kept the Collins lift very busy all day.

Top o' High Rustler

But it was worth it because the snow was so good.  Because of the avalanche danger, ski patrol had closed Main Street, which runs right along the base of Mt. Baldy and which is often closed when there's a lot of new snow.  The in-bounds slide danger was high enough on Sunday, however, that patrol closed Mambo too, which I've never seen them do and which is the main intermediate run down from the top of Collins.  Skier traffic was instead routed into Spring Valley and Strawberry until skiers got to the Watson shelter.  None of this bothered H at all, who happily did run after run in Fred's Trees, Sunspot, Racecourse and Watson's Line, etc., finding untracked snow each time, despite the skier traffic.  He even jumped back onto the High Traverse and did a run down High Rustler.

At 1:45 p.m., he had managed to ski himself tired what with "[snow] and no lunch plus skiing off-piste [Friday]."  Also, Powder Mountain announced a 30-minute lightning hold around then, with the arrival of a cold front, and he had no interest in being caught out in any of that.  Wise man.  He caught a down-canyon bus and got home in reasonable time.  I'm not saying for sure, but there MIGHT have been napping on the couch before dinner.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

a good day to play hooky

A nice midweek storm brought over a foot to Alta, which gave H all the reason he needed to take a day off from work to go skiing.  It was a beautiful morning and there was a lot open, so he was able to take full advantage, skiing off-piste all day, including Racecourse, Fred's Trees, Extrovert, Chartreuse, Catherine's Area and Eagle's Nest, among others.  The run down Eagle's Nest required a journey out along the High Traverse - in essence reversing a portion of this hike we did last summer - and was his first time out there all season, due to the winter-long low snow conditions.

 View from Greeley Pass, looking towards Eagle's Nest access

Looking at the canyon road from Eagle's Nest vicinity

At 1:45 p.m., the light went flat as the leading edge of the next storm moved in.  H figured that he'd had the best of the day and hopped on the bus.  We've been getting a fair number of active storm systems recently (better late than never, that's for sure) and the forecast was for some good overnight snow into Saturday. 

Around where Eagle's Nest "cliffs out"

Friday, March 16, 2018

some days it's a struggle

Some days it's a struggle.  Not for H, in this case, but for me on Sunday.  I woke up feeling less than great and shooed him off up to Alta while I slept in a little longer.  When I got up, I puttered around until noon, when I looked out the window, saw gorgeous blue skies and was completely annoyed with myself for not sucking it up and just going skiing.  So I texted H to let him know I was coming, threw my skis in the car and drove up to Alta.

Nice blue skies at lunchtime

I've never gone up so late before: the main parking lots at Goldminer's Daughter and Albion were completely full and the road was lined with overflow cars.  I finally found a spot up above the Albion lodge, near where the Summer Road gate is.  I put on my boots and walked down to the maintenance shed, where the bunny slope comes back to the Sunnyside lift, already sweating in the bright sun despite having radically layered down since the day before.

I took the Sunnyside lift up and skied over to Alf's, where I got to Supreme in time to see H getting on a chair six ahead of me.  I knew I'd never catch him on the run down - he skis so much faster than I do, on both his alpine and telemark set-ups, and he was on alpine this day - so at the bottom, I skied right under the lift, waving my arms like a lunatic until he saw me as he was heading up again. 

In the trees below East Castle

H waited for me at the top of the lift and we did four or five runs together, going into the fun trees under East Castle and the Apron, gliding through some buttery soft spring snow on Big Dipper and Rock N' Roll (and then having to scramble a bit as some rocks were already coming up through the melting base).  But I was having a horrible time with my boots with painful foot cramps on both feet, despite a quick run into the lodge to take them off and put them on again.  The snow was pretty nice and the crowded parking belied the crowds, but I just couldn't enjoy myself with the pain in my feet.  Super-annoying.  H decided to stay to finish out the day and take the bus back down, so I drove back down the canyon, windows down and 1980s New Wave tunes cranked.  I didn't get the feeling back in my poor, abused toes until I got out of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

spring is springing

That big ol' storm moved out, after covering up some of the rocks, and blue skies and sunshine moved in.  On Saturday morning, the bus was pretty busy, with people eager to work on their goggle tans, even though the forecast had insinuated that there might be a scattering of snow.  I dressed for the possible-snow-showers and ended up being way overdressed when it did not, in fact, snow, while H left his insulating layer in the locker and ended up shivering on the lift in the morning.  Spring conditions can be difficult to plan for.

Looks a little tracked out around here

But the skiing was still pretty fun, under those mostly blue skies.  Everything had obviously been trampled but things softened up a little bit as the day wore on.  After basically not skiing for the month of February, my legs are in pathetic shape and I didn't venture off-piste too much, trying to rebuild conditioning.  The lifts seemed fairly busy but the singles lines weren't too bad.  At this point, everything was open except for East Castle, which is rarely open, and in the afternoon we could see all the ambitious skiers boot-packing their way to the top of Baldy for a go at the Main Chute.

It was feeling pretty spring-ish back at home as well: when we pulled into our driveway, we saw some of our neighbors sitting out in their driveway with cocktails and dogs, enjoying the warm sun.  We dropped our gear in the mudroom, grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge and went out to join them.  This time of year is about the only time we catch up with our neighbors as we tend to be busy on the weekends in winter and summer, so it was nice to catch up and toast the vernal season.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

snow day drama

The big storm everyone has been waiting for - all season, it seems - finally hit northern Utah Saturday night.  By 6 a.m. on Sunday, Alta was claiming 15" and there was a good five on the ground at our house.  H valiantly shoveled before heading for the bus (I opted out because I struggle to ski in anything deeper than 10").  Here are his texts to me during his almost five hour journey up to Alta:

On bus (7:42 a.m.)

Stopped (7:48 a.m.)

The driver just shut down the bus.  This is going to take a while. (7:55 a.m.)

Canyon is open (8:24 a.m.)

Two people just gave up and got off the bus. (8:41 a.m.)

[No movement really.] Alta reporting 23" so far (9:30 a.m.)

Just shut down the bus again (9:46 a.m.)

Someone else just got off (10:10 a.m.)

Another one got off (10:51 a.m.)

Making slow progress (10:52 a.m.)

Just crossed Wasatch [Boulevard] (10:58 a.m.)

Entering park and ride [at base of Little Cottonwood Canyon] (11:23 a.m.)

Leaving park and ride (11:33 a.m.)

Goldminer's Daughter (12:30 p.m.)

Taking a quick snack break as all I have eaten today are the granola bars I grabbed on my way out.  Phenomenal conditions - best of the year.  Canyon closed until 4:00 p.m. so I am expecting a [circus] getting home (2:29 p.m.)

Done. Going to try like hell to be on the 4:49 (4:45 p.m.)

On bus.  Hope to be home by 10:00 (5:03 p.m.)

He actually made it home at 6:38 p.m., having spent more time travelling than skiing.  Everyone he talked to said that the traffic today was the worst they'd ever seen.  This is likely because (a) people are still moving to SLC in droves to be able to take advantage of the access to the outdoors, plus (b) skiers have been snow-starved this season and this storm was a banquet.  H said that the skiing was fantastic - and would likely be amazing on Monday since so much had been closed on Sunday for avalanche control.  Still, he had some great runs in Fred's Trees, Sunspot and Extrovert, and even got into Supreme Bowl for the first time all season.

There was no snow on Alf's roof the day before

When H got home, I asked him if it had been worth it, the crazy amount of travel time.  He said for him, yes, because it was the best day of the season, and he would have driven himself (and me) nuts if he'd stayed home.  For those who love to ski it deep (25" and counting), today was worth the drama.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

ahead of the storm

The storm we've all been waiting for was still hovering just out of Utah's reach on Saturday: it had delivered 4-6 feet to the Tahoe area (who has been as desperate for snow as Utah has) with still more in the tank.  Here, it was overcast with fairly mild temperatures - the "warm before the storm" - but increasing winds.  Not ideal skiing conditions by any means but gosh darn it, we were going to ski!  We rode the bus up to Alta and go to it.  It had been several days since any new snow so groomed conditions were pretty firm and anything off-piste was getting scoured down to hardpack from the wind.  Not ideal skiing conditions by any means.

We did several runs on the front side where it seemed a little more protected from the wind that was blasting across the Collins saddle.  The recent tuning on my skis was better but I still felt like the edges weren't holding like I was used to - which made me think that it was my skiing that had deteriorated with the uncomfortable boots, which got me grumpy.  I was also grumpy with all the lift line shenanigans ... apparently I just had my crankypants on.  We switched over to try Sugarloaf but it was clearly windier there - an empty 10:30 a.m. Sugarloaf lift line means the winds are bad - and moved on to Supreme after just one run.  The Supreme lift was very busy and the flat light made it more challenging to dodge both beginners and scraped-off spots on the runs.

I was so grumpy that I had had enough by noon, skiing out through Sunnyside to sit with my book and a beer until H came in after several more solo runs.  We caught the 1 p.m. bus back to the valley, then changed into jeans and drove to the Porcupine to celebrate our eight year and five month "move-iversary."  With veggie pizza and Full Suspension in my belly, I was grumpy no more.  Sometimes you just gotta quit while you're ahead.