Friday, April 30, 2010


Grrr - this was scheduled to go up last Friday:

I'm beginning to think that H and I are cursed, weather-wise.  We had absolutely perfect weather on our wedding day - mid-70s, sunny, dry - and have been paying for it ever since.  For instance:
  • When H's parents came out here to visit in December, it was frigid (right around 5 degrees, if I remember correctly) and snowed a lot, so we couldn't do several things we had planned.
  • When our friend Tom was here in early March, it was so cloudy that he never saw the mountains, including when we were skiing on them.
  • When the Eastern skiers arrived later in March for some "powder skiing", it was warm and there was no new snowfall for over a week, and thus no powder.
  • And now, just as our friends P and C are about to fly in for a long weekend's visit to enjoy Utah's purported dry, sunny weather, it's going to be mid- to high 50s, mostly cloudy and with scattered showers.  In fact, it's snowing right now: Snowbird is reporting 19 new inches in the last 24 hours; and it's even sticking to the ground down here in the valley.
Unbelievable.  My folks are scheduled for a visit here mid-May - who knows what they'll get.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

how to tell that summer is on its way

Despite the current weather conditions (40s, cloudy and off-and-on rain/snow), summer really is coming.  How do I know this?

What the dog looked like Monday morning:

What the dog looked like Monday evening:

A big thanks to the Willow Creek Pet Center groomers - they did an outstanding job, one of her best summer cuts ever!

Monday, April 26, 2010

lost my head

Sunday dawned cool and breezy with high, thin clouds, so we opted for some far-ranging exploration: driving west across the valley to the base of the largely imprenetrable Oquirrh Mountains (largely imprenetrable from their eastern slopes because of the hugenormous Kennecott copper mine that restricts public access).  We ended up with two strikes - attempting to drive up Butterfield Canyon: road not yet open for the season; and attempting to check out the Wild Horse and Burro center: open to the public M-F 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. - before saying the hell with it, let's just drive all the way around Utah Lake.

The lakes and reservoirs out here are the total opposite of lakes and ponds back in Maine: there are hardly any houses on the shorelines.  A lot of this is due to watershed issues, of course, but as we trundled down the western shore of Utah Lake, past the Oquirrhs and the smaller, rolling Lake Mountains, all BLM or state land trust land to the west, even the privately-owned (per the UT Gazeteer) land right on the edge of the lake was unbuilt - even the not swampy bits.  Weird.  But nice to be able to see the lake for sure.

As we went further south - turning to the east at Elmira, cruising through Goshen at the lake's southern terminus, turning north back along the lake in Genola - the land use turned to farming, first cattle and sheep (and lots of adorable lambs), then acres and acres of orchards, apples and peaches and perhaps cherries.  We saw a lone proghorn antelope, a gorgeous male pheasant and a bunch of white pelicans, dipping their bills into the weeds at the lake's bank.

The route home was uneventful.  We avoided the interstate, sticking to Route 89 which took us through Spanish Fork, Provo, Pleasant Grove, etc.  It's funny to drive through these urban areas on Sundays and not see anything - save a tattoo parlor or maybe a Mexican restaurant - open.  But this is Utah County, with an extremely high concentration of Mormons, and things just close on Sunday.

When we got back closer to home, I had H drop me off at the Bells Canyon parking lot.  He continued back to the house to take a bike ride while I headed up the trail.  Why?  Not just for the exercise, but because on our hike there last weekend, we found an entire mule deer skeleton, complete with skull.  And I wanted the skull.  Back east, my dad has a fantastic collection of animal skulls and bones - quite nearly an ossuary, including an elk jaw, a moose skull and a porcupine skull a moose jaw, deer skulls and a beaver skull that I found washed up on their beach - and, thus inspired, I've started a collection of my own out here.  I have only fragments right now - part of a moose's thigh bone, a couple of vertebra and a portion of a jaw (with teeth).  So to find a whole deer was a total find - the skull was still attached to the neck even. 

My current [meager] collection
I had intended to go back up the canyon earlier, Sunday or Monday, but the week just got away from me.  And, of course, I'd waited too long: the skull was gone.  Maybe some critter dragged it off for gnawing purposes; a couple of the deer's legs had been moved into the underbrush.  But more likely some other human collector spied the find and determined not to look a gift skull in the mouth.  I searched around the clearing just in case, but it was gone and I walked home, lesson learned: a skull in the hand is worth two in the bush.

The one that got away - and yes, I should have
taken the skull when I took the picture

Sunday, April 25, 2010

strolling on the shoreline trail

From about 32,000 years ago until +/- 14,000 years ago, all of the greater Salt Lake valley was under water.  This was Lake Bonneville and at its highest, covered around 19,800 square miles and was around 1,000 feet deep.  When it started to dry up, it left behind the Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake and several others.  Now, there is a single-track trail that follows the former shoreline for 100 miles; it's proposed to add another 180 miles, and thereby stretch from Idaho to Nephi, Utah. 

Looking up/east from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail

We found an access point at Hidden Valley in Sandy (there are lots of trail heads but you have to hunt for them) and did an out-and-back, about 1.5 hours each way.  The trail is in good shape, level and well-packed, running north/south along the eastern bench.  There are a few ups and downs as side canyons and creeks are crossed, but for the most part it's pretty level.  Made me want a mountain bike and soon!  For future exploration we noted several trails heading east (and up) into the mountains: Bear Creek and Cherry Canyon.

A at Bear Creek

There were a number of other folks out enjoying the trail and the day, sunny and mostly clear, although not hot.  Mountain bikers, hikers and trail-runners all take advantage of this great trail.  H and I spent a lot of time stopping and gawking, picking out landmarks and searching for wildlife - the rocky crags above us seemed perfect for mountain goats (but alas, no).  The wildflowers are just starting to come out, however: the gorgeous alpine meadows won't be in full bloom until late June/early July but the teeny high desert flowers are brave enough to begin to show their colorful faces now.
Teeny and tough in this climate

Saturday, April 24, 2010

salt city burgers

Friday night was once again Date Night, as I refused to cook.  After we drove around suburban southern Sandy for what seemed like HOURS, trying to find the REI - which, we knew where it was supposed to be but since it was on a mall perimeter road, we couldn't see it from any of the main streets; and then once we could see it, we couldn't actually figured out how to get to it, but we did, finally - we decided to just stay south and find some place that wasn't a chain to eat.  Since we'd just been to Fratelli Ristorante last weekend, pretty much the only thing that was left was Salt City Burgers.  They don't serve beer but it was closing in on 9:00 p.m. at this point and I was getting desperate.

I'll give Salt City Burgers an "it was okay, and certainly better than fast-food burgers (except maybe Crown Burgers) but I'm not sure how soon we'll go back."  The food was pretty good: the burgers themselves good-sized and juicy.  They're served on just their buns with whatever cheese you've selected, and if you get a bacon burger, the bacon is chopped up and mixed in with the ground beef, which is a nice touch.  There's a condiment bar which, while not that inventive, certainly had a lot of pickles and you could have your burger your way however that way might be.  It would have been nice if our server had mentioned the condiment bar, however - we only figured it out from watching other diners.  If you go, I would suggest splitting the sides.  H ordered fries and I ordered onion rings (quite good), and we certainly didn't need both, the orders were so big (something else the server might have mentioned).

As I said, there's no beer at SCB, but they do have ice cream, serving a selection of milkshakes, malts, floats, ice cream sodas and sundaes.  We didn't get any (the shakes are kind of spendy at $4.99) but that's something I might consider going out for as a treat some time.  They sure looked good.

And the lack of beer with dinner worked out just fine - plenty of cold PBR ($0.50/can) in the fridge when we got home. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

slc's living room

Sunday we awoke still creaky but slightly less hobbled than the day before, and decided that an easy hike with a big view payoff was just what we needed. After fueling up at Sharon's Cafe (see prior post), we drove to downtown SLC, winding our way through the office complexes on the periphery of the U until we found a trailhead (there are several) on Colorow Drive. There were lots of cars: it was late morning on a beautiful day and folks were out and about with their running shoes and mountain bikes and well-behaved dogs.

Springtime sagebrush and wildflowers

Our goal was to find The Living Room, an overlook on a red sandstone ridge. The trails are not well-marked, and there are many of them, including the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, but the hiking books had given us a clue, and we headed up a well-used path that started in sagebrush,skirting first one side, then the other, of a ravine. Once we started meeting lots of people and their dogs (labs, goldens, pugs, Boston terriers, huskies, blue heelers, mutts) on their way back down, we figured we were going in the right direction.

H pauses to pose on the way up

After 45 minutes of steady climbing on easy footing, we reached The Living Room, so-called because people have constructed chairs, sofas, ottomans and coffee tables out of the natural slabs of red sandstone so that the great view may be taken in in comfort and style. And the view is truly fantastic: the whole valley stretched out before us, from Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake all the way down past the Point of the Mountain, and the magnificent Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains lining the east and west sides. We picked out my office building and the Library downtown, found our seats at the U's Eccles-Rice Stadium, watched some plane traffic at the airport, counted the canyons in the Wasatches (City Creek, Red Butte, Emigration, Mill Creek, Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood, Bells). The trees are just starting to put out their leaves and everything was remarkably green - amazing for a city as full of people as this one.

Taking a break on one of the sofas

Some other hikers had arrived by then and one of them was awfully chatty, so we kept climbing a little higher to a second overlook. Most people don't bother going any higher so the trail was pretty sparse; it was much steeper than the trail to TLR and the footing was kind of loose, so it took us another 45 minutes roundtrip just for that portion. But up above gets you right on top of Red Butte Ridge, above what little snow is left in these south-facing hills, and you can see down into Red Butte Canyon and Red Butte Reservoir. After admiring the scenery for a while, we picked our way back down to the main trail and then fairly flew back down to the car in about 20 minutes - solid footing and an easy grade make for quick walking.

The view south along the east bench

We'd been good about drinking lots of water but at this point were a different kind of parched, deciding to stop in at Squatter's since we were in the neighborhood (sort of not really but close enough). After a couple of pints of Full Suspension pale ale, we headed back down south to home and, surprisingly, managed to get in a couple of hours of yardwork (raking, seeding, weeding, planting) before calling it quits for the day. Not surprisingly, it was early to bed that night. These activity-filled weekends are exhausting - it's great!

Monday, April 19, 2010


We tried two new restaurants this weekend.  The first was on Friday night, "date night" - by which I mean "I don't really care what we do - even ordering pizza in is fine - I just don't want to cook."  We'd been perusing the Salt Lake City Weekly's annual "Best Of" issue, looking for new places: I found a Mexican place that was listed as having the "best $1.00 margaritas" but when we actually found the restaurant, we decided that $1.00 'ritas were just not worth it. 

So we went to the "best South Valley restaurant" and "best Italian:" Fratelli Ristorante, located not too far from our house.  Fratelli had also been recommended to me by my work neighbor Jody who said that they had great piccatas.  We sat by the bar area for a few minutes, quaffing Cutthroat pale ales while we waited for our table.  It was busy but we didn't wait too long; the restaurant has a good number of tables in a modern setting.  The prices were quite reasonable and the portions hefty without being ridiculous: chewy bread was served (and replenished) with olive oil; H had the chicken piccata which came with a small side salad ($14); and I had the mixed green salad (HUGE with spinach, romaine, pickled beets, peppered artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans and gorgonzola for $7) and a thin-crust margherita pizza ($9).  They have a full bar but I also think that I saw a young couple bring in their own bottle of wine.  Very tasty and we'll be back again for sure.

On Sunday we knocked off another one: "best old homey dining" at Sharon's Cafe in Holladay.  We found a couple of seats at the diner's counter and in no time were being served by Sharon herself.  The joint was hoppin' with quick turnover at the booths and tables; the waitstaff were very friendly and very busy.  H had a Western omelet with homefries (which seemed on the small side for a "three" egg omelet, and the homefry portion was meager); I had two eggs over-medium (just barely), homefries (warm but not at all crispy as I prefer them), a warm biscuit and four immense slices of the best bacon I've found yet in greater SLC.  I am totally up for Wife of the Year since I let H have one of them.  We liked Sharon's better than the Over the Counter Cafe, but it's not threatening the Other Place or Ruth's for our "best of" title.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

bells canyon

It's the weekend: it's sunny and in the high 60s; the lawn needs seeding, the flowerbeds desperately need weeding and you've both come up lame in the knees and hips - what do you do?  You go hiking, of course.  

There's a major hiking/mountain biking trail that runs all along the Wasatch Front - the Bonneville Shoreline Trail - that we'd been wanting to get on, despite not being entirely sure where any access points are, so we got some water and started driving along the eastern bench, looking for trailheads.  We found one just minutes from our house and while it wasn't the Shoreline Trail, it was the trail to Bells Canyon, the canyon just to the south of Little Cottonwood Canyon.  The trailhead is quite swanky, paved with lots of parking spaces, and a nicely landscaped path up through a very nice subdivision. 

Bells Canyon Creek - catch & release only

The trail was quite steep right away but flattened out at the now-drained Bells Canyon reservoir.  There were lots of people clambering on the rocks and sitting in the sun by the shallow remains of the reservoir; we kept going, following the path around the edge, up a jeep trail and then through a gentle, boulder-strewn meadow.  The sun was strong but pleasant and soon we were in some bigger trees, walking alongside the briskly-flowing Bells Canyon Creek.  The crowd soon thinned out and although we met a number of folks on their way down as we went up, this was not a crowded hike by any means.

Where we turned around

It didn't take too long before we found ourselves some snow.  The footing was a little sketchy especially since my hip was screaming at me whenever I had any lateral movement (stupid hip flexors).  But although it was a little slippery - and we kicked ourselves for forgetting our hiking poles - the built-in air conditioning was very nice.  Soon we were far enough into the canyon that dramatic cliffs were looming over us; we looked in vain for mountain goats.

North wall of the canyon

After 1.5 hours the trail started getting pretty steep, we decided that was enough for one day what with the footing and sore joints, figuring we'd check the hiking books back at home to find out what we didn't get to.  What we didn't get to was two waterfalls and a striking isolated lake in a cirque - we have to go back!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

the itchy and scratchy show

One of our biggest expenditures out here, aside from lift tickets and beer*, has been moisturizer.  Living in the desert is tough on one's skin.  Protection from the sun aside, it's just DRY and arms, legs, backs and bellies just ITCH.  I keep catching H scratching his back on doorjambs; and my fingers and hands are just a disaster - the cuticles in shreds, and the backs of my hands looking ancient in direct light.

We've been trying everything: your basic Vaseline Intensive Care lotion; Lubriderm (and have just switched over to the version with SPF15 for everyday use); Udderly Smooth udder cream; Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula with vitamin E; and Bag Balm for the really bad areas.  My latest experiment is with pure virgin coconut oil, found in the cooking oils aisle of your local Whole Foods.  It's a waxy solid to start, but melts into oil quickly and rubs right in.  It's pretty good but it's light and doesn't have much staying power.  The best combination is using both the coconut oil and the cocoa butter because then I smell delicious, like a Mounds bar.

So what do you current and former desert-dwellers recommend?  What's your secret to not shriveling up and flaking away?

*  A self-proclaimed beer snob for most of my beer-drinking life, I have started drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Although I still prefer craft beer/microbrews, a really cold can of PBR is totally doable.  It's also totally cheaper: a 30-pack of PBR cans is $14-16, which is the same price range as a 12-pack of Uinta Cutthroat pale ale.  And I am nothing if not cheap.  Oh, H and I still drink Utah micros when we go out, but at home, PBR is the house beer these days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Alta got fifteen more inches of snow last night.  Guess summer's not here quite yet!

Monday, April 12, 2010

okay, so a little less summery

On Sunday we did not go skiing, despite Alta's continued base depth of 133 inches, nor did it particularly seem like summer, dawning overcast, breezy and cool-ish. No lounging around the house for us, however: we got up and were at Ruth's Diner by 8:05 a.m. We hadn't been to Ruth's since early December and while the menu seemed slightly different, the appetizer biscuits were still sky-high and the coffee was still strong and hot. The food was still dang good too: H had an enormous breakfast burrito - the accompanying pinto beans were cold, which was too bad - and I branched out to the sweet side of the menu, trying french toast made with pecan cinnamon rolls. Delicious and only about eight million calories, I'm sure.

It was still overcast and windy when we left Ruth's so we continued up Emigration Canyon, stopping to stretch our legs and spot a moose way up on the hill at Little Dell Reservoir. After that, realizing that we really didn't have to be anywhere in particular, we did a little bit of exploring, heading south-ish and east-ish to the farmlands of Francis - a threadbare red fox trotted down the middle of the road in front of us for a while; and a young moose relaxing in the scrub stared back at us when we stopped to stare at him - and then on to Midway. Midway is a lovely little town, with adorable tiny old houses and storefronts on the main street. It's also home to Soldier Hollow, where the 2002 Olympics' Nordic events were held and where the border collie trials take place now. We made a loop of the drive, continuing along the lower Provo River - spying a huge bald eagle sitting in a tree on the riverbank - through Provo Canyon and then back home.

Our day wasn't over yet, however! I had a coupon for 10% off a total purchase at Lowe's so off we went for a cheap-o gas grill and a cheap-o lawnmower. We then spent the next 2+ hours assembling the grill*, but that was fine since we were outside in the springtime with no blackflies to bother us. We must have done enough of it correctly because it worked well enough to cook dinner - I'm thrilled to have a grill again ... and equally thrilled to not have to put bugstuff on just to use it.

* Belated HUGE thanks to H's dad for putting our last grill together for us lo those many years ago. There are really a lot of pieces involved - what a job!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

first day of "summer"

Although we only just got past the first day of spring calendar-wise, I'm calling today the first day of summer.  Lawnmowers have been buzzing all afternoon around the neighborhood (note to self: must get lawnmower, the cheapest one available since the lawn is small).  H went for a bike ride today in a short-sleeved kit and reported 68 degrees from a bank sign (note to self: put up outdoors thermometer).  B and I did a little backyard clean-up - hard to know what's a plant and what's a weed in an early garden that's new to you - and then sat in the sun, drinking a PBR and reading the latest Stephen King book, Under the Dome.  And I'm a little pink now: should have put sunscreen on even though it was after 3:30 p.m. when I sat down.  The clouds have moved in now, dropping the temperature some, but I'm still saying that summer started today.  Awesome.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

splendor in solitude

By 7:45 a.m. Wednesday morning we were still conflicted: Little Cottonwood Canyon was possibly, but not for sure, going to open at 8:30 a.m.; Big Cottonwood Canyon was already open but scheduled to close at 8:30 for a half hour or so for avalanche control; Alta and Snowbird had been closed Tuesday so their snow was completely untracked; Solitude's on-mountain ticket price was $39.  Finally we went with the sure thing: although Solitude had been open for skiing on Tuesday, they still got 40 inches of snow in two days and we knew we could get there and be on the chair at 9:00 a.m.

Even the groomers were great

As we drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon, deputy sheriffs and UT DOT trucks were parked in various strategic places; there were about six cars behind us and I think they closed the canyon right after we all got through. The thermometer read 5 degrees (!!!) when we got to Solitude but the sun was out and strong - bluebird skies - and it certainly didn't feel like 5; it was only 35 when we quit for the day but we'd easily stayed warm with all the work we'd been doing.  The parking lot was full by the end of the day but, again, it was Solitude and the only lift line we waited in was the very first one, waiting for the chairlift to open.

Ripping it up off the Summit chair

Okay, enough of the background - how was the skiing?  The skiing, my friends, was freaking AWESOME.  Although the main part of the resort had been skied the day before, they'd gotten more snow overnight so we were making our own tracks right from the start.  Even the groomed trails were incrediblely soft and laden with snow: H pushed his pole down over three feet into the corduroy. 

Snow, snow, snow in Honeycomb

We didn't waste much time in the morning on groomers, however: at the top of the Powderhorn chair, the rope was already down, allowing folks into the chutes and cliffs that led to the Summit chair.  We followed the traverses in - H going high; I went low - and made our way down through the trees in TONS of snow.  Soft, fluffy, dry and deep.  We stayed on the Summit chair all morning, skiing in the trees (so fabulous and fun!) and keeping an eye on the gates into Honeycomb Canyon.  We could see a couple patrollers setting off avalanche charges out there: they would traverse across, set a charge in the snow, back away and then FLASH!  And then three seconds later, BOOM!!  And the avalanche would shake loose from above the charge and cascade down into the canyon's bowl.

I don't know which is better: the sky or the snow

They finally dropped the rope into Honeycomb at 11:00 a.m. and we were in the first group of 20 or so salivating skiers to work our way across the traverse.  The canyon hadn't been open on Tuesday, you see, so all the snow in there was virgin untracked powder.  We did it twice, claiming glorious freshies, and it was superb; at one point I could hear H giggling out loud as he headed down a fluff-filled chute, snow way up to his chest.  So very excellent.

Self portrait of a happy skier

We had a quick lunch around 1:00 p.m. and then went back out, our legs shaky enough to necessitate staying on the groomers and small, soft bumps for the rest of the day.  I managed another three runs before my legs gave out and H took another four after that, hating to quit on such a great day.  But quit we finally did, and stopped in at the Canyon Inn for a pitcher.  We were gratified to see that although we were beat, we were not nearly so beat as the kid - at least 15 years younger - next to us at the bar who'd gone to Snowbird, and skied for fewer hours than we did.  We are just that badass.  (Of course, we weren't awake much after dinner once we got home.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

heed your local sheriff

The mountains here are continuing to get pounded with snow.  Snowbird's newest advertising slogan is 7 FEET IN 7 DAYS! - which is quite catchy, I think.  Alta has gotten 30 inches in the last 24 hours, which sort of boggles the mind. 

Unfortunately, all that fabulous snow is currently inaccessible to those of us who are valley-bound: the road up Little Cottonwood Canyon has been closed all day and was possibly going to open later this evening, per the Salt Lake County Sheriff's email blast that H gets, and Alta's ski resort itself wasn't going to open at all until tomorrow morning.

It seems like there may have been some dissatisfaction among the hoi polloi with that announcement because H also got this email from the sheriff, some time later:
When the chance of an avalanche is likely and the Alta Marshal deems the area unsafe, The Town of Alta goes into an interlodge alert. This is when all occupants must go inside a building and stay there until the area is determined to be safe again. Sometimes this takes minutes and sometimes, during extreme storm cycles, it can take days. The important thing to remember here is to never ignore an interlodge warning or sign. This could endanger not only your own life, but the lives of others as well. The price of any inconvenience you may suffer is small compared to the public's safety so please cooperate with the official efforts.
Did you catch that?  The whole town has to go inside and stay inside until the avalanche danger is over.  That's wild! 

Monday, April 5, 2010

karma = seventh chair

Despite being shut out of Friday's powder day, H and I kept our hopes and spirits up and, as planned, returned to Alta on Easter Sunday.  This was absolutely the right thing to do: they'd gotten more snow both Friday and Saturday nights; the "mostly cloudy" forecast turned out to be "sunny in the morning and then slowly clouding over after lunch;" and there was no one there.  Thank you, Easter Bunny!

So Much Snow

As the crowd grew at the main lift (Collins), we sidled over to the smaller, slower and less well-attended Wildcat double, managing to snag the seventh chair.  The snow looked GORGEOUS and we were practically drooling when we got off at the top, and then cruised back down in powder over our knees.  Our first three runs were in untracked snow - so soft and so deep that it splashed up into my face as I turned. 

Knee-deep in the Ballroom

The avalanche guns were going off all morning, but that's a good thing: when they're done blasting the potential avalanches, then we get to ski in the deep stuff.  And sure enough, we timed it just right to be at the access gates when they dropped the rope into the Ballroom.  Again, traversing across and then dropping into the bowl, powder well over our knees - fabulous.  We quickly learned why so many people wear neon orange straps on their skis too: H went ass over teakettle and lost a ski twice, and we had to stomp around, poking at the snow to find it.  When you wear those tethers, you don't lose your skis.  We'll be buying those tethers soon.

Starting to get sticky, but still plenty soft

After lunch the south-facing slopes started to get heavier and a little sticky (although still super-soft), so we headed over to the Supreme lift and skied Catherine's Area.  We had skied over there with Will, Chris and Judy when the Easterners were in town and it was a little sketchy then - steep, narrow chutes with stumps poking through the thin cover.  The chutes are still steep and narrow but there were no thin spots this time; I was hitting clumps of snow up to my chest on occasion.  Just glorious.

Nearly 200 people were in line for the Devil's Castle traverse

I lost track of how many times I fell but the struggles to pull myself back up out of all that deep snow finally took their toll - it's hard work digging yourself out - and, exhausted, we called it quits a little before 3:00 p.m.  The clouds had moved in by then anyway and the light was getting flat, so we took off our boots and enjoyed a can of PBR each ($2.50 - bargain!) on the patio before heading back down the canyon for home.  It was early to bed for us both.

Today both H and I are sort of limping around, stiff and sore but greedy for more.  Alta has had 4 feet of snow in the last five days and it's snowing again right now: the canyons are supposed to get 18-30 inches between now and Tuesday night.  The folks who like to garden and golf are complaining but not us - the end of ski season is sadly in sight and we'll take all that we can get until then.

Friday, April 2, 2010

not exactly what we had in mind

What with the recent new 17+ inches at Alta, and both our bosses encouraging us to take the day off to go skiing, we could hardly say no.  Still, we hedged our bets, wishing for a bluebird day, and didn't commit 100% to going until the alarm went off this morning.  The clouds were latched onto the canyons but the rest of the valley was clear and blue, so off we went. 

We were not the only ones with this idea.  The drive to Alta usually takes us 20 minutes from our house to the parking lot (if we've remembered to buy our discounted tickets ahead of time); today it took us 55 minutes, partly because we had to drive over to the Lift House (by the Porcupine!) for the tickets and partly because there was a whole lot of traffic heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon - at one point, Wasatch Boulevard was backed up all the way to Bengal Boulevard.  (I realize that means absolutely nothing to most of you reading this.  Trust me when I say: lots and lots of cars.)

When we pulled into Alta, the line for the chairlift was already HUGE.  This didn't faze us much, however, figuring we'd take our time putting on our boots and then once the lift opened at 9:15 a.m., we'd go out after the initial crowd thinned.  We got into line, everyone around us laughing and smiling at the parting clouds, H fretting because other people were tracking up his nice mountain.

And then at 9:30 a.m. the lift stopped.

Turns out the power station for the entire town of Alta went down, which is not what you want to hear when you're standing in the lift line.  Although it's better than hearing it when you're stuck halfway up a chairlift, I suppose.  They cranked up a generator and got the slow little Wildcat double chair turning and then stopped that too after a while.  We waited and waited and waited until 10:30 when an Alta employee told the assembled skiers that it would be at least an hour, maybe two, before the power was restored.  I looked at H, H looked at me, and we decided to make a break for Solitude.

You see, Solitude just lowered its ticket prices to $39 and when we were over at the Lift House, at the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon (the road to Solitude), we briefly considered going there instead, before deciding that a day like today deserved Alta.  Boy, are we dumb - because if we'd acted on that initial impulse, we would have had front row parking and untracked powder.  Instead, by the time we got up to Solitude (still wearing our helmets and ski boots), the trails were all tracked out, the parking lot was completely full and it looked like the people parked on the access road were probably going to be ticketed - if not towed - by the end of the day.

So we gave up, went home and I went for a hilly run instead.  We've still got our unused Alta tickets - I am SO grateful that we didn't get to take a run before the power went out because then we would have wasted a lift ticket (as opposed to just wasting a vacation day) - and there's more snow in the forecast.  The new plan: Alta for Easter.