Thursday, March 31, 2011

third try

Last Friday we were in the mood for barbeque and rather than drive all the way across the valley to Q4U (the third of the three big BBQ names in the greater SLC valley, the other two being Sugarhouse Barbeque and Pat's BBQ), we decided to try something closer: Famous Dave's.  Yes, it's a chain.  And we almost never eat at chains if we can avoid it.  But I've not been enamoured of the SLC BBQ offerings to date and we were hopeful that maybe Famous Dave's would pleasantly surprise us.

Not so much.

The menu certainly has enough options: St. Louis-style pork ribs, "Georgia" chopped pork. brisket, chicken, sausage, catfish, rib tips, wings.  H and I each went with a two-meat combo (which I must remind myself to stop doing as it's just too much food): I had the chopped pork and the rib tips; H had the chopped pork and the brisket.  The combos came with a cornbread muffin, corn on the cob and two sides, including BBQ beans, mac & cheese, coleslaw, red-skin potatoes, etc.

The chopped pork was pretty good and if I ever have to go back to Famous Dave's, that's what I'll get.  H's brisket slices were overcooked practically to mush and the rib tips were wildly inconsistent: well-flavored but some were terribly chewy and others more fat than anything.  All the meat came drenched in a sweetish sauce, which was too bad as (1) I prefer my BBQ dry so I can add sauce as I like and (2) some of the sauces on the table were pretty good, including the Georgia Mustard sauce and the black peppery Texas Pit sauce, either of which I would have preferred to what came with.

Our server was attentive and pleasant; and there's a full bar and the draft beers include some local Utah micros (served too cold).  But all in all, I don't think Famous Dave's is anyplace I need to go back to.  The quest for good Utah BBQ continues!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

i need powder skis

The report was this for Sunday: six inches of new snow, cloudy, moderate winds, light snow. So we slept in a little, until the bright sunshine reflecting off the 1.5 inches of snow on the ground woke us up through the blinds. We looked out the window, saw that it was sunny up in the canyon and hurried up there. Along with pretty much everyone else: it was busy, and it was busy because Alta had gotten way more than six inches. It was a bluebird powder day*!

Catherine's Area is so pretty!

Even more was closed than on Sunday, including the Supreme lift. We did a couple of runs off the Sugarloaf chair - and I immediately noticed that my legs were way fatigued and struggling with all the ungroomed stuff - noting the corral full of folks waiting for Supreme to open. Halfway down my second Sugarloaf run I saw that they were loading the Supreme chairs so H and rode Sugarloaf one more time so as to be able to get to Supreme. When we got there, all the gates to the fun stuff were still closed for a couple of runs but then ...

Then Ski Patrol opened the gates to the Supreme Bowl and Catherine's Area. And it was magnificent. Waaaaaaaay more than six inches and we had run after run after run on untracked snow. It was so much fun. I, of course, had forgotten everything I learned last weekend and fought the deep snow, but some of the blame has to rest on my skis. Now, I adore my little Volkls. They turn on a dime and can handle almost anything: groomers, ice, chop, slush, trees, moguls - they just drown in the deep stuff. I found myself leaning way back on the tails of my skis, trying to stay afloat. They'd ride on top of the snow for a while, then dive under when I tried to turn, and more than once my uphill ski would just keep turning uphill and I'd go tail-over-teakettle, H kindly informing me whenever he saw both my skis in the air.
But still, it was glorious, all that snow under bright sunshine and deep blue skies.
* at least until 1:30 p.m. when the clouds moved back in and it started to snow again.

Monday, March 28, 2011

high rustler for the win

I know this is totally obnoxious to say but I'm going to say it anyway because it's true: all the days of waking up to all sorts of new snow up at Alta are starting to run together. It snowed all night up there Friday night and in the morning the roads were clear but the canyon had about eight (+) new inches. It was cloudy again - we've really only had a handful of bluebird days this ski season - and about the same temperature as last weekend, and much of Alta was closed (Devil's Castle, East Castle, Cecret Saddle, Baldy Chutes). But the snow was excellent and for a moment I was sad that Chris and Andrea didn't get to ski Alta with a bunch of new snow.  Just for a moment tho', because then I had to ski hard to keep up with H.

The morning was spent on the Supreme chair, in Catherine's and the chutes under the chair. It was all tracked out (we were up there about an hour after opening because H had some work stuff to do first) but there was a ton of snow in there and the chutes that were a little intimidating to me last weekend were super-fun this time.

Deep pow in Catherine's Area

In the afternoon we moved over to the Backside/East Greeley where, again, there was a ridiculous amount of snow. But the very best run came about when H suggested we take the traverse out to West Rustler. It's a long traverse, starting behind the Collins lift and running the length of the ridge; the light was kind of flat and it was difficult to see what was underfoot. When we got out there, we plunged into High Greeley, then skirted Greeley Bowl, making our way over to the chutes and trees around Eagle's Nest/Hourglass/North Rustler. It was crazy-steep there - and H had to carefully scoot across what could possibly be construed as a cliff, while I worked my way down below, scoring a couple more scrapes on my helmet from the tight trees - and there's absolutely no way I would ever ski there in a low-snow year. But as I mentioned, there was a TON of snow, and not much traffic because it's so steep, and it ended up being my favorite run of the day, not least because I've never done it before.

View to the base lodge from North Rustler - steep, no?

It also ended up being my last run of the day as my poor little legs were jelly by the time we got to the tow rope which dragged us back to the base. I took the truck keys and hunkered down in the lodge with the book I keep in my boot bag just for these occasions while H took four more runs - three on Wildcat and another High Rustler. I bought us PBRs when he finished up and we toasted yet another great day on the hill.

Friday, March 25, 2011

solitude days

There really wasn't much of a plan in effect for our ski guests, other than Chris wanted to ski at least two days at Alta and Andrea wanted to ski at least one day not at Alta.  So when Saturday night brought a new little storm into town, H went into research overdrive to determine where we'd ski on Sunday and Monday, collecting new snow totals/temperatures/winds/weather stats for all of Utah's ski mountains.  As of Sunday morning, the answer was pretty clear: Solitude and Brighton had gotten the most snow - 8 inches to Alta's 6 - and since none of us are snowboarders, it was off to Solitude. 

This turned out to be an excellent choice because the storm also brought high winds with it, and little Solitude is more protected/less exposed than Alta/Snowbird.  Even so, winds were hitting sustained gusts of 40+ mph which eventually shut down the Summit chair back to Honeycomb Canyon.  But not before we skied the heck out of Headwall Forest and the Evergreen glades.  The snow was, in a word, magnificent: deep and soft and so light and fluffy.  The boys were ripping it up, Andrea was skiing really well and even I, who tend to turn into a total spaz in powder, did pretty well. 

After lunch, when they had stopped running the Summit chair, we switched to the Powderhorn lift and went into Honeycomb Canyon through the gates there. We skied in the Black Forest area and, again, it was simply magnificent. H and I hadn't skied on that wall of the canyon last winter: being able to go in through the gates and drop down into powder without a hellalong traverse is lovely. On our last run out, we decided to take the looping Honeycomb Return trail instead of the lift but changed our minds last minute and followed some tracks into the woods ... and ultimately out of bounds, ending up with a long slog down a snow covered private driveway. Oops. At least we weren't the first numbskulls to have done it that day - we followed those tracks all the way back to the lift.

Entry to Middle Slope - luckily not resulting in death

When Monday came, we all quickly decided to return to Solitude, namely because the winds were supposed to be worse than they'd been Sunday.  This time they were running the Summit chair but not the Sunrise lift that takes you there, so our first run was a steep and skied-off approach down Middle Slope (a double-black area where it pays to mind the cliffs).  We quickly learned that it was going to be another ski-in-the-trees day because the wetter, heavier snow that fell overnight (and was falling all day on us, sometimes heavily) was treacherous in the open areas: it grabbed skis without warning, sending Chris into a couple of truly spectacular somersaulting face-plants.  In the trees the snow was heavier, but still soft and manageable.

The traverses into Evergreen were getting a little too exciting - I caught air with both skis on one particularly nasty whoopdedoo - so after lunch we went back to our gates into the Black Forest.  Problem was, we'd been having too much fun and didn't stop for lunch 'til late, and before we knew it 3:00 p.m. had come and Ski Patrol closed the gates on us, despite a last minute dash through the blinding snow.  But there are plenty of trees to ski at Solitude and we found some good ones: Queen Bess to the Honeycomb Return trail.  Tired as I was after four days of keeping up with these guys, I realized just how much I like skiing in the trees; you can make some turns and then stop to figure out which way to go next, really engaging your brain rather than just going on autopilot.

We skied pretty much to the end and then went straight home, all of us tired and soaked to the bone.  After a quick clean-up we went up to Lumpy's for early dinner, learning to our delight that Mondays are all-you-can-eat buffalo wings - and their wings are quite good!  Then home for Chris and Andrea to pack up for their early flight out on Tuesday. 

I think our guests had a good trip - I know H and I had a lot of fun while they were here and are hoping they want to come back again next year.  But it's a good thing they went home when they did: after four days in a row, I was totally out of clean ski socks. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

alta days

Things are back to normal chez nous. The ski guests have gone home - making B very sad since they both slipped her many tidbits - and we're wading through the mountain of laundry that results from skiing four days in a row.  In a nutshell: what a fantastic visit with Chris and Andrea!  And now the details:

Their flight got in around 7:30 p.m. on St. Patrick's Day which meant they were famished, having come from Maine.  We went to Squatter's for sustenance, which was busy as you might imagine, and ended up with a table after about an hour's wait - better than I had expected. 

Despite the late hour at which we finally got back home (which was late for H and even later for the east-coasters), we were up and at 'em, getting up to Alta not long after the first chair was loaded.  This year we found a ski/board rental shop in the shopping plaza near our house, so we were able to get discount lift tickets without having to drive all the way to the Lift House at the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon like we did last year.  H, Andrea and I were all on alpine skis while Chris skied tele; he's a really good tele skier and H was pleased to have to be back on his downhill skis for a change.

We actually skied Friday and Saturday at Alta.  The snow was good but not fabulous as there hadn't been much new snowfall that week; avalanche-prone snowpack meant that much of the mountain (Devil's Castle, East Castle, Cecret Saddle, Castle Apron, the Ballroom and the trees off Rock-n-Roll) was closed.  Friday was partly sunny and we skied Catherine's Area mostly, with some runs on the Backside (East Greeley-ish) and in Wildcat as well.  Andrea and I quit one run early due to jelly legs and when the boys were done, we all enjoyed canned beer on the patio.  It was home for dinner - lasagne, salad and chocolate cake - and early to bed.

Saturday brought clouds, flat light and more wind, closing the Backside and rendering the Sugarloaf lift all but unbearable.  We stuck to the Supreme lift mostly: Catherine's Area via the high and low traverse and the trees near the lift - Piney Glade, Hammer Head, White Squaw Area and Vicky's.  I had a great day of skiing, regaining confidence and some semblance of form/rhythm, and particularly enjoyed Catherine's from the lower traverse.  Chris and Andrea handled the altitude and hiking much better on a decent night's sleep and had a better day despite the flat light.  We actually skied all the way until 4:00 p.m. before pausing for a beer inside the Goldminer's Daughter lodge and for Andrea to get a boot fix from the nice fellows at the Alta ski shop.  We rallied enough for dinner out at the Porcupine ... but bedtime was still well before 10 p.m. for all of us.

Next post: Sunday and Monday!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

about to get busy

Poor B is a basketcase what with all the vacuuming and swiffering and general tidying up going on.  We have ski friends arriving tomorrow, you see, to stay for a long weekend of Utah spring skiing.  (Please can it snow please can it snow please please please?!?!)  I tell you all this because (1) we're about to get too busy with our company for me to do much posting and (2) we're about to get busy with things I will eventually be able to post about, like skiing, skiing, skiing and skiing.

In the meanwhile, to get you in the mood for some skiing, check this awesomeness out:

(Or if the embed freaks out, click through to here: )  It's a short and incredible video about Solitude ski patrollers. H so wants that job.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

sun day

With exquisite timing, the first day of Daylight Savings (yay! love Daylight Savings - more usable daylight!!) was full of sunshine.  Which was good, because I had already decided that I was not going skiing if it was another cloudy, wet day.  Temperatures were about the same as Saturday so we put on sunscreen (SPF30 still not quite enough to block a slight goggle tan) and off we went.

Alta had gotten a little more snow overnight, three, maybe four inches.  But because it had gotten cold, that meant it was dust on crust first thing in the morning.  H was Day #7 on his tele skis so he stuck to the groomers.  I ventured out into Catherine's Area late morning and found this:  good, soft snow at the higher elevations, but breakable crust where the hillside had baked in the sun earlier in the week.

After a lunch break, H wanted to keeping skiing the Sugarloaf lift because the intermediate runs don't flat out at the bottom quite so much as they do at Supreme, which makes for better tele practicing.  I stuck with the same lift but went a little further afield: hiking way up into Devil's Castle and then over into East Greeley.  The snow in Devil's Castle was the best snow in the whole resort - deep and soft, with no crust issues, and I even managed to score some fresh tracks ... after lunch!  Definitely worth the long traverse.  East Greeley was pretty good too, but the face is on a different angle and catches some serious afternoon sun which meant the snow was soft but heavy. 

Both H's and my legs had had enough by 2:00 p.m.   We paused for a patio PBR then headed home.  We shouldn't have any trouble falling asleep tonight - and it won't have had anything to do with the time change.  But still: yay for the time change!

Blue sky, sunshine and lots of snow - fabulous!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

snow day

It must be turning towards spring because I didn't have to wear my neoprene boot covers to keep my tootsies warm on Saturday.  Even though the sun didn't shine all day - and it even started to snow after lunch, a wet, heavy snow - temperatures were in the high 20s/low 30s at the peaks and high 30s at the base. 

It was not the best day ever.  Visibility was terrible as first the light was really flat, which meant that on almost every run you sort of took it on faith what you were skiing over, and then the cloud deck descended.  Conditions were not great either: the 22 inches from Monday night's storm were tracked out and melted down (sunny on Thursday and Friday) and then froze back up.  The groomers were fine, but anything ungroomed that got full sun earlier in the week was pretty rutted and crusty.  The snow in the trees was still pretty soft, however.

We skied for about four-ish hours, calling it quits when the snow starting falling heavier.  Since it was so warm, the snow was very wet and we just got soaked riding on the chairs.  Still, I find it difficult to complain when my feet never got cold - always try to look on the bright side!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

technical difficulties

That's largely the reason for the delay between posts: one day we turned on the computer and the Internet just wasn't there.  But I, with my immense technical skills (pushing buttons, unplugging everything, plugging everything back in, pushing buttons again), fixed the Internet and here we are again.  So what did you miss?

We skied on Saturday.  It was okay but not great, the snow having been chopped up and skied off everywhere.  H got back on his telemark skis (day #5) but was a little frustrated, saying he didn't feel like he was improving any.  This, of course, was nonsense as I could tell his speed was MUCH faster - apparently the days when I get down the mountain ahead of him are over now - he just needs to work on his form.

Since it hadn't been that great on Saturday, when we awoke to cloudy skies Sunday we decided not to strap the skis back on, instead doing house stuff (finishing up the downstairs guest bedroom, cleaning, laundry, etc.) and walking the dog.  Not that exciting, tho' it needed to be done.  And no, I'm not posting a photo of the guest bedroom yet because by "finishing up" I mean "putting the bed together and installing privacy curtains on the glass doors," and you can't see it until it gets a bed skirt and a duvet cover.

We got a hugenormous snow storm Monday night that dropped over a foot of snow at the house (and took down a sizable branch from the tree out front) and another 22" up at Alta.  I'd thought about taking a day off to ski but the weather hasn't been sunny until today - and now I'm busy at work and can't go.  The photos of today when they opened Devil's Castle under bluebird skies were amazing.

And then today, with the sun out, it reached 65 degrees here in the valley, melting all the snow off the front lawn.  In fact, it's warmer outside the house than in, since we tend to keep the thermostat set at 60 when it's just us.  Not to worry, you ski guests arriving next week: H promised me he'd turn it up to 65 just for you!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

bar x

On Thursday night, H and I went out for a beer after work with one of the lawyers from my firm: he's a skinny little avid cyclist and I thought it would be good for H to meet him so they could talk bicycling.  Me, I was in it to go to the Bar X.

The Bar X is located pretty close to my office and I've been wanting to go there ever since we first even thought about moving to SLC.  It has been around for 77 years and until recently was a legendary dive bar.  They didn't allow women in there until 1986, and even then the owner was so ticked off that he refused to install a women's bathroom until the state health department forced him to do so.  The bar closed in July of last year after the property owner refused to renew the tavern's lease; new bar management (a co-owner is Ty Burrell of the Modern Family sitcom who has family in SLC) stepped in, remodeled the heck out of the space and finally re-opened in January.  I wanted to go when it was a dive; I still wanted to go when it was a "chic dive."

The front entrance is still pretty dive-y with the windows closed with black curtains and neon signs proclaiming "Cocktails" and "Cold Beer."  Inside, however, the new Bar X is not at all sketchy. They've kept the original wagon wheel light fixtures but everything else is dark and warm, jewel-toned light coming from the long bar festooned with liquor bottles.  The bar runs down one side of the room and a line of small tables runs down the other, with a few high tables in the middle and a booth or two snuggled into the corners.

While the old Bar X used to serve ginormous Bud Lights, the new Bar X instead prefers trendy (and expensive) cocktails like the Sazerac, with rye whiskey, bitters, sugar and a lemon twist served in an absinthe-coated glass.  They've also got about six beers on tap, including the ubiquitous Uinta Cutthroat, and a number of bottled beers too, like the very hoppy and floral Spiral Jetty IPA from Epic Brewing.

It was pretty quiet in there at 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening: several people sitting at the bar, three or four other tables.  There were three or four people working, however, which makes it odd that service was kind of slow - H's beer glass sat empty for quite some time before anyone stopped by to ask if he wanted it refilled.  I liked it, this new not-a-dive Bar X, although it was a little dark - thus keeping me from really examining the drinks list and providing you with a full report.  I have a feeling I'll go back, though, and can fill in the blanks for you then.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

nothing i'd rather be doing

Another Sunday, another trip up the canyon to Alta.  This time, with no early morning road closures and no line of horrific traffic, the drive took us under a half hour.  Which meant we were rather surprised when we saw the biggest line we've ever seen at Collins with people waiting for the lift to open.  It moved pretty quickly once it got going, but it still took us fifteen minutes in the corral before we were on a chair and headed to Supreme.

The weather was changeable: cold and partly sunny in the morning; then socked in with low-lying clouds late morning; then bright blue, warm and sunny in the afternoon.  The snow was fantastic, of course.  Quite a lot was tracked out, but still deep and soft and we were even finding untracked stretches into the afternoon.  My legs held up fairly well - for some reason, I have an easier time skiing when it's chunked up than when it's deep new pow - and H took us for great runs into Catherine's Area and the chutes in Supreme Bowl.

Skiing in frozen clouds gives you naturally frosted tips!

After lunch we thought we'd try something new (i.e., not Supreme) and did a couple of runs off East Greeley: Glory Hole and Yellow Trail areas down through Glory Gulch.  I hadn't been over there at all this year yet and had never been down through Glory Gulch (beautiful with the soft snow underfoot and the trees reaching up into the dark blue sky); the first run we took was some of the steepest stuff I've ever skied.

Not sure you can tell, but this is WICKED steep

We went back to Supreme and discovered that they'd dropped the ropes to Devil's Castle (the line of people waiting to make the traverse from the top of Sugarloaf had to be 200+ people long - we did not do that).  We went into the trees and gullies down low, beneath the Apron, and played around in a bunch of untracked powder there - so fun.

By 2:20 p.m., both of us were getting a little fatigued so we hauled ourselves out of the back side and back to Collins base, H unable to resist heading out through the Supreme Bowl chutes, hitting the deep stashes one more time.  We were back at the truck by 3:00 p.m. and cruised out of the canyon under sunshine, on dry roads and with no backed up traffic.  Now that's what I call a heckuva day on the hill.