Saturday, April 30, 2011

penultimate

Saturday morning, April 30, we woke up to 4-5 inches of snow on the ground at the house.  That's nuts.  What's even crazier: Alta had gotten SIXTEEN inches overnight.  Current mountain statistics: 206-inch base ("settled snow") depth and 724 inches season-to-date, making it - thus far - the third snowiest winter on record.  We have been so spoiled.  And it's been great!

We took our time getting up there, thinking that there wouldn't be too many people there what with it being so late in the season and all.  We were totally wrong about that.  We arrived at Alta at 10:30 a.m. and had to park on the access road (for the first time all season) because the parking lot was totally full.  The lift lines were pretty substantial too, especially since only the Collins lift and the Wildcat lift were open.  (My heart broke just a little thinking about all that pristine powder untouchable over in Catherine's Area.)  It didn't seem too crowded though, and folks started to leave around noon, and we switched back and forth between the singles line at Collins and the little Wildcat double.

Seems more like mid-winter than mid-spring

I know I've said this before, but coming from back east it continues to amaze me: there is so much snow up there.  It's amazing.  One patroller H talked to said he can't remember the last time Alta was open into May (tomorrow is closing day), maybe twenty years ago.  People are starting to get nervous about the potential flooding since it's all going to melt and it's all going to run out of the canyon and down into the valley.  But for now, it's still just so much fun.  Despite the crowds and our late start, we were still finding untracked stuff tucked in the trees.

I used my powder skis, of course, having learned my lesson.  I wasn't skiing that great, however, as I'm still not used to them: they're magnificent in the wide opens, but I'm not yet used to turning them in the chops and the narrows, and I don't feel I can stop as quickly on them as I can on my Volkls.  Still, we did the High Traverse and down Alf's High Rustler, a trail I'd never skied before; and late in the day we went into West Greeley and enjoyed the less trampled snow there.

Seriously, I've never seen so much snow

I quit earlier than H, but was foiled in my plan to score us some brewskis at the lodge since the Gold Miner's Daughter lodge was totally packed up and closed (except for the bathrooms).  H took another couple of runs until the clouds socked everything in.  It was still snowing when we left - had been all day; not your typical blue-sky spring skiing by any stretch of the imagination - and I expect it'll keep on all night.  That's good: might as well have some freshies for Closing Day.

Friday, April 29, 2011

no joy in rsl-ville

Anyone who's interested in Real Salt Lake already knows this, but the boys did not prevail over Monterrey - nor even tie them - thus not winning the CONCACAF tournament and also breaking their 37-game home winning unbeaten streak.  We watched the second half of the first half (ha!) and all of the second half, and RSL just couldn't convert any of their opportunities.  Monterrey snuck in a goal right at the halftime whistle, not surprisingly since the ball had been down at the RSL end the whole time.  The second half was a little bit better, with RSL having some chances.  But they just couldn't do it (that Fabian Espindola was totally useless, too busy tossing his hair around to put the ball in the back of the net) and time just ran out on them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'bout time

'bout time for a new post, wouldn't you say?  Unfortunately, there's not much to say and not much time to say it: Real Salt Lake is in the match of their lives tonight - vs. Monterrey for the CONCACAF Champions League finals, at home, 8:00 p.m. local time - and we have to scurry out to find a sports bar where we can watch it.

We did try a new sports bar last weekend, Bout Time Pub & Grub, at the Old Mill Village (i.e. strip mall) in Cottonwood Heights, sort of right between the Cotton Bottom and the Hog Wallow.  It wasn't anything special but had super-friendly staff, Full Suspension on tap and decent, if uninspiring, sports bar food.  I was intrigued, however, by the appetizer menu's Scotch Eggs (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in garlic sausage, breaded and deep-fried) and also the Bacon-Wrapped Olives (large green olives wrapped in bacon and deep-fried).  I didn't try either of those but if we ever go back, I may have to - if I got both, it'd be like breakfast what with both the bacon and the eggs.

I'll post again tomorrow with an RSL update - this is a pretty big deal for them, and American soccer in general.  One of these days we'll have to actually go to a live game!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"skiing groomers in flat light is boring"

That's H, having had quite enough after just a couple of hours Saturday morning.  With only two weekends left - plus the bonus fact that it wasn't raining (we seem to have brought our bad weather curse with us as something like 17 of the last 22 days have been cloudy/precipitating, which seems to be a record for Utah) - we felt compelled to take at least a few runs. 

The snow was actually in fantastic shape on the groomers: great coverage (15-foot base; 56 feet season-to-date) and soft but not slushy.  It was pretty bad off the groomed trails, however, with that same stiff but breakable crust we found last week.  If the sun had come out and warmed things up, I think the off-piste stuff would have been good.  But the sun did not come out.  And with the sky the exact same color as the ground, it was incredibly difficult to see.  We've had a lot of days skiing in flat light but your eyes just don't get used to it as the season goes on like your legs do to skiing the deep stuff.

So we made a few runs, then went home and did yardwork (I hate yardwork).  On the north side of the house, some of the yard was bounded by railroad ties that were killing the neighbors' grass.  We'd told them we'd be willing to take the ties out and since the City is doing large item pick-up this week, this weekend was the perfect time to do it.  Now all we have to do is figure out what to do with that bit of yard ... but that's for another post.

Alta is open for one more weekend and I need two more days to hit 40, an all-time record for me.  Here's hoping for some sunny skies and spring skiing next weekend!

Friday, April 22, 2011

they can’t all be winners, i guess

H and I tried Rock Creek Pizza Co. not so long ago, located at 10255 South 1300 East, right next door to Royal India. They have eat-in, carry-out and take-home-and-bake-yourself options, a nice selection of specialty pizzas as well as the standard range of toppings, a few hot and cold sandwiches and a salad bar. What they don’t have is beer – which slims down the bill at the end of the night but which gave me sad because I like beer with my pizza. Also, I found the sauce a little sweet for my taste and their “large” pizzas would have qualified as “mediums” at Wasatch Pizza or Smoky Mountain. I’m not sure we’ll go back anytime soon but it’s good to keep trying new places!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

homebodies

Discouraged by the conditions Saturday, we elected not to go skiing on Sunday when it was socked in and dark up in the canyon.  Instead, H went for a twenty mile bike ride and then updated our calendar on all the stuff going on around here (bike rides, hikes, concerts, brew fests, road races, etc.); I walked B, then went for my 3.5 mile loop-from-the-house run - uphill for the first half and downhill for the second ... and I didn't have to walk any of it! - then continued to work in the backyard, laying down more weedblock fabric and surrounding the beds I'd dug out with cobbles.  I finished with the stones and am almost done covering everything else with weedblock; now we just need a pickup truck load (or two) of gravel.  Oh, and then to plant stuff in those beds, of course.  But for now, back aching, I'm just pleased with the progress I've made. 

Of course, all this work in the backyard means I'm totally ignoring the flower beds in the front yard.  But I'm okay with that.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

worst conditions of the season

Alta had gotten another 15 or so inches Thursday night.  Friday was a beautiful day but because it was Friday, and late in the season, we figured the snow wouldn't have been totally tracked out.  So we gave it a little time to soften up Saturday morning, eventually getting to the Supreme chair around 10:30 a.m.  There was no one there: the parking lot was less than one-third full when we got there, and the lifties at Collins had a game of "who can toss their mittens into the bullseye painted on the snow" going.  The clouds were low and it was snowing a little, but due to clear up.

Once at the top of Supreme, we immediately headed into Catherine's Area, greedy for untracked snow.  Big mistake.  HUGE mistake.  The snow was awful: heavy and compacted, we skittered on top of it on a soft crust.  This crust broke when you tried to turn, plunging you into cement.  H had tried to ski on it as he usually does but broke through and fell, tweaking his knee a little bit; I did a little better since I'm lighter, but I was wearing my new powder skis and couldn't make them turn how I wanted to.  We finally got out of there, skiing across the fall line and turning as little as possible.  Just terrible. 

We took the Sugarloaf lift up and skated around the return traverse to Collins, thinking that perhaps the snow would be softer lower down.  It was, but the clouds had really settled in and the visibility was pretty much zero.  It was a unanimous decision to call it an early day.

So home we went.  It was partly/mostly sunny in the valley: H went for a fifty (!!) mile bike ride, from our house up to - and up - Emigration Canyon and back, while I dragged out rakes and hoes and shovels and dug out five new garden beds in the backyard and started laying weed-block fabric down over the rest of it.  When H got back from his epic ride, we enjoyed some PBRs on the deck, acknowledging that while the skiing was dang horrible, the day as a whole sure wasn't.

PS - Mr. I-can-ride-50-miles-in-April had to go to bed at 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

i am such a dumb@$$

The report said Alta only got another eight inches, you see, and I figured that eight inches wouldn't be enough to fill in all the tracked-out places, so on Sunday morning when H asked which skis I wanted to take, I said my old Volkls, not trusting myself or the new skis.  As soon as we pulled into the parking lot and saw how light and fluffy the snow was - more winter snow than spring snow - I regretted my decision.  And as we rode the first lift up, over the smooth and trackless blanket of deep, fresh snow, I knew I'd been a complete doofus.

This is what happens when you don't wear your powder skis

There was WAY more than eight inches up there.  It was deeper than yesterday and the first time I fell in Catherine's Area (the first of very, very many times) because my poor little skis kept diving down and squirreling around, instead of floating up on top like my Rossignols would have done ... well, suffice it to say that the lesson was learned very quickly.  Despite my struggles, we did a lot of runs in Catherine's because it was so dang amazing.  Even H was getting stuck with the snow so deep.  I can't believe how much snow is up there: the storm total is 43 inches.

The snowbank at the top of Sugarloaf chair

When H had to bail out of the low traverse to Catherine's because the guy in front of him fell, we skied one of the chutes in Supreme Bowl, which we really hadn't much skied all year because it tends to get skied off so quickly.  Not today.  Ridiculous amounts of snow in there.  I ended up doing much better in the chutes and so we did a bunch of runs there both before and after lunch.  Just awesome: even though I was getting really tired, it was just so good that I didn't want to quit.

I did quit, finally, getting back to the base lodge around 3:00 p.m.  H stayed out for another hour, doing two runs off West Rustler and two off the Wildcat chair - both amazing.  We paused for a PBR in the lodge, this time cheersing to lessons learned (I will not be an idiot next time there's new snow and I will bring my powder skis) but also to yet another incredible and fun day in the canyon, dumbassery notwithstanding.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

royal india

When H and I go out for dinner for "Date Nights," we try to find places that don't entail too much driving.  In-town SLC has a wealth of good restaurants but since I've just driven home from downtown we're not inclined to jump back in the car and schlep all the way back north.  The challenge is finding non-chain restaurants close by which is why we often go back to the same places again and again: Fratelli, Taste of Punjab, the Porcupine, Lone Star Taqueria, the Cottonbottom.  We just found another one, thanks to the April 2011 dining guide issue of Salt Lake magazine: Royal India in Sandy.

Located in a strip mall, Royal India is not much to look at from the outside.  But inside it is bright and colorful and very busy (much busier than Taste of Punjab, actually).  Service was great: the food came quickly and every server in the place stopped by at one time or another, delivering food or clearing plates or refilling waters, and an older gentleman whom I believe is the owner paused to ask us how our meal was.

Our meal was very good.  I had the lamb coconut kurma and H went with chicken vindaloo, and we had an appetizer of chicken pakora (basically chicken fingers, but the best I've ever had, with nummy dippin sauces) and a couple of orders of naan (garlic and onion).  The dinners came with jasmine rice and we each had an Evolution Amber (bottled).  H ordered his vindaloo "hot" and it came with plenty of heat, making him sweat; I'd ordered mine "medium" and it could have been spicier - I would have called what I got mild.  Some of hte lamb in my kurma was a little gamey, which is fine by me but some other folks might not like it.

The bill was higher than when we've gone to Taste of Punjab, but cut out the appetizer and one of the naans and it would sync right up.  We'll absolutely go back to Royal India and are awful glad we tried it out.  Yay for Date Night discoveries!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

epic

It sure doesn't seem much like spring up here in northern Utah.  It's about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year and the latest storm has not only put several unmelting inches of snow on our lawn, but also (at this point) another 31 inches up at Alta.  And it's still snowing.  It's an embarassment of riches, really - not that H and I are complaining.

The canyon road was closed from 6-8 a.m. this morning for avalanche control and when we left the house a little before 9 a.m. on Saturday, we wondered what sort of traffic was waiting for us.  Answer: none - it took us 25 minutes to get up there with no stopping.  Despite the huge dumping of new snow and even tho' Alta is open for another three weekends, people have largely given up on skiing.  Not us, however.  I stepped into my pretty new Rossignols, tucked my powder cords up into my ski pants (so I wouldn't lose my pretty new Rossignols) and away we went.

We didn't wait in a single lift line all day - that's how much nobody was skiing.  Also, we were the first ones in on the lower traverse into Catherine's Area, and we were the second ones in there too.  Even on the third trip in we didn't see anybody over there, although we did see other tracks.  When people finally started skiing there, I was a little put out at having to share it after having had it to ourselves for so many runs. 

How were the new skis?  AWESOME.  Longer and wider but lighter, I could tell the difference immediately, noting that they don't hold an edge on the groomers like my Volkls.  In the deep stuff, they were just glorious: porpoising up out of the snow instead of submarining down.  There's a lot for me to remember to ski in powder as opposed to what I've done all my life back east: keep my weight centered over the skis (not forward); keep my weight evenly balanced on both skis (instead of putting most weight on my downhill skis); roll my ankles from side to side (instead of trying to set an edge and carve my turns).  These new skis help so much - I didn't fight the powder nearly as much as I have before, and H said that I was skiing much faster.

Speaking of skiing much faster, I missed it, having gone on ahead, but H took an EPIC fall just as we were exiting Catherine's Area.  He'd straightened out his skis, just before getting onto the groomed run-out to go back to the lift, when he hit a hard ridge in the flat light.  He immediately ejected from both skis and launched himself around fifty feet before crashing face first on the trail.  He landed flat on his chest/stomach/chin, knocking the wind out of himself, but luckily didn't tweak a knee or shoulder.  When he rejoined me at the Supreme lift (where I was wondering what could possibly have happened), he was still a little shaken up, but by the time we got to the top he was fine.  He may be a little stiff tomorrow but no headache or sore ribs or anything like that.  And he's the one always telling me to be careful!

We stayed at Catherine's until lunch, then switched to East Greeley, and then H did a couple of runs by himself off the Wildcat chair while I held down a chair in the lodge.  The new skis are fabulous but the snow is full of water this time of year and not that fluffy champagne powder for which Utah is famous - and heavy snow is tiring to ski in.  I gotta say, I wish I'd gotten powder skis sooner in the season - because we've had a lot of deep snow days - and I can't wait for H to get a pair of his own.  Who knows what kind of impressive falls he'll be able to take then!

Friday, April 8, 2011

new toys

Last Sunday convinced me: I needed powder skis.  The big ol' end of season mark-downs at Utah Ski and Golf (600 South 134 West, SLC) convinced me to get new ones: Rossignol S110 Ws.  They're wider and longer than my adorable little everyday Volkl Attivas, rockered fore and aft, quick to turn in the trees and chop and apparently ever so fabulous in deep powder.  And they're so pretty:

Oooooooooooh!

Alta's gotten 20 new inches in the last 24 hours and it's still snowing like the dickens up there.  Looks like I'll get the chance to take the Rossis for a ride tomorrow.  Which means the moment of truth: have my struggles in Utah's deep powder stemmed from the skis ... or the skier?  Stay tuned to find out!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

sombody left the snow on

What a difference a day makes - or, rather, what a difference a +/- 30 degree drop in temperature and 19 inches of fresh, fluffy snow makes.  Saturday was spring skiing; Sunday was back to winter for sure and it was awesome.  H was laughing when he said, "I know we keep saying this, but this has to be one of the best days of the season."  On April 3, no less!

We didn't get up the canyon and onto the chair until around 10 a.m., in part because the canyon was closed and traffic backed up, but also in part because H had to shovel the eight inches (!!!) of snow that fell on our driveway overnight.  It was pretty wet and heavy and we both had been woken up at 4:00 a.m. when a neighbor's tree lost a huge limb, luckily not onto any of our property.  It was snowing and 24 at the base of Alta, dropping to 11 up at the summit.  The snow didn't drop all day.

Not your typical spring scene

Because it's so late in the season, there were hardly any folks skiing, it seemed.  We broke trail on one of the Catherine's traverses, well after 10 a.m., and still found untracked snow after lunchtime - amazing.  And the snow!  There is SO MUCH SNOW up there that I can't even believe they're closing in three weeks.  I was skiing better than I had been, not fighting the powder nearly as much as I'd been. H and I had just so much fun, plunging off ridiculously steep (as in practically vertical) stuff in Catherine's Area and Keyhole Gulch (below East Greeley).  I learned that raising my arms above my head whilst hooting and hollering causing me to fall over immediately.  This of course makes H laugh so much that he is unable to help dig me out of whatever deep puff of snow I'm in, so I had to learn to fend for myself.

My legs were toast by 2:00 p.m.  H took another couple of runs off the Wildcat chair which were not as good as Catherine's Area: the steep, narrow chutes there had been pretty scraped off over the last week, so the new deep powder just slid off them.  No matter: it had been a very good day. 

This guy, in Alta's parking lot,
was maybe a little optimistic

We hustled home, cleaned up, threw the dog in the car and headed to the Porcupine to celebrate our one-and-a-half years in Utah anniversary, splitting a pitcher of Full Suspension and an order of chicken wings.  A very good day indeed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

bbq #4

You must admit that we are tenacious - at least when it comes to ferreting out the best barbecue in the valley.  Friday night/Date Night took us to Goodwood in Draper (133 East 12300 South).  The Goodwood Barbecue Company has two locations in Idaho and three in Utah, so I suppose that technically makes it a chain, but at least it's a local one.  Even better: the 'cue was very good!

The Draper restaurant is located in the middle of retail stripmall hell/heaven (depending on your point of view), not far from In-and-Out Burger.  The building is new: a big, airy, nicely- (if generically-) decorated with earth tones.  We got there 7ish and the place was jumpin'.  We were told it would be a 30 minute wait for a table so we pushed our way to the small (five stool - why not six?) bar where the manager sat us down, poured us Cutthroats and said of course we could eat at the bar! We happily surrendered our beeper and took a look at the menu.

Standard barbecue fare with ribs, platters and sandwiches, but also lots of salads, burgers and non-'cue sandwiches.  I went straight for the half-rack of baby back ribs with coleslaw and BBQ beans; H picked the three-meat platter, with pulled pork, brisket and sausage, and beans and fries for sides.  Despite how busy it was, the food came out quickly - which makes sense, since barbecue is already done and just needs to be dished up.  Portions were much smaller than Famous Dave's, and could have used some accompanying cornbread to fill the plates, but the food was really very good and we cleared our plates. 

The baby back ribs were fantastic, although I wished they hadn't been so heavily sauced (I like my 'cue dry so I can sauce it myself), but meaty and tender and smoky with no fat or gristle.  H's platter portions were pretty small - just two slices of brisket, a small scoop of pulled pork and half a stretch of sausage - but delicious and not at all greasy.  The beans were extremely flavorful and the coleslaw ... one of the best coleslaws I think I've ever had.  The veggies (purple cabbage, green cabbage, carrot and some other dark green leafy thing) were super-fresh and crunchy and there was just enough dressing to add flavor without drowning the slaw.  I wish everyone would do coleslaw like that - so good.

We still have one more barbecue place to try - Q4U out in Kearns - but Goodwood ranks up there with Sugarhouse, beating Pat's and Famous Dave's to pieces.  We'll go back to Goodwood for more 'cue for sure.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

spring conditions

51 degrees at the base, 40 degrees at the summit, "moderate" winds (and by "moderate," they meant "blowing so hard that many people - including me - were holding onto the chairs just in case, plus both H and I ended up leaning way into the wind at one point and it was totally holding us up"), firm-to-frozen at the higher elevations, soft in the middle of the mountain and sticky/grabby at the base, and a parking lot that was half full at most.  That's what it was like skiing at Alta today.

I think it would have great spring skiing if the sun had come out and softened the snow at the higher elevations.  As it was, anything ungroomed was mostly pretty clattery but we did find a couple of runs with nice soft bumps.  The clouds stuck around tho', and that wind is ushering in a new storm that's threatening to drop 12-18 inches in the mountains and 2-6 inches down in the valley.  It'll be interesting to see what tomorrow brings!

We stayed up there for three hours then went home so H could go for a two-hour bike ride and B and I could do our first-of-the-year 3 mile loop walk.  It's started to sprinkle now but the purported storm hasn't moved in quite yet.  I'm eager to see what it brings although both H and I confess to some spring fever in the wake of Friday's sunny and 70s.