Thursday, December 29, 2011

boxing day 2011

It's funny to go back and read last year's posts: Boxing Day 2010 had flat light, skiing on groomers since there hadn't been much new snow, a good parking spot because there weren't that many people out.  This year we had flat light, skiing on groomers because there hadn't been any new snow at all and a good parking spot ... and approximately 110 inches more snowfall.

The skiing is getting really bad.  It's not even so much that it's eastern-style hard-pack, but that the base is so thin (33") that rocks are popping through everywhere.  You can usually see the big ones in time but the teeny little ones that are easy to miss are just tearing the bejeezus out of the bottom of our skis.  We did manage to find some semi-soft bumps on 3 Bears and skied that a bunch, although the trail is short and runs contrary to the fall-line so it's a bit annoying.  Still, gotta get my bumps practice in so I'm ready when it finally snows.

I'm ready.  Please SNOW!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

christmas day 2011

Christmas morning dawned like most of our winter weekend mornings: up; Henry's special fried potatoes with ham, egg and cheese; and out the door, headed to Alta.  Once again, there are very few skiers on the slopes before noon and we enjoyed the bright sunshine, clear skies and uncrowded slopes.  In fact, Christmas 2011 Ski Day was very similar to Christmas 2010 Ski Day: nice weather, no new snow, hardly any other folks around and skiing on groomers, although last year I did that because my back was still sore and this year we pretty much have to because of the lack of snow.

My eyes really were open - you
just can't tell from the power-squint

We still have to say, though, that although we still want snow - and lots of it - very badly, it is so dang wonderful to ski under bluebird skies.  We noticed a few newbie skiers struggling with the non-powder conditions but generally everyone had smiles on their faces, wishing each other happy holidays.

A peek at Catherine's Area through the trees

We skied until about 2:00 p.m., tired by then of the increasingly skied-off conditions, and headed home to call our families, drink some beers and bake a ham (first time trying that - will have to let you know how it goes).  We'll be back at it again tomorrow - when it will likely be quite a lot busier - but until then, Merry Christmas* to all and to all a good night.

* And by "Merry Christmas" I of course mean whatever non-sectarian winter holiday greetings to which you may subscribe!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

christmas eve 2011

Not surprisingly, the dearth of snow didn't keep us from heading up to Alta on Christmas Eve.  We didn't rush right up there - lingering a bit over our ham-and-egg-and-cheese sandwiches - but were still on the lift before 10:00 a.m.  We headed for the Sugarloaf lift first, seeking out trails in the sunshine as it was another gorgeous, bluebird day up in the mountains (even as the inversion has begun to slowly creep back into the valley).  But once there we glanced over at the Supreme lift and saw it turning - for the first time all season.  We hightailed it over there and were among the first people to get on the lift.

The Alta Ski Patrol had put up lots of signs with lots of exclamation points, asking people to use extreme caution whilst skiing off Supreme: thin cover and lots and lots of rocks on all the ungroomed trails.  Desperate to get off the groomers, we watched scores of people begin the hike into Catherine's Area before trying the ungroomed Upper Sleepy Hollow ourselves.  It wasn't that good: about five inches of soft snow atop a hard crust studded with hidden rocks.  Oh well.  We stayed over at the Supreme lift for a while even so, realizing that even if we were skiing groomers (to keep the bottoms of our skis on one piece) they were at least different groomers than we've been skiing all season.  

Bright sunshine on the top of Collins lift
(note my new Alta neck gaiter!)

Having the extra terrain open had the added benefit of spreading the people out a bit, so when we headed back to ski off Sugarloaf and Collins after lunch, the lift lines were negligible.  We kept making turns until 2:00 p.m., then headed home, following the line of cars off to their next Christmas Eve engagements.  For us, that means walking the dog, delivering cookies to the neighbors and supping on shepherd's pie and cheap champagne before falling asleep early while watching A Christmas Story.  Hope Santa doesn't wake us up when he gets here - got to get up and go skiing early tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Even though we desperately need snow (have I mentioned that? how badly we need snow? Alta is planning to physically move snow over to the groomed trails off the Cecret and Supreme lifts so that those lifts can be opened in time for Christmas - that's how much we need snow), H and I have still been skiing.  He's got ten days in and I've got six; some of those "days" are just a couple of hours but still, it counts.

Part of the reason we've been happy to go skiing despite the extreme lack of snow is that it gets us out of the inversion that has settled over the Salt Lake Valley.  Down in the valley, it's grey and cold and all socked in so that you can't see the sky, while up in the mountains it's been clear blue skies, bright sunshine and easily 20 degrees warmer.  It's been glorious up there and I'm totally conflicted because I so want it to snow, and yet I so enjoy skiing under bluebird skies.

It hasn't been very busy up at Alta either, although since everyone is skiing on the same few trails, it does seem a little crowded.  Because everyone is trapped on the same trails, you're bound to come across some doofuses.  On Saturday, a completely oblivious preteen kid skied into me, not hard enough to knock me over, but enough to knock into my skis and cause me to yell at him to watch where the hell he's going.  On Sunday, H and I had the misfortune to ride the Sugarloaf lift with a couple of total Joeys who, despite the balmy 35 F temperatures and hot sunshine, were both wearing face masks.  These grown men greeted us on the chair with "Bonjour!" (to which H muttered, "The next words out of their mouths better be in French") and then proceeded to talk in English very loudly (to compensate for the muffling of the face masks, I guess) about complete inanities all the way up.  Then, when we got off the chair, we noticed that one of them didn't have poles and neither of them were very good skiers. Sigh.  That's another reason to wish for a lot more snow and soon: so we can escape to the wilds off the Supreme chair where Joeys fear to tread.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'tis the season

A couple of nights ago, after I'd gotten back from the gym, and taken out my contacts, and changed into my scruffy evening soft pants, and was finally getting around to scrounging something up for dinner, the doorbell rang.  B went crazy as she always does (except for the first two weeks in this house when she didn't know that the bell meant there was someone at the front door, since we didn't have a doorbell at our Maine house).  I turned on the porch lights, grabbed her collar and was just about to open the door when I heard the singing.  I called to H:  "Quick!  We've got carolers!" and he ran for the camera.  When I opened the door, there were our across-the-street neighbors with some of their extending family and friends, singing their hearts out.  After their carol, one of the grandchildren handed me a couple of candy canes and then all they wished us a Merry Christmas and wandered off down the street to their next performance.

It came upon a 7:45 p.m. clear ...

Sometimes I get a little antsy, being in a neighborhood with people always around.  But then there are moments like this that are so sweet and warm, and I'm grateful that we have such nice neighbors.  And we've never had carolers at our house - any house - before.  If it had only been snowing, it would have been perfect.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

family ties

There's still hardly any snow (we're at a historical low for the date, as H keeps reminding me) but that didn't stop my cousin E and 849 of her closest Northwestern University friends (and another 200+ from some Ohio school) from descending upon Park City Mountain Resort for the week.  Since skier traffic is always sparse before Christmas - even in good snow years - the students got a crazy-good deal for a 6-night stay/4-day lift ticket package.  They were housed in condos right up at the resort, which was ideal since they could go grocery shopping for breakfasts and lunches, making it an even better deal.  E reported that PCMR had about 17 trails open and the skiing was pretty good, if entirely Eastern (i.e., no powder).

We drove out to Park City Wednesday night to see E, picking her up at the condo and then heading into the Old Town for dinner at the Blue Iguana (not the Red Iguana: more Tex-Mex and less mole).  Old Town was packed and we had to park several streets over and walk back in 17 F temperatures, but the restaurant itself was pretty quiet so we were able to get caught up over dinner.  For the record: I had pork tamales with mole verde and enchilada sauce; E had chicken fajitas; and H had a chile verde burrito.  I decided against the $14 margarita - crazy Park City prices!

We only kept E out for a couple of hours before delivering her back to her friends (I'm 20+ years older than she is and didn't want to test her patience ... plus we old folks had to drive all the way back home).  It was really nice to see her and hear all about school; I didn't really like the first half of my freshman year but clearly she is not having that problem.  Hopefully next time she comes out this way we'll have better snow for her.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Not only do we go to the Porcupine for libations and conversation, we also go for cultural type stuff.  Case in point, we were there last Friday night, sitting at the bar for beers and dinner (chicken noodle soup for me; Szechuan veggie stir fry on noodles for H) and chatting with Edd and Josh, the on-duty bartenders.  Josh also works for Ski Utah and had been over at Deer Valley earlier that day.  When we asked him where he was going Saturday, he said he wasn't skiing because he had to set up for an art show.  He gave us a card for the Art Adoption Christmas Art Show and all of a sudden, we had something to do Saturday night.

The show was held at Signed & Numbered, a custom frame shop and art gallery located at 2320 So. West Temple.  The shop is owned by Leia Bell, an artist, and Phil Sherburne, a cabinetmaker.  The show had art in various media from twenty-two different artists - paintings, sculpture, photographs, prints, jewelry, pottery - and all of it was for sale, much of it at very reasonable prices.  They were accepting clothing donations for the Homeless Youth Resource Center and non-perishable food for the Utah Food Bank; there were snacks and free beer (Full Suspension!) and wine, and all bartending tips were going to be donated to the Christmas Box House.

We got there a little before 7:30 p.m. and there were already a bunch of young, hip people there.  We talked with Josh for a bit, drank a couple of beers and wandered the shop, looking at all the funky art.  There was one painting I really liked, a big abstract Southwestern landscape, but it was $300 so I bought some turquoise earrings instead (made by Jill Watanabe/earthworm).  By the time we left, the place was getting crowded and lots of people were buying things.  I hope they did really well, both for the artists and for the charities, and I'm super-glad that Josh let us know about the show.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

we need snow

It hasn't snowed for a week and what we got a week ago only added up to about an inch.  Alta has a 27" base, Park City has 18", and everyone else (who is open) is somewhere in between.  If we don't get a foot tomorrow - which we won't, because there's not even a chance of snow until Tuesday - we will have hit a new low: historically, the least amount of snowfall at this date has been 90 inches.  We've had 79 inches.

Still, we went up to Alta and took some runs this morning, skiing for 2.5 hours.  It was busier than it's been so far this season, with lots of ski lessons and actual lift lines. Well, not really lift lines but we weren't able to ski right onto the lifts like we've been doing.  The groomers were in pretty good condition at first but were starting to get scraped off in spots around noon; the off-piste stuff is completely tracked out, plus sparse - we weren't interested in risking the bottoms of our skis to try much of it.  It was very much like eastern conditions, except for the huge mountains all around us and the gorgeous bright blue western sky.  Almost any day on skis is a good one.  We just really need some snow to get us back to those great days.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 vintages

As 2011 draws to a close, so too does the inaugural year of the WeWentWest Winery*, with two wines now resting in the cellar: the so-called Luna Bianca, renamed Cecret Chardonnay, a "rich, buttery bouquet with flavors of tropical fruit, vanilla and oak with a smooth, round mouth-feel," and a Chilean Carmenere, "deep crimson, with dark cherry aroma, red fruits and berry notes running to a smoky, spicy finish with notes of dark chocolate and tobacco, with medium full body and moderate tannins."  Cheers!

The labels are entirely H's design, production
and installation - nice work!

Monday, December 5, 2011

slow start

You may have noticed here on the blog that there haven't been as many early season ski posts this year.  That's because there hasn't been as much early season snow, and thus less early season skiing to blog about.  We're just getting these puny little storms that drop a couple inches here and there (except that down at Brian Head they just got pummeled with 15+ inches) and Alta's base depth is hovering at the 26" mark.

I've only gone twice while H has gone six times, and the skiing is very good eastern-style conditions right now: soft groomers with no ice.  He went this past Saturday (it was too cold for me, although if we'd gotten a big dump of snow I would have sucked it up) and had to wear his face mask to protect himself from the snow guns.  Good grief - the snow guns are on at Alta instead of the avi-control guns.  That's just not right. Please!  Snow, please!
This is looking up a chute from the Ballroom - 
it's actually very, very steep

Friday, December 2, 2011

'tis the season, i guess

I prefer to get the Christmas decorations out and up just a couple weeks before Christmas and then leaving them up through New Year's.  A lot of folks in our neighborhood are way gung-ho about the holiday, though, and had their trees and lights up by Thanksgiving.  (A whole month of Christmas is just too much, in my opinion).  There's one house down the street from us who is really making the power company happy right about now - H, B and I walked down to check it out tonight before dinner:

Where does one store it all in the off-season?

You can't tell from the photo, but there are a moving Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and teeter-totter in there too.  It was actually kind of pretty, in an over-the-top, gaudy kind of way.