Monday, February 27, 2012

changes, in brief

We realized we hadn't been to Lumpy's (Highland Drive, around 3000S) in a while when we stopped in on Friday night.  They've knocked down a wall and added a much bigger room; they streamlined the menu while leaving on all our favorites, like buffalo wings and the chicken potpie; and best of all, they added taps to the upstairs bar ... with Full Suspension!  The prices, meanwhile, continue to be excellently reasonable and the food tasty.

Also, we have nearly completed our metamorphoses into Utah ski snobs because on Saturday it was cloudy, snowing and windy (25-35 mph, with gusts to 55) so we didn't go.  Instead B and I took a nice 3+ mile walk while H rode his bike on his rollers in the basement.

Friday, February 24, 2012

far from the madding crowd

Fearing the holiday crowds in Little Cottonwood Canyon, we went to Solitude on Monday.  I took my trusty Volkls, knowing that there hadn't been any additional snowfall since the "storm" moved out Sunday afternoon.  That ended up being a very good choice, ski-wise, as the choice of trails pretty much came down to groomers or ginormous moguls.  Since a lot of people don't like moguls, the groomers got skied off quickly.  That meant that H and I skied a lot of bumps - I'm not sure I've ever skied so many bumps.  Luckily it was sunny in the morning and fairly warm, so any moguls that were in the sunshine for any length of time got soft-ish.  That helped, but for the most part the bumps were so big that I had a tough time finding any rhythm and just wound up skiing over or around them.

H in Honeycomb Canyon

We had noticed that the Sol-Bright trail was open, which I don't think it ever had been on prior trips to Solitude.  Even though we could tell from the map that the trail was just a flat run-around the border of the resort, we figured we'd have to try it.  Access is from the top of the little Summit double chair and the trail skirts the Solitude/Brighton boundary.  It started off well-traveled, but once we got around the end of the ridge, most of the tracks seemed to dive down a hollow towards Brighton while a few hardy souls had stayed high, skirting the ridge.  Since we didn't want to get stuck in Brighton, we stayed high ... until we ran into a bunch of cliffs.  The good thing about the cliffs was that we were high enough to see that the trail did in fact bypass Brighton and Silver Lake and headed back to Solitude, so we picked our way down the hill and rejoined the trail.  The end of Sol-Bright, before it segues with the trails under the Sunrise lift, is slightly uphill through a gorgeous aspen grove: you had to skate a bit but at least it was pretty.

Taking a break along the traverse

As if that cross-country workout wasn't enough, we went back to the Summit chair and then hiked up the traverse into Honeycomb Canyon.  I'm not sure how far we slogged - it felt like forever - but we made it in far enough to find actual untracked snow.  There were a couple of young (and very polite) snowboarders up on the traverse with us and when H dove off and started spraying up powder on his turns, the 'boarders were all, "All right!"  We each got about six turns' worth of day-old freshies and it was good indeed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the storm that wasn't

Oh yes, they said, 27-41 inches of snow.  They said it was going to start snowing Saturday night, snow all day on Sunday (with daytime accumulations of around 12") with driving conditions getting bad, keep snowing all Sunday night and well into Monday.  It was going to be a significant snow event, they said.  And when I took B out one last time before bed Saturday night and saw that it had snowed enough to cover the lawn, I was sure they knew what they were talking about.

Alta got four inches, maybe five.

If we hadn't been assured that we'd be skiing in over a foot of powder, we would have thought it was really good.  As it was, it was pretty good: brand new snow and enough to merit taking my Rossignols up instead of my trusty little Volkls.  I actually had a really good day on my powder skis: there was enough snow that they floated up on top of it, but not so much as to freak me out about skiing in really deep powder.  I felt like I knew what I was doing, was able to trust the skis and not fight them.  (The fact that the light was fairly flat helped too - since I couldn't see what I was skiing on, I really did have to trust my skis.)

We did at least five runs in Catherine's Area, taking the newly opened lower traverse across the newly opened Supreme Bowl.  We weren't sure if there was enough new snow to make up for the sizable and firm bumps from the day before, but it was really pretty good.  I am definitely skiing more timidly this season, worried about falling since there just isn't as much soft, puffy snow to land on, but those runs in Catherine's were lots of fun.

The only run that I wasn't crazy about was my own fault anyway.  After lunch, I suggested that we scoot around EBT and go into the backside along the traverse.  The traverse was awful: the light was really, really flat and you couldn't see any of it, just flailing along trying not to wipe out on the whoop-de-doos.  Once we got out into the wide bowl under the East Greeley Area the snow was fairly soft, but getting out there was tough.

There were more cars in the parking lot than on Saturday although the traffic hadn't been bad (and the road was nearly dry by the time we headed down) and it never got crowded on the slopes.  The Supreme lift always gets busy around 10:30 a.m. - at which point we cruise through the singles line - but after lunch we were able to ski right onto the lift, no waiting.  It snowed, lightly and intermittently, during the day but we could see the sun gleaming weakly through the clouds, which didn't bode well for getting any decent accumulation; by 2:30 p.m. there were patches of blue sky.  The "storm" was over.

Monday, February 20, 2012

before the [possible] storm

The word was: 27-41 possible inches of snow in the mountains, storm starting Saturday evening and running through Monday morning.  We were skeptical but hopeful - if you can be both - as we headed to Alta Saturday morning.  It's the start of some February vacation weeks and we thought the vacation crowds might be tempered somewhat by the fact that the last new snow was on Thursday.  When we got up there, it never ended up feeling crowded (despite the full parking lot when we left) but the snow was pretty much tracked out everywhere.

Rock Gully or maybe Bear Paw
off the Wildcat chair

We had an okay time, given the no-more-freshies and the fact that we were both skiing poorly for some reason.  The storms last week had dropped enough snow that ski patrol opened up a bunch of the avalanche gates that have been closed all season, so we played around in the trees under the Castle Apron, took the low traverse across the Supreme Bowl into Catherine's Area, scooted across the Cecret Saddle and corkscrewed our way through Keyhole Gulch.  Even though we weren't ripping it up (due to our suckitude), it was still awful fun to get into some new terrain after skiing the same stuff for so long.

By 5:30 p.m. Saturday evening the skies had pretty well clouded over but no snowfall.  We cracked open a couple of PBRs and toasted wishfully that the forecast might be right.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


And now for something completely different: on Friday night, H and I went to the Utah RV Show at the South Towne Expo Center.  Everybody out here seems to have some sort of RV or camper-trailer.  There are state and national parks and private campgrounds all over the place, plus there's a ton of public land where you can pretty much just drive out and set up camp - something I can scarcely imagine, having grown up in the East where nearly every bit of land is privately owned.  We'd like to do more camping and while we certainly haven't ruled out stocking up on car camping/backpacking supplies, we're not ruling out getting a camper.  We want something small and easily towed, someplace to get out of the weather and to sleep off the ground.

They had that and much, much more at the RV show.  The outside hallway of the expo center was filled with vendors selling everything from gourmet meals in a bucket, to radio-controlled helicopters, to 1200 thread-count sheets, to solar battery chargers, to turkey jerky, to every kind of RV gadget you can imagine.  We stopped at a couple of booths to pick up information on the San Rafael Swell (south-central Utah), Colorado River and Green River rafting and the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry - we haven't even scratched the surface of exploring our new home state!

Then we hit the main floor, where literally hundreds of RVs and trailers of all shapes and sizes were fitted in like puzzle pieces.  It was completely overwhelming - and quite well attended, with couples and families strolling up and down the aisles, climbing into the trailers, sipping beers and watching the crowds.  (Yes - beer was for sale! We were pleased and surprised to see it, but didn't get any ourselves because it was all Bud/Bud Lite, etc. But still, points for having it available.)

We checked out a few of the $100,000+ behemoths, with their flat screen televisions, leather sofas and gas fireplaces.  Why people are not required to have commercial driver's licenses to pilot those things is beyond me: they're GINORMOUS and H said he couldn't even see over the steering wheel when he tried out the driver's seat.  But mostly we looked at the smaller ones.  We talked to one older couple who was there like we were, checking out the <18' trailers (bed, table, kitchen, john/shower), doing research and then planning on scouring the KSL classifieds for something used at half the price.

We adore the tiny teardrop trailers but they're awfully expensive for what you get.  We had never seen the ALiners before and thought they were pretty slick; we also liked the R-pods, the Rockwood and Flagstaff pop-ups (known as "tent-trailers, with the soft sides, and apparently not allowed in certain national parks because of the bears) and the Heartland mpg.  I'm not convinced that we're going to move on such a purchase anytime soon, but we've at least got it narrowed down to just a few models and can start there.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

sometimes you just don't go skiing

Which was the case last weekend, which is why this blog has been so empty: we don't go skiing, we don't got much to write about.  Saturday we decided not to go because there hadn't been any new snow in about a week, plus it was a little overcast and we rationalized that we didn't want to ski tracked-out, hard moguls in flat light.  Sunday brought rain in the valley and heavy, wet snow up in the mountains - they ended up with a new foot of the stuff from that storm, plus additional 2" accumulations a couple of times throughout this past week - and we rationalized that it would take so long for any accumulation to matter that we'd be soaked by then, and we didn't want to get soaked.  Total Utah ski snobs, I tell ya.

So instead we walked the dog, did a ton of laundry, watched some t.v. (a marathon of BBC America's Top Gear) and made snickerdoodles.  Not so eventful.  Maybe this weekend will bring a little more doin'.

Friday, February 10, 2012

much more better

Sunday was a much better day for me on the hill!  Yay!  It started out fairly similar - same breakfast, same temperatures (not so sunny, however) but was better from the get-go.  My neck felt better, my boots didn't hurt, my legs weren't tired, I could make turns when and where I wanted ... it was all good, even without any new snow.

Again, we skied off Supreme all morning but this time did numerous runs in Catherine's Area.  It's all well skied out but the snow was still pretty soft and we had a lot of fun playing in the gullies and trees.  I even did some "jumps!"  The moguls on the rest of the Supreme trails were mostly huge and pretty solid, but we sought out the trail edges where it was a little softer and did okay.

Even in the wilds of Catherine's Area,
eastern ski resorts make their presence known

After lunch (my new thing is a handful of almonds and a Snickers bar: enough calories to keep me going but not so much to digest that my body gets tired - plus, Snickers bars!) we had more fun.  We did a couple runs like this: up the Sugarloaf chair, skate around EBT, go in through the gates and traverse across to the Yellow Trail Area and East Greeley - where the snow was good and not very bumped up, out and down Home Run to the Sunnyside beginner lift, and take the Sunnyside lift back up to where we could jump on the Sugarloaf lift again. We also played in the bumps and trees around Cecret Lake and Cabin Hill - so fun.

I managed to make it until 2:30 p.m. this time before my legs called it quits.  H took another run, taking the High Traverse to the end of the ridge and then coming down some steep chutes before rejoining me on the deck.  I was much more pleased with this day than the day before ... and I suspect H was much more pleased that I hadn't groused about things all day.  We both win, I guess.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Saturday was not my best day skiing ever.  I struggled - a lot.  We'd gotten about five inches from the Thursday storm that rolled through (and then dropped 30+ on the eastern edge of the Rockies in Colorado, grrrr...) but by Saturday morning that was going to be all tracked out.  Still, it was a beautiful, clear, sunny day with temperatures in the high 20s/low 30s, and felt much warmer with the sun, so we packed our lunches, ate our egg & cheese & Canadian bacon sandwiches and trucked on up to Alta.

I knew it was going to be a rough day right from the start when I picked up my boot bag and jammed up my neck and shoulder - before we even got out of the house.  My hands got cold buckling my boots in the parking lot (starting temperature: 17 F).  I never got my boots right all day either: too loose, too tight, digging into my instep, etc.  And once we started skiing, well, I just couldn't do it.  I was tired and it was like my feet were on wrong - I couldn't get my legs to do what I wanted them to do in any conditions but especially in all the bumps that had sprung up on every ungroomed trail.

As we usually do, we skied all morning off the Supreme lift.  We did a couple runs in Catherine's Area and I quickly learned that I had to stay away from the trees because I just wasn't turning quickly enough to avoid them.  Pretty soon I just tried to follow H as best I could, searching out the flat spots whenever possible.  I made it until 2 p.m. and then had had enough; he gave me the keys and did another couple of runs on the front side before meeting me on the deck in front of the Goldminer's Daughter lodge for a $3 PBR (note to self: bring PBRs from home because they're only $0.50 that way).

When we got home I downed some Advil and kept a heating pad on my neck for the remainder of the evening, discouraged by the total fail on my part but determined to do better on Sunday.  Good grief - I could hardly do worse!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

here's how it's done

Here's another local video, from SkiUtah, shot earlier this month at Snowbird, Solitude and Powder Mountain (which we haven't gotten to yet).  So fun.

The impressively bearded dude enjoying the burger at the Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville is one of our regular bartenders, Josh, who also works for SkiUtah, skis/rides basically daily, and is an artist, gardener and all-around cool fellow.