Sunday, March 31, 2013

after the storm

It kept snowing, just a little, all through the night and by Sunday morning there were another couple of inches on the ground.  It was slightly warmer, with the sun peeking through the high, thin clouds, and with the warmer temperatures and less stormy conditions came more skiers.  People just don't like to ski when it's snowing - people other than H and me, that is.

Conditions were still fantastic

It turned out to be a good, solid day of post-storm skiing at Alta.  I wore my trusty little Volkls, knowing that everything would be tracked out.  It was a good call for me, since I can make the Volkls turn when I need them to, and they handled the chunky stuff just fine; the only time I wished for my Rossignols was when we hiked way, way in to Catherine's and did some runs in the really deep, scarcely tracked stuff.

A's eyes closed? Check!

Because of the colder temperatures, the snow held up really well.  Patrol got the Backside open and we got some good turns in on East Greely to Glitch/Glatch.  Devil's Castle never opened - which was too bad because it looked really good - but we spent a lot of time back on Supreme, playing around in Catherine's Area.  We didn't make it until closing chair this time, deciding to call it a day a little after 3:00 p.m.  That was okay, though, because we'd had two good days with that big ol' snowstorm.

Friday, March 29, 2013

opening to closing

Our ski guests headed home on Wednesday, leaving behind a ton of leftovers from our Monday night Fratelli Ristorante dinner and a disconsolate dog who was sad that the source of all the gratuitous people-food snacks had disappeared.  Wednesday afternoon it started snowing and it didn't let up until Sunday after dropping almost three feet of snow in the mountains, including 29" by Saturday morning.  Timing is everything, I guess.

Note the snow in my helmet from a prior wipeout

Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed until 8:15 a.m. for avalanche control.  Figuring there'd be a huge line of cars waiting for the opening, we left a little early and were surprised to not find a huge line of cars; the traffic moved steadily and we got up to Alta with nearly twenty minutes to spare before they started loading the chairs.  There were enough people up there, anxious for the new snow, that we got in the faster-moving singles line, and while we didn't get the first chair, we got up the mountain ahead of the bulk of the crowd.

Hooray for snow!

We headed straight for Supreme and took a first run down Challenger, claiming first tracks there.  On our second ride up, Ski Patrol was just opening the gates into Supreme Bowl so that was our second run, under the chair and into the chutes, then along a short ridgeline that is always fun with new snow.  After that, we played around in Catherine's Area for the rest of the morning.  I got cold around 11:30 a.m. - temperatures were 12F at the base and 2F at the summit, which is a bit chilly for March! - so I went to Alf's early, managing to score a good table for lunch.  H took two more runs in Catherine's, his wide skis eating up the deep stuff, and then joined me.

Working on the spring ice-beard

After lunch we went back to Supreme and just played.  It was spitting snow all day and the light wasn't great, but the snow was and we were a little surprised that there just weren't that many people there, especially after lunch: it seems like folks go home after stuff gets tracked out.  My legs had had enough a little after 3 p.m. and I skied out, heading to GMD.  H skied Supreme until it closed at 3:30 p.m., then moved to Sugarloaf and skied it until it closed at 4 p.m., then moved to Collins and skied it until last chair at 4:30 p.m.

Soft and chunky in Catherine's 

When the chairs stopped turning, we sat in the GMD atrium for a little while, drinking PBRs and watching the big fat flakes fall from the sky.  We haven't had all that many fantastic powder days this season (we're very behind on snow and I'll be surprised if we even hit 400" this year) but this day was definitely one of them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ski guests, day 4: return to alta

On our guests' last ski day, we went back to Alta, C, A, H and I meeting W up there.  The weather had switched back to bluebird skies although it wasn't supposed to get quite as warm as it had been on Saturday.  W was on rental alpine gear because of his broken tele binding; it didn't take him long to remember how to ski with his heels locked down.  Patrol opened Baldy Shoulder that morning so that's where we headed first, riding Collins lift up, traversing around the Ballroom to the Tombstone Too/Onno's Slide area.  We got some first tracks in there, but the snow was shallow, just a few inches resting on the rock-hard sun-bake and freeze below.

When we got back to the lift, it was suggested that we ride Wildcat chair and then bootpack up to Baldy Shoulder from the other side.  Once we got up there, I looked at how steep that bootpack was and immediately decided that it wasn't going to be worth the effort.  While I watched from Aggie's Alley (intermediate groomer) below, the other four hiked up.  Because it was so strenuous, they didn't go out along the ridge but put their skis back on to get a few turns on the Lo Lo Shoulder.  C went first and I could tell it wasn't any better than what we'd just tried from the other side.  He made about five turns then hit the 18" drop-off to the groomer.  His landing was a little hard, which W saw, so he eased up and took it at an angle when he got down there.  H, however, thought the drop-off was less than it was, hitting it hard and straight on.  When his skis hit the groomer flat, he popped out of both of them, landing on his shoulder and sliding off the groomer and down the other side.  It was spectacular, fast and hard, and he's lucky he didn't get hurt.  He finally stopped sliding and got to his feet while C collected his skis and one of his poles to bring to him.  Once we determined that he was all right, the laughter and merciless teasing began ... and continued all day.

A, C, H and me atop Sugarloaf

After that, we decided that Baldy Shoulder just wasn't worth it and moved over to Supreme, hiking into Catherine's to our secret stash from Sunday.  The snow was still very good plus the views were much better.  It was warm enough to eat lunch on the deck so we did, watching the skiers stream in to just-opened East Greely, coming in through the Hi and Lo Notch chutes.  After lunch, we rode Sugarloaf up and took the EBT around to give the Backside a go ourselves, but were disappointed when the low traverse wasn't open.  Not inclined to hike up the ridge, the boys sidestepped up to Angina Chute and the bowl lines through the Triple By Pass.  A and I tried a run down Extrovert which was rock hard and all skied off, fine for her Maine-honed edges but a little slide-y for me.

A, C and W in Cecret Saddle

On our way back to Supreme, the other four took a trip through Cecret Saddle while I took a flier straight to the lift.  We did a few more runs up through our stash in Catherine's, finally deciding that it was absolutely thrashed.  I quit early, because my feet were cramping up in my boots, and skied out, bringing everyone's boot bags up to the GMD patio and purchasing a PBR pitcher in anticipation.  A joined me about a half hour later but the boys closed all the lifts, first Supreme, then Sugarloaf, and finally making laps on Collins until it shut down.  Then we all hung out in the sun on the patio until we closed that too.

GMD patio apres ski

After we went back to the house (W and his wife stayed with us that night too) and cleaned up, we met up with M and B and a bunch of folks from H's work for dinner at Stella Grill.  C reenacted H's crash for the folks who hadn't been there to see it, using drinking straws.  Back at the house, we had a few more beverages while the guests packed their gear up for their morning flights.  Everyone was tired and happy - not as happy as we would have been with better snow, but enjoying the time we spent together out on the hill, because any day skiing is better than a day not skiing.

Monday, March 25, 2013

ski guests, day 3: powder mountain

C had mentioned that he really wanted to go check out Powder Mountain and we were happy to oblige on Monday, despite the fact that it still hadn't snowed and there wasn't going to be any powder.  It was just the five of us - me, H, C, A and W - who piled into H's truck for the 1.5 hour drive north from SLC, through Ogden Canyon, past Snowbasin (which W said he'd like to try on a future visit) and tiny Wolf Mountain.  Powder Mountain is unusual in that the road up to the resort takes you to the top of the mountain: the lodges and parking lots are at the top, and you ski down to the chairlifts.  And you'd damn well better get the last chair up and out when they close at 4:30 p.m. or you are in a real fix.

Road trip!

When we first drove up to Pow Mow, our reaction was underwhelmed.  It was tiny and very old and didn't seem like much.  The main lodge had a funky little ski bar downstairs (the Powder Keg, to be visited later) and a warm, rustic cafeteria upstairs with big tables and benches for putting boots on.  Things were already looking up, and even better was that H and I got locals-only midweek discounts on our tickets.  Outside, we stepped into our skis and stared at the trail map, entirely unsure of where to begin.  We followed some folks down to the Timberline lift, a creaky-looking fixed triple and rode that up.  At the top, one of the Pow Mow powder guides latched onto us when A mentioned it was our first time here.  Normally chatty Chuck gets hired to take folks around the resort to the best powder stashes; since there's wasn't any, he didn't have anything better to do than give us a little tour.  He took off, without waiting to see if any of us could keep up, and led us on some groomers to the Hidden Lake Express high-speed quad, then rode that up with us, talking with pride about his home mountain.  When we mentioned that we'd like to ski something other than groomers, Chuck thought about it and then told us where he thought the best snow would be: we'd want something untracked, because anything ungroomed and tracked out had frozen into icy ruts, and out a ways so the scant two inches that had fallen would be pristine.  He told us where to go and what to look for and then took off.  We never saw Chuck again but we'd sure hire him as a powder guide when we go back.

To get to Chuck's recommended area, we skied down a cat track from Hidden Lake Lodge, then took the Sunrise poma lift up to Sunrise Ridge (8,890'), then hiked way out along the ridge over Cobabe Canyon.  From there, we dropped in wherever we saw fit because the drainage at the bottom of Cobabe is a nicely graded (but very long) groomed run-out that returns you to the base of the Paradise quad.  Chuck was absolutely right: the snow in there was smooth and untouched, low angle so you could keep your speed but not be going so fast that you couldn't avoid the trees.  It was beautiful, skiing in the aspen groves.  Those slopes would be difficult on deep powder days but for what we had to work with, it was perfect.  We perfected our tucks on the run-out, rode the scarily high and steep Paradise quad up, then skied down to the base of the Hidden Lake lift and did it again.  We weren't making many runs but we were putting a lot of miles in and we were definitely skiing the best ungroomed stuff available.

Riding (and not falling off) the poma lift

Lunch was at the Hidden Lake Lodge.  The food was mediocre, the lodge chilly and not that charming, but the staff were super-friendly and on a nice day, it would have had great views.  We kept going after lunch, doing our same loop and occasionally venturing into other territory ... which encouraged us to go back to that same loop.  W broke one of his fancy telemark bindings mid-afternoon and decided to go check out the Powder Keg; A and I skied a few more runs and then joined him.  C and H finished out the day - and made it back up the chair before it closed - and we all enjoyed a pitcher of PBR before piling back into the truck for the trip home.

Which way do we go?

We all agreed that despite the terrible snow conditions, we loved Powder Mountain.  We liked its low key, old-fashioned charm.  We liked Chuck, who was also old-fashioned in that we were guessing he was in his early 70s.  And we really wanted to come back after a big ol' storm to see what the resort's 7,000 skiable acres (including cat skiing) are all about.  Pow Mow for the win!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

ski guests, day 2: alta

Our Sunday at Alta could not have been more different from our Saturday at the 'Bird: cold, socked in, snowing and extremely windy.  This did not faze our intrepid ski guests in the least; their home mountain in Maine is Sugarloaf which is notorious for being cold, socked in, rock hard and extremely windy.

Windblown in Catherine's Area

H, C, A and I met up with W, M and B at Collins base and took a couple of runs.  The groomers off Collins were hard and wind-blown, so A and I took off to see if the trails on Supreme were any better.  It became clear quickly that was where to ski since the winds seemed to be pushing all of the snow to that side of the resort.  While M and B took some runs on their own, we caught up with H, C and W just before lunch and they showed us what they had found: a soft, fairly deep stash of snow way out in Catherine's Area.  None of the other skiers on the mountain seemed willing to go in that far (given the conditions, it's fair to say that there were hardly any locals skiing) and we had it to ourselves.

At the end of the hike - woohoo!

We rejoined M and B for lunch at Alf's and then afterwards convinced them to hike out to our secret stash.  It was holding up, the winds continuing to drop snow out there, and since Catherine's was where the best turns on the mountain were, that's where we stayed for the afternoon.  It was tiring, doing that hike and traverse over and over again, and at times the visibility got so bad you couldn't see the person just ahead of you.  But we were hunting for soft snow and that's where it was.

C and W in Catherine's Area

A, M, B and I called it quits at about 3:30 p.m., the long hike taking its toll, and we headed back to the Goldminer's Daughter to meet W's wife for apres ski while the other three kept at it until last chair.  The high winds meant that the EBT was closed and we had to take the dang rope tow back. (There might have been some competitive horsing around on the tow.  I admit nothing.)  Once the last lift closed, we hung out in the GMD atrium for a while with some $10 pitchers of PBR.

The apres ski gang at GMD

Since it was St. Patrick's Day, and M and B were moving to a hotel in town, we met them for dinner at the Porcupine, leaving W and his wife to their own devices up at Snowbird.  The Porcupine had Guinness on tap, corned beef and cabbage, green mashed potatoes and Irish stout beef stew on the menu - a very nice end to a blustery March day.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ski guests, day 1: snowbird

Our annual ski guests from back east arrived Friday afternoon, in good humor despite the dearth of snow out here.  H picked C and A up at the airport and swung by Dick & Dixie's for a welcome-back beer on the way home.  We ordered in Chinese and got ready for the next day's skiing, something that involves both organizing gear and drinking PBR.

Pretty skied off in Gad Valley

We'd had a couple of requests to give Snowbird a try which worked out great because W and his non-skier wife were staying up there, as were M and B, who would be joining us for Saturday and Sunday.  The forecast was for sunshine and warm-ish temperatures but we were skeptical about the conditions: it had been extremely warm on Thursday and Friday, so we knew the snow would have gotten really soft during the day but frozen up overnight.

We collected everyone on the plaza at the 'Bird, then rode the tram up.  We went straight to south/southeast-facing Mineral Basin because the snow would soften there first.  It took a while - longer than we had hoped, because of some early clouds - but after a few runs the snow started to loosen up and we were able to play in the chutes and soft bumps without rattling our teeth too much.

Lunch was on the deck at Mid-Gad Lodge, then we stayed on the front side of the mountain for the rest of the afternoon.  Conditions were, shall we say, firm on that side.  Luckily, all our out-of-towners are Mainers with sharp ski edges and talent for skiing on ice.  H and I don't know Snowbird at all, so we were guessing at where to ski, staying in Gad Valley and riding the Little Cloud and Gad 2 lifts.  Regulator Johnson was hard, fast and skied off; our best turns came after a sketchy traverse to Last Choice.

C in Last Choice

We made it to close to the end of the day, then met W's wife on the plaza for apres ski cocktails before heading down the canyon.  It was just H, C, A and me for dinner so we stayed in, made pasta with pesto and chicken, and called it a night at a reasonable time.  With one ski day down and three to go, it was going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

reading material

We're about to have our March ski guests descend upon us so posting may be a little sporadic, although with four upcoming days of skiing there should be plenty to post about.  In the meantime, let me share with you three books H and I purchased recently that are increasing our local knowledge base.
  • The Powder Hound's Guide to Skiing Alta by Brad Asmus. This was a no-brainer: of course we were going to buy this book!  Despite the fact that we ski Alta pretty much every weekend from opening to closing, there is still so much we don't know about there.  This book, originally published in 1992 and reprinted in 2006, is an exhaustive guide to Alta, from High Rustler to East Castle (although for some reason he doesn't describe Catherine's Area at all).  There are maps and photos, pithy asides and detailed descriptions of all the best terrain the resort has to offer.  Loads of information and lots of fun to read to boot.
  • The Chuting Gallery: A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains by Andrew McLean.  We learned about this book whilst at the bar at the Porcupine.  We were talking to our regular bartender, Edd, who does a lot of back country skiing.  He was describing some chutes he'd been in and we didn't know where they were exactly, so he pulled out the bar's copy of The Chuting Gallery (signed by the author) to show us.  We spent the rest of the pitcher poring over this wonderful little book and then bought it ourselves shortly thereafter (signed by the Park City-based author with a wish for "Happy Turns!").  The Chuting Gallery mostly covers back country stuff, although it does mention Baldy Chutes in its "Forbidden Fruit Chutes" chapter, with detailed descriptions of the terrain, great maps and fairly recent photos with the routes sketched out on them.  I'm not inclined to do any backcountry anytime soon - certainly not before I've taken an avalanche class - but I like having this as a resource.  Plus, signed by the author!
  • Wasatch Tours: Volume 2 - The Northern Wasatch by David Hanscom and Alexis Kelner.  This is another back country touring book, loaded with tons of information: maps, photographs and detailed route descriptions.  It's a little dated (1995) but is just stuffed full of useful local knowledge.  If nothing else, we now have a resource giving us more canyon/feature names.
We sometimes say that we need to get away from the Wasatch Front and explore more of the state, more of the west.  But when we start paging through these books, we realize how much there still is to explore practically in our backyard.  There's so much out there - let's get outside!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

one of the best

Sunday was a very different day from foggy Saturday: bright, sunny and warm (but not too warm).  We got up there about twenty minutes later than our winter normal; this time of year, when the snow gets so soft in the afternoons and then sets up overnight, the conditions are sometimes less than ideal first thing in the morning.  Temperatures were already in the 30s and we could hear the guns going off all over the place as patrol scrambled to open what they hadn't been able to get to the day before.

Spectacular day, spectacular scenery

Following the sun, we took Collins up and then did a couple of runs off the Sugarloaf chair before moving over to Supreme.  We headed into Catherine's Area and it was evident immediately that I was going to have a much better day, whether due to good visibility or the fact that I wasn't psyching myself out.  Catherine's was in great shape, tracked out but soft, even in the wind-buffed areas. 

A in Catherine's Area

From the Supreme chair, we could keep an eye on Devil's Castle and watched the skiers streaming in as soon as patrol dropped the rope.  We gave them some time to pack down the traverse and then headed over ourselves.  The first half got skied out quickly but we took the lower traverse over nearly to the Apron where not so many people had ventured.  Because the cliffs above block the sun, the snow here was simply fantastic: light, soft and deep.  Even on my Volkls I felt like I was skiing it well and H, on his new skis, just flew through the powder.  We came out and went right back to the chairlift to do it again.  It was just as good the second time.

Side-stepping up into Devil's Castle

After lunch, H went back to the Castle for another go while I went to Supreme, knowing my legs weren't in the mood for that long traverse again.  Since the plan was to meet back up at the chair, I kept doing laps, once through Catherine's, then alternating bumps runs (99 Express, etc.) with flyers until I found H.  We didn't sync up for a while although we kept shouting at each other from the chair.  Just before 3 p.m., he got one last run in through Catherine's; I was a few minutes behind him and didn't get in before patrol closed it, to my regret.  We connected at that point and did one more run on Supreme, getting nearly the last chair before it closed at 3:30, then moved over to Sugarloaf and caught one of its last chairs as well.  We skied down through Collins face (none of that tow-rope nonsense!), finishing around 4 p.m.  The sun was still shining and there was much merriment on GMD patio and we felt a celebratory PBR was in order to toast what was absolutely one of the best days of the season.

Cliffs above Devil's Castle

Sunday, March 10, 2013

foggy goggles

A little storm rolled through Friday night, leaving us with 5" of fresh snow to play in Saturday.  That little storm also left behind a lot of its clouds which had gotten stuck on the mountain peaks.  This meant the visibility was, at some times, nil; on the Supreme chairlift in the morning, we could almost (but not quite) see two chairs ahead of us.  I find this very disconcerting to ski in - I like to see where I'm going and what I'm going over - and as a consequence, got a little timid.  I also wore the wrong skis, needing my wider Rossignols for the new snow, and that made me slow(-er) too.  I would end up wearing the right skis in the afternoon, once everything got chunked up, but the morning made me revise my "minimum of 8 inches" rule for the Rossis.

Despite the poor visibility and my poor equipment choices, the snow was fantastic, wind-buffed in some spots but light and fluffy generally speaking.  We spent most of our day on Supreme, of course, hiking many times up into Catherine's Area.  A fair amount of terrain was closed for avalanche control (including the EBT which made it inconvenient to get back to Collins from Supreme/Sugarloaf) and because of the clouds, ski patrol couldn't do much shooting.  That made Catherine's and Supreme Bowl and surrounding chutes the place to be, and we got some really great runs in.  Or, rather, H got some really great runs in, floating through the new snow easily on his new skis while I floundered around on my Volkls.

We did have a funny moment on the Supreme chair when H got carded coming through the gates.  When a season passholder goes through the gates, his or her pass photo pops up on a hand-held device that a Skier Services employee watches, keeping an eye out for pass fraud.  Usually we see the same Skier Services folks over and over again at Supreme but there was a new guy (new to us), Joe, there on Saturday and when H went through, Joe looked at the photo, looked at H and asked if he'd shaved his beard, then asked to see his pass.  When H pulled it out, Joe studied it closely: H is currently sporting his full-on ski season facial hair but when our pass photos were taken this summer, he was clean-shaven.  Apparently Joe believed H that he was the same guy as on the pass since he let him go with no further discussion.  Once on the lift, one of H's chair riders said, "I don't know what that guy was talking about because you've got a world-class beard."  We chuckled about it afterwards because we're getting to the point that Alta employees are recognizing us - Martha, Stef and Anthony from Skier Services, the hot chocolate guys and cashiers at Alf's - but not Joe, apparently!

H and his world-class beard
at Alf's for lunch

The clouds started to lift a little in the afternoon so that the light was merely flat, not fogged in, and we got a couple of glimpses of blue sky as the winds picked up, moving the clouds along.  I was skiing better in the afternoon but by 3:00 p.m. my legs were shot since I had been fighting the deeper snow in the morning.  We packed it in and headed home, feeling hopeful about the sunshine and clear skies forecasted for the next day.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

first day of spring skiing

Saturday was a gorgeous day, pretty warm and mostly sunny - at least sunny enough to make up for not having any new snow to speak of.  I wore my trusty little Volkls and H took his new skis, interested to see how they would do in spring-like conditions.  We'd have to wait a little while for the snow to soften up, however.  Since it had been pretty warm and mostly sunny the day before, we knew that anything south-facing would have gotten really soft in the afternoon and then frozen up overnight.  Devil's Castle would have held up better, not having gotten any direct sun this time of year.  When we hiked in and skied the Castle, our theory held: the snow was chunky, soft and cold.  Nice!

Looking at Cecret Lake from Devil's Castle

The Sugarloaf lift and surrounding runs got busy quickly so we moved over to Supreme, looking for sunny places to ski.  The Challenger trail looked like it was going to be good, out in the open and not covered in bumps.  The Challenger trail was not at all good: hard and scraped off.  Runs in Catherine's Area before lunch proved a mixed bag, soft and cold up high and in the trees, but all frozen up in the last pitch before the run-out back to the lift.

Pausing for photos in the Castle

After lunch it was a different story: everything got soft.  We did a couple runs on the back side where Lower Yellow Trail was mushy, but around the corner in East Greely and the Glitch/Glatch chutes the snow was soft and really quite fantastic.  When we went back to Catherine's, all the hard bumps had softened in the sun to the point where it felt like creamed corn underfoot.  I finally felt like I was skiing well and enjoyed those last few runs quite a lot.

Sunshine and smiles apres-ski

Other things of note. They opened Baldy Chutes and skiers swarmed up there, including several young, gorgeous, bad-ass telemark ski-girls.  Avalanche dogs have the best jobs in the world: while waiting in line at Supreme, we watched a happy and exuberant black Lab ride up on a snowmobile, then roll around like a crazy dog in the snow until his patroller got him up on the chairlift for a ride to the top of the mountain.  We also got up close and personal with a porcupine who was unconcernedly stomping across the trails between Alf's Lodge and the Sugarloaf lift.  Finally, we paused for a PBR on the patio at Goldminer's Daughter Lodge, our first of the year.  The place was packed with folks - everyone was enjoying the sunshine on Saturday!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


When Friday night rolled around and we decided to go out for dinner, we thought we'd try someplace we hadn't been to, or at least hadn't been to recently.  I had gone to the gym after work and H rode his bike in the basement so it was going on 8 p.m. when we finally found a parking spot at Stella Grill (owned by the same group who owns Desert Edge Brewery).  It was really busy, with a 45 minute wait, so we moved on.  The next stop was the Fiddler's Elbow in Sugarhouse.  After driving around quite a while looking for parking (parking is a nightmare in Sugarhouse), the hostess at FE told us it was an hour wait at this point.  The bar was full too, so we tried across the street at a place we knew nothing about, Flat Bread Neapolitan Pizzeria.  We still know nothing about it because it too had a 45+ minute wait.  At this point we were hungry and grumpy, so when we spied a Smashburger around the corner, we went there.

Smashburger is a chain, based out of Colorado (?), and their gimmick is irregularly shaped burgers that are "smashed" into patties.  I ordered an "avocado club" burger with bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing, and a side of Smash Fries, which have rosemary, olive oil, garlic and sea salt; H ordered an All-American cheeseburger with a side of regular fries.  Since this is a fast-casual place (meaning you order at the counter and get your own beverages, but servers bring your food out to your table) with no beers, we had fountain drinks.  The burgers were juicy and very tasty, although on the small size for $6.99; my fries were delicious but H's were cold.

It wasn't what we'd had in mind when we set out for dinner but we were so hungry and fed up by the time we found Smashburger that we didn't care any more, plus the food is pretty good.  I try to avoid chain restaurants if I can help it and am not a big fast food person anyway, but Smashburger will certainly do in a pinch and is quite a lot better than most similar places.  That being said, we'll see if we can't do better the next time we try to go out to a new place to eat.