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!

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