Monday, April 29, 2013

next to last

What outstanding spring skiing we had for Alta's final weekend of the season!  We took our time getting up there on Saturday, to allow the snow to soften up.  Even with our 10:30 a.m. arrival, there was still hardly anyone there; the parking lot never got more than a quarter full despite the cloudless, sunny skies and warm temperatures (low 40s at the top and mid 50s at the base).  The snow was firm for the first run but got creamy-soft soon after that and never got bumped up through the course of the day - perfect!

Helpful Ski Patrol upselling cheeseburgers

We did three runs through the gates into Sugarloaf where we pretty much had the place to ourselves:  the run-around to Supreme (just to say hi), down Extrovert and a cruiser down Devil's Elbow.  We hit the Ballroom, which was very nice, and even ventured out into Sunspot.  As the day wore on, I stuck to the groomed runs more and more, trying to save my legs which tire easily in the heavy spring conditions.

Atop Collins, Superior in the background

For our entertainment, there were guys hitting a jump off the bottom of Nina's Curve/Schuss Gully, in full view of the chairlift and the patio.  It was pretty impressive - under flips, mute grabs, tail grabs, 270s, 360s and back flips - and most of them stuck their landings.  Lots of fun to watch.

Gorgeous day out over Devil's Castle

We skied until 4 p.m., getting a lot of runs since we never had to wait in line for the lift, then had a beer on the patio, soaking up more of that great spring sunshine.  Skiing powder is great ... but spring skiing is really a lot of fun too and we'd just had a very good day of it.

Smiles for spring skiing

Friday, April 26, 2013

nearing season's end

The storm rolled out early Saturday evening, leaving us with clear skies, bright sunshine and warmer temperatures for Sunday.  It also brought out quite a few fair weather spring skiers; the lifties had to control the lift line for a while but we never waited that long to get on the chair.  They even opened the Wildcat chair for a couple of hours to diffuse the crowds so we got to ride that one last time for the season.

In the Ballroom

The snow was absolutely fantastic.  There was a lot of it and it was soft right from the start.  We skied around as much as we could.  The Ballroom was in good shape, deep and chunky.  We went through the gates to Sugarloaf several times: cruising down over Razorback to the lake and below to swing by Supreme chair, carving nice turns on Extrovert, checking out the cabins in the trees.  We did a run off the Wildcat chair and the snow in the trees and chutes was fantastic.

Supreme cut-off

On the front side, we took High Traverse (for my first time all season) above Sunspot and climbed up to the notch in the cliffs.  On the other side is Gunsight, a "steep, narrow, long, straight, fall-line chute," rated a 9.5 in difficulty by The Powder Hound's Guide to Skiing Alta.  H had skied it  once early in the season when there wasn't so much snow; this would be my first time ever skiing it.  It was incredible and well worth the substantial hike.  We had it all to ourselves and the snow was just so deep that it didn't seem to matter how steep and narrow the chute was.  At the bottom we crossed the meadows of Greely Hill, where the snow was very heavy and sticky as it soaked in the beating sunshine, and came out in the bunny-slopes.

Catching our breaths atop Gunsight

The snow turned into mashed potatoes after lunch, getting heavier and heavier as the afternoon wore on.  By 3:30 p.m. my little legs couldn't take it any longer and I was getting bounced around, so I took my skis back to the truck and commandeered a table at the GMD patio.  H skied until the chair closed and I had a PBR waiting for him when he joined me.  The crowd had thinned by then and we were able to sit quietly for a bit, enjoying the end of our third-to-last day of the 2012/2013 ski season.

Looking down Gunsight (doesn't seem so tough)

Not to boast or anything, but I'd like to go back and expand on Gunsight's 9.5 Powder Hound rating.  The book describes 9.0+s thusly:  "Retreat from approach or within run impossible or nearly impossible.  Substantial danger due to angle, exposure, physical features or other factors exists for skiers of any competence level.  Failure of nerve or technique may place skier in serious physical jeopardy.  High level of competence required to successfully navigate approach and pitch.  Skier must be able to turn and check irrespective of terrain.  Rescue will be very difficult."  For comparison's sake, the main chute on Baldy is also a 9.5.  If I'd known all that before we started hiking up to Gunsight, I might not have done it.  But in hindsight, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

At the bottom of Gunsight

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

enjoying a late season storm

Look at all that snow!

I played the Utah ski snob card and opted out of skiing on Saturday, sending H on up to Alta by himself.  The mountains had gotten 20 inches during the first part of the week and then it had started snowing in earnest again Friday night, bringing another five inches of heavy, wet snow by Saturday morning.  H texted me when he got up to the parking lot:  "29 F, zero visibility, blowing sideways."  While that didn't sound like too much fun, he ended up having a great day, skiing until the last chair to take advantage of all that wonderful snow.

Just so we're clear 

Although Collins and Sunnyside are the only two lifts running these last couple of weekends, the runs off Sugarloaf are still available as "backcountry access," meaning if you go through the gates and ski those trails, you're on your own because there's no patrol over there and they haven't done any avalanche work.  H said the snow on Razorback Ridge and below Cecret Lake was amazing and he did a number of runs there, garnering fresh tracks each time despite having to ski out the long way around (down through Sunnyside and returning to Collins via the rope tow).

Ski season almost over = no more beard

It snowed all day, adding another two inches to the storm's total.  H said that while the parking lot was fuller than we'd seen for the last couple of weekends, it still wasn't that crowded and he never had to wait in line to get back on the chair.  He arrived back home pretty tired from the nonstop, all-day skiing and pretty pleased about having gotten one more really good storm day in before Alta closes for the season.  The countdown has begun:  last day is April 28th.

Seriously, look at all that snow!

Friday, April 19, 2013

support your local lifties

The weather forecasters really struggled with our mountain weather this weekend, initially promising 4-8" of snow on Sunday, then backing off to 2-4", then saying no snow but mostly cloudy and unseasonably cold.  Well, they got it half right:  it was a gorgeous bluebird day, with a starting temperature of 22 F and a high of 30 F.  I wore my winter-weight long johns, my winter jacket, my boot covers and my down mittens, and was grateful for every piece of clothing I had on.  The winds were light, at least, and the strong sun warmed us on the chairlifts but never turned the snow to mush.

I'm over there on that lip; view 
across from Triple Bypass

The snow was in fantastic shape too - tons better than the day before.  Since it never warmed up on Saturday, the base wasn't slushy when they groomed it and thus didn't freeze solid overnight.  As an added bonus, Alta got a good three inches of new snow overnight so by the time we got up there on Sunday, the groomers were in great shape: pretty soft and not scraped off.  Off-piste was still a little clattery once our skis cut through the new snow: I got thrown around a lot and didn't attempt more than one or two ungroomed runs; H, being so much stronger than I, fared better and had some good runs in the Keyhole/Glory Hole area and around Chartreuse Slot/Chartreuse Nose.

Looking at Aorta Chute from Triple Bypass

Since this was the last day for the Sugarloaf lift, we skied there all day, only going to the Collins side for lunch at Watson Shelter (since there were no more fries at Alf's).  As we'd done for Supreme's last day, we brought a couple of PBRs for the Sugarloaf lifties and when we dropped them into the donation bucket, Stef from Skier Services gave us a "Woohoo!  You can always count on the B______s to come through!" and the on-duty lifty came up and high-fived us.  It's important to take care of your lifties.

Love the sunshine

It ended up being a fantastic late-season day of skiing.  There was hardly anyone there (until the end of the day when all the weirdos in costumes started showing up to celebrate "last day"); the sun was out; and the snow held up really well, including on Extrovert which I skied a lot.  My legs cried uncle at about 3:30 p.m. and we took our last ride of the season on Sugarloaf.  Wildcat Base was starting to get its crazy on but since the GMD's cafe bar was closed, we didn't stick around for the revelry.  Alta may call this their official last day but we've still got two more weekends, so we're not saying goodbye just yet.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

nothing ventured, nothing gained

The weekend forecast had been all over the place during the days leading up to it: lots of new snow, cloudy and windy, partly sunny and cold, mostly sunny and not that cold.  What we ended up with, by the time we got up to Alta Saturday morning, was 37 F at the base with heavy, low clouds spitting snow, terribly flat light and windy.  To make matters worse, it had been sunny and warm enough Friday afternoon that the snow was slushy when they groomed it; the corduroy froze up overnight and what we were skiing on - although we couldn't see it because of the flat light - was bullet-proof, clattery ice.  And although the ambient temperature wasn't that cold, the wind chill was wicked.  We'd been determined to get up there because this was the last weekend the Sugarloaf lift would be open, and the official last weekend Alta would be open full-time (they will be open F-S-S for the next two weekends but closed during the week) but after an hour, we'd had enough and went back home.

It's January in April ... let's go home

Monday, April 15, 2013

lucky 13

H is just full of good ideas and Friday night, his idea was that we should go in town to Lucky 13 for date night.  Lucky 13 is a bar and grill near the ballpark in SLC (135 W 1300 S).  It is said that they have the best burgers in Salt Lake City and we thought we should confirm that for ourselves.  We got there a little before 8 p.m. and the place was busy, but not packed to the rafters; it would get busier later.  There's seating both outside and in and lots of folks were sitting outside, snuggled up to the propane heaters.  We found seats at the bar, which is our preference, and settled in.

All my favorite things

Lucky 13 has about eight beers on tap - no Full Suspension so we went with Cutthroat - at $3.50 for a pint and $5 for a stein.  (Between here and Dick N' Dixie's, I was loving the beer prices!)  They've got nineteen whiskeys and bourbons, ranging from $4 Jim Beam to $15 High West 21 yr. (they have all the High West bottles - buy local!), and some day when I'm not driving, I'm getting me a whiskey.  There are thirteen burgers on the menu, including two monsters with 14 oz. and 28 oz. of ground chuck respectively, and they house-cure the bacon that adorns many of them.  I ordered the Bacon Stinky (smoked bacon and bleu cheese) while H went with the Celestial (smoked bacon, grilled onions, cheddar and barbecue sauce), each with fries.  It took a long time for our food to come out since a couple of huge orders went in right before ours, but once we got our burgers we realized it was worth the wait.  Those burgers were amazing and definitely among the best - if not the best - we've ever had.  They were huge, cooked perfectly so that the juices were running down our hands, and simply delicious.  The fries were wonderful too. hand-cut, piping hot and sprinkled with sea salt and some herb (rosemary?).  Stunning and only $10 each.

Bad photo, best burgers ever

While we waited for our food, we chatted with the bartenders who were remarkably friendly for how busy they were  - and they were incredibly busy.  One guy H recognized from when he went to Dick N' Dixie's with our ski guests: the guy had been there with the sweetest female pitbull (name: Carmela) and they both had had their fingernails/toenails painted sparkly green for St. Patrick's Day.  When H mentioned his dog, the bartender got very personable and when we left, said maybe he'd see us back at Dick N' Dixie's sometime.

When we rolled out of there, people were still pouring in; they're open until 2 a.m. daily and I imagine they're well-patronized 'til then on a regular basis.  Lucky 13 is a bar (no one under 21 allowed) and kind of dive-y, but the food and the service, at least at the bar, were outstanding.  We will absolutely, positively go back.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

dick n' dixie's

Last Saturday, after we got back from skiing and cleaned up, H had the brilliant idea that we should go in town to Dick N' Dixie's (479 E 300 S, SLC) to watch the Real Salt Lake game.  H had already been there twice before (once during that weekend last May when I was away and once after he picked up our ski guests from the airport) but I had never been so I was excited to go.  We parked down the block on Broadway and walked back to the bar, passing The Other Place diner on the way.

Dick N' Dixie's is right on the corner in an old brick building with big windows.  Inside is a long bar, high counters with bar stools along the outside walls and down the middle, and more small tables and a pool table in the back.  It's quite popular with RSL fans and the place was packed with 20- and 30-something hipsters.  I'm almost certain we were the oldest people in there.  We found a spot to lean against the wall and got beers (only $5 for a stein of Full Suspension - which is cheap, seeing how a pint of Full Suspension is $5 at the Porcupine).  After a little while, this HUGE bald guy dragged the stool he'd been sitting on over to me so I could sit; I'm choosing to believe it's because I'm a girl and not because I was almost twenty years older than he was.

My turn to buy

It was really a lot of fun.  The patrons were friendly and focused on the soccer game.  Dogs are allowed in the bar - which is awesome - and a young English bulldog named Virgil and a golden retriever were making the rounds.  They don't serve food at Dick N' Dixie's but Submarino's food truck was parked right outside and people were bringing their grilled cheeses and Philly cheesesteaks back into the bar.  RSL may have lost the game but we had a great time - it just felt good to hang out in a funky, friendly city bar for a change.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

last day for supreme this season

We almost didn't go skiing Sunday: it stared to rain just as we started up the canyon and we really don't like to ski in the rain.  But Sunday was the last day that the Supreme chairlift was going to be open for the 2012-2013 season and we couldn't miss that.  About halfway up Little Cottonwood Canyon the rain changed over to snow, and by the time we pulled into the sparsely-populated parking lot at the Goldminer's Daughter (seriously: it was 10 a.m. and the lot was only a quarter full), it was blowing pretty hard.  We figured that most of the spring-breakers had probably headed home and the stormy weather (snow and graupel off and on all day) was keeping the locals away - more room for us.

Pretty steep in those Supreme Bowl chutes

It was immediately apparent that we'd made the right call to ski.  The groomed trails were in fantastic condition, soft with a thin coat of heavy snow on top.  We ended up doing two runs on Sugarloaf first thing because the conditions were so good, but H actually got hit on our first one.  We were on Devil's Elbow (blue groomer) and this kid, maybe 10 or 12 years old, came flying down off the knoll from the left onto the trail.  He didn't slow down at all, or try to turn out of the way; H saw him coming and tried to turn away but the kid smashed right into him, knocking H out of both of his skis.  By the time I got there, both of them were picking themselves up off the trail.  The kid was very apologetic and helped collect H's poles.  H was the model of restraint and just said to him, "You really need to slow down when you come onto the trail like that."  H was okay, despite landing on the shoulder and knee that he hit on that crash with our ski guests last month; we sort of hoped that kid might wake up Monday morning with some bruises though.

Final Supreme self portrait

After our second run on Sugarloaf - without further incident - we moved over to Supreme and stayed there for the rest of the day.  The conditions really were very good, soft and heavy.  We had some great runs, including a fantastic one in the chutes of the Supreme Bowl and Catherine's was excellent.  I did two runs in there, getting bounced around a bit with the heavy clumps; H ended up with five Catherine's runs, which did a number on his legs.

There's still a fair amount of snow up there

The Supreme chair closes at 3:30 p.m. and we took our last ride up at 3:28 p.m.  As we skied down past the lift for the last time, the lifties were hanging out by the big CLOSED sign, enjoying the beer donations that they'd received from skiers throughout the day (we had contributed a couple of PBRs to the cause, naturally).  Our legs were pretty much toast at this point so we waved goodbye and skied out, sad that we wouldn't get to ski Supreme anymore but grateful that we still have another couple of weekends to do the rest of Alta.

So sad!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

starting to wind down

Things are starting to wind down up at Alta.  This Saturday was a Demo Day but I think there were more vendors there than skiers.  Although temperatures were fairly mild (mid 30s - low 40s), the skies were overcast and the light was very flat.  It started spitting snow around noon and got heavier as the afternoon progressed - heavy, wet flakes.  That being said, the conditions were so much better than last weekend, mostly because the snow hadn't frozen up overnight, plus we got another five inches or so.

That being said, we mostly stuck to the groomers, which were nice and soft on top; the bumps and ungroomed stuff stayed pretty stiff until after noon.  We did a couple of runs on Sugarloaf, then moved over to Supreme and stayed there for most of the day.  We didn't venture into Catherine's Area but mostly stayed on No. 9 Express, Upper Sleepy Hollow and the like.  There seemed to be a fair number of families and spring-breakers around but it wasn't crowded by any means.

Looks more like winter than spring up here

By about 2:30 p.m. it was snowing like crazy and we were getting really wet sitting on the chairlift, so we decided to call it a day.  The snow turned to rain about halfway down the canyon, then got clear in the valley.  We could see the clouds socked into the mountains to the east, however, and that made us hopeful for some new snow for the next day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

clear skies for easter

Easter Sunday's spring skiing was pretty similar to the day before: hard in the morning, soft in the afternoon and no crowds to speak of.  We purposely got up there about a half hour later than Saturday, so as to let the snow soften, and realized we were pretty much regulars when Martha from Skier Services, who was working Collins at the time, gave us grief for "sleeping in."

Blue skies over Baldy 

There weren't any clouds in the sky until late afternoon and while the temperature wasn't that much  warmer, it felt that way on the chairs with the bright sun beating down on us.  We did a couple of runs at Sugarloaf first, then moved over to Supreme - where Anthony from Skier Services gave me grief when he didn't recognize me without my purple winter-weight parka.  I love being an Alta regular!

Looking towards Brighton from Catherine's

After lunch things really softened up but didn't get grabby like they had the day before.  We had a great run on the Backside: really soft, deep and heavy in the Yellow Trail area, then a little firmer but still soft down lower.  When we returned to Supreme, we went into Catherine's.  It was a little baked over there since it gets so much sun, but we managed to find one north-facing pitch where it was still fluffy, plus the last pitch before the run-out was full of extremely soft, fun bumps.

Gotta love that color blue

We skied a little later than we did on Saturday (since we'd started later), heading back to the truck as some high, thin clouds rolled in.  No Easter beers on the patio this time but it was a great spring skiing weekend all the way around with the warm sun, eventually soft snow and relaxed vibe.

Wearing our Easter bonnets

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

return to spring skiing

It was spring skiing on Saturday, those days where the snow is bulletproof in the mornings and squishy in the afternoons.  Some people hate spring skiing, preferring to ski in the dry, light, winter conditions; other folks only like to ski in the spring when it isn't so dang cold; H and me, we ski in all of it.

Springtime at the top of Supreme

We got up there around 9:30 a.m., knowing that it would be hard and fast for the morning's runs.  Alta has a tendency to send its groomers out as soon as the chairs stop turning, which is fine in the winter.  But in the spring, the snow is too wet that early and the corduroy the groomers put down freezes solid overnight.  We headed immediately for Sugarloaf because its trails get the sun first thing this time of year.  Our runs there were still pretty clattery - skiing on frozen corduroy tickles my feet! - so we moved over to Supreme, where the groomers were in slightly better shape.  After 10:30 a.m., the snow started to soften slightly, although the high, thin clouds kept the sun's full strength from warming things up too much.

We stayed on Supreme all day, returning there after lunch.  At that point, the snow had gone past the sweet spot and turned into mashed potatoes, heavy and very soft.  As the afternoon wore on, it started to get sticky, grabbing our skis if we weren't riding on our edges.  Still, any trail with a decent pitch was a lot of fun.

Squinty smiles in the spring sunshine

H's knee was bugging him a little so we quit around 3:00 p.m.  Our last run, out through Collins, was the best run of the day: since that side of the mountain doesn't get sunbaked all morning, the snow was nice and soft, but not at all sticky.  We put our stuff in the truck and went back up to the GMD patio.  Those thin clouds had moved off and it just seemed right to have a PBR or two out there in the sun.