Thursday, December 26, 2013

wrong poles (christmas day 2013)

Yay, Christmas!  Skiing!  Not working!  Still full from last night's dinner, H and I picked at breakfast, threw on our ski gear and then headed up to Alta for what has become our Christmas Day tradition: skiing.  There had been no new snow so the canyon road was dry and with no uphill traffic to speak of, we got up there quickly.  The parking lot was less than a third full as everyone else was home opening presents.  We hopped on the Collins lift with a chorus of avalanche control explosions echoing around us, saying "Merry Christmas!" to the faithful, smiling lifties.

I had had some trepidation about which skis to use.  There hadn't been much new snow since last Saturday but there had been some, plus Catherine's Area had been closed since Sunday and we were hopeful that they would drop the rope.  I decided to wear my powder skis (but hedged my bet and took my old Volkls too, just in case) but I wasn't sure I'd made the right decision as we first took a couple of groomer runs on Sugarloaf.

Christmas Day portrait atop Supreme

When we moved over to the Supreme chair, Catherine's Area was still closed.  We paused at the top of the lift to take the obligatory Christmas self-portrait; when a friendly tourist offered to take the photo for us, we then had to return the favor.  As we were buckling our boots post-photo session, however, we saw Ski Patrol drop the rope into Catherine's Area.  We lunged for the gate and were in, sixth or seventh in line.  Now that's a Christmas present!

H's cliff

The snow in Catherine's, untouched since last weekend, was fantastic.  We had first tracks and the sugary snow was soft and [relatively] deep.  On that first run, we ended up in a tree-lined chute that we don't normally ski.  H was ahead of me, as usual.  As I entered the chute, I heard a shout: "Cliff!  Cliff!"  I called back, "Are you okay?" but didn't hear any answer, so I worked my way to the left and down.  I stopped where I thought I might be able to see him - I couldn't - and yelled to him again.  Not getting an answer, I assumed he'd skied out - he hadn't - so I did too, pausing a couple of times in our regular stopping spots before heading to the lift to wait for him.  H finally joined me there, after having waited for me in our regular stopping spots before heading to the lift.  He was fine and on our next run, we went wide and then came out under the cliff he'd gone over.  It's a big cliff, at least fifteen feet from launch to landing.  I suggested that perhaps he try to avoid the cliffs for the rest of the day.

Hooray for Catherine's!

He did and the rest of the day was great.  We stayed in Catherine's Area for most of it, going further and further in as more and more people invaded it.  The snow in there was so good.  Sure, with only 130 inches fallen and compacted to 55 inches, there are still rocks and stumps that you have to watch out for.  But this was definitely the best day of the season so far - so much fun.  And I absolutely was wearing the right skis for the conditions, for once.  It was only my poles that were wrong: I have old, vintage 1980s poles with wide baskets that would have been much more appropriate for the deep snow.

My little legs could only take it until 2:30 p.m., overcome by all the hiking and deep snow.  Amazingly, the slopes never seemed crowded, despite the fact that the parking lot had filled up by the time we left.  We never waited in lift lines at either Supreme or Sugarloaf and we slid through on the singles line at Collins in the afternoon, easy as pie.  I suspect that will change for the rest of vacation week - next weekend could be a zoo.  Still, it was another successful Christmas Day ski day ... although if you ask us, any Christmas Day ski day is going to be a good one.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

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