Wednesday, February 27, 2013

powder day

Once again we bailed on skiing Saturday, due to the very cold and very windy conditions, coupled with very low visibility.  This sneaky storm ended up dropping around 16" in 24 hours, including more than seven inches after the lifts stopped turning ... which meant untracked freshies for Sunday morning.  H had gotten a tweet that Little Cottonwood Canyon would be closed for avalanche control from 10:30 p.m. Saturday until 8:30 a.m. Sunday, so we left the house early, at 8 a.m., to get in line.  The traffic started moving (in fits and starts) right on schedule; we got up to Alta a little after 9 a.m.  Although they had forecast 1-2 more inches of snowfall and wind chills in the negatives, the skies were clear and the temperatures, while chilly, were not unpleasant.

Since we hadn't skied on the Wildcat lift in ages, we did our first two runs from there, in part because the Supreme chair was opening late due to avalanche control, but also because Wildcat is great fun with a bunch of new snow.  The new stuff was light and very fluffy - face shots! - but underneath the bumps were huge and really hard, so we were getting thrown back in our boots when we hit them.  It was still fun to ski in deep-ish powder, though, and everyone else thought so too - we could hear the "woohoo!"s ringing out on all sides.

Just before heading into the trees near Sleepy Hollow

We moved over to Sugarloaf, keeping an eye on Supreme across the valley.  After a couple of runs, we decided to pole around the EBT and take a run in the soft stuff on East Greely, but by the time we made it all the way around, we saw that they were loading Supreme so we hightailed it over there instead.  Catherine's was still not open so we amused ourselves in the trees and chutes in the meantime.  We started riding the singles line by mid-morning but were surprised that it wasn't more crowded, given the bluebird skies and fresh pow.  They opened Catherine's a little before noon and we joined the hordes traversing in there.  The snow was quite good, maybe a little heavier than the fluff on Wildcat, but loads of fun.  H even got his own "woohoo" from an impressed bystander as he caught some air and then stuck the landing.

How pretty is that?!?

After lunch, we took a run on the backside.  Apparently I was fighting the deep stuff more than I thought I was because that East Greely run hit my legs hard.  We went back to Supreme and finished our afternoon there, with me taking more and more groomers as the day went on.  By the time we skied out, I was so tired that I had to go down the bunny slopes to Sunnyside, to take the rope tow across to the base.  H, not having such puny legs, took Sugarloaf up and the EBT around to Collins, and finished his day with a good run down West Rustler.  New snow and blue skies - just can't beat it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

wrong wax

We played our Utah ski snob card and didn't ski Sunday due to the measly one inch of new snow and heavily-overcast sky, instead going to breakfast at Ruth's which was lovely despite the fact that they've changed their corned beef hash recipe (boo! hiss!).  Monday found us back on the hill, however, along with the hordes of holiday skiers and vacation-goers.  It was quite cold in the morning - around 9 F - despite the sunny skies, very different from just a couple days previously.  Because of the cold temperatures the snow was extremely sticky; H clearly had the wrong wax on his AC-4s, finding it difficult to turn, much less traverse across the flats.  I don't have any wax left on my Volkls so I found it slow going too.

Ooh - that looks pretty good

Per usual, we skied Supreme in the morning, enjoying Catherine's as we always do.  After a crowded lunch (the guys manning the hot chocolate station at Alf's are starting to recognize me now), we rode the Sugarloaf chair up and hiked into Devil's Castle, retracing my route from Saturday and going way, way in on the lower traverse.  We ended up nearly underneath the Apron and H was delighted in the soft snow we found there, remarking that he wished he had his new, wider skis for it.  It's been skied out in there, obviously, but very few people on the mountain that day were willing to do that much work to get in that far so we had the run to ourselves.

A in the Castle

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing around in Catherine's and the trees in Evergreen and under the Apron.  The sky clouded up a little, enough to bring a sundog around the sun but not so much as to give us flat light, but temperatures warmed up, making the skiing a little less labor-intensive and the bumps a little softer.  We skied out a little earlier than last time, getting back to the truck around 3 p.m.  It had been another good ski weekend, nice to see the vacationers here spending their money on the mountain, although we'd sure like some more snow.  The conditions are still pretty good - no ice - but everything's beat up.  There are some imminent storms, however, so maybe next weekend will have some fluffy stuff to play in.

In Devil's Castle, looking towards the Apron

Monday, February 18, 2013

"this is your lift, isn't it?"

That's what one of Alta's Skier Services reps said to me as I came through the gates at Supreme for the first time Saturday morning.  He continued, "Every time I'm assigned here, you're here, first thing in the morning."  I grinned because Supreme is my favorite lift and he was right, I am over there almost all the time.  I really prefer the back parts of Alta to the front side; I like skiing Collins and Wildcat when there's tons of new snow because otherwise Collins tends to get skied off and Wildcat's narrow chutes intimidate me when they're skied out.

Saturday was the start of the long weekend/vacation week.  The temperatures were warm (I even wore my spring skiing jacket and mittens), the skies bright blue and the sun brilliant.  Alta was pretty crowded too: not many local badass shredders since there hadn't been much new snow but lots of vacationers and people like H and me who just want to ski.

Just another bluebird day at Alta

Because there hadn't been much new snow, H decided to take his telemark skis which meant that we skied separately - hence my being over at Supreme first thing.  The morning's plan was to meet up for lunch at noon at Alf's if we didn't find each other before then.  I skied only at Supreme, hiking and traversing into Catherine's as much as I could, ducking into the Evergreen gates when my legs were tired of hiking and traversing.  I saw H several times in the lift line but we were always far enough apart that we never connected with each other.

After lunch where we shared a table with some fiesty little ski schoolers (their poor instructor had the patience of a saint), H and I rode up the Sugarloaf chair together and made an afternoon plan: we'd both ski at Supreme by 2:30 p.m. and find each other that way.  While he went off to work on linking his tele turns, I hiked up and way into Devil's Castle, finding some very nice snow, soft and deep.  2:30 rolled around and I started watching for H in the lift lines; 3:00 and no sightings; 3:30 and Supreme lift closed - still with no sign of H - so I moved over to Sugarloaf chair.  I was starting to get a little (a) antsy that I hadn't found him and (b) tired from skiing so long but we finally spotted each other on my second time around on the chair.  We had just timed it perfectly wrong at Supreme, never syncing up our runs.

We skied out, getting back to the truck just before 4 p.m., my longest day on the hill this season by far.  My legs felt okay but I could tell I'd be a little stiff and sore later - a small price to pay for a beautiful Alta day.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

my oh my oh mai

By the time Friday night rolled around, after a long day at work and then climbing the equivalent of the CN Tower on the Stairmaster at the gym, I wasn't much in the mood for going out for a date night.  Nor was I in the mood for cooking dinner so it was fortuitous that a work friend recommended Oh Mai to me.  We were headed out for lunch, to a Vietnamese place, and talking about good places to get pho.  The conversation then turned to banh mi - which I had not yet had but was anxious to try - and she told me that she loved Oh Mai's banh mi.  Oh Mai has two locations, one near her house, and she and her husband go regularly since not only are the banh mi delicious, but they're inexpensive.  Tasty and cheap?  Sign me up - especially since the restaurant's second location is right next to my gym.

I wanted to get several sandwiches so we could try a variety and H authorized me to pick them without input from him since I know what he doesn't like, like tomatoes and mushrooms.  The Holladay Oh Mai is small, with a number of tables for eating in and chairs to wait in if you're taking out.  They serve banh mi (sandwiches), pho (soup), bun (vermicelli noodles) and a couple of Vietnamese salads and rice dishes.  Although my friend said their pho is also good, I was there for the banh mi.  The very fresh sandwiches are served on 8" baguettes although the vegetarian and vegan options are available on lettuce wraps for a gluten-free experience.

I got four sandwiches, the total bill coming to under $20; we couldn't finish it all, with two half sandwiches left over for apres-ski snacks.  I got:

  • Original Cold Cuts / Dac Biet - steamed pork roll, ham, pork head cheese, garlic-butter, pork pate, mayonnaise, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon, green onion and jalapeno ($3.98)
  • Honey-glazed Pork / Thit Nuong - pork, garlic-butter, oiled scallions, cucumber, cilantro, picked carrots and daikon, jalapeno and chili-lime fish vinaigrette ($4.18)
  • Shredded Pork / Bi - pork, roasted rice powder, pork skin, oiled scallions, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeno, garlic-chili fish dressing ($3.68)
  • Spicy Beef Short Rib / Bo Dai Han - chopped short rib meat, kim chee, ginger, oiled scallions, cucumber, cilantro, sriracha sauce, garlic-chili fish dressing ($4.98)
H liked the spicy beef the best (it was delicious but very spicy - I'm not sure my stomach could take a whole sandwich, although it was fine with a half) and I liked the cold cuts.  I probably should have picked a better variety as the other two were fairly similar - there's a sardine one I'm intrigued by - but I didn't want to get too crazy our first time out.  The bread was wonderful, flaky crust and chewy interior; the sandwich fillings were so fresh and bursting with flavor; the sauces pulled everything together without making things soggy.  Fantastic.

After just this one outing, I have become a huge fan, both of banh mi in general and of Oh Mai specifically.  The food is great, the prices unbeatable.  If they served beer there, I'd probably be in there weekly.  As it is, I'm thrilled to have discovered a new reasonable local place serving such fresh and flavorful food.  Oh Mai just made my short list.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ditto, mostly

Sunday stacked up pretty close to Saturday.  We got six inches of super-fluffy snow overnight.  The visibility was a little better, it was a little colder and VERY crowded, at least until after lunch when everyone but the tourists (and us) left.

The near edge of Catherine's Area

We did manage to score first tracks on our very first run, diving in through the gates into Yellow Trail as soon as we got off the Collins lift.  The snow there and on East Greely was, as previously mentioned, super-fluffy and seemed deeper than the measured six inches.  We finished that run down through the Glitch or Glatch chutes, enjoying it the whole way down.

When we cruised over to the Supreme chair, we were surprised to discover that the higher elevations hadn't gotten as much snow as over on the backside.  Still, we hiked into Catherine's Area first thing and nabbed more freshies on our run there.  With so little new snow it didn't take long to get tracked out but we felt pretty good about scoring two runs' worth of firsts.

A enjoying Catherine's Area

Neither Devil's Castle nor East Castle were open but we skied the day on Supreme and Sugarloaf, taking a couple of fun runs down through the cabins in the woods between the two lifts, hiking/traversing into Catherine's a bunch, checking out Keyhole Gulch and Glory Gulch.  We stayed out until nearly 3 p.m., when my knees started complaining about the stiffness of the moguls.  We decided that it wasn't the best weekend, what with only getting 11" instead of the 20+ we'd been promised ... and then we decided we were truly being Utah ski snobs for complaining about only getting 11".

Sunday, February 10, 2013

well, we got a little bit of snow

The meteorologists out here got everyone all excited about the big storm that was moving in for the weekend, promising snowfall totals in the mountains anywhere from 16-30" to 20-37".  When we got up Saturday morning and read that Alta had gotten 5" overnight (instead of the 7-10" they'd said), we were underwhelmed.  Still, any new snow is good snow and we headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  I had a heated internal debate, trying to decide which skis to take: my normal cut-off for the Rossignols is a minimum of eight inches since any less than that tends to get chunked up quickly and I prefer my nimble little Volkls for that.  The Rossignols just float in deep snow but they don't make small, quick turns and they shudder and complain on groomers unless I manage to heel them way up on edge.  I ended up taking the Rossis instead, hoping that we could maybe find some deeper stuff to play in; I only ended up wishing I had my quick-turning Volkls 75% of the time.

It was pretty busy so we rode the singles line up Collins and hightailed it to the Supreme chair, where we stayed for most of the day.  We spent a lot of time in Catherine's Area, either hiking up to the upper traverse or taking the traverse across the top of Supreme Bowl, alternately going in deep where there hadn't been as much traffic and playing in the trees at the near edge.  The snow was okay but we hadn't gotten nearly enough to soften up the bumps - much less fill them in - and the snow under the five new inches was quite firm.
No blue skies today, just flat light

Another drawback was the extremely flat light.  It started snowing again after lunch but for the morning it was quite difficult to see, especially on any groomers where any dips or contours were simply unseeable.  Still, we persevered until nearly 3:00 p.m. and then drove home out of the falling snow, keeping our fingers crossed that the storm up there would start nuking so we'd have something fun to play in the next day.

Friday, February 8, 2013

lost girl

The next day we got a late start since it looked kind of cloudy (yes, ski snobs).  We managed a decent parking place in the second row but the place filled up, getting very crowded very quickly.  As the skies cleared, we headed over to Supreme to escape the hordes skiing the Sugarloaf chair, enjoying lots of runs in Catherine's Area.  There hadn't been any snow but under the bluebird skies, away from all the people, it didn't matter much.

View of Devil's Castle and the Apron

Since we'd gotten a late start we ate lunch late too, thus managing to score a table once the lodge thinned out.  Actually, after lunch the whole dang place thinned out, with people presumably heading out to their Superbowl parties.  That was great: by 2:30 p.m. we were skiing right onto the lift, no waiting.

Blue skies in Catherine's

Our plan after lunch was to take the Sugarloaf chair up, ski through Devil's Elbow back to Supreme, then take a run down Rock N'Roll to get into the trees beneath East Castle and the Apron.  That had been the plan.  In actuality, I lost H.  His new skis are so fast that he gets out of sight if I'm trying to concentrate on my own skiing, which is what happened on the last pitch down from Cecret Lake to the run-out to Supreme chair.  When I got to the chair, he was nowhere to be seen.  I couldn't fathom that I was ahead of him, so I hopped on the lift.  At the top, he wasn't there waiting for me - so then I knew I was ahead of him - so I waited and waited and waited.  No H.  I decided to do some laps on Supreme, figuring he'd find me because he always finds me.  After two runs, he hadn't found me.  I tried to leave a message for him at the message board but the marker was dry, so I just headed over to Sugarloaf, thinking he might be over there.  And yes, halfway up the lift I spotted him, skiing slowly under the lift, looking closely at all the chairs - which is tough to do, skiing without looking where you're going.  He waited for me there; I skied straight down to him, lost no longer.  Moral of the story:  wait at the bottom of the lift and you won't get lost.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

early start, late(-ish) finish

There'd still been no new snow since the storm moved out Thursday but the forecast was for sunshine all around.  We figured it would be busy Saturday so we left early, getting up to Alta with over twenty minutes until they opened the Collins lift.  When we pulled into the parking lot, it was as empty as it's been but as we lingered in the lodge, the cars rolled in and the lift line corral filled up.  The day ended up being super-busy, as busy as any day during Christmas week.  Not a problem: when it's crowded we ride the singles line.  I talked to a lot of folks on those chairlift rides (H, not so much) and the crowd was mostly out-of-state visitors - which was awesome because (1) more tourism money for the resort and (2) most of them don't know where the best places to ski are.

In the trees in Catherine's Area

We skied our usual places (i.e., not the front side), hanging out at Supreme for a bit while Ski Patrol shot the heck out of Devil's Castle.  We were just about to move over to Sugarloaf so H could ski East Greeley when we saw a patroller drop the rope into the trees on Apron Bench.  We jumped in there - first tracks! - and carefully crossed the debris field from the massive natural slide that had come down from East Castle, then dove into the trees and gullies.  The snow was completely untouched, dense and settled but pristine, and we had a blast cruising through it.  I took a header off a little drop-off, somersaulting to land with just my head, hands and ski tips out of the snow.  Luckily, H was there to capture the moment.

Post-somersault.  It's all good.

They did eventually open Devil's Castle and we took a run in there, after it had been mostly tracked out but still enjoying the deeper sections.  The afternoon was spent in Catherine's Area where we hiked up over and over again (the traverse across the Supreme Bowl was in less than excellent shape).  Despite our early start, we kept skiing until close to 3:30 p.m. - my latest day to date!  My legs are definitely getting stronger which is good because man, skiing Alta is fun.

Dark blue sky above Supreme Bowl

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"you can really haul ass on these things"

30+ inches of snow and a new pair of skis for H later, we were back on the hill at Alta to check out the storm's leavings.  The day was mostly sunny, with swirling winds and fast-moving clouds as the tail-end of the storm moved east.  H wore his new skis and I rode my powder skis, knowing full well that there wouldn't really be any "powder" left but hoping that what was there would be soft and deep enough for them.

First of all, H loves his new skis.  They're wider than his AC-4s so they float up on top of anything soft - powder, bumps, crud - which means his legs don't get as fatigued because he doesn't have to push through the snow.  And they're fast - possibly because they don't like to turn as much.  This of course dooms me: he was already way faster than I am on his old skis and now that his legs don't get tired as quickly ... well, he'll just have to wait a little longer for me to catch up now.

Hooray for skiing!

We mostly skied Supreme in the morning (everything was tracked out, even well into Catherine's) but kept an eye on East Greely across the way, watching the line of skiers hiking up the Backside Trail along the ridge and waiting for Ski Patrol to drop the rope into Yellow Trail.  When the rope came down, it was awesome to watch: dozens of skiers dropping in from the ridgetop, grabbing first tracks all the way down to Glory Gulch.  After a while we couldn't stand it any longer taking Sugarloaf chair up and a wind-blasted EBT around to the top of Collins.  H was ready to start hiking up the ridge, which I didn't particularly want to do, knowing how exhausted I would be, but just then Ski Patrol dropped the rope to the Low Entry into Yellow Trail/East Greely.

Views like this everywhere at Alta

As we and dozens of other skiers poured in there, we got a few boos from the ridgeline hikers; our traverse was going to plunder their lines below Yellow Trail.  We didn't much care: we each got some freshies all of our own.  After cruising around the corner, H and I headed for the Glitch and Glatch chutes which were full of soft, chunky snow.  Good stuff.  We headed back to the chair and did it all again.

Catherine's is just the prettiest

In the afternoon, we mostly skied Supreme, enjoying the heck out of Catherine's Area where the coverage was darn good and the snow stayed soft, although wind-driven.  (Note to tourists:  please don't stop on the traverse!  If you need to stop, step off the traverse!  If you need to take a leak, go into the trees!)  We skied until after 3 p.m. - my legs are getting stronger! - and skied out low on West Rustler.  H headed into the trees by Watson Shelter while I cruised through the Race Course where the snow was packed but smooth and creamy.  It was a great day to break in H's new boards and a great day all the way around.