Friday, February 14, 2014

or possibly this was the best day of the season (so far)

There was a little bit of stress Sunday morning: the canyon road had been closed at 10 p.m. Saturday night for avalanche control and was not scheduled to reopen until 8:45 a.m.  The avalanche danger was obviously quite serious, then, as the road usually gets open at 6 a.m. when it closes the night before.  We had to decide: do we leave early and sit in line to go up Little Cottonwood Canyon or do we head to Solitude instead?  It was no decision, really, and we were in the line of waiting cars at 8 a.m.  The canyon opened at 9 and we made slow but steady progress upwards, pulling into the parking lot at 9:45.  It was pretty warm and snowing hard; the waterproofing on our clothes would be challenged today.

Then there was another issue: only Collins and Wildcat were open.  We hopped into the singles line and did our first run: the boys heading into the trees by Fred's Slot and me attempting a still smooth groomer.  When we met back up at the lift base, my brother remarked, "My legs aren't supposed to hurt this much after the first run" and I wholeheartedly agreed.  We did a few more runs off Collins - the boys taking the High Traverse for some buttery, untracked, front side turns - before Sugarloaf opened.

I was grateful to escape the Collins crowds and we moved over to Chartreuse/Extrovert.  The intermediate level trails got bumped up and choppy very quickly and since the snow was much heavier, I got thrown around whenever I attempted them.  The steep off-piste stuff was super-deep (this storm would end up dropping 30+ inches from Thursday through Monday) and heavy and people were falling all over the place.  The best conditions were in anything untracked, where our skis just glided through without getting caught in the heavy stuff.

Definitely the best ice beards of the season

When they opened Supreme, we moved over there, following the snow.  Supreme Bowl was still roped off at first and we entertained ourselves on No. 9 Express, the Erosion Gullies, Sleepy Hollow and the trees by Three Bears.  Several runs later, we saw Ski Patrol drop the ropes into the Bowl (Catherine's would stay closed all day again, sadly) and headed there directly.  While the boys went high, looking for narrow chutes, I found fresh tracks in a low chute of my own.  The snow was spectacular.  We did run after run in there, until we finally took a lunch break at 2 p.m.

After a quick lunch, we went back out, one run at Sugarloaf and then back to Supreme.  At that point, my legs were completely shot and I had to ski out.  The boys continued to hit the chutes in Supreme Bowl until the lift closed at 3:30.  My brother cried uncle at that point - we had gotten a ton of runs in that day as the lift lines were amazingly short - and they met me at the base.

The snow, which had been falling hard all day, thinned as we drove down canyon, stopping entirely not far below Snowbird.  The storm was on its way out but its timing had been perfect.  We skied hard, all three days, in fantastic conditions, and never closed out a day wishing for one more run.  And that is exactly how you should do a long ski weekend.

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