Monday, March 31, 2014

annual ski guests, 2014 edition: day 2

Sunday started out less than we expected and ended up pretty darn good.  All the weather forecasts said that snow was coming: the winds we've been having were the forerunners of the cold front, which would bring snow to the Wasatch late morning, with it getting heavy in the afternoon and finally petering out in the evening as the front moved eastwards.  Predicted totals ranged from 3"-7" (National Weather Service), 5"-10" (Wasatch Snow Forecast) and 6"-12" (Alta).  C announced that he figured he only had about five hours in his legs so we decided to go up late and plan to ski through until closing.  We got up there after 10 a.m. to fairly warm temperatures, overcast skies and very strong winds.  Clearly not many other people thought these were good skiing condition as the parking lot was less than one-third full and the parking lot attendants were conspicuously absent.

New ski pants in Catherine's Area

We rode through a brief spate of graupel on our first chair ride, swirling through the winds.  There had been no new snow overnight and today's storm didn't seem to be coming any time soon, so we headed over to Supreme where the chairlift tends to be more protected in strong winds.  The conditions weren't great (same as Saturday: bumped up and a little crunchy) but we made the best of it, trying some of the lower chutes in Supreme Bowl.  The bumps were big and forced us to ski certain lines.  C suggested that we try way, way deep into Catherine's Area.  Fighting against the headwind, we went all the way in and indeed found the best snow of the weekend there, deep and soft and not much tracked out.  We did several more runs in Catherine's, consistently finding pretty good snow the further out we went.

A and C discuss possible lines

Since we'd had a late start, we went in late for lunch (after 1:00 p.m.).  As we munched our french fries in Alf's, the called-for snowstorm finally rolled in.  Better late than never!  It started snowing really hard and by the time we finished lunch, it was actually starting to accumulate.  Because of the winds, they were running the Sugarloaf lift slow, so we hopped on the little Cecret lift which took us back to Supreme.  As the snow kept falling, the conditions kept getting better.  Challenger, No. Nine Express and the gullies got coated with smooth snow; the wind blew snow drifts into the Supreme Bowl chutes.  Catherine's Area got quite good and we did runs in there until they closed it at 3 p.m., at which point we switched to the chutes until they closed the chairlift at 3:30 p.m.

Storm ridin'

We moved over to the Sugarloaf lift, now running at regular speed, and did a couple of runs there - there were so few people skiing that the snow was even starting to pile up on the groomers - until that chair closed at 4 p.m.  Finally, we were forced to take the rope tow back to Wildcat base.  The guys took one more run off Collins while I went to the truck to thaw my frozen toes (the temperature had dropped to 24 F at this point, making the snow fairly dry for the end of March).  The drive down canyon was a little sketchier than we thought it would be as the snow level dropped all the way to the valley floor, but we got home safe and sound.  Looking back up towards the mountains, it appeared to still be snowing hard with no sign of stopping anytime soon.  That would be ideal: a late start and a late finish could mean fresh tracks for us on Monday.

Possibly the last ice beard of the season

Saturday, March 29, 2014

annual ski guests, 2014 edition: day 1

After some last minute work-related rescheduling, our annual ski guest (only C this year, as A couldn't make it) arrived midday Friday, telemark skis in hand and ready for three days of skiing.  We'd had a wonderful storm earlier in the week that dropped a reported sixteen (!!!) inches in Little Cottonwood Canyon before moving out Friday morning.  Although the timing of the storm meant that we wouldn't get fresh tracks anywhere, not to mention the late March date meant the snow would be heavy and not fluffy, that much snow is always welcome.

The forecast was for partly sunny skies, growing cloudy in the afternoon as the next storm moved into place, with warm temperatures and gusty winds.  We didn't rush out of the house in the morning, trying to give whatever snow might have frozen up overnight the chance to soften a little.  We pulled into the parking lot at the Goldminer's Daughter around quarter to 10 and it was only about a third full.  Clearly folks have shifted gears and are not so much thinking about skiing these days.  That, plus all the locals probably called in sick on Friday to get all the freshies - as there were none left for us.  Even without the opportunity for fresh snow, the conditions were still pretty good for late March.  Ballroom, the Baldy Chutes, Devil's Castle and East Castle were all still closed, due to the recent storm and the current winds ushering in the next storm, but everything else was open.  The groomers were nice and quiet; the off-piste stuff was variable: a little crunchy wherever it had baked in the Friday afternoon sun, super-soft and deep in the trees and shady spots.

C catching his breath in Gunsight

After getting out of Collins, we did several runs on Sugarloaf, with the boys getting into the Keyhole and all of us playing around on Chartreuse Nose.  We did a run through Cecret Saddle and headed over to Supreme, where we poked around in Catherine's Area and Supreme Bowl for a while.  Again, the snow was variable: fantastically deep and soft in amongst the trees and less so where it had baked in the sun.  We took a quick lunch break at Alf's, then moved back to Collins.  I changed my skis - swapping out my Rossignols for my Volkls - and the guys took a run.  I waited for them for longer than I thought I would and when I finally spotted them heading my way along the rope tow, I realized that they had taken the High Traverse and done a run off the backside.  They confirmed this, having chatted up the patroller they rode the lift with, who told them that Gunsight was full of great snow.  When we got to the top of Collins, it was determined that that run was good enough to do it again.  Off we went: the sidestep up to the cut through the ridge was a little sketchy but the chute itself was great, stuffed to the edges with soft (albeit tracked out) snow.  The only problem was the run-out at the bottom, which was sunbaked, chunky and very difficult to turn in.  H had no problem but C, with his sea-level lungs, and I, with my puny legs, didn't much care for it.

Poised in the Gunsight notch

The clouds had moved in around lunchtime and as the afternoon wore on, the light got very flat.  We tried to go back to the Chartreuse Nose run we'd had success with, but it wasn't nearly as good as it had been in the morning.  A few more front side runs (the tree skiing was holding up well) and then we called it quits a little after 3:00 p.m.  The clouds were building ominously as we headed down canyon - the forecast was calling for storm skiing on Sunday, and a predicted 5-9 inches.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ticket to ride: park city mountain resort

The days are getting longer and warmer, meaning that the end of the 2013/2014 ski season is just around the corner.  With that in mind, we realized that if we were going to use any more of those reciprocal ski tickets to Park City/Deer Valley/Snowbird, we'd better get to it.  We decided to hold off on Snowbird since it will probably be open through the end of May and we'd already given Deer Valley a try on a bluebird day with no new snow.  That left Park City Mountain Resort.  Off we went!

We got a great parking spot, just steps from the Eagle lift.  After flashing our Alta season passes at the ticket window to get our day ticket, we quickly consulted the trail map.  Although neither of us had skied at PCMR before, we've spent some time there hiking and MTBing and we figured that we'd want to get to some east-facing slopes for maximum snow softness.  We got stuck in a terrain park at the top of the Eaglet lift before a friendly young PCMR staffer told us how to get out of there.

I have no idea where on the mountain this is

The day was absolutely spectacular and pretty warm, although the snow did not soften very quickly, having frozen up hard overnight.  We spent the day travelling from lift to lift, trying to find the softest snow.  By noon, some of the long runs in the "Crescent Mountainzone" were nice and soft; H even tried a run through the glade adjacent to Silver King, finding a thin crust on top but breaking through to skiable snow.  Because of the frozen conditions, we had to stick to groomed runs, looking wistfully over at what looked like fun terrain in McConkey's Bowl and Molly's.

We had lunch at the Mid-Mountain Lodge, then tried some runs off the Motherlode and Thaynes lifts.  Despite the sun shining strongly overhead, the snow over there refused to soften which was a little disappointing.  We didn't even get to the Jupiter lift, although we did note the mine ruins above the Thaynes lift with an eye to hiking into them this summer.

Good trees to ski in

It was unfortunate that the snow didn't soften into true spring skiing conditions (except for the beginner area by the Crescent lift which was just one step removed from pond skimming by the end of the day) because we really didn't get to try out PCMR's terrain.  If we go back sometime with better snow, I'd really like to give the Jupiter area a shot, as well as stuff off McConkey's and the Motherlode Meadows.  What we ended up skiing was fairly bland but I'm sure there's better terrain to be had.  Even with the less than ideal snow, it was a beautiful day and we had fun exploring a new ski resort - and you can't ever complain about that.

Lifts ridden: Eagle, Eaglet, King Con, Silverlode, Motherlode, Thaynes, Bonanza, McConkey's, Pioneer, Crescent, Payday.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

in which we conquer east castle

We checked out the Alta forecast Friday night as we sat at the bar at the Cotton Bottom (mmmmmmm garlic cheeseburgers) and were less than thrilled with its partly cloudy, blustery, snow showers before noon, high of 30F.  With just over a month left in the season, we want spring conditions (unless it's going to snow like a sonofabitch and then we want that) and it just didn't sound that pleasant.  The alarm went off at 7 a.m. Saturday morning and we both rolled over, not excited to spring out of bed for cloudy/blustery/etc.  When we finally did get up to take the dog out, however, it was evident that the cold front had moved through faster than expected.  It was sunny up Alta-way.  Time to stop lollygagging and go skiing!

That's where we're headed

The cold front had left chillier temperatures behind, sunshine notwithstanding, and I was a little cold for our first ride up Collins and two runs off Sugarloaf.  The snow was fairly good on the groomers but was more dust-on-crust on the off-piste areas that had gotten sun-baked the day before.  As Sugarloaf started to get crowded (not terribly so, compared to Christmas week), we moved over to Supreme and as we buckled our boots at the top, H suggested that we take a hike into East Castle.  I've wanted to get in there ever since we started skiing Alta so I said yes.

Early in the hike

East Castle is rarely open.  The avalanche danger is often high there and so the conditions must be just right for ski patrol to open it.  This is our fourth season pass season at Alta and if East Castle has been open ten days in those four seasons, I'd be surprised - some years they don't open it at all, if there's too much snow or not enough snow.  They had opened it on Wednesday and so it was all tracked out but we didn't care: it was open and that meant we could get in there.

At the top

That also meant that the traverse would be well-established.  The hike up into East Castle is the longest in-bounds traverse at Alta, starting off the cat track from the top of Supreme and following the cliff line up.  I was worried that it would be a side-step all the way up (which would be brutal) but luckily folks had established it as a boot-pack instead.  It took us 35 minutes to hike all the way up.  We kept our heads down and our feet moving and ended up passing eight people on the way up, most of them younger than us.  At one point we climbed by four 30-something guys who were resting by a rock.  I grinned at them and asked if they were going to let a girl beat them to the top.  "YES!" exclaimed one of them, clearly feeling the elevation.  I laughed and kept on going.

Mount Timpanogos, looming large

It felt like we were on the top of the world when we finally got up there, as far as we could go.  The summit is at 10,900 feet (although the Supreme lift lets you off at 10,450, we lost some elevation getting to the entry gate so we figure we climbed about 600 feet) and the views are absolutely spectacular.  We were WAY up there.  After some picture taking, we put our skis back on and peeked over the edge.  We were at the top of 1st Chute; there are other named areas in East Castle, lower down on the hike, like 2nd Chute, Hi Heathers and the Eagle Peak Chutes, all of which bring you down the open face, exiting across Evergreen or the Lo Heather apron to Rock-n-Roll.  Most everyone else had skied down earlier, leaving the 1st Chute all for us.  H went first, reporting that skier's left was softer, with less avalanche debris.  I dropped in and after three turns realized that although I hadn't thought the hike up was that difficult, my legs were definitely fatigued.

Um, I gotta ski down that now?

The top of 1st Chute is dang steep but there was plenty of snow so it was only a little intimidating.  I didn't ski it that well, turning cautiously and stopping to rest (it is the longest run at Alta, top to bottom).  I wished my legs weren't so tired because I would have liked to have skied it better - but still, it was pretty awesome.  I joined H at the bottom and we looked back up at what we'd just skied.  That was a bad-ass run for sure.

Tiny speck = me

Our legs were pretty well wrecked for the rest of the day, however, so we cruised groomers and some easy trees.  Each ride up the Supreme lift I couldn't keep from staring at East Castle, giddily grinning like a fool: I just skied that!  Despite our tired legs, we managed to keep going until 2:30 p.m., taking one run into Catherine's Area before skiing out.  We had a celebratory beer on the sun-soaked Goldminer's Daughter patio: the toast was to East Castle, of course.  I can't wait to ski it again.

View of 1st Chute from the bottom

Thursday, March 20, 2014

that's more like it

Sunday was more like what we expected Saturday to be.  It wasn't completely clear blue skies but it was more sunny than cloudy, the temperature was warmer and the winds died down (for the most part).  The groomers were in great shape while the off-piste snow was a little tougher.  The sheltered, shady spots were still soft but anything that ever got any sun was pretty frozen.  We followed our usual course - a few runs at Sugarloaf, then move over to Supreme when traffic got heavy - seeking out the best snow we could find.

In Devil's Castle

From Supreme, we gave Catherine's Area a try, even though we knew it was too early for the snow to have softened in the sun.  Ski patrol graciously opened the eastern gate into the Apron and H went to check it out.  His legs were pretty tired when he met me at the lift with his report: the traverse was set quite a bit higher than it had been the weekend before, requiring a lot more side-stepping and elevation gain.  Still, he said that the snow was good, protected from the sun, so we went back in, opting to ski through the chutes rather than do the side-step all the way up to the cliffs.  He was right - the snow was quite good.

The Little Apron and the Far Wall

After lunch, we went into Devil's Castle from the western gates off Sugarloaf and traversed nearly all the way across to Far Wall/Little Apron.  The snow was wonderful there, deep and soft (if you stayed in the shade) and only a little tracked out.  It was so good that we went back and did it couple more times.  Since we're on the spring side of the ski season, you have to take advantage of good snow where you find it.

View from the Castle

My legs were burning at that point, so we cruised back over to Supreme for some more runs there.  I got inspired and suggested we give Catherine's one more chance.  It had softened pretty well, especially the last pitch before the run-out back to the lift where the moguls were so soft - I felt like I could ski bumps like that all day.  We figured that was as good a run as any to end on.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

it got better

The forecast for Saturday - and I checked it twice before deciding on my layers for the ski day - was sunny, low- to mid-30s and light winds as Friday night's storm left the area after dropping two inches of snow.  Perfect: early spring conditions, so dress lightly since you'll warm up off-piste.  As we drove up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta, we eyed the clouds suspiciously. There are no clouds in "sunny" and yet there they were, caught on the mountaintops, rolling gray and ominous overhead.  When we got out of the truck, it was 24 F at the base, 15 F at the summit, and the wind was howling.  We were not dressed for this and worse, hadn't brought extra layers just in case.  I did the best I could with hand warmers in my spring-weight mittens, my neck-up with my spring-weight soft shell and my boot covers, but I knew I was going to be cold.

It was so windy at the top of Collins that H suggested that we just head straight to Supreme, rather than taking a run or two on Sugarloaf.  Although the Supreme chair is slow, it is more protected and the Sugarloaf chair is no fun on a windy day.  We stayed huddled on Supreme all morning, grousing about how cold we were and how flat the light was.  The snow was pretty good, considering we'd only gotten two inches on top of the beaten-down base.  The snow was definitely wind-buffed and drifted, though, so in spots your skis would skid across a scraped-off patch only to run up against a drifted pile of puff.  We searched out the snow drifts, getting lucky in the trees and further out in Catherine's Area.  Looking for shady spots was key since the strong sun earlier in the week had softened the snow considerably, which then froze up overnight; with the cloud cover, the hardened snow was just not softening very quickly.

After lunch, Ski Patrol opened the lowest gate off Rock-n-Roll into the Apron Bench/Boulder Basin trees.  The clouds were breaking up, the sun was gaining strength and we were pretty much the only ones in there for our first three runs.  I really love it in there.  It isn't difficult skiing other than having to pick your way through the trees, but it's so different from what I grew up skiing, where you had to stay on the trails.  I can see what people love back-country skiing so much, out on your own, picking your own routes, not skiing over anyone else's tracks.  This is kind of like lift-served, in-bounds back-country.

You see that sky and you don't believe
me that it was miserable all morning

Despite our morning's grumbling about how we weren't going to ski all day because the conditions were so poor, the afternoon sun and mellow tree skiing worked their magic on us and we stayed out until 3 p.m.  I guess when there's only seven more weekends left in Alta's 2013/2014 ski season, it's hard to quit early.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

the apron for the win

Sunday was supposed to be sunny and even warmer than Saturday.  So that's what I dressed for.  But when we got up to Alta, there was a slick of high, thin clouds across the sky, blocking the sun's warmth.  This made me cold, of course, but even worse, the lack of direct sun meant that anything ungroomed was a frozen mess: the snow had softened big-time the day before and then set up hard in the cold overnight temperatures.  That meant that we had to ski groomers until things warmed up - and it's tough to stay warm when you're just cruising groomers.  We did try a run through Catherine's Area and while it was still good up top, the final run-out was frozen solid and awful.  We did not venture back in there again.

We could tell that Ski Patrol had big things in mind for the day because avalanche control bombs were going off all over the place, all through the morning and into lunchtime.  The resort's website had said that there were patrol routes planned for East Baldy and the unopened portion of Devil's Castle and that's what they were shooting up.  Now, the eastern two-thirds of Devil's Castle, including the Apron and the cliffs and trees through the Rock-N-Roll gates, had been closed all season.  That was virgin snow in there and everyone wanted a piece of it.  We - and numerous others - were doing laps on Rock-N-Roll, waiting for Ski Patrol to drop the ropes.

The gates were opened just after lunch, just as the sun started coming out.  We went in through the top Rock-N-Roll gate and sidestepped up to the base of the cliffs.  There were quite a few other people with the same idea, some of whom were in over their heads due to the technical nature of the traverse.  I got a little nervous about a piece of it too, side-slipping down a ways instead of pointing my skis down and just going for it.  (H just went for it, no side-slipping for him.)  At this point we were under the Apron and the snow was deep and soft.  Rather than struggle to hike up further, we flung ourselves down the pitch.  I was wearing my non-powder Volkls - which had served me well thus far on the groomers - and amazingly, I managed to ski the deep stuff pretty well with them.

Under the Apron

We skied out through the gullies and trees that I like so well, got back on the Supreme lift and did it again.  I bailed off the traverse early to avoid the spot that made me nervous and, after skirting a small cliff area, found a very nice chute that was just full of snow.  H repeated what w'd done the first time and met me to ski out through the gullies and trees together.  Then we went back and did it again, this time both of us making our way through the chutes.  We didn't have enough time to get back in there before Patrol closed the gates (2:45 p.m.), so we cruised down Rock-N-Roll and over to Sugarloaf to ski out.  If you had told me that morning, with the cloudy skies and hard snow off-piste, that we would ski until 3 p.m., I wouldn't have believed you.  But believe me, those three runs under the Castle Apron were damn good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

taste of spring

If you like spring skiing conditions under spectacular blue skies, then Saturday was the day for you.  It got pretty warm, which is never good for the snow, but it was a stunning day.  Lots of people thought so too, swarming Alta despite no new snow for a couple of days.  We got in the singles line to ride up the Collins chair, then cruised over to Sugarloaf.  The corduroy was soft and smooth, quiet underfoot.

Tracked out but still soft in Catherine's Area

After a couple of obligatory runs off Sugarloaf, we moved over to Supreme where we did run after run after run in Catherine's Area.  Everything was totally tracked out - even when we went way in, past Last Chance - but the snow was soft and getting softer, so it was still a lot of fun to ski, even with sweat running down our backs from the hiking portions.

That part of the Castle has been closed all season

We did a couple of runs in the first third of Devil's Castle (all that was, and has been, open).  This part of the hill stays out of the sun for the most part, so it wasn't getting slushy.  My legs were getting tired from the hiking which meant that I did a Cecret Saddle run when H went back into the Castle the second time.  I miscalculated, however, and skied in the sun instead of sticking to the shade; the bumps were heavy mashed potatoes and only served to tire me out more.

This part has been open (and well-used)

Back to Supreme we went for more soft bumps runs, including one last time through Catherine's before it closed at 3 p.m.  The bottom run-out there simply bakes in the afternoon sun and that last time through was creamy-soft.  That much melt would mean grim conditions for the morning, probably.  We were enjoying the day so much that we skied until 3:30 p.m., which must mean that I'm finally building some stamina.

Don't forget sunscreen!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

luna blanca

At long last, we've given a new restaurant a try (seriously, it's been since my birthday that we've gone out to a not-on-the-regular-rotation place): Luna Blanca Taqueria. Located not far from the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon (3158 E 6200 S, Holladay), this is a relatively new, casual place, serving homemade Mexican food and a variety of cocktails.  It isn't a real taqueria, not scruffy and authentic like Lone Star Taqueria; here, they serve blood orange margaritas (which sounded delicious and I'm so getting one of those next time).

Chips and salsa, Full Suspension in the background

It was fairly busy when we got there, with a twenty-five minute wait for a two-person table, but there were seats available at the side bar and we took them.  Service was good, with a bartender taking our drink order (pitcher of Full Suspension, naturally) within minutes of our sitting down and circling back in a timely fashion for our food order.  We got chips and salsa to start ($3.00), with house-fried tortilla chips and three flavorful homemade salsas - the house hot sauce doubled as the third salsa and it was terrific.  I probably shouldn't have eaten as many chips as I did but they were tasty.  For entrees, I got the pork quesadilla ($8.00), which was very big, while H went with the braised chicken burrito ($9.00), smothered with green sauce.  The pork in my quesadilla was good, flavorful and tender.  H's burrito was fine but kind of bland: the green sauce tasted good when it first hit the tongue, but there was absolutely no lingering flavor, and the chicken seemed unseasoned so that the interior of the burrito tasted more like sour cream than anything else.  We gave a food grade of decidedly average, although we certainly didn't delve too deeply into the menu.

This doesn't show how huge the quesadilla was

The drinks list looked good, with the aforementioned blood orange/tequila "Luna Moonrise," a whiskey lemonade and a grapefruit soda (Fresca?) and tequila cocktail, among others.  I assume that Luna Blanca requires a food order whilst drinking but it seems like it would be a good spot to sip a cocktail and munch some chips and salsa on a sunny afternoon sometime.  We may have to give that a try this spring, although I don't think we'll be working this place into our regular rotation.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

trust me

H likes to tease me about how my version of events often tends to differ from his version.  He says I exaggerate and embellish; I say that I use details to make the story better.  For example, if he were writing the post about last Sunday's ski day at Alta, it would go something like this:

  • Got up to Alta around 9:10 a.m., skied until almost 3 p.m.
  • High 20s, low 30s; overcast to start, clearing to partly sunny
  • Busier than expected
Now, all of that is right - dry, factual and correct.  But who wants to read that?  Heck, I hardly even wanted to write it!  Granted, there's not much storytelling necessary here because we were back at Alta again, skiing again, same old thing we've been doing since opening day.  But ...

Soft stuff in Catherine's

Alta was supposed to get some overnight snow, with snow showers through the morning and tapering off in the afternoon as the storm system moved out.  There didn't turn out to be much new, however, and if any snow fell on Sunday I've forgotten about it already.  It really didn't matter to us, though, because Catherine's Area was going to open after being closed all day Saturday.  We went straight to Supreme and did laps in the 3 Bears trees and around Vicky's/Hammer Head while we waited for the rope to drop.  We were not alone in our excitement about Catherine's: when they did finally drop the rope, a huge surge of people moved in, hiking up and hammering out the traverse.  And all those other people?  They stayed at Catherine's for the whole morning - I have never seen so many people in there.

Although the busy conditions made for some frustrating moments on the traverse (don't stop on the traverse! don't take your skis off and walk on the traverse! and don't stop on the traverse!), Catherine's Area is big enough that we were able to keep finding freshies until close 'til noon.  The snow was quite good, heavy but soft, and we made sure to take advantage of it, hiking up and in over and over and over again, all morning.

I swear, my next ski jacket will
not make me look so dumpy

After lunch, our morning in Catherine's took a toll on my legs.  We scooted around the EBT to take a run in East Greeley; the sporadic sun had baked the snow there pretty well, rendering it dense and chunky, and I bounced off the chunks like a pinball.  We did a run through the trees/cabins, then went back to Supreme for a couple of runs.  I cried uncle before 3 p.m. and we skied out, my poor, shaky legs yelling at me the whole way back to Collins.

NOTE: I didn't have H fact-check this for me.  You'll just have to trust me, and my embellishments, that this is what happened. :-)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

like a lion

I'm a big fan of March roaring in like a lion and skipping away like a lamb, especially if by "roaring in" you mean "snowstorms."  Our latest storm started on Thursday, paused briefly on Friday and then continued snowing, leaving a storm total of 24" by the time the lifts closed on Saturday, with the promise of several more inches overnight.  This was not light and fluffy champagne powder (which we've had exactly none of this season) but dense, heavy snow, loaded up with water which will be good for the reservoirs eventually.  I decided to ski on my Rossignols, figuring the wider skis would surf on top of the heavy snow whereas my Volkls would just nose-dive and get buried.  It would end up being the right decision.

The canyon road was closed from 6-8 a.m. while they did avalanche control but when we joined the line after the road opened, traffic moved pretty well.  There were lots of folks waiting in line for the Collins lift to open and once they started loading people, the lift ran slowly because of the strong, gusty winds up top.  We saw a notification that Sugarloaf lift was closed and when we got to the top of Collins, we learned that that whole part of the resort was roped off while they did control.  We did learn that Supreme lift was open: it would not be easy to get there without being able to ski across Sugarloaf's terrain and that would likely mean that not too many people would be there.  So we went for it: skiing back down to Collins, taking the rope tow to the beginner area, taking the Sunnyside lift up, skiing over to Alf's, taking the Cecret lift up and then skiing down to the Supreme lift.  It was worth it because there was no lift line at Supreme until 11:30 a.m. and the snow was really good (if heavy).

Storm-skiing in the trees

Although avalanche control bombs seemed to be going off all around us for much of the morning, they never ended up opening Catherine's Area.  They did get Supreme Bowl open, however, and we had some great runs.  We'd go in the top gate off of the Challenger trail and then ski along the rope until we found good-looking chutes and gullies.  There was quite a lot of snow in those gullies and not too many people; most folks seemed to be going more to skier's right into the Bowl proper.  We did a bunch of runs in there, just doing laps.

After lunch, we rode up Sugarloaf (which had finally opened mid-morning), thinking to do a run down Chartreuse.  The wind was really strong, though, whipping the graupel into our faces, so we went back to Supreme.  We did a few more runs in the gullies that we'd been skiing in the morning, then moved over to ski the Erosion Gullies and the trees around and under 3 Bears.  The snow held up really well - especially in the trees - and we had a lot of fun playing around in there.  The snow was heavy, however, and my legs got tired enough that we skied out (having to take that dang rope tow back across from Sunnyside to Collins), getting back to the truck around 3 p.m.