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.

No comments:

Post a Comment