Saturday, April 12, 2014

challenge[r] accepted

As happens so often in the early and late ski seasons, we were on the fence about skiing this morning.  The forecast was for warm temperatures (high 40s-low 50s), with increasing clouds and possibility of snow/rain and thunder after noon.  We hemmed and hawed for a while and then threw our gear in the truck and headed up to Alta.  It was a demo day up there, with a bunch of ski companies displaying their wares (I have a hankering for a pair of Soul Poles myself, but they're far too expensive for frickin' ski poles), but the parking lot was only about a third full when we looked back from the Collins lift.  Alta is starting to close down - this is the last weekend for the Supreme lift and next weekend will be the last for the Sugarloaf lift; after 4/20, Alta will only be open Fri-Sat-Sun until 5/4, which is closing day - and it makes sense as they can't be selling many day tickets.  If it had been bright blue skies and sunshine, there would have been more folks there, but it wasn't and there's weren't.

Before the clouds closed in

We did one run off of Sugarloaf before moving over to Supreme, which is where we would stay for the whole day.  With the sun peeking in and out of the gathering clouds, it took a while for the snow to warm up.  By 11 a.m., however, most of the groomers had softened nicely although off-piste was still a little crusty.  We did laps on Supreme's intermediate groomers (3 Bears, Rock N'Roll, Big Dipper) before settling on Challenger for numerous runs.  Challenger is usually one of my least favorite runs as it tends to get super-bumped up and skied off between the giant moguls or, alternatively, completely skied off since it's a popular trail.  Today, however, it skied really well, softening into creamy mashed potato consistency and never getting too sticky.  We did it a number of times - and I can't tell you the last time I happily did it more than once (other than when I was just using it to access gates into Supreme Bowl.

Things started to get sloppy after lunch, resulting in "red light/green light" snow (as one lifty described it) that slowed us down and grabbed our skis so that we lurched through the sticky spots.  Catherine's Area had been open all day but we waited until after lunch to go in there, waiting for the snow to soften.  We went all the way in, to the Catherine's Pass overlook, and cruised through Last Chance.  I had a very difficult time turning - the off-piste snow was heavy and grabby and my short skis struggled to turn; H did better with his stronger legs and longer, wider skis.  The last pitch out skied well but we figured we didn't have to go in there again.  If they don't open Catherine's on Sunday, that will have been our last run in there (for probably eight months) - not great but good enough.

After the clouds closed in

We took a few more runs as the snow got stickier and stickier.  At our old mountain in Maine, spring conditions tend towards corn snow which is wet but easy to ski in.  Out here, where the snow is drier (and not so much man-made), we get mashed potato-consistency which is soft but sticky and very heavy.  As the clouds gathered, wreathing the surrounding peaks with falling snow and/or rain, we figured we'd had enough for the day.  It had exceeded our expectations and we'd gotten a lot of runs in ... and then we hightailed it out of there before we got drenched.

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