Wednesday, April 9, 2014

way, way better than expected

If you like to ski this time of year, you have to be flexible due to the vagaries of spring conditions and weather.  For instance, we were on the fence Saturday morning, hemming and hawing and checking Alta's webcams and staring out the window up the canyon; we ended up not going, instead spending the day doing laundry, working on our computers, making peanut butter cookies.  That meant we had to go skiing on Sunday: that would be ski day #40 for me and #48 for H.

A little storm had settled in over the Wasatch Front (the last for a while, as a high pressure system is due to move in for the next week), which would drop seven inches total and about four inches from Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon.  We got into the storm as we passed Snowbird, heading up the canyon road; although it was only supposed to bring a scant inch, it snowed steadily all day up at Alta - and sometimes quite hard.  The resort was sparsely attended, people either not interested in April skiing, at church or put off by the prospect of skiing in a snowstorm.  Indeed, it didn't feel at all like spring: we were in midwinter the whole time we were up there, except that the temperatures were 20-30 F instead of 10-20.  The visibility was less than ideal, with heavy cloud cover landing low on the mountains.  The light was very flat, whether we were skiing in the clouds or the snow squalls.

Looked like the end of the world
on Sugarloaf lift today

As we moved from Collins to Sugarloaf, H immediately declared that he was using the wrong skis.  We really didn't know what to expect snow conditions-wise and he had worn his Volkls, expecting hard pack.  The groomers were plenty soft, however, and once we moved over to Supreme and started skiing in Catherine's Area, we realized that there was quite a lot of snow stacked up in there - after our first run through Catherine's, I admitted that I - also on my Volkls - was also on the wrong skis.  The snow in Catherine's Area was fantastic, deep and not too heavy, clearly not what we thought we'd find.  We did runs in there all morning and then, after lunch, went back and did more Catherine's runs until ski patrol closed the area at 3 p.m.

Catherine's Area - woohoo!

Our legs did get fatigued: since we weren't wearing our powder skis, it took a lot more effort to turn in the deep stuff.  I had to stick to groomers for the last couple of runs we took off Supreme, although H opted for playing in the trees near 3 Bears.  The day's snow was starting to pile up and the wind picked up in the afternoon, driving the graupel painfully into our faces.  Ski patrol started closing avalanche-prone areas like Rock-n-Roll and the Backside; to ski out, we had to ski through the bunny slope and drag across the rope tow since they closed the EBT too.  We got back to the truck just before 4 p.m., amazed that we'd skied that late and amazed at how good the snow had been.  This day just got added to the list of best days of the season - a pretty exclusive list (this past Monday, two days when my brother was here and one more) this season thus far.  That it was a complete surprise only made it more fun.

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