Wednesday, January 14, 2015

flat snow, flat light

While the rest of the country is seemingly in the deep freeze, we've been having a January thaw here in Salt Lake City.  When we left for Alta on Saturday morning, it was already 28 F at Wildcat base; by the time we left in the afternoon, it was 29 F at the summit and 40 F at the base.  There was patchy sunlight to start but after lunch the clouds really rolled in and the light got emphatically flat, making it extremely difficult to see.

We did a couple of runs on Collins to start, then moved over to Sugarloaf for a couple of runs, and then continued on to Supreme.  The snow was a little bit eastern-style - firm and fast - but it wasn't actually icy since the warmer temperatures kept it soft; the only places where it approached "icy" were where the sun had baked it earlier in the week.  It didn't seem like there were too many people and the parking lot certainly wasn't packed when we left, but the trails coming off Sugarloaf were fairly busy at times and we did end up riding the Supreme singles line a couple of times when the corral got full.

In under the Apron

We only did one run into Catherine's Area: the top was soft and lovely to ski in but the last pitch on the way out was much less fun, having melted in the sun earlier in the week and then frozen up overnight.  Luckily, we did find that a couple of the lower gates on Rock N Roll were finally open, so we were able to get into the trees below the Apron.  It was fairly soft in there but a little grabby for the turns and very tracked out.  Everything was tracked out - I don't think I've ever seen Catherine's Area as beaten down as it was.  We hadn't had any decent snow for at least 7-10 days and were starting to get desperate for it.  [This would change on Monday when a very excellent and over-producing storm brought a much-needed 26" to Alta.  Of course, we had to work and missed it.  I'm sure some people got out and enjoyed it.]

After lunch, snow started spitting down sporadically, which was the start of a weak system moving in for the overnight.  The light got even worse after lunch: it was incredibly difficult to see what we were skiing on, even on groomers.  We decided to quit while we were ahead and were back at the truck by 2 p.m.  On Sunday, we got up and checked Alta's overnight snowfall total (3") and webcams (low clouds socking in the whole resort but not actually snowing).  We played the Utah ski snob card (as in, refusing to ski in such poor visibility) and stayed home.

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