Thursday, December 17, 2015

warm before the storm

No 10:30 start for us on Sunday!  We got back to our usual routine and arrived at Alta's Wildcat base in time to wait in line for Collins to open, scoring a much better parking spot than we had with our late arrival the day before.  It was a lot warmer - warmer than I expected, and I even ended up taking off my shell by mid-morning - still cloudy and with light winds, but with temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to the mid-30s.  A big storm was expected to come in late Sunday night/early Monday morning and this was indeed the "warm before the storm."  I didn't mind: my toes didn't get cold at all!

Superior behind me, H reflected in my goggles

A paltry inch of new snow had come in overnight but the conditions seemed pretty good.  The groomers had covered over some of the rougher patches (like the first pitch of Devil's Way, coming off Collins towards Sugarloaf) and everything seemed to hold up pretty well, despite it seeming busy again.  I think part of why it is busier is that the regular lesson groups are starting to show up: instructors are getting to know/reuniting with the 5-8 kids they'll ski with for the season and there's always a bit of chaos before things settle into routine.  We watched one instructor, Zachary, at lunch time: we remembered him from last year and he is wonderful with his group (five girls, two boys, ages 9-12?).  Whatever he's getting paid?  It's not enough.

Here's Fitz in action from 12/6/15
(PC:  John Shafer, Alta)

Sunday was a day for Alta's staff.  We had a lift ride with Heinz, a new skier service's guy, who was very pleasant, friendly and mellow and stoked about the new season.  We rode up Collins with a young patroller who asked if we'd be able to ski the storm.  When we said no, he shrugged, admitting that most of the mountain would still be closed while they did avalanche control work anyway.  He was hoping that they'd get enough snow to get more terrain open: "I can't stand skiing this place until High Traverse is open."  And we had not one, but two Fitz sightings!  We saw him in the morning, hopping on a chair with his handler for a ride up Collins; and then later, we saw him slung over his handler's shoulders, skiing down under the Sugarloaf chair.  Fitz has a good job.

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