Saturday, January 16, 2016

best conditions of the season (to date)

Since the middle of last week, we've been having a series of weak storms roll through the area, leaving most of what they had up in the mountains - and hardly any in the valley which is perfect.  We weren't able to get up for any midweek turns but we headed up to Alta bright and early on Saturday, mostly because the canyon road had been closed until nearly 8 a.m. for avalanche control and we didn't know what sort of traffic we would be dealing with.  It wasn't bad, in fact, a little slow but not backed up and we got to Alta 45 minutes before they opened the lifts.  (On the drive up we discussed that we maybe should start checking the traffic cams before heading out; there's at least one at a key intersection that would give us some useful information.

As we rode up the first chair, we watched people coming down through Sunspot and West Rustler and it looked good.  We had intended to do a warm-up run first - H was back on his alpine skis after having only skied telemark since Christmas - but we convinced ourselves that we should go for the soft stuff first.  The snow was really good but diving in first thing was a mistake and we have confirmed that, at our age, we really do need to do a groomer warm-up to get the legs moving again.  Lesson learned.

In the corral, waiting for the lifts to open

Then we had a little mix-up and lost each other for a while: I thought H saw me heading for the lift but he didn't; our texts didn't reach each other in a timely fashion; and finally, after I had communicated to him that I was okay, we decided to ski separately until lunchtime instead of wasting more time trying to find each other out on the slopes.  H did a couple runs off of Sugarloaf (he had hoped to get into the Backside but they didn't open it until he had moved on), including a decent run down Extrovert where, like a few weeks ago, there were people falling all over the place, struggling in the deep snow.

Because it really was deep, deeper than I had expected.  I went to Supreme and, for my first run there, threw myself down one of the Erosion gullies, to skier's left of Challenger.  So soft!  So deep!  Catherine's Area wasn't open yet - ski patrol was bombing the hell out of Supreme Bowl - so I did a Challenger run next (ridiculously big moguls, but soft).  Then I went down through the trees near No. 9 Express, making my way into the trees below Sleepy Hollow, where I got stuck in a gully and had to climb out onto 3 Bears (I was having a hard time getting out of my own way).  At this point it was close enough to lunch that I went into Alf's to meet H there.

As we were just finishing lunch, a couple of guys came in, grinning and reporting to their friends that they had been at the top of Supreme when ski patrol dropped the rope into Catherine's Area.  That was exactly what we wanted to hear and where we headed directly.  There were a lot of people going in as well but most were not hiking too far out.  Our first run was down through Sunset and I quickly learned that I had to follow someone else's tracks: as much as I wanted to poach some untracked snow, my skis weren't wide enough/I wasn't strong or fast enough to move through the deep snow, which was easily over my knees and, in spots, hit me mid-thigh and stopped me dead in my tracks.  It was glorious.  We went in further on the second run, out to Snowshoe Hill.  There were a couple other people out there but there was plenty of snow for everyone.  At one point, I was leaning way, way back, like being on waterskis, just trying to keep the tips of my skis up.  It was glorious.

After that, my legs were shot, so H and I split up again with a plan to meet at the bottom of Supreme at 3 p.m.  I did three more runs, one more Erosion Gully, one Big Dipper and one cat-track around to Lower Big Dipper because I couldn't make my legs work anymore.  The wind had picked up and with the flat light and blowing snow, it was difficult to see the bumps and drifts on the trails.  I landed at the bottom of the lift at 2:47 p.m. and decided that I would just wait there for H instead of trying to squeeze in another run.  He showed up just a couple minutes later, breathing hard.  He had done two more Catherine's Area runs, going all the way in to where we like to ski and since no one had been in there before him, he broke trail the whole way.  The runs he took were incredible but the work was exhausting.  We were done.  And already looking forward to the next two days ahead of us.

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