Friday, April 29, 2016

closing day, 2015/2016 version

Alta's second Closing Day for the 2015/2016 seemed like it was going to start off like the 2014/2015 closing day: with a storm bringing eleven inches of new snow overnight.  That was the beginning and the ending of the similarity, however, as this year we got there earlier, stayed later and pretty much had a good day to close things off.

The canyon road was closed until just before 8 a.m. since avalanche control work was necessary after the overnight dumping.  We left the house at 8:30 and while traffic was steady, it moved well all the way up.  The snowline was clearly visible at 6,000 feet.  As we climbed the canyon, it was fairly bright and clear until we got above Snowbird; then the cloud ceiling lowered to below the mountaintops.  The corral was full and the singles line stretched all the way out by the time we got in line at 9:10 a.m.  Everyone was stoked about the new snow but I was more concerned by the fact that it was extremely sticky underfoot.  It was much colder up top (22 F), though, so we didn't have any trouble with our skis.

In the Ballroom

When we first started skiing, it was busy but not terribly crowded (yet).  Ski patrol was shooting charges off all over the place, trying to get safe terrain opened up to spread the skiers out.  The Sugarloaf/Supreme side was entirely roped off at first, so we did a couple of runs down Collins, just down Mambo.  All the crunchy, scratchy spots on the groomers and low angle faces were covered by the new snow; H jumped into Fred's Trees and then just as quickly jumped out, reporting frozen bumps that the new snow hadn't stuck to.  Still, conditions were soft underfoot for the most part - although we could tell that with the high volume of skiers, things would get clumped up quickly.  The new snow was dense and extremely heavy.

H's view of me from the Cecret Lake moguls

Once ski patrol cleared the Sugarloaf/Supreme side, we went over there and had a fantastic run down Extrovert.  There had only been four or five people down it before us so the turns were creamy and largely untracked.  Just a couple hours later we skied past that trail and I was astonished to see that it was completely skied out and trampled - glad we got to it early.  That was the story of the day, really, as more and more people poured in.  Lower Collins got soft and skied pretty well but Corkscrew was a pain since we had to play dodge 'em, skiing around all the people who were struggling with the heavy snow.

My view of H, skiing the bumps

We ended up having several really good runs, actually: three times through Ballroom, where we found lines in around the debris from the avalanches ski patrol had triggered, and then once back over towards Supreme, where H had a great run all to himself over Razorback and down the moguls below Cecret Lake.  I had followed him over Razorback and struggled with the heavy, tracked-out snow.  But when we got over nearer Supreme, no one had been there and the smooth, dense surface was wonderful to ski on.

Closing Day selfie

We skied through lunch and by 1 p.m., my legs were really tired from pushing all the heavy snow around.  We did one last chair ride on Wildcat, watching the teenagers throwing themselves off the jumps still standing from last Sunday's Frank party, then skied out.  The sun was in and out, the breeze light, but it was still chilly as we drank our celebratory close-out-the-ski-season beers on the tailgate.  (Not as chilly as last year, however.)  Around us, other people were tailgating too, some high end with wine and fondue, others with cans of beers and deli sandwiches.  It was a very nice way to end a pretty good season, on a 100" base and over 400" total on the season, after that overnight storm.  And now we have seven months - for hiking and biking and camping and the rest of it - until the chairs start turning again.  Viva Alta!

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