Monday, April 18, 2016

grip it and rip it

Northern Utah got a very nice midweek storm, bringing about eight dense inches of snow to the Cottonwood Canyons, just in time for Alta's first closing weekend.  As we drove up Saturday morning, we weren't really sure what we'd find.  It had been cold enough to frost the rooftops in our neighborhood and a low band of clouds was trapped in the canyon, but the winds were moving things around and the sun looked to be coming out.  We ended up with partly sunny conditions, fairly constant winds and cool temperatures staying in the low 20s at the summits and mid- to high 30s at the base.  I was too stubborn to wear my boot covers so my toes were cold but the cooler temperatures kept the snow from getting too sticky, which was very nice.

In the Ballroom, second run of the day

The snow was much better than we expected.  It had been windy overnight so there was a lot of blown-in snow, filling in ruts and bumps.  Where it was groomed it was soft and not just chunked-up ice.  Where it was untracked it was smooth and soft, fluffy in the protected areas and heavier where the sun could get at it.  Over time, as the conditions got tracked out, the off-piste snow got quite a bit heavier, to the point where it was difficult to push through.  And at the end of the day, lower Collins - from the angle station to the base - was just delightful, very soft and buttery but not sticky or slushy.

Into Gunsight

Despite the Wildcat base parking lot being more full than it has been in weeks, there really weren't very many people there.  Aside from first chair, we never waited in lift lines all day, pretty much skiing right onto the lift each time.  A couple of times there would be a small crowd of people, like when skiers lined up on the ridge, waiting for patrol to drop the rope into the Backside, but sometimes we were the only people on the trail, if only for a moment or two.  It was lovely.

Out of Gunsight

H was back on his alpine gear and was taking advantage of it, doing Gunsight, Keyhole, Chartreuse, and the Backside, and jumping into the trees whenever he could.  I elected to avoid the hikes (my legs were a little fatigued since I had missed skiing the weekend before) but had a fantastic run through Glory Gulch, starting along the little ridge to skiers' right of Keyhole, into Glory Gulch and up and out to skiers' left, then down through Glitch (or maybe Glatch).  I wasn't the first skier in there but it looked like there had only been one or two ahead of me and the snow was really good.

Patrol shot the Backside up like crazy -
you can see all the slide rubble

We did a couple of runs up and over Razorback, then going in through a gate and down the bumps below Cecret Lake, finishing out once past the now-closed Supreme and twice via the Cabin Run.  Extrovert skied well all day but we did look longingly across the valley at the skiers skinning up Rock N' Roll and getting first tracks down Challenger.  Ski patrol did not go into Devil's Castle all day - and it looked so good! - so we were hopeful that they would maybe schedule an early morning route and drop the rope on Sunday.

About to drop into Keyhole

By 2:30 p.m., the snow was getting heavy and my legs had had it.  We perched on the tailgate for a quick beer, watching the clouds create shadows on the flanks of Superior above us, then hopped into the warm truck to head home.  Only three ski days left at Alta for the 2015/2016 season!

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