Monday, February 29, 2016

going local

For the first time since we moved out here, H and I skied with someone local.  We've skied with friends before but they've all been folks visiting from back east.  On Saturday we met up with Darren, one of H's coworkers, his eleven year old son, Wade, and his uncle, Larry.  We spotted them as we drove into the parking lot and then chatted briefly with Darren from the singles line while Wade and Larry got their tickets.  H and I did laps on Collins for over an hour, trying to hook up with them; although we saw them several times from the lift, the timing was never right.  At 10:30 a.m. I moved over to Supreme, with the plan to meet H for lunch at Alf's a little before noon.  We were having balmy, spring-like temperatures under bright sunshine, which meant that even though it was busy, everyone was happy, even standing in the lift lines.  With no recent snow, it was my kind of conditions: skied out but still soft, generally speaking.  It was a little bit crusty in the morning in the areas that had gotten baked in the sun Friday afternoon; off-piste was not great before lunch but the groomers were in good shape and skiing fast.

We were supposed to get a small storm but
all we got was this funky cloud over Superior

At lunch, H reported that he'd met up with Darren, Wade and Larry skiing at Sugarloaf.  He'd done a couple of runs with them and they were planning to go to Supreme after lunch, so we'd meet them there.  After lunch, I went directly into Devil's Castle - H did not, being on his tele skis - and found it in pretty good shape since it doesn't get direct sun this time of year.  After my run there, I went back to Supreme and after a run or two, we connected with our friends.

Darren said that it had probably been 20 years since he'd skied at Alta.  He has a young family and they don't get to go skiing very often, although he and W had had some good days at Solitude this season.  I led him and Wade on a Catherine's Area run: down the rope line on So Long, then turning left through the trees.  The last pitch before the run-out, which had been crusty right after lunch, was fantastic by then: sun-softened into smooth corn-snow bumps.  On our next run, we all went into the highest gate under East Castle and played around in the trees there, coming out among the cabins above Cecret lift.  Wade really liked it in there, and H was managing well enough on his tele skis, so we did a couple more runs in that area until Supreme closed at 3:30.  Our group moved to Sugarloaf and did a fast flyer that everyone liked, then scooted around the EBT to Collins.  Wade, Darren, Larry and I did a run through the Ballroom while H, whose legs feeling the tele fatigue at this point, opted for a straight shot down to Wildcat base.  At the base, H and I said goodbye.  It was just past 4 p.m. and we were ready to quit, but as we walked back to the truck, young Wade was dragging Darren and Larry back onto the lift for one more run.  Ah, youth!  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

queuing up

Sunday was nearly a carbon copy of Saturday: it was perhaps slightly warmer, with less wind, but it had the same snow conditions and the same clouds clearing throughout the day.  H was back on his telemark skis; we skied the same schedule of meeting up for lunch and then again at the truck between 2-2:30 p.m.  And the crowds came out again with a vengeance.

The rest of Devil's Castle from Sugar Face

I was sure that it wouldn't be as crowded, figuring that tourists that had been there for the vacation week would be heading home.  But the lift lines never thinned out and, if anything, seemed worse, in part due to both Supreme and Sugarloaf having stoppage issues.  Sugarloaf seemed to be having some mechanical issues but Supreme was almost entirely due to tourists falling off.  On the plus side, the day was mostly sunshiny and warm and people just seemed happy to be out skiing at Alta.
Ski patrol worked their tails off and got both the Main Chute on Baldy and Devil's Castle open.  H was a little crestfallen not to have his alpine skis on a Baldy day; although he is doing really well on his teles, his skills there are not what they need to be for a run down Main Chute.  Maybe next time!

Looking down the bowl towards Cecret Lake

As for me (I have no interest in the Main Chute or any other Baldy chute), I did a run in Devil's Castle, down Sugar Face and out towards the Cecret Chutes.  I also went in from the Rock N' Roll side, coming down through the Apron Bench trees and exiting through the trees by the top of Cecret lift.  The snow in there was pretty good since it hadn't been skied since Thursday's storm came through and dropped its refresher inches, perhaps a little stiff where the sun had hit it the day before.  As much as I love bluebird skies, though, it sure would be nice to get back to a bunch of storm systems rolling through.  Maybe March will be a lion month all the way through.

Monday, February 22, 2016

back at it

We had a wild storm blow through on Thursday - fast-moving, superdark clouds with high winds (106 m.p.h. clocked on Ogden Peak), hail and snow - that knocked down trees and power lines, causing several Utah ski resorts to close for part or all of the day, but that didn't bring a whole lot of new snow.  Powder Mountain got the most (and also most of the winds, I think) with 13'; Park City got eight or so and Alta got 5-6".  Still, every little bit counts - and that's the truth.

Out in Catherine's Area

We knew it would all be skied out, except for anything that was still closed, so H elected to take his telemark equipment up on Saturday.  I raised an eyebrow, knowing how tele skiing thrashes one's legs and also knowing that he hadn't had a whole lot of exercise due to battling that terrible cold.  But he is determined to improve and the only way to do that is to take your tele skis.

Another shot from that ridge in Catherine's Area

Weather-wise, it was pretty mild: mostly cloudy in the morning and clearing in the afternoon, light winds and temperatures ranging from 21-37F.  We started out skiing together (well, technically standing in the singles line together because Alta was quite crowded) but after three runs in the shade on Collins face I was a little chilly.  H wanted to stay on Collins for a while longer so we made plans to meet up for lunch at Alf's.  I went over to Sugarloaf, where the sun shines in the morning, and did one run there.  I had intended to do another since Extrovert had been groomed and looked pretty good, but the crowded Sugarloaf lift line drove me away to Supreme.  It wasn't any less crowded there but the lifties seem to do a better job of managing the hordes.

Looking at Devil's Castle from the Backside

The snow was pretty decent, I thought.  It was all beaten down, of course, but although it was compacted it was still soft and the sun hadn't baked it too badly.  I like skiing those conditions and find it easier to maneuver than super-deep powder.  I did a couple of runs in Catherine's Area - one all the way out to Last Chance and one down Snowshoe Hill - and had a terrific run in the Backside, where even Glitch/Glatch were pretty soft.  The groomers were in good shape too and managed to keep from getting skied off too badly, even with the crowds.

My softshell matches the sky

H and I met back up at the truck at 2:30 p.m.  His legs were wrung out at that point and, to be honest, mine were fatigued as well.  We were at the end of our patience with the lift lines too so it seemed like a good time to head home and rest up for the next day.

Friday, February 19, 2016


When you don't go skiing, there's a lot more available time to poke around online.  Sometimes you just disappear down the rabbit hole but sometimes you discover something worthwhile.  I discovered something worthwhile, the blog Summit Brew, and now I have a new goal for the non-skiing season.

Summit Brew espouses a clear and simple mission statement:  bag a peak and drink a beer up there.  H and I love to hike and we love to drink beer, so I see no reason why we can't adopt this thinking once the lifts stop turning.  Reading through the SB blog, you can sort by beer or sort by summit.  While we've already climbed a fair number of the Utah summits they have (Big Mountain, Gobblers, Grandeur, Mount Aire, Mount Olympus, Reynolds, Sugarloaf, Storm Mountain and Twin Lakes Pass, as well as the Thunder Mountain trail in Red Canyon), I've still found a bunch that we have yet to do, like Mount Superior, Temptation Ridge, Uinta Lake and the stuff in the La Sals.

The SB rule is good micros only - no PBRs allowed - so we'll get to do some exploring in the suds as well as in the mountains.  Luckily, Utah has a whole bunch of microbreweries, so there should be no problem finding new cans of beer to tote up to the top.  Since I had some time on my hands last weekend, I compiled an incomplete list of the possibilities below.  I am in no hurry to stop skiing but it's been kind of fun thinking about what's to come.

2Row Brewing
24K Golden Ale
Dangereux American Farmhouse Ale
Accelerator IPA
Random Double IPA
Bottles for purchase at 6856 South 300 West, Midvale, and can be found to drink at these establishments.

Epic Brewing
Escape to Colorado IPA
Hop Syndrome Pils Lager
Brainless Raspberries
The Gourdian Pumpkin Ale
Cans (listed above) and many more bottled varieties for purchase at the brewery cold case at 825 S. State Street, SLC.

Moab Brewery
Rocket Bike American Lager
Johnny's American IPA
Dead Horse Amber Ale
Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale
Red Rye IPA
Session and full-strength cans (listed above) and bottles for purchase at the brewery at 686 S. Main Street, Moab, and session beers available in grocery stores around Utah.

Mountainwest Hard Cider
Ruby Hard Cider
For now, available for tasting and purchase only at the cidery at 425 North 400 West, SLC.

Park City Brewery
Breaking Trail Pale Ale
Last Pitch IPA
Hooker Blonde Ale
Boogie Water Brown Ale
Cans available all over Salt Lake County and Summit County, including at grocery stores.

Red Rock Brewery
Golden Halo Blonde Ale
Le Quatre Saison French Belgian Style Ale
Bobcat Nut Brown Ale
Elephino Double IPA
Anniversary Imperial Red Ale
Drioma Imperial Stout
Frohlich Pils
Reve Belgian Tripple
Paardebloem Belgian Ale
Bottles available at the beer store at 443 North 400 West in SLC; bottles and draft available at the brewpubs.

Shades of Pale Brewery
Jack Wagon Wheat
4-Play Porter
Publican Pale Ale
Ready to Fly Amber
Can be found all along the Wasatch Front and Back, including at the brewery and at grocery stores.

Hop Rising Double IPA
Off Duty IPA
Bumper Crop Honey Ale
Full Suspension Pale Ale
Respect Your Mother Organic Amber
Chasing Tail Golden Ale
American Wheat Hefeweizen
Vienna Marzen
Take Out Rye IPA
Outer Darkness Russian Imperial Stout
Bottles (session and full-strength) and cans (session only) can be found all over, including at the brewpubs and in grocery stores (session beers only).

Uinta Brewing
Bristlecone Brown Ale
Cutthroat Pale Ale
Detour Double IPA
Dubhe Imperial Black IPA
Golden Spike Hefeweizen
Hoodoo Kolsch
Hop Nosh IPA
King's Peak Porter
Trader Session IPA
Yard Sale Winter Lager
801 Pilsner
Baba Black Lager
Hazel Amber Wheat
Monkshine Belgian Style Blonde
Wyld Extra Pale Ale
Labyrink Black Ale
Available all over the place, including grocery stores and convenience stores.

Wasatch Brewery
Polygamy Porter
Ghostrider White IPA
First One Down Winter Warmer Ale
Bobsled Nutbrown
Apricot Hefeweizen
Evolution Amber
Provo Girl Pilsner
Last One In Lager
Raspberry Wheat
Available all over, including at the brewpubs and in grocery and convenience stores.

PS - And please see the exhaustive, information-packed Utah Beer Blog for listings and links of all the Utah microbreweries, both existing and in-progress.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


After last weekend's success, we thought we'd kicked the midwinter sickfest that had been plaguing us but, just as the inversion settled into the Salt Lake Valley, the head cold reasserted itself.  I had an alternately stuffy and runny nose, while H coughed until his head ached.  When the long weekend rolled around, with a beautiful sunny day at Alta on Saturday and a lightly snowing day on Sunday, we just didn't have the gumption to strap on the boards.

This time the downtime included sulking in front of the television, homemade Italian beefs and chocolate chip cookies and dealing with laundry (as always).  I did manage to get a run in on Sunday - gasping and spitting my way around my usual 5k loop - while the Wasatch mountains were shrouded in cloud cover; I got hit with a variety of precipitation (graupel, large wet snowflakes and misty rain) so that seemed encouraging that it was probably snowing up at the ski areas.  We're getting pretty tired of feeling under the weather (especially since we feel icky enough to miss out on skiing but aren't sick enough to miss work) so hopefully this soon will pass.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

super sunday

Because of the high pressure system parking itself in the neighborhood, Sunday was quite beautiful weather-wise, if you like bluebird skies and very mild temperatures.I put aside my Rossignols for the day's skiing, secure in the knowledge that there hadn't been any new snow, some of the nice snow was starting to get sun-baked, and even when venturing into deeper stuff, it would all be chunked up and skiable on my shorter, turn-ier Salomons.

Heading up the sidestep to Gunsight

With H having scoped everything out for me on Saturday, I was psyched to ski some stuff that I haven't skied all season.  After a couple of warm-up groomers, we headed for Gunsight, taking the High Traverse out to the second of three avalanche control signs above Sunspot, and then side-stepping up to the notch in the ridgeline.  The side-step was the best I can remember seeing it; the very top of the chute was another story, molded into huge, deep troughs from prior skiers.  I paused for a little bit, uneasy, until H gave me some pointers on how to make the turns.  After three or four turns, the chute opened up and it got much easier; the snow was wind-buffed but still soft.  When the pitch flattened out, we moved left to Greeley Hill and then out on the run-out to Sunnyside.

Pausing for courage at the top of Gunsight

I needed a groomer to get some feeling back in my legs but after that, we went into the Backside, East Greeley to Glitch/Glatch.  We could tell that the snow was on the verge of getting sun-baked but at that point, it was still pretty soft.  I could have skied it better on my Rossignols but appreciated my nimble Salomons when we got into Glitch and/or Glatch.  Another groomer to take a breather and then it was off into Devil's Castle, for me the first time all season.  There was a serious dearth of traverse-etiquette - people shouldering their way past, people stopping - but it didn't matter because the snow was really pretty good.  Chunked up, sure, but soft.  We went down in the first third and cut across under the Cecret Chutes, heading for the trees in Boulder Basin.

That speck in the middle?  Me.

After lunch, H wanted to take another run through the Castle.  I knew my legs wouldn't stand for it so I took off for Supreme, with the plan that we would meet each other there around 1 p.m.  When we met up, we went into the Apron Bench trees that I had been skiing on Saturday.  The area had seen quite a lot of ski traffic in the interim but it was still possible to nap some untracked shots between the trees.  Always a good time.

H before heading into the Apron Bench trees

Although Alta had been quite busy throughout the morning, the place really started to clear out 1:30-2:00-ish, as people headed out of the canyon to their various SuperBowl parties.  We kept skiing for a bit longer, enjoying the nearly non-existent lift lines, but my legs cried uncle a little before 3 p.m.  We headed home then, pausing only to wash the truck before hunkering down for the evening with homemade buffalo wings, a beer or two and the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet (not being pro football fans ourselves).

Saturday, February 6, 2016

outskied by our dentist

We're in a ridging spell right now - in which high pressure parks itself over the area, keeping the snowstorms away and warming things up in the mountains - but before that happened, the weather gave us a wonderful present.  One last storm rolled through Thursday night and completely over-produced (i.e., did better than forecasted): Big Cottonwood Canyon got about five inches but Little Cottonwood Canyon got thirteen!  Bringing Alta (albeit briefly) to a 100-inch base!  By all accounts, Friday's skiing was wonderful, with blue skies above and blower pow underfoot.  Both H and I had to work but you're darn right that we got out there Saturday for the remnants.  As we were putting on our boots in the parking lot, our dentist pulled into the spot next to us.  He said he had left his family behind and was going solo today - we think that he probably doesn't get to ski all that often and was hoping to make the most of the time he had.

Plenty of snow at the top of Gunsight

The first ride up Collins showed us that it had been busy at Alta on Friday: things were definitely tracked out.  We could hear ski patrol setting off charges, however; they were working through Devil's Castle, trying to get it open.  After a couple of ski days skiing separately, we decided that we should ski together for a change.  But after two warm-up runs, when H said that we should give Gunsight, I got a little nervous and opted out, telling him to go do it and report back on the conditions of the traverse when we joined up for lunch.  So while he did Gunsight (the traverse was absolutely fine and not rocky as I feared and the snow in the chute on the other side of the ridge was very good) and several runs on the Backside (including East Greely and Keyhole, which was also very good), I moved on to Supreme.

Eddie's High Nowhere

My legs were feeling a little puny for some reason and muscling my Rossignols through the giant moguls in the Vicky's/White Squaw chutes wasn't helping.  Catherine's Area was a little better: although tracked out, the snow was very soft and easily skied.  I did one run through Snowshoe Hill and one down the So Long ropeline and into the Back Forty trees.  The snow was pretty well chunked-up in there but still soft.

Keyhole, looking better than it has in a long time

During lunch, we watched the ski patrollers continue their work in Devil's Castle and then, at about 12:30 p.m., they dropped the rope.  H said that people had been lined up for literally hours, waiting to get in there; we rode up the Sugarloaf chair and the line of skiers sidestepping up and into the Castle stretched around the corner and out onto the EBT.  We did a Cabin Run - grabbing untracked snow nearly the whole way - and then went up Sugarloaf again to see how the line looked.  It was shorter but still long and when H hopped in it, I bailed, not willing to deal with the mass of humanity.

Line of folks sidestepping in the Castle

I went back to Supreme and did some laps down Rock N' Roll, traversing in through the avalanche control gates and making my way through the excellent snow in the trees of Apron Bench.  I found H around 2:45 p.m. at the top of Supreme: he'd done three runs through Devil's Castle because it was so good, finding fantastic snow each time.  Our legs were toast and we skied out, getting back to the truck around 3 p.m.  Our dentist's SUV was still there so it was evident that he was having a very good day too.

Yay skiing!

Monday, February 1, 2016


Northern Utah got a nice storm from Friday afternoon through Saturday evening, with Alta picking up 15", bringing them up to a mid-mountain base of 90" and a to-date season total of 265".  This storm didn't turn out to be as massive as the forecasters once thought it would be - and southern Utah looks to be getting some very nice snow totals in the next system that moves through - but more is always better and we are now within 2% of "normal" snowpack, which given the last several years is cause to celebrate.  With spectacularly bad timing, however, poor H came down with a whopper of a head cold and we took a pass on skiing for the weekend, consoling ourselves with the fact that it looked like the visibility was pretty poor with the flat light.  (Sour grapes, yes.)

Instead we made the best of the downtime we could.  I shoveled on Saturday and went for a run on Sunday, thus avoiding trips to the gym.  We cleaned the bathrooms, caught up on laundry and ran the vacuum a bit.  We made homemade pizzas and also a peach crisp, diving deep into the freezer for last summer's stone fruit.  Sometimes a little nesting is in order.  But I have suggested to H that perhaps next time he could choose to get sick midweek and leave our weekends alone.