Sunday, January 15, 2017

doing our part

It has been an excellent start to 2017, snowfall-wise:  Alta has had 79 inches of snow to-date in January, including 40 inches out of the last storm that snuggled up to northern Utah this past week.  That storm edged out of here on Friday, leaving us with bluebird skies forecasted for the long weekend.  We knew the front side would be all tracked out but Ballroom, Backside and Devil's Castle had been closed for avalanche control all week so we were hopeful that they would open for us Saturday.  We weren't the only hopeful people: it was pretty busy up there, although not as crowded as we've seen it.

On the ridge, getting ready to drop in

Ski patrol dropped the rope on Ballroom on our first chair ride up Collins and there was a line of people waiting to get in.  H dove in right away while I warmed up with half of a groomer run, meeting up with him on Main Street under Ballroom.  He skied a fairly straight line and reported very nice snow, so on our next run, I dove in there with him.  For our third run, ski patrol had opened the Backside via the High Traverse.  We couldn't pass that up and hopped into the line of skiers sidestepping and herringboning up the High T to the ridge separating the front side from the Backside.  This traverse - and the first bit of the pitch of Yellow Trail from the ridge - were both new to me.  The snow was terrific - deep and light - and I skied it pretty well, not fighting my skis for once.  We wrapped around Yellow Trail Corner and skied down through East Greely, then finished our run via Glitch and/or Glatch.  It was all full of great snow.

Yellow Trail getting tracked out ASAP

Amazingly, the Sugarloaf lift line wasn't packed and we rode back up, noting that the gate into Glory Hole above Angina Chute was open.  H hiked up and skied that, then chased me down as I skied through Keyhole and Glory Gulch.  Things were getting chopped up at this point but it was still very soft and a lot of fun.  On the next run, H opted to ski around the EBT to hit Gunsight and Eagle's Nest.  I too skied around the EBT and went back into East Greely via the low gate.  The snow was holding up, I thought: still deep and soft even while being skied to pieces.

H and I scored a table at lunch without too much trouble and I was able to keep an eye on Devil's Castle.  Ski patrol had been doing routes in there all morning, setting charges to shake the avalanches loose, and I had a feeling that they would get it open around lunchtime.  After lunch, as we rode up Sugarloaf, we could see the long line of skiers traversing in.  The line was moving very slowly because the traverse had been set higher than normal and some whoopdedoos and rocks were giving people trouble.  We hopped into that long line but bailed before the climbing really started, taking the lower angle skiers' left down to just above Cecret Lake.  The snow was really good, deep, light and easy to ski.  We skied out skier's left through Boulder Basin, heading to Supreme.  Normally we would have done another Devil's Castle run but that line was just too slow.

View from Gunsight

We tried a Catherine's Area run, going way out to Snowshoe Hill, but I was a little disappointed in the snow there.  It was deep enough, and untracked enough, but it felt stiff.  To console ourselves, we went into the gate below East Castle, playing around in the trees below Devil's Apron.  It's not epic skiing in there but it sure is fun to be able to ski wherever you like in untracked snow.

Eagle's Nest selfie

It was a late day for us as we skied until 3 p.m., then hustled to catch the 3:38 bus down-canyon.  We didn't get a ton of vertical feet because many of our runs took a long time to complete with the hiking/traversing we were doing.  But the quality of the snow more than made up for the quantity of the runs.  Alta gets tracked out quickly these days and luckily we were able to do our part, getting as much good snow as we could.

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