Monday, January 2, 2017

new year's eve

We really didn't know what to expect for New Year's Eve skiing.  It was the second Saturday of vacation week so it could be crazy-busy, but there hadn't been any new snow since Christmas Day, so that could keep people away.  The Salt Lake valley had been socked in with a cold, foggy inversion since Friday morning and we were eager to get out of the murk and into the high mountain sunshine - we just didn't know how many other people would be doing the same thing.

As it turns out, it wasn't all that crowded AND it was a great day with decent temperatures (13F to start, warming to mid 20s (which are my preferred temperatures for skiing).  We took the 7:55 a.m. bus - not crowded - and when the lifts opened at 9:15 a.m., the lines moved quickly.  We stuck with the singles lines throughout the morning but after lunch the lines thinned enough that we were able to ride together several times.  The snow is all tracked out at this point but the recent cold temperatures have kept it in pretty good shape.  In addition, since there hasn't been any new snow since last weekend, ski patrol has been able to get everything on the mountain open, including Main Chute on Baldy and East Castle.

Still some rocks showing in the Castle

Since H was on his telemark skis, he wanted to stick to groomers but after three Collins runs and one Sugarloaf run, I couldn't take the people anymore: Devil's Elbow (off the Sugarloaf lift) was just swarming with tourists.  After planning to meet at Alf's around noon, I took off for Supreme.  The singles line moved pretty quickly, although the lift stopped several times for people who couldn't get on/get off, and there was a lot of putting the bar down.  But I did a couple of runs in Catherine's Area, including going all the way out to Catherine's Pass where I could see backcountry skiers hiking up to the ridge from the lake.  There were a few brave tourists heading into Catherine's (several of whom asked me about skiing in there) but none of them ventured any further out than the first meadow (So Long) so I had it to myself.

At lunch, H and I ended up sitting at the next table to one of our neighbors.  He was up for the whole day, planning to stick around for Alta's New Year's Eve torchlight parade after the sun set.  That was too long a day for us; I feel compelled to be in my soft pants no later than 5 p.m. on winter weekends.  After lunch, H headed for Supreme but I detoured through Devil's Castle for the first time this season.  It had only opened a couple days previously and I couldn't understand why there weren't more people in there.  Until I got in there and it wasn't all that great: a really big slab had slid during avalanche control and the rubble was in huge, solid blocks that was not that pleasant to ski.  Skiing out through Cabin Hill below Devil's Apron was more fun: beaten down but bumped up.  I had to give a tourist ski suggestions in there too.

View across to Supreme from Devil's Castle

After that, it only took a couple of runs for H and I to find each other.  By 2:20 p.m. his tele legs had had it, so we went back to Goldminer's Daughter and had a couple of New Year's Eve PBRs before catching the down-canyon bus.  Unlike what H had been experiencing all week, this bus was not crowded and everyone on it - including the bus driver - was in a good mood, laughing and chatting and joking and wishing each other a Happy New Year.  If the last day of 2016 is an omen for 2017, we should be in good shape.

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