Monday, February 27, 2017

cold smoke

It's official:  we have a lot of snow here in northern Utah, finally and wonderfully.  Wasatch Snow Forecast put together a chart summarizing the various resorts' totals from the storm we had last week; I've excerpted the top three receivers here:

That's over four feet for Alta in four days.  And the best part was that it was all light and fluffy.  Sure, it caused a fair number of avalanches, including closing the road up to Snowbird and Alta on Friday at mid-morning - which meant that those folks who were already up there had amazing storm skiing with no lift lines.  But what's important is that there is a lot of snowpack (finally, wonderfully), with Alta reporting 135 inch base and 413" snow total at the end of February.  This is comparable to the amazing season of 2010/2011 when Alta got 800 inches (including that which fell in May after the ski resort closed).  It's good for the water table and it's damn good for the skiing.  Alta's gullies are filling in - the Erosion gullies off Supreme face are barely noticeable - and even the Diving Board doesn't look that impressive any more, with just about a six foot drop left.

Glory Hole

As far as our weekend skiing went, it was still snowing just a little bit as that storm headed east, leaving bitter cold air in its wake: it was 0 at the peak and 10 F at the base when we got up to Alta Saturday morning and would only warm to 5 F peak/18 F base throughout the day.  We were both on our powder skis (Blizzard Gunsmokes for H, Rossignol S110s for me) because so much of the mountain hadn't opened on Friday and patrol was expecting to get Ballroom, the Backside and Catherine's Area open.  We did a warm-up run on Collins, then jumped into West Rustler before leaving the front side for Sugarloaf and a trip down Chartreuse.  The snow was very soft and fairly deep, although cut up from being skied on.

After only three runs, I already needed to go in and warm my toes up, plus I wanted to cut H loose so he could play in the deep stuff.  I was struggling: my boots are so packed out that I can't get them tight enough without also causing pain, plus my heels are loose even when my instep is tight; I have lost a lot of confidence skiing because I can't make my skis do what they should due to the loose boots, and I can't afford to lose any confidence on my powder skis because I don't have all that much on them to begin with.  So I went in to regain feeling in my cold feet and H tore up the mountain.

So much snow

He did Angina Chute/Triple ByPass, two runs through East Greely, Razorback, Extrovert and two Cabin Runs.  In hindsight, he said that he probably didn't need his Gunsmokes: most of what he skied was cut up already and those skis do not turn easily.  Still, he managed to nab a few untracked sections and really let those skis run.

We went to Supreme after lunch.  I had gone in there when I was skiing on my own and Catherine's Area was magnificent.  Very few people had gone all the way out there and I had been able to score fresh tracks of my own then.  I wasn't really feeling it after lunch, however, and I pulled the plug early, heading back to the Goldminer's Daughter for a beer and my book (and chatting with a local with whom I shared my table).  H kept after it until 3 p.m., including runs down the rope line separating Catherine's Area from the Back Forty, some Supreme Bowl chutes and the trees in Vicky's.  Those trees were pretty well pummeled at that point, mounded with huge humps and troughs because people ski in a Z pattern, rather than small turns heading downhill.  Still, with all that snow it's tough to complain.

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