Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

A weekend at Snowbird/Alta

Sunday night was a new experience for us all. We were ‘inter-lodged’ in our condo between Snowbird and Alta due to heavy snowfalls making it dangerous to go outside before avalanche control was done. From 6pm, we weren’t even allowed to go on our balcony!

With our usual gargantuan supplies of food, wine and John’s girlfriends (Budweiser – it tastes like beer only weaker), this situation was not likely to lead to starvation. And it’s not like the nighttime attractions of Snowbird and Alta are sufficient to induce cabin fever at the thought of missing out on fine food or entertainment. If you want such indulgence, go to the DMZ (De-Mormonized Zone – Park City). If you want to ski ‘the greatest snow on earth’, come to Little Cottonwood Canyon.

We certainly weren’t welcomed by the greatest snow on earth Friday morning at Snowbird. With little snow for a month, conditions were firm with tree tops and twigs off trail, and lots of rocks on the steeper, exposed faces. Anything south-facing was bullet-proof. Still, we found some nice bumps, and traversed, slowly, over rocks and ice, into Mach Schnell, an excellent, narrow and steep chute.

Saturday at Alta was little different, only busier and crazily warm (10C). There was good snow to be found off the traverses in to Devil’s Castle and Ballroom, and the groomed trails were fine. But snow was desperately needed, and it arrived literally as the lifts closed at 4.30pm.

With fresh snow, Sunday was always going to be busy at Alta, and we stood in line at the Wildcat lift for about 30 minutes while avalanche control was completed. The new 8+ inches of snow was pretty heavy and wet, but eminently skiable for anyone who has skied Snowy Sludge (‘powder’ in Australia). By noon, everywhere was pretty tracked out, so we went in for lunch. And while we were eating hearty soups and organic dark chocolate(!), magic happened.

First, it got colder. Second, it started dumping snow. Third, someone made the crowds disappear. We headed over to the Sugarloaf chair, and found excellent lines down the ridge line all afternoon, with the wind filling in our tracks between runs. There was no competition at all. I did three runs off the Wildcat chair at the end of the day, and had heaps of freshies to myself. It was a strange day!

And it kept snowing, another 8+ inches by Monday morning, when more magic happened. As we drove to Snowbird, blue skies crept up the canyon, revealing stunning vistas of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

The skiing wasn’t bad either. This snow was more like ‘the greatest snow on earth’, and pretty deep in the trees. The crowds headed to the tram, so we headed to Gad 2 chair and had first tracks down several lines in knee deep pow. Later, John, Rob and myself traversed into Upper Cirque for the run of the weekend. John exposed all the rocks, and I hopped between them in light, fluffy snow. Thanks, dude.

Trip details: Friday 6200m, Saturday 7700m, Sunday 8000m, Monday 6400m

Season so far: Season Totals: 34 days, 14 powder days, 259,100 vertical metres


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