It’s been an unseasonably warm and dry winter in the Utah Rockies. From talking to locals, prior to our arrival they had metaphorically been chewing on stewing steak rather than the usual prime rib that is served up in these parts. On our first day at Snowbird we were even advised to avoid the Cirque Traverse due to its resemblance to a rock garden, and Mineral Basin throughout the trip was closed/horrid. But luckily, on Thursday afternoon it started snowing the dampest snow on earth. It kept going more or less until Saturday afternoon, often delivering the most solid snow on earth, and certainly never the greatest 20 inches we’ve ever seen. Luckily, the wind blew up high, depositing some sweet windblown graupel all over the fronts side, and with its uncharacteristic density and shape, the snow did a great job of filling holes and covering rocks. This gave us license to explore. And Snowbird is fine place when you can explore.
On a foggy warm Thursday, by about 2pm the snow was starting to ride rather well up high off the Peruvian Chair. By 2.30 we called it powder day, and rolled off the hill at 4pm somewhat exhausted by a day of the most varied conditions you could imagine. It kept snowing all night, and the resulting foot or so brought pow-starved locals out in their hordes. The lift lines were insane, and while we snagged one excellent untracked line in the Gad 2 trees, it was a painfully slow 6 run morning. When Mineral Basin opened, we decided to escape the madness and head to Alta. We had a couple of decent runs there, but the 42F ‘pow’ was hard going down low. It was a powder day, but not as we know it, Jim.
More snow fell Friday night, luckily not enough to awake the Salt Lake City hucksters. It was enough to put all chairs on hold until the best part of 10am though. The snow was lighter, and riding the slow chairs we actually scored some deep pow runs in the trees. It was fun, but slow, and perfect for an early lunch and crossed fingers. When we came out at noon, there was no one left. It was completely weird. We headed to the Cirque Traverse and mined some magnificent lines back towards the base chairs, or Gad 2 if we cut back earlier. OK, the wind at the top of Little Cloud was face-removing brutal, but this was responsible for loading the runs with fresh pow every run, so the brutality was warranted. We ripped out about 23k vertical feet in 4 hours of traversing, death defying plunges and chutes, and horrid, shiny, solid ex-groomers to make it back to chairs. It’s a worry when green groomers are much more scary than black diamond chutes.
Sunday was more of the same, Cirque traverses, yesterday’s snow to enjoy, and a couple of Peruvian chair rips to end the day at 1pm and head to the airport. It was great skiing, and virtually every chair was a minute or less wait. Snowbird is an epic mountain, but on on 4 visits, we’ve never scored that blower deep pow. I’m sure it’s legendary. And I’m sure the crowds are too. The Greatest Snow, and not far off the Greatest Crowds on Earth is probably a bit harsh, but days when fresh lines are available for more than a couple of hours are likely few and far between. Next time, a good snow year, January, cold – the recipe for opportunistic Utah pow. Or by all accounts, go to Solitude. I must try that …
9800m, 8400m, 8900m, 6400m vert
Season Totals: 36 days, 288,400m vert
6 powder days