Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Days 8, 9, 10 - Big Storms, Maiden Dawn Patrol, and Going Bust at Alta

As expected, I'm behind on my ski day logging. But I guess that's not so bad since I've been busy skiing.

Day 8 - Dawn Patrol!!

Thursday morning (Dec 20), Josh and I decided we wanted to get a piece of the big storm that was hitting SLC. We got up at 4:00AM and busted up to Solitude and Willow to ski hourglass/USA Bowl. It was snowing as we skinned, but relatively pleasant. We made good time to the top of the ridge, but when we got there the wind was whipping! Wished we had a rope as we looked down into the Monitors - I bet they would've went huge with a nice fat cornice drop. Huckering down, we traversed the ridge to USA Bowl, hoping that it was sheltered from the wind. Um....not so much. USA Bowl was completely raked. Gametime decision to traverse back to hourglass and get off the ridge. The snow was good and deep, with a little bit of a windslab on top. Tricky skiing on the top half, but nice soft snow in the bottom half of the run. Not a lot of turning to be had in 1+ feet of new snow on 20 degree slopes, but it was an awesome workout. Great way to start the day.....except for the drive down. The Element needed tires in a bad way, and that morning the plow happened to not be plowing down the canyon in the morning. The result was a ice-skating 2 mph drive down the canyon that took about five years off my life. Let's just say we got new tires on Friday night. Much better.

Stats for the day:
4.4 miles
1800 ft vertical

(click on the maps below for route and profile info!)

Day 9 - A First at Solitude, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Honeycomb Canyon

After beating my head against my desk on Friday (Dec 21) as two feet of snow was being skied up the canyons, I felt a small bit of respite when I heard that Solitude hadn't opened Honeycomb. Josh and I got up to Powderhorn by about 9:15, psyched to get some well-deserved powder. However, honeycomb wasn't open. We spent the morning skiing the Powderhorn trees and finding some good stuff off Summit, but we were getting a little worried that we were going to get the shaft. I started bitching about how I always have the worst timing, and I'm never the one that's getting off the lift as patrol opens gates. I'm always the one that takes off down the slope right before the rope drops. Well, maybe it was my time. Lo and behold, as we're getting off the lift, patrol is flipping the Honeycomb sign to "open". We followed the patroller off into Black Bess and dropped in early to avoid the massive amounts of avy debris from the morning's bombings. Good stuff. After Josh completely exploded on a compression in the Honeycomb runout (funny, but I'm glad you're not hurt honey!) we hauled down to the lift, and rallied back down to Sunrise. 20 minutes later, we were hiking up the Summit ridge to ski Buckeye. Good lord, it was good. We did about 4 more laps before we had to leave, and it was hard to say goodbye. Skiing next to your tracks after the 40 minute lift loop is pretty sweet.

Day 10 - Remembering Why We Have to Get Alta Season Passes Next Year

I try to deny it. I try to say how much I love Solitude. I try to convince myself that Alta is not all it's worked up to be. God damn, I'm not going to fight it anymore. I LOVE THAT PLACE.

I met up with Tara and Chase on Monday Dec 24, as they were working on day 3 in a row. Chase was pretty worked, but he was up for another awesome morning. The temps had risen considerably overnight and we were stripping layers all morning in the heat. We started the day in Supreme and found some awesome snow in Supreme Bowl. Definitely heat-affected, but still soft and really creamy. It was great catching up and laughing on the chairlift - it seems like nothing ever changes when we all get back together. We hit the rope tow to get back over to Collins (Sugarloaf traverse was closed) and Gwen and Tara wanted to get up to Gunsight. We hit the wrong traverse and ended up at Thirds. The wind was raking the ridge, but once we dropped down into Gunsight, it was beautiful. I forgot how fun it is to ski long, steep runs. Another rope tow, and the Hays wanted to go in for lunch. I wasn't ready, so I took off and decided to check out Jitterbug/No Name. The entrance wasn't too great, but the skiing was awesome. I met up with Connie and Craig, and Tara joined us since Chase was done. We did a few more runs off the high T and I called it day to get home to my boy. Of course, as if to reciprocate for Saturday's excellent luck, I left right about the time it started snowing. Craig told me later that High Boy was on all afternoon. God, I suck.

I love that place. The snow stays good longer. The runs are long and steep. There are lots of friends to ski with. The views are spectacular. I guess we're skiing at least 11 days at Solitude this year, because I'm ready to go back to Alta.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day 7 - Pain, Suffering, and Good Turns in Days Fork

Josh was out-of-his-mind psyched to get out skiing on Saturday, and I was having a hard time motivating. My tour on Friday with Chris had really kicked my ass, and I knew it was going to be a matter orf mental strength to get out of bed the next day. I did, however slowly, and we ended up meeting James at Alta a little after 9:00.

The day started out beautiful, and we followed the cattle train up Flagstaff. I felt alright, just plugging along at my snail's pace. As typical, the wind whipped up as we were approaching the ridgeline and I silently cursed that horrid approach. The clouds had moved in and the light was ridiculously flat. Great.

But, the silver lining to the horrid cold was that the snow was still great. We dropped in on Two Dogs and decided to do a lap on West Bowl in the trees. We motored up to the ridgeline and were extremely excited by the quality of the snow. A quick pit showed three feet of consolidated snow to a small facet layer at the ground. Shear testing looked good, so we hit it. The snow was awesome, and the extra hike was so worth it.

After more fueling up, we started the slog back up to the LCC ridge. Now the fun really got started. The south-facing exit getting out of LCC was NASTY. An inch of breakable crust was coming off in plates while we dodged buried trees and rocks. Lots of traversing and kick-turning (FUN!) We skied the bottom of Toledo Bowl, and finally the snow softened out a bit for the last couple hundred feet. After watching Josh double-ejecting on a compression, we got back to the car and headed straight for Lone Star.

One good thing - I think I found a good method to keep my hands warm. I tried out our Mammut ice climbing gloves for skinning. The concept was that if I never had to take my gloves off, my hands would never get TOO cold. Well, it seemed to work. I was able to get in and out of my bag, handle skins, eat, dress, and everything else without ever having to expose my hands to the air. No more glove liners. I used my mittens for skiing and for when my hands got cold, and it was extremely manageable. I think I'm going to toss those stupid REI gloves.

Stats for the day:
3.0 miles
2833 ft vertical

Click below for route and profile info!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Day 6 - Unexpected goodness on Red Stack

I love those storms that you don't see coming. The sleeper storms. No one really cares - 5" overnight? Come on, that's nothing when we need like 3 feet to be able to ski.

But today, the sleeper storm came through in a big way. Chris got to the house around 8:30 and we sauntered up the canyon, skinning up around 9:30. The snow looked like good ol' UTAH snow, and we were psyched. We didn't really have a game plan, other than staying off the NE to NW aspects. We got up to the meadow below the lake and decided that west-facing Red Stack looked pretty nice.

The skin up Tri-Chutes was a little rough on the legs and lungs(early season tours are nasty), so we decided to follow the skin track as far as we could. We cut off from the old skin track about half way up and traversed north into another small gully. The snow was REALLY nice, and the coverage was great in the wind-loaded gully. That 5" that no one cared about turned out to be fun as shit.

I was cold as BALLS today, and my hands really suffered. As long as the sun was out, I was OK, but the clouds arrived around noon and it was a fight for the fingertips. I've got to come up with a better solution.

Miles = 5.1
Vertical = 2595'

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 5 - Where's my snorkel? Wallerin' at Solitude

On Friday morning, I rolled into the office early and did my usual check of the avy report and weather. The NWS was forecasting a pretty good storm and it looked like 8-9" of snow had already hit the Cottonwoods. I instantly got the "ants-in-the-pants" feeling I always get when a good powder day is brewing while I'm at work. I couldn't sit still, and I kept rotating from work, NWS, TGR, SkiDiva, work, get the picture. Anticipation was running high and I felt like I was ready to burst.

After lunch, I checked the forecast again and to my surprise it had been updated. Instead of an additional 6-10" overnight, it had increased to 10-16" overnight. And the storm was forecasted to last through Saturday night. Cue ants-in-pants.

I stayed up late Friday night trying to get my ski clothes through the dryer, and right before I went to bed at 11:00, I saw an update pop up on NWS..."Storm forecasted to stall over Salt Lake area". Ding, ding, ding! The ants had moved from the pants and were now crawling up my neck. I cursed my study group for planning a Saturday morning meeting, although they were nice enough to move it to 8AM.

The next morning, I had to do a double-take at the snow report. Solitude was reporting a 24 hour snow total of 32". Are you fugging kidding me? I pranced through he house all morning and left for school early since I was so antsy. Luckily the group meeting was fast and efficient and I was on my way up the canyon by 10:45. I called Chris to get an update on conditions, and he said "It sucks." My heart dropped a bit since I figured nothing was open and he was bored as hell. "Huh?" I said. "Yeah, it sucks...if you don't like over-the-head blower so deep that you can't breathe. And skiing on to lifts all morning." Joy!!

After hooking up randomly with John and Jack in the parking lot, we met up with Chris as the Powderhorn lift was opening. First run, we decided to hit the trees to skiers left and I had to gasp a little bit as I dropped off the cat track. I instantly dropped in to my waist and it just kept getting deeper. We all giggled like idiots down through the trees, as none of us could turn and I was literally choking on snow. A couple more laps and we were actually whining that the snow was maybe even a little bit too deep. Poor babies.

Rachel met up with us and we got to watch her try out the new snow. We had to help dig her out a couple of times, but she was a good sport and was psyched about her new knee. Jack lost not one, but two poles in the waller-fest. I was worked by 2:30 (sad), but it was a day I won't forget anytime soon. Thank god the snow finally came, and that the season has officially started with a bang!

Saturday night was the Campbell's christmas party and it was a great time. I ended up with a pineapple (who's gifter had to show me how to remove the stem. Huh?) Josh got a redneck Xmas album and iTunes gift card. It was great seeing everyone, but Josh and I both paid the next day. Instead of skiing we had a uneventful (but sorely needed) day full of Costco, movies, and lounging. I was still pretty happy by the end of the day, as I know now that every weekend for the rest of the season will be a ski weekend.

Anxiously waiting for the next ants-in-the-pants day....