Write up Utah Ski Week 3/11 - 3/19
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tromano
March 20, 2006
Member since 12/19/2002 🔗
998 posts
DCSKI,

Just returned from SLC this afternoon. 6 ski days at 5 resorts, one knee injury, and one MIA digital camera later I file this report.

This was the first of what we have decided will be many trips to Wasatch ski areas. It was essentially a scouting event. The goal was to ski from every lift at as many resorts as possible. That way we could get a total view of what each area had to offer. We also attempted to sample a variety of terrain at each area such as glades, moguls, open bowls / powder (if any), areas that did involve hop turns but did not involve jumping off of cliffs. Close contact with pointy objects was generally avoided... We sampled: Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Deer Valley, and the Canyons. Over all the greatest disappointments were the sections we saw from the lift but were unable to ski. Alta was the only resort we visited twice.

What I learned:

* I have been ignorant for years... This is what packed powder feels like.

* We picked the right week to visit SLC. Base depths increased 30" during our stay.

* I can sport a goggle tan line.

* The trail ratings at ski resorts really are not comparable to anything, even within the same resort. There are blues at the canyons that should be greens and Blues that could be blacks... The blue is just a catch all for some resorts. Alta is similar with their blacks. Snowbird with the double blacks... but they mean it.

* Skiing at 8-10 KFt the first day was not ideal. We should have started in park city. A 6500ft base would have been so much better the first day. Huff, Puff, Puff...

* Powdery bumps on a powder base lend themselves well to my <ahem> technique...

* Park City areas seem to have better glades than the cottonwood areas. I like aspens... Deciduous make me feel at home.

* The ski-road underpass: Winner! Worst Terrain Feature Ever!

* Potential New Favorite crash site: Through plate glass and onto a living room couch in $1000+ per night rental unit. I will await EMS and call for EVAC while swilling beer and popping Pringles.

* Large push piles of heavy crud result in lots of air time.

* Living Proof Award: ME! Low speed skier collisions such as 2-3 MPH can cause actual injury. Maybe it was fatigue of four days skiing nothing but bumps, powder, and chop, maybe it was the icy ramp, maybe it was my gratuitous use of the braking wedge... No, it was the random idiot next to me who skied under my right ski as I got off the lift. At least my bindings released. Moral of the story: There are idiots everywhere... in UT more of them ski the same lifts I do.

* A frozen bottle of Dasani and a bottle of ibuprofen are recommended accessories for the imprudent skier.

* Driving in UT is interesting:
a. I was more scared during in the snow in UT than I am here. Mostly because of the other drivers.
b. They close the roads when we would close schools.
c. They just don't know how to drive on a highway. Everyone clogs the right hand lane when there are 3 more perfectly good lanes just to the left. the four left lanes are all passing for those going 10, 20, 30 mph above the speed limit... and so forth.
d. You don't see many abandoned vehicles off the side of the highway, they are usually inhabited.

* Losing a $2--. Digital camera is nothing. Losing a weeks worth of pictures on your first ever trip to UT is worse than busting up your knee.

* And the winner is: Snowbird!
Favorite lift: Tie Mineral Basin Express (Snowbird) & Gad2 (Snowbird)
Runner up: Alta
Honorable Mention: Empire Canyon (Deer Valley)

Images to follow if Madeline can find her digicam.
kennedy
March 20, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
Was day 1 at Snowbird because it makes that huff puff sounds familiar. Got stuck in a cliff section above the mineral basin lifts too tired to tackle the icy mogul chutes ended up having to walk out in baking sunshine. Thankfully had camelback of water and a two way to radio my buddy if it got too hairy. Fun mountain but want to try it on a powder day. Love me some glade skiing over in McConkey's Bowl.
Roger Z
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Ah, McConkeys. Irish for "hey let's poach parts from this lift to get our other six pack running!" It's still closed. Should be open by next week. I never got to the glade on McConkeys, but I did make fourth tracks down a "double blue" off that lift and had an absolute blast.

You think Empire Canyon ranked up there with Snowbird's Mineral Basin? That's good to hear. I did enjoy the Daly Chutes- Challenger was probably the steepest thing I hit all week. It was certainly the steepest thing I've hit since Sugar Bowl and was probably not the best choice for my first double-diamond in two years. Oh well, I lived...

Hmmmm... my "s" key is sticking. Thitz iz a very bad key to have problemz with. Hard to cubctitute other letterz for that one...
tromano
March 20, 2006
Member since 12/19/2002 🔗
998 posts
Kennedy,

We hit minneral basin the morning after a 1Ft powder dump. When we got there arround 10 AM it was already nearly skied out. All I can say is wow.

Roger, Mineral basin and the empire canyon are not really comparable. I just like both of them alot. --Tim
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kennedy
March 20, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
Mineral basin is cool but according to Crush and some other locals we talked to it gets skied out in minutes. Still coming off the lift and looking at those drops gets your heart racing. The first time we hit it was in thr morning and while it was tracked up we got some nice soft stuff by taking the catwalk all the way around to skiers right. From there it was chop but it was fun chop.

The afternoon session we hit it because we had bought tix for the tram and figured we better use them. As a side note if I were to do it again I would forego the tram ticket. Anyway I knew I was pretty spent before I even got to the top, I'm guessing sun, altitude and fatigue kicked in, so I decided to take an easy way down, which was probably a mistake in itself as it was all catwalk about as wide as my board is long. When I got to a section where it opened up I got distracted by some soft powdery snow and got a little off track. Before I know it I realized it I was close to a bunch of cliffs with no other way down but through some chutes. I pretty much knew I was to fatigued to tackle them so I decided to hike out, which of course sucked the last bit of energy from me. Managed to find one chute wide enough to traverse down. Made it back to the lift then took the tram down. Legs were like jelly at that point. I refer to that as my "having your butt kicked day" Every trip has one.
comprex
March 20, 2006
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
Interested to hear Sheena's impressions.
JohnL
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

I can sport a goggle tan line.





You and Comprex may be twin brothers separated at birth.

I love the terrain at Snowbird, but the mountain gets skied out way too fast, even faster than Alta. The terrain at Mineral Basin is nice, but not my favorite at The Bird. Mineral Basin can get a lot of sun, so any new snow that is not immediately skied off can get real heavy, real fast. The high speed lifts are very nice, though. Little Cloud and Gad 2 service some most excellent terrain, plus there is some nice stuff under the Tram and the Gadzoom lift.

I'll take the tree skiing at the Cottonwoods over that of the Park City areas. Apologies in advance to Crush; I've skied some very fun tree runs with him at The Canyons. For me, the evergreen trees at The Canyons and Park City are a lot more fun than the aspen sections.

In general, I find that aspen glades can be deceptively tough to ski through; you see a lot of open space when looking down so the section may look pretty easy. However, the aspen trees are often close together (same root system) and it's easy to not see a tree until the last second because the trunks are so narrow, they don't have low hanging branches, and the color of the trunks do not constrast that much (comparatively) with the color of the snow.

All of these areas have so much terrain that I'm constantly learning about new hidden sections.
Roger Z
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
John- when are you gonna learn to stop making GS turns in the trees?
JohnL
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

John- when are you gonna learn to stop making GS turns in the trees?




When I stop hanging around Crush.

Seriously, none of my favorite Utah glade terrain is conducive to GS turns. Way too steep and/or too tight. Some other terrain, however ...
MadMonk
March 20, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
All I'll say is that if Empire Canyon has not had snow in a week and hasn't been groomed in about the same amount of time that it is the most intimidating drop-in (steep right into good sized moguls) for a non-black run that I can remember.
kennedy
March 20, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
I'm reminded of another potential incident at Snowbird. I'm following my buddy Nick down Bananas or something like that and we're doing the whole on trail, duck into trees, comeback out again thing. Well he takes off into the tree line I'm following and we're doing a good pace. We come to an uphill section and I unload my weight off the board so I actually accelerate a little bit. Anyway Nick is about 20 feet in front of me and he passes through a narrow section, keep in mind this stuff is tracked so we're not slowing down, and he's kind of blocking my view of whats ahead. What I don't see until almost too late is this piece of tree branch, almost like a spear at the end, sticking out into the path. I have a split second to figure out what to do so I fall back on the old pelvic thrust along with a healthy "Oh s**t" to clear my body out of the way. The only thing I hear as I fly past it is the sound of the branch scraping my butt. It was really one of those "damn that was funny because I got away light" moments but it could have been a pull the dumb snowboarder off the impaling branch moments.
Roger Z
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Kennedy I'm thinking Snowbird has it out for you.

Up on Jupiter Peak at PCMR, I followed a set of tracks around some whoopdie-doos on a cat track and wound up getting sandwiched between two trees. I think whoever made the track was a snowboarder, only way to fit inbetween those two trees was sideways (they were a foot apart at most). I got my left shoulder through but the tree gently patted me on my right shoulder- so to speak- and took my ski as a souvenir of our meeting. There's nothing more humiliating than wiping out on a cat track.

Of course... did I slow down when I saw the two trees coming up? Noooooooooo... hero mentality kicks in. "Come on Rog, it's a cat track, if some other dude made it through those trees then you can do it too. Don't slow down now- you'll never get your speed back up!" Thanks, brain. Another clear, painless solution to an immediate problem. Thank goodness my brain is a little more mentally alert when pointed downhill...
JohnL
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Roger Z.,

Would that have been heading out to West Face, lower traverse through the woods (versus the uppper traverse which required some brief hiking at the top of the lift)? If so, I know those two trees well. Surprised the heck outta me.
JohnL
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Some of the toughest and most physically demanding sections of Utah ski areas are the traverses. Nothing worse than when your legs are dead tired and you need to absorb (or jump) some whoop-de-doos at speed. Some of those could bend a set of skis.
Roger Z
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
That's the one! Glad I wasn't the only one shocked to find them there, though I suppose you didn't try to hug them.

It's not the traverses in that burn me out, it's the traverses out that get me. On the last Friday, although I had one of the greatest runs of my life at The Canyons up in the bowls, the traverse out was a real lifesucker. Every bump I hit (and there were many on that run out) was like setting my legs on fire. Why don't they just put a lift at the bottom of the bowl?

ps- worst whoop-dee-doos I hit were at Deer Valley on the traverse into the Daly Chutes. Think that might have been partially caused by the lack of recent snowfall. The whoop-dee-doos seemed to get milder as the snow fell through the week. Or maybe I was just getting used to them. There were some teeth rattling, knee shaking, gut crunching whales on the traverse to the Daly Chutes though.
JohnL
March 20, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

That's the one! Glad I wasn't the only one shocked to find them there, though I suppose you didn't try to hug them.





I didn't hug those two trees, though I was a bit of a nature lover on a couple of other occasions. I remember that traverse well, cuz I wasn't expecting anything challenging in that spot. I saw the opening and thought "no-yes-no-yes-no effin way" and stopped just short of the trees. It was a very gracefull stop as you can imagine.
MadMonk
March 20, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
I had my worst wipe-out in recent memory on a cat track at Deer Valley. We had just skied some trees and came to a boundary marker. The cat track was fairly tame for being only about 3 feet wide at its widest point. I see what essentially looks like a small, steep ditch ahead. Picture a "V" about 3 feet down, 3 feet straight back up. There was no way I'd have enough speed to jump it. I go down into the V and my skis jam with the right one releasing. This sends me hurling forward onto my face and forehead (thank goodness for my helmet). I pivot on my head like a breakdancer as my legs come over my head, slam into the ground at which point I lost the left ski. My shoulder is now throbbing (sprain) and I can see the end of the cat track about 150 yards ahead so I just hiked out before putting the skis back on.
queenoftheslopes
March 22, 2006
Member since 11/15/2004 🔗
143 posts
Just a few notes to add about the trip....I LOVED Utah. Such fantastic ski experience. I did not quite take to the Powder as well as Tim.... maybe next year I will get better (I hope at least!) Too bad I did not read the powder skiiing tips in the forum before we left!

I think Snowbird was my favorite place. Mineral basin was tons of fun. I really liked Alta a lot as well...actually I liked all the resorts.

I did find it a bit daunting figuring out the ratings....what was a single black at The Canyons was not quite the same as a black at Alta.
JohnL
March 22, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Tromano, Sheena,

Ever find that camera? Not the way to end a trip by losing some $$ gear.

Not to bring you two back down to reality, but Utah conditions can suck from time to time, even by East Coast standards. Glad you two lucked out.

Quote:

what was a single black at The Canyons was not quite the same as a black at Alta.




Remember that trail ratings are only somewhat useful comparing the level of difficulty of trails within a single resort. Alta only grooms a few black runs: Challenger, Collins Face, and occasionally some shots from the top of the Wildcat Lift. Every thing else is as Mother Nature and your fellow skiers left it; being comfortable in bumps and steeps is generally necessary.

Alta doesn't even have any official double black rated terrain, but there is plenty of stuff there that would be rated as such at other areas. Fortunately, you have to hike or go through gates or do some serious poking around to get to that stuff; you're not likely to find it without trying.
jimmy
March 23, 2006
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
Quote:


I think Snowbird was my favorite place. Mineral basin was tons of fun. I really liked Alta a lot as well...actually I liked all the resorts.






OOOH me too. Speaking of trail ratings, the one that stands out in my mind is Big Emma at the Bird, just behind and downhill from mid mountain restaurant. Rated as a green it's a big bowl that we could jump into from the cattrack around the top, full of soft bumps, fresh powder, kinda reminded me of Wagner @ 7springs only longer and steeper, what a *green* slope that was.
warren
March 24, 2006
Member since 07/31/2003 🔗
485 posts
Jimmy,
I have to agree with you about Big Emma. A couple of years back, my buddy and I were traversing across the mountain from the Gad side. We cut across Big Emma and jumped off of the cat-track. I told my buddy this was a good blue trail and he said it was green. I was like right....sure... Then, I saw the trail signs

-Warren-
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