Alta Chapter - early spring here too
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Denis - DCSki Supporter
March 19, 2009
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,217 posts
The last storm was a good one but it came 10 days ago. The nights are still a little below freezing but each day gets a degree or 2 warmer at the mountain. Today it hit 50 at the mtn. SLC has already had its first 70 deg. day and it came a month earlier than last year. Alta's base is still over 100". What to do? On Mon. I figured out that there is not much point in skiing before 11 - 12. Despite the warm sun the runs don't soften before then. The groomers are very firm, not icy, and crowded with out of control spring breakers. Ungroomed stuff is very crunchy and punchy early. Around midday they soften up and there is a magic hr or so on each before it gets heavy. It is hard to tell exactly when that will happen. A 10 degree change in the aspect of the slope to the sun can make all the difference, and if a breeze comes up it greatly delays the softening. I could go to the SL race carvers on the groomers and have fun with that but I've been having more fun on teles waiting for the sun to do its work. Yesterday I ventured through the gate into Catherine's and found the top half to be very nice but lower down, particularly in the shade, it was still crunchy. Still I stopped several times to soak in the beauty around me which is overwhelming. Every day until this afternoon, the sky has been bluer and the air dryer than the previous. On each trip to Catherine's I saw 1 or two other people in an area that could swallow most New England resorts whole and have enough room left over for a couple of mid Atlantic areas.

I've also been skiing Greeley and East Greeley, both of which get lots of morning sun. They are on a truly vast face; the names change when you cross a thin line of conifers known as Susie's Trees. It takes 2 lift rides to get back there. You look at it from the lift and pick your line, then go there and get lost in the vastness and drop off the traverse way before the line you intended. It is all fun and all a kind of skiing you can't experience in the east except in the Presidentials. I met an Alta instuctor out there with a Maine accent you could cut with a knife.

What else? One day I decided to drive up American Fork Canyon, the next one south of Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) just to see it and get the lay of the land. It is quiet, unspoiled, with rock towers right at the edge of the road, a much tighter place than either LCC or BCC. The pink rock against the blue sky was spectacular. To the south you see the massive Mt. Timpanogos. I came to a reservoir and talked to a guy fishing; he said he had to go back to work but often took a midday hour for a little fishing. There was a beautiful open snowfield not far above the reservoir. I think it is called Box Elder. The road leading in that direction was closed but dry. Next year I am bringing a mtn. bike and a fly rod.

This prompted me to go to REI and buy a copy of "Backcoutry Skiing Utah" by Tyson Bradley. This prompted me to bring my lightweight touring rig on the bus today and do some snooping around Patsy Marley and/or Grizzly Gulch. Not sure where one ends and the other begins. The snow was too variable for the little skis so tomorrow I'll go back with CMHs and skins and venture further.

Meanwhile clouds at last appeared to the west this afternoon. In the next 3 days we are supposed to have rain up to 10,900 ft., thunderstorms, change to snow, much colder and then??? We'll see. Patience is a requirement of this life I am leading.
BushwackerinPA
March 20, 2009
Member since 12/9/2004 🔗
649 posts
sugarloaf peak(right accross the road from alta) is normally corn like an hour after sunrise this time of year. extremely safe right now before it get to warm, its one of the tours I felt ok doing by myself.
BushwackerinPA
March 20, 2009
Member since 12/9/2004 🔗
649 posts
sorry meant Flagstaff, not sugarloaf(which is actually in alta..)
skier219
March 20, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Thanks for the update Denis -- good to hear. I am keeping a remote possibility open for an early April trip back to Alta if powder and work schedules align (as they did beautifully last year).

Catherine's is great -- I explore it a little more with each trip.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
March 20, 2009
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,217 posts
Originally Posted By: BushwackerinPA
sorry meant Flagstaff, not sugarloaf(which is actually in alta..)


I don't know where that is. Mt. Superior, across the road from Snowbird/Alta is famous as a backcountry destination. Today it had a big fresh slide on its lower flank that was not there yesterday. I noticed it at about 2 PM as I was skiing down from Grizzly Gulch after skinning up. GG turns out to be much more complex terrain than it appears from the road or from Alta. I chose to climb a prominent gully starting near the Alta snowcat shed. A nice touch is a large sign telling you to get close so it can test if your avalanche beacon is ON. I didn't notice the sign at first but as I approached the nearly inaudible beep - beep of my beacon got very loud. Then I noticed and read the sign. Clearly a lot of folks use the gully for access and distressingly, a lot of them postholed. I expected to exit the gully very quickly and be out on the snowfields but it seemed to go on forever, with always another turn after I thought I'd reached the end. There are some very steep side gullys and some ambitious lines had been skied on them. The main gully functioned like a reflector oven and I nearly bailed on account of the heat. I went from shadow to shadow to rest and cool off. Finally I just climbed the wall where I could and headed up the snowfield. By now it was clear that the skiing would not be good and it wasn't. Deep heavy glop over a firm surface that sometimes supported and sometimes punched through without warning. The tally was about a dozen good turns and a hundred survival turns. I was very careful, realizing that this stuff was a perfect recipe for a broken leg.

It was a huge amount of fun in a spectacular setting.

BW, if you don't have a copy you owe it to yourself to get "The Chuting Gallery" by Andrew Maclean.
skier219
March 21, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
I believe Flagstaff is directly across the street from Alta proper, a bit farther up the canyon than Superior. The other side of Flagstaff has some great north-facing BC skiing from what I have heard.
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
March 21, 2009
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,107 posts
Dennis,
I just saw a U of U weather site that indicated over 14" of snow for Alta this Sunday into Monday!!
Enjoy,
The Colonel smile
skier219
March 21, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Yep, I'm seeing 15" in my crystal ball, though it may be preceded by a teeny bit of rain.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
March 21, 2009
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,217 posts
Originally Posted By: skier219
I believe Flagstaff is directly across the street from Alta proper, a bit farther up the canyon than Superior. The other side of Flagstaff has some great north-facing BC skiing from what I have heard.


It looks like it is also a subject of controversy.
http://www.telemarktalk.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=55464&start=0

Still more controversy surrounding Alta,
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/us/20alta.html

There is a VT joke about how many Vermonters does it take to change a light bulb? Answer, 3, one to change the bulb and 2 to talk about how good the old one was. This could be applied to Alta as well.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
March 22, 2009
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,217 posts
Today I rested my sore knees for a 2nd day while waiting for the storm that is now beginning to dump on the Wasatch. I decided to head up to Park City for a look around. In 1984 I skied PC and Deer Valley and had not seen either since. My first stop was the Canyons which was frankly shocking after some 3 weeks of skiing alta. It is astonishingly, excessively, outrageously overbuilt with condos. A lot of money must have been poured into it. Then I drove on and looked at PC, overbuilt but not so over the top, and Deer Valley, tastefully overbuilt. There was fog along with falling snow such that I could only see the first few hundred vertical feet of each area. In all 3 cases the trails I saw looked more like golf fairways than ski trails. What a stark contrast to the simple majesty and steep terrain of Alta. Call me spoiled. Tomorrow should be good.
skier219
March 23, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. I love that about Alta.
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