After watching the Snotel telemetry like a hawk for a few days, I bet that the recent torrential downpour in the Cascades wouldn’t beat up the early season snowpack too badly above Paradise. With a few inches of snow forecast following a nice cold front, we headed down to Rainier for our first turns of the year.
As we passed through Puyallup, we saw a thin layer of snow on the trees and fields and our spirits rose. I don’t remember seeing that at all even in the depth of winter last year! The hills around Ashford were beautiful in white and green.
Conditions at Paradise were windy with an inch or two of fresh snow drifting considerably. We skinned up to the slope below Pan Face but the wind picked up and scoured the slopes clean to the icy rain crust, so we turned around. The best snow was in the trees just above the parking lot. Coverage was OK – large rocks and creeks were still quite open. Edith Creek valley needs more snow.
The mountain even came out for a little while and we got a bit of sun.
Over my spring break, I headed to Salt Lake City for five days of resort skiing. My brother and I hit Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Park City. We had minor powder days on 3 of our 5 days, and the terrain was really outstanding.
Day 1 – Alta/Snowbird
We got half-price tickets to Alta and Snowbird for the day since it was within 24 hours of our arrival. Sweet! We started the day at Alta since fresh snow had fallen on Saturday, but for the most part everything was already tracked out by the time we got there. Not to worry, there was good bump skiing and groomer cruising to be had.
Mineral Basin is beautiful… but with all that southern exposure, it was totally cooked. Apparently locals call it Miserable Basin. Also, the GoPro failed to charge the night before, so no clips in the video are from today. Bummer!
Day 2: Alta
From Day 2 to Day 4 we skied on the “Salt Lake Super Pass” which gives a little discount on the daily rate but includes the UTA Ski Bus fare up and down the canyon. It ends up being a good deal.
Snow started falling at around 9am and continued throughout the day, covering the groomers with a few inches and making the skiing off the Supreme Chair pretty nice. We stayed on this fixed-grip triple chair for most of the day because of the great terrain!
Among my favorites were the tree runs and little chutelets skier’s right of the Challenger run, and the open bowl pretty far along the Catherine’s traverse (accessible with a small hike). We also tried skiing off Sugar Loaf and Collins but visibility was poor.
Day 3 and 4: Brighton
Day 3 was the family-friendly day. Dad skied with us for the first time in a while and had a good time once we got him warmed up on the Majestic green runs and up to the Snake Creek Express with some nice blue cruisers. Meanwhile, I was enjoying some unexpectedly good powder stashes in the trees off the beginner/intermediate Majestic Chair (actually the finest powder turns I got at any of the Cottonwoods resorts we visited!)
I enjoyed taking the double black runs skiers left of the Snake Creek lift (Snake Bowl and Sawbuck), as well as some tougher lines on Mt. Millicent. Lone Pine is probably the steepest line I’ve skied yet.
On Wednesday night, it snowed again, leaving us with some nice new powder on Thursday to check out. My favorite runs that day were the mellow tree runs following the Great Western lift line. There were great glades of pines and aspen all along that ridge which could be skied all day long.
Day 5: Park City
Park City was an unexpected hit after it snowed heavily Thursday night, leaving 5 inches in the Cottonwoods and 3-4 inches in most of PCMR. My brother and I headed straight for the expert terrain off of the Jupiter lift, but couldn’t resist lapping a couple of the Thaynes runs in untouched powder. It’s all about the journey, not the destination, right?
Turns out there was plenty left when we got there. I skied Jupiter Bowl/Fortune Teller right under the lift line for my first run, then made the hike to Scott’s Bowl four or five more times before it started getting a little more tracked out.
It was funny to think I had ridden my bike to within a few hundred feet of this point from Salt Lake City (over Guardsman Pass) not too many months ago.
There really is no easy way down from the Jupiter lift, so make sure you have the skills to ski it safely if you go. There are some runs that are easier for double blacks, but steeps and unmarked obstacles could be found pretty much everywhere.
The rest of the day consisted largely of nice high-altitude groomers. We avoided the lower runs because it got very soupy as the day warmed up.
And all too soon it was time to head home again! It was an awesome trip. I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to Utah to ski. We got a great deal on accommodations in the valley, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better “dollars to quality skiing ratio” anywhere around.
Ann Arbor is still in the grips of the best winter in recent memory (or worst depending on your point of view) but I am getting a little ready for a change of scenery. Luckily, I’m headed to Utah for some skiing in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, I found a spot for some passable tree skiing right on campus!
On Thursday, conditions were perfect for cross country so I did a few miles in the Arboretum while recovering from a slight running injury that has me sidelined from my usual exercise this week.
Tuesday was the first time class had been cancelled due to weather at the University of Michigan since 1978 as wind chills dropped to -30F. With nothing else to do, I grabbed my skis to check out a couple of areas of interest in the Arboretum, right near the UM Hospital. There are some fairly steep hills, and a couple places I thought I might be able to take advantage of this winter’s deep layer of powder. Unfortunately I was mistaken.
The area I thought would be nicely gladed out had been left with dozens of closely-spaced stumps sticking out of the snow about 6 inches, making it difficult to ski. I found some other lower-angle terrain which was more clear but not fast or long enough to be interesting. There are some tremendous steep bluffs down to the river, but those are all choked with brush and fallen logs. With Michigan’s snow pack being too thin to cover up the bushes, it’s no wonder that I don’t see many skiers in the park. I’m glad I gave it a shot though.
The Huron River is essentially frozen solid, which is impressive to me. What a great winter it has been!
This weekend I had the opportunity to check out the world of ice climbing in a somewhat controlled environment at the Peabody Ice Climbing club in Fenton, MI. I had never climbed ice before, but learning on top rope was not as intimidating as I would have thought. There’s a 30′ tower and a 70′ for the more adventurous, along with a mixed climbing area. I had such a good time and I’m stoked to try it again soon.