Day 4 Tue Jan 28. Powder Mountain 3500m vertical (8800 total)

Return to paradise.

hadn’t got as much snow as Alta but still a nice bit of fresh had me trying to get to the early bus at Ogden but I got my timing calculations a bit wrong and managed to arrive with plenty of time in hand – for the next bus!  So after second breakfast met up with the others at the Park and Ride for another long bus ride up the hill – though no traffic this time.  Was at the ticket window about to buy my seniors day pass when the guy behind teams up with me so we can get a 2 for one deal (one of the 2 needs to be a local).  So half price ticket – excellent start!

Deserted car park and pretty much the same on the hill.  Lovely soft groomers and plenty of soft snow off the side.  Did the full circuit with a couple of runs off the poma moving on and off the groomed, a lovely run through the aspen at the top of Cobabe and after elevenses did the full tour via Village and Marys.  The fresh wasn’t deep and it was a little variable in places but for the most part the snow was just wonderful. Really getting into the teles and finding an added bonus with the new rig – when you bury yourself in the snow – as I am wont to do – you don’t get a huge build up of snow between boot and binding.

Highlight for the day was the run down the far side of Cobabe Canyon.  While it was a little slabby up top it was just about perfect in the descent into the bottom of the valley.  Very nice chilli for lunch, then one more circuit of Cobabe and back to the base about 10 mins before the bus was due to leave.  Snowing lightly one and off during the morning and coming down quite nicely as we were finishing.  Was nodding off on the bus ride down but thankfully woke up enough to drive back to base.

Weather forecasts heading into early next week have been flip flopping a bit but I think I’m still fairly comfortable with plan A so will have one more day here then start heading north on Thursday.  And if we’re lucky we’ll get a bit more fresh tonight.  Haven’t been taking many photos yet but will hopefully get a few up tomorrow night.

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Day 3 Mon Jan 27. Alta 2300m vertical (5300 total)

And the dirty ridge delivers!  Alta reporting 10 inches overnight and still snowing, interlodge in effect and road closed  till 8am.  A little wet snow on the car as we had a ‘wintry mix’ down here during the night.  Met Doug & Ngaere at the Park and Ride and surprised bus was running on schedule – but that changed pretty quickly as we had a SLOW trip just trying to get to the mouth of the canyon.  Only bright spot was when a police car escorted the bus past a whole lot of cars.  Snowing quite heavily all the way up.

Had to change buses at Snowbird and just settling back into the new one when someone asks if anyone’s dropped a phone in the snow – yep it was mine! I think it was over an hour and a half when we finally made it to Albion base.  But it was just about worth the wait.  Snow was a little upside down – fell light and dry at first then got a bit wetter – but only by Utah standards. Was just great to be back in soft snow – and of course I had to have a couple of stacks just to test the depth.

Thankfully had a much better sleep last night and the leg no longer looks like a leg of lamb and the right boot now actually feels comfortable. Generally pretty quiet and skiing almost straight onto lifts and LOTS of lovely snow.  Only real downside was that Rock N Roll and Ballroom never opened.  Slowly got the feel for the new boot / binding combo – think I’m REALLY going to like this setup.

We were all pretty shagged pretty early and Ngaere still hadn’t got over the flight so happy to have an early finish and a thankfully short bus ride back down the hill.  Managed to fill in most of the night logged into work.

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Day 2 Sun Jan 26. Park City 3000m vertical

Should have known that I wasn’t going to have my traditional first night ‘sleep of the dead’ when I was still awake at 11 and really didn’t feel all that flash when I arose, so figured best cure was to go skiing.  Just wanted a few hours to ease into it and Doug & Ngaere were having a relaxed (i.e. non-skiing) start, so headed around to The Canyons.  Sundance film festival was getting up and running and LOTS of traffic heading for Park City.  Just squeezed into the back of the main car park and once up at the base area walked straight into a ticket window and got epic pass arranged.

Today is day one on new bindings and boots – always a risk to do such a thing on an OS trip but boot fit was quite similar to the old ones and had been properly fitted so wasn’t feeling too concerned.  So it was a bit of a worry when I spent much of the day wanting to amputate my right leg due to the pain the boot was causing me.  Partly a problem with long johns and socks combination, but mostly due (I think) to my forgetting to wear flight socks on the trip over.  The leg had swelled a bit and was rebelling at being stuffed into a ski boot.

So developed a new style which involved virtually zero pressure being applied on the right ski – interesting.  Also kept a number of people amused as I tried to come to grips with the step in / step out of the new bindings – had seemed so easy on the carpet at home.  Oh well.

Given all that had a nice cruisy day.  Only ventured off trail a few times and was fairly quickly back on to the groomed.  Firm underfoot but a long way from the white concrete I’ve often encountered here.  Spent a bit more time on the Park City side of the hill than I normally do, with nice chalky snow up high.

Enjoyed when I saw my first squirrel for the trip so you can imagine the excitement level when people on the chair in front pointed out the moose lounging around in the snow directly under the chair – and of course camera buried in the bag.

Back at the motel one more look through everything before deciding that the main portable drive – that I have all my videos on to relieve me from the pretty average TV programming – had either been left on a flight or (more likely) sitting on the table at home.  Thankfully some music videos on the second drive so not a complete loss.

We’re under the influence of a ‘dirty ridge’ this week weather wise so while no big storms in the forecast will hopefully pick up a bit of fresh.

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Day 1 Sat Jan 25. MEL – LAX – SLC – Murray UT

A few minor speed humps getting here today.  We were a little late leaving.  From overheard conversations I think they were just about at their weight limit – so much so that one of the 3 late arrivals who had finally got onto the plane (just in front of me) was asked to leave after they’d been in their seat for about 10 minutes.  We often make up time heading west with favourable winds but we actually lost more time en route.  And then as we’re heading in to land they announce we’re going to be dumped at a remote gate and bussed to the terminal.  So by the time I’m on the bus we’re now about 30 mins behind schedule and I’m starting to get a little nervous.

But from there it was all blue skies – well for me at least.  Bus actually dropped us right outside the customs hall so didn’t have to do the standard half marathon through endless terminal corridors.  Walked straight up to the passport scanners.  Saw pretty standard length snaking lines to get through the actual customs control, but for once I got directed to a ridiculously short line where I didn’t get asked a question and barely broke stride. Even a change in terminals requiring another bus ride didn’t stop me getting to the gate with time to spare – which actually ended up as PLENTY of time to spare as the flight ended up almost an hour late.

Always a little nervous about hire car pickup but also smooth sailing and have ended up with a quite flash Nissan Rogue.  Did all the normal shopping stops as the last of the light faded and the fog rolled in and have settled in to my home for the first 5 nights  Must have got a bit more sleep on the plane than I initially thought as I’m still awake at 11.  Looks like a little snow early in the week then dry but staying cool s0 should allow a nice easy re-entry into skiing over the next few days.

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Day 27 Sun Feb 17. SLC – LAX – MEL

So I’m about 3 hours into the flight and trying to hold off on sleeping a little while in the hope I might get more than an hour or two for once. A nice relaxed pace pack up this morning and headed for salt lake roasting for a coffee – except of course being Sunday they’re not open till one are they. One last REI visit , but couldn’t find anything too exciting so did what I normally do in such circumstances – bought some more gloves!

Dropped the car off and true to their word they knocked a couple of days off the rental for all the stuffing around in canmore. Was through screening so fast I ended up with almost 2 hours before boarding. Weather closed in, and in an aisle seat so no idea if there were any views. While we waited to unload at LA the plane was really rocking in the wind. Enjoyed the convenience of a single ticket with a quick bus between terminals, no second screening and time for coffee, beer food and wine. Couldn’t justify the extra cash for economy X for the trip home so back in standard cattle class with the guy in front of me continually trying to see if he can recline his seat just that little bit more. Oh well.


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Day 26 Sat Feb 16. Grand Junction – Salt Lake

About an inch of snow outside the motel this morning, but for the first time in about 2 months I took zero notice of snow reports, forecasts, weather reports or any such.  A nice relaxed start with a drive across town to the local REI – just in case they had any bargains – then on the road again.  Great day for a drive, but found myself having to take quite a few breaks just to stay awake.  Green River looked no more interesting in daylight than it had in the dark.

But once you turn on to Hwy 6 it gradually gets more interesting until you get to Helper.  In brilliant sunshine and with a refreshed coating of snow, the drive up Price Canyon was truly spectacular.  A few snow showers as I approached the Wasatch and even with a few more quick retail therapy stops I was at the motel well before dark for a change.  Perched almost underneath the freeway it was nice and cheap – but it showed!  They seemed to have run out of towels – a task I would have listed as close to impossible for even the most basic of US motels.  And when the microwave I had to specially ask for started sparking as I tried to heat dinner I just reflected on the money I had saved!

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Day 25 Fri Feb 15. Glenwood Springs – Snowmass – Grand Junction 4700m vertical (71550 total)

And for a second day we got skunked – this time the best part of the storm hit the southern CO mountains (yesterday was the northern ones).  Just 10 cm at Snowmass and even less at Vail, so decided to end the skiing for this trip at Snowmass.  In a break between systems and actually had quite a bit of sunshine – and it was bordering on warm! Headed straight back to Big Burn area and started with a run way out wide following the rope line on the aptly named Sheer Bliss through open gladed areas and ending up on a nice soft groomer.  So nice I did it all again.  Was skiing a little drier than yesterday – still way denser than what I expect here but much fun.

After 2 runs my legs were screaming and I found myself inexorably drawn toward Up4Pizza.  With the queue now very short headed for the summit poma then realised the reason there was no queue was that it was broken!  Did a couple of runs way out wide on the other side in Sneakys Glades.  Starts off with well spaced trees but as got lower got a bit tighter and more technical.  Soft enough and low enough aspect to let me ski in spaces that would normally feel too tight.  Finally got a trip up on the poma and just about got blown off the hill with snow blowing sideways.

Just managed to squeeze one more run on each side with a nice freshen up with the windblown before the long run back to base where I could hardly get my skis off I was so exhausted.  So of course there was only one way to finish off the day and the skiing for this trip.

Slow trip back down the Roaring Fork to Glenwood where I hit peak hour.  Would have been nice to spend another night here but my already expensive accommodation would have been way more expensive tonight, so instead did an easy 90 minute drive down the Interstate to Grand Junction. Leaves me a relatively relaxed 5 hour drive back to Salt Lake tomorrow before Sundays flight home.  What could possibly go wrong.

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Day 24 Thur Feb 14. Vail 4400m vertical (66850 total)

The Atmospheric river that’s been forecast for days managed to only deliver a glancing blow on stage 1 – had vague plans for Snowmass but Vail picked up a bit more so it was back up Glenwood Canyon.  For some reason I convinced myself it was OK to get off the bus at the other ski lift base and of course it ended up taking some time to work my way back to familiar territory.  Groomers were nice and soft but I wondered what I was in for when I dropped into China Bowl.  Tried a long traverse across toward the trees through the fog and the snow was really dense with a weird slab top.  Thankfully when made it to the trees the skiing improved dramatically.

Blue Sky had been late opening so headed to there next.  Cloud was hanging in around the top of the lifts but visibility not bad once you dropped down a bit.  Really nice run down In the Wuids – not deep but lovely soft dense fun snow – once you got used to the difference in snow compared to the light fluff of Utah.

After lunch did 3 runs off Orient Express – a cruise on Poppyfields, a dance in Bolshoi Ballroom and a wonderful meander through Shangri La.  Caught the platter up to Mongolia Bowl for the run into the ballroom – only lightly tracked up top in the open then almost perfect once you dropped into the trees, which were largely widely spaced and easily navigable.  And the run down through the Shangri La trees was just about perfect.  Did the obligatory snow depth test by taking a tumble and while there was officially only a bit over 10cm fresh I managed to find about a metre of soft where I fell.  You could spend a day in here doing different lines every time.

With barely a days skiing left in the legs called it quits and headed back over the front for the long run back to base.  Enjoyable enough but took forever. Snowed lightly off and on during the day but turned to r@!n heading back down the canyon, and was drizzling at the motel anytime I took a look outside.

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Day 23 Wed Feb 13. Vail 4700m vertical (62450 total)

Had hoped to finally take a look at Breckenridge today.  It’s a long drive from here and it involves driving over Vail Pass – one of my least favourite drives.  Weather due in late today but there’s already a wind advisory for the pass.  Driving up through the magnificent Glenwood Canyon I still didn’t know for sure where I was heading for the day.  Ed wnded up figuring if I could get a free park at Vail that would decide the issue – and I got the 3rd last spot.

Overcast from the get go with snow clouds hanging around a lot of the surrounding peaks but wind was pretty benign.  A nice groomer warm up then dropped over the back into the bowls.  Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention and was surprised by how steep the run down was – till I realised I’d headed into the wrong bowl.  Back up top for elevenses then took the right path into China Bowl – much more at my pitch.  No real fresh except for a few patches in the trees but the open areas were still skiing well.  Got plenty of practice in bump skiing of various sizes.

Headed over to Blue Sky and a run down In The Wuides – probably my favourite run here.  Nice. Started snowing lightly and by the time I’d worked back to the top of China Bowl it was coming down steadily.  One more run here almost feeling my way to get to the trees and a bit of visibility and I figured it was time to head back to the front side.  About a cm on the runs now and was starting to make a difference.  A long fun run back to base.  Now if we ca just get some fresh.

Snowing virtually all the way back to Glenwood and was settling in the car park at the motel.  Forecasts still a bit messy but looking promising for the next few days – appendages crossed.

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Day 22 Tue Feb 12. Green River – Snowmass – Glenwood Springs CO. 3000m vertical (57750 total)

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Colorado.

Gassed up and on the road with just the faintest hint of light in the sky. I know there’s a couple of people who won’t believe this (or understand it) but there’s nothing quite like driving into the first light of morning and watching the world light up.  A little while after Green River it gets REALLY deserted out here.  100 km or more between gas stations – definitely not the place for another bout of car trouble!

Grabbed coffee and second breakfast at Fruita where the interstate joins the Colorado and follows it upstream for over 100km.  Some truly spectacular country as the river carves its way through the land.  Headed south from Glenwood past my home for the next 3 nights and up the Roaring Fork valley to the Park and Ride at Snowmass.  Lovely sunny day and relatively mild given what I’ve been through over the last few weeks.  Headed straight for the top of the mountain – a bit worried when saw Big Burn was closed but thankfully Sheer Bliss serves the same terrain.

They’d picked up about 10cm Monday and there were some spots were fresh could still be found.  But after dropping the knee a couple of times I realised if I was going to get through this last week today would need to be tele-free.  Perfect groomers, nice soft bumps, some fun runs through the trees – Sheer Bliss pretty much sums it up.  With such nice weather had to take the platter up to the top of the Cirque.  The snow is seldom all that good up here except for the one strip of grooming – wind slab doesn’t really do it justice – but its worth it just for the views.

Even less crowded under Big Burn with once again nice variety.  Back up the top and grabbed some pizza and thought about another ride up to the summit, but it shuts down at 2.30.  Meant that my final run down to base was only 1000m vertical rather than 1200.  With a late start and heavy legs it was never going to be a big day but well worth while.  Back down the valley and checked in to my kitchenette room – another oven so more roast vegies!

Forecasts keep changing but at least it looks I will get some fresh here to finish things up

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