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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Day 21 Mon Feb 11. Murray – Alta – Green River UT 2850m vertical (54750 total)

So it eventually stopped snowing last night.  Had a lousy nights sleep and although up early just couldn’t get properly fired up and half way through packing the car realised I wasn’t going to make the bus we’d agreed on and texted Doug.  Finally got there (just) in time for the next bus but with the canyon road being closed till 8.30 this morning timetables were out the window.  So after a very slow trip standing up in the bus I found myself donning skis at about 10.30 – over 2 hours after leaving the motel.  And after standing waiting over 20 minutes for the bus I only realised I’d left the camera in the car AFTER we departed!

Incredibly slow snow at the top of Supreme.  Got excited to see very few tracks into Rock N Roll but as I headed down there I realised why – it was so deep and slow you just about had to pole downhill. So far, somewhat underwhelmed.  As Ballroom was already open decided to head across to Collins – and when I got there a text Doug had sent me over half an hour ago finally managed to find me – and of course he was back where I had just come from.  A LONG traverse line into Ballroom and lovely snow but I found I had to just about point straight downhill to keep moving.

Headed for Watsons for coffee and food where finally managed to catch up with Doug.  Headed for Racecourse saddle – I figured its steeper pitch would be ideal today.  I should have realised when I saw the speed that Doug hit when he headed down that the snow over here was a tad faster.  After a couple of survival turns headed back to my regular slightly easier pitch.

Doug convinced me to head for Wildcat – where I had done my deep head plants last time here.  I tried traversing out into a bowl that looked a little less steep on the ride up, but it had HUGE (though very soft) bumps and I lost it a bit and had to bail out sideways.  But from here found lovely snow and got into the rhythm of it and ended up doing several laps through different lines through here with sensational snow.  Great stuff. 

Stunning sunny day with no wind except on the ridgetops and would have been nice to do a full day but tiredness from yesterday and the prospect of a 3 hour drive this afternoon saw me part company with Doug a bit after 2.  We’d had 2 days of some of the best Utah can deliver, and I was even more comfortable now with my decision to head for Colorado for the last 4 ski days of the trip even if they don’t get as much snow as Utah.

Enjoyed the luxury of a seat on the bus down then joined the seemingly endless procession of cars heading south on I-15.  Perfect afternoon for a drive and after a steady climb up to and across Soldier Summit a spectacular descent through Price Canyon.  Fully dark for the last half hour or so into Green River.  Not a lot to recommend a stay here except for the fact that it’s pretty much half way between Salt Lake and Glenwood Springs

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Day 20 Sun Feb 10. Ogden – Powder Mountain – Murray UT 4700m vertical (51900 total)

Surprised myself by being at the Park and Ride at the mouth of the canyon well in time for the early bus.  Only reporting 2 in overnight but figure it’s still a good option for the day.  Well they may have only got a bit yesterday but you would swear it had snowed feet rather than inches the way it skiied.  We were expecting the storm to head in by mid morning but weather was actually benign and we even got sunny breaks.

Started with a perfect groomer run then headed for multiple laps of Hidden Lake and Sunrise, taking different lines through the trees and always finding lovely soft deep powder, often only lightly tracked.  This was more the skiing that I expect from this place.  After late elevenses / early lunch we headed out the other side to Village and then over to Marys.  Almost untracked areas through the aspen then up Marys and did the wide traverse out to the other side of Cobabe Canyon.  Was trying to end up in the lovely open slope that I’ve hit many times in the past but by a providential mistake we ended up on a completely untracked run through the trees in what came damn close to perfect snow.

Snow was so good that even the long cat track out to Paradise was just fun.  By now our fine weather had finally gone bye bye and the snow was starting to set in.  So good that we figured it was worth facing the long ride out on Paradise one more time so did the more traditional run out into skiers left side of Cobabe.  Back up top one more run through the trees off Sunrise and my legs were absolutely shot – and I don’t think Doug had a lot left either.  

System was obviously much later coming through than forecast but the drive down still probably would have been a little dubious at best so still happy to be on the bus.  Back at the Park and Ride I was sitting on hold on the phone for a LONG time trying to cancel some accommodation watching the snow start to come down even at lower levels.  Finally on the road, the drive to Salt Lake got progressively worse in rain / sleet / snow.  Discovered another ‘smart’ (meaning REALLY dumb!) feature of my car.  Instead of having manually selectable variable wiper speed it has an automatic one doesn’t it.  So when  a car would come past and spray my car they would go into overdrive with no way to slow them down other than shut them off.

By the time I turned onto the belt loop snow was settling FAST on the road and conditions were horrendous.  Managed to get onto the right exit but couldn’t even see the left lane once I was on it so kept heading south and grabbed coffee and groceries before checking in.  I don’t think I’ve EVER seen it snow at such a rate down here in the valley.  Unpacking the car was an experience all in itself.

SO glad I wasn’t trying to get any further today.  Alta picked up a lazy 9 inches yesterday and similar forecast for tonight so guess where we’re heading for tomorrow. 

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Day 19 Sat Feb 9. Missoula – Ogden UT.

Wind still blowing the dog off the chain and had been going all night.  If there had been any snowfall it had all gone sideways to somewhere else.  Weather advisory out till early afternoon but hoped that with a little creative dawdling I might miss the worst of it – and just going outside for a few seconds felt positively life threatening.  Had worried that maybe I shouldn’t be leaving the area when Whitefish had been picking up so much snow but they’re completely shut down today due to wind and cold.

Was afraid I was going to get something like last years drive through hell to Discovery, but it wasn’t too bad (but not pleasant either).  For the first 30 minutes or so both lanes were completely clear of snow apart from the blowing stuff and you could almost do full speed, but gradually the left lane started getting progressively covered, and when the snow started to cover the right lane too it was time to back way off.  Some nasty moments with passing trucks when visibility would just disappear completely.

But for most of the day was able to keep up a good pace and was in to Ogden about 6.30 – all up about 1100 km since leaving Fernie  Not as scenic a drive as I have managed in the past but just happy I was able to get the whole distance done.  Had caught up with Doug’s blog this morning to see great minds (and ours as well!) think alike and he had also headed for here from Jackson, so we’ll be on the bus up to Powder Mountain together tomorrow morning.  Pretty substantial snow due up there during the day, and I definitely don’t need the excitement of another drive down that hill in a storm – been there, done that.  Final decision on the last week after tomorrow’s weather updates 

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Day 18 Fri Feb 8. Fernie – Missoula MT 2200m vertical (47200 total)

Not quite a powder day but you take what you’re given.  Had gone out for a walk last night just before going to bed to watch the snow falling.  Not a lot at village level but calling 8cm up top and snowed lightly all morning.  Was at Timber Bowl a little after opening and right from the get go much nicer than yesterday.  Nice soft turns from the top and even better off White Pass – just about perfect groomers and some nice soft stuff here and there to try.  Gave Currie Powder another try but again a bit thin and the lower half of the mountain very much dust on crust.

After early elevenses made my way across to Cedar Bowl – easily the high point of the morning.  Although lower than White Pass and no higher than Currie Bowl it just seems to attract the snow.  Lots of buried bumps but it was skiing boot deep or better in here so it just didn’t matter – great stuff.  With a substantial drive in poor conditions facing me I knew I would only have time for one run here so made the most of it.  Finished with a lovely run back along Cedar Trail albeit with a couple of flat spots in todays fresh.

A calm drive along the Elk Valley – even saw a couple of longhorn sheep trying to graze a ludicrously steep slope just above the road.  But on turning to the south to head for the border hit ferocious wind which continued for the rest of the day.  Only about a 5 minute wait at the crossing then on to Whitefish where, with the early departure from Fernie I found the unexpected bonus of scones still being available! Rejigged accommodation over coffee then back out to negotiate the Whitefish streets which had their typical level of storm snow clearing – that is basically none. 

Snowing and blowing hard through Kalispell and further south but then finally cleared up south of Polson.  Even though I had to do the last descent into Missoula in the dark it was thankfully far easier than on some previous occasions.  Had to go without my nightly fix of CNN as I had a ‘smart’ tv that didn’t have regular channels but instead let you log into any of your subscription streaming services.  Sign o’ the times?

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