Day 17 – White Christmas – Alta. 3300m vertical

POWDER DAY! – 11 in overnight and a white Christmas in Salt Lake – what a Christmas present!. Had a couple more inches late last night or early this morning at the hotel and sun was actually out. Was initially planning an early start, but Alta snow report had the access road closing at 6.30 am and due to open again at 9.30, and an interlodge declared while avalanche control work got underway.

Now the road up Little Cottonwood Canyon – SR210 – to Alta (and next door Snowbird) has the highest avalanche hazard rating index of any major road in America. Hence the benefit of staying in the resorts when these heavy snowfalls come through – you can be skiing when us mortals in the valley are waiting for the road to open. However the interlodge is the fly in the ointment – when the avalanche risk is high, the Alta Town Marshall declares an interlodge and everyone has to be indoors and has to stay in the building they’re in until it’s lifted – which in extreme cases has been known to take days!

However, road ended up opening before 9.30 but had already decided it was another good day to take the bus – and the decision has nothing to do with the fact that you can take a quick nap while descending the hill at the end of the day! So didn’t even come close to getting first tracks – but getting first tracks at Alta on a powder day means getting a VERY early start. Still the skiing I had was damn fine. Rock N’ Roll – a signature intermediate run here and one of my favourites – had been closed yesterday but was now reopened and – even better – ungroomed. Some lovely turns to be had here. Ballroom – a big intermediate bowl that is never groomed – and the only run that I have to get to by going through avalanche control gates! – had also been closed and was finally reopened a bit after midday.

Had three runs down here that were just fantastic – had a few good stacks including the best face plant of the trip but also managed to ski it in far better control than ever before. And the paralleling on the groomed runs was just wonderful. Was getting to the stage where walking was once again getting difficult, so finally had Christmas Lunch about 2.30 – a Baldy Burger! Possibly the best burger I’ve ever eaten – cooked while you wait with mushrooms, onions, lettuce and tomato – truly worthy of a festive feast.

Did a couple more runs on the groomers but could not bring myself to venture into the powder again – I feared knee destuction awaited me. Although the sun had been out all day got about half an hour of light snow in the afternoon – probably lake effect where the cold NW winds blowing across the Great Salt Lake pick up moisture from the lake then are forced to drop it as snow as they rise 6000 ft over the mountains – amazing stuff.

Light was fading when back to the car in Sandy and while plenty of snow on the roads much more pleasant drive home. Topped the day off by cooking a bison steak in my little kitchen – good stuff.

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