Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Day 45 of 2010-2011 Ski Season" or "Not Done Yet by a Damn Sight"

Jared starting the work day right... with powder turns.
Spring snow is a fact of life in Utah.  However, this season's especially wet, cool spring is really bringing out a dichotomy in Utah's citizenry.  I've observed this ever since I moved here and for a kid who grew up in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where we would go for weeks below freezing and would have ice on our driveway for months, I've never understood why anyone would complain about Utah's mild winters.  Yet every spring, it seems like people can't wait for summer to get to the Salt Lake Valley, as if average temps in the 30s and snow that melts within 2 days is some sort of Siberian hell.  I like to call these whiners the "Where's summer?" crowd.  They are usually made up of native Utahns; people who have spent their whole life within 30 miles of the greatest snow on earth but for some reason take skiing for granted.  They think skiing is a quaint way to spend a winter Saturday, usually riding the chair at Brighton and wondering how to keep their jeans dry.  These people are vehemently against this current storm pattern which has turned Salt Lake City into the pacific northwest and unfortunately for us "outsiders" they are probably using the time stuck indoors to devise more challenging hurdles for liquor consumption.  Also in this category would be the "early season over-eager/late-season yawner" skiers; people who do love skiing, but for some reason, get sick of it by March.  These are usually the same people who, in November, can't stop talking about how much they want to get out skiing and are usually the first ones in line to ski Solitude's lousy two icy runs on Thanksgiving weekend.  

When do you think
this picture was taken?
Then there is the small group of people like Jared, Justin and I (none of us from Utah of course) who got up to Alta just before 9am and were in shock at what we saw.  The storm had put down a modest 4" to 8", but taken in the context of May 19th, we were drooling. With Alta being closed for the season, you might expect an empty parking lot, but there were 20 to 30 cars and the only clue that Alta wasn't open was that there was no 9am liftline at the Collins chair.

I couldn't get my boots on fast enough... mainly because I really had to pee.  But after the three of us turned three trees above the ticket lodge into a bizarre, synchronized outdoor urinal, we headed up the mountain towards Wildcat with the good fortune of having a groomed cat track to follow most of the way. I don't know what confused us more: why the snow groomers were out in the first place, or why other skiers were choosing to ski down on the cat track instead of getting powder shots?

My first turns down were a little strange.  The snow was pretty wet with a weird bed surface underneath.  You really couldn't relax too much otherwise you would punch through some earlier deposited snow. Plus I hadn't skied in almost 2 weeks... and that was on corn snow.  I was so unprepared for powder that when I checked the forecast yesterday and saw that cold temperatures and cloudy skies would make corn skiing unlikely, I felt disappointed.  It wasn't until I checked the expected snowfall amounts that it dawned on me, "It could be a good day out there."
It wasn't exactly a "great" powder day, but when you have
a hard time seeing the skier (Justin) it's still a pretty good day.

We made two laps in Wildcat, most of the time with snow falling at a steady rate and gusty ridgeline winds.  It really could have been February for all I know.  Sure, a lot of skiers love to talk about "days they got in May" or my favorite, "skiing the Bird in July" (which is more marketing gimmick than quality skiing in my opinion), but I'm just glad I live in a place where Ullr will continue to bless you with great turns this late in the season.  I enjoy mountain biking and hiking quite a bit, maybe as much as skiing, and I know that both of those seasons may be cut short by all this late snow, but as far as I'm concerned, you have no control over the weather, so you might was well take what it gives you and find a way to enjoy it while you can.

No comments: