Day 31: It absolutely rocked.
Holy cow, what a day! 30-something inches of untracked snow from bell to bell under deep blue skies. It's been a long time coming, but we've deserved a day like this and we finally got it.
Our plans for Snowbasin came to fruition during the requisite Friday night planning meeting over sushi. Honestly, the canyon access situation today had nothing to do with our thought process, but in the end it's amazing how perfect our decision turned out to be. A natural slide ran across Little Cottonwood Canyon road on Saturday evening, so at that point they closed the road until after Sunday morning's shelling. The latter must've produced a lot, too, for the road didn't open to Snowbird only until 11:45 a.m. and Alta reportedly didn't open until after 1 p.m. this afternoon. They closed BCC to cars by 11:15 a.m. as the parking lots at both Solitude and Brighton were full. It must've been a total junk show in both LCC and BCC today.
Snowbasin's patrol got a lot to move today, too, and not always in a location where you'd expect it.
The Needles gondola didn't open until close to 9:30 a.m., and by that time the line was clear back to the parking lot. Bobby Danger was already in line, so we opted to let him take a lap before we'd join him.
While waiting we bumped into pro skier and Salomon athlete Jamey Parks, one of the many Altaholics who traveled north to Snowbasin today. It seemed like half of the LCC regulars were there.
Little opened early on except for Needles, Porcupine and presumably Middle Bowl, too, although I can't be certain about the latter as I never saw it. Oh, and Little Cat and Becker in the base area, but with Strawberry still off limits it made little sense to ride Becker. The John Paul lift hasn't spun all season, so while the hordes tracked up the obvious lines beneath the Needles gondola we had other ideas.
We used Porcupine to traverse way out and, without crossing any rope lines, managed to access the lower third of both the men's and women's downhill areas which were delightfully untracked. Unconventional, yet totally legal and totally legit. We lapped that all morning, heading further and further out each time to reach untracked lines. Alta-style traversing habits sure come in handy sometimes.
Really, it was a good thing that JP wasn't spinning for we never would've had that terrain literally all to ourselves all morning if it was.
We broke for lunch to develop a game plan for the afternoon. Seriously, how often do you get a giant slab of prime rib for lunch at a ski area?
While we were having lunch they announced that Strawberry was finally cleared by patrol to open. Now, one might have raced over there for a whole new round of freshies, and in fact most people did. The announcement almost hinted that John Paul wouldn't open after all, either. But we figured that we'd now have this side of the mountain to ourselves while we kept an eye on JP. And it worked.
After lunch we repeated the traversing technique from Porcupine that had yielded run after run of untracked in the morning. By the time we returned to the base at 1:35 p.m. a small line had formed at John Paul Express.
By 1:45 p.m. they started loading. We got about the 20th chair with only a 10-minute wait - timing is everything.
As we neared the top we all agreed -- no worrying about sticking together, we'd all meet up at the bottom. Every man (or woman) for themselves. We were no longer friends.
We may have been near the front of the pack but it was still a feeding frenzy. Some headed for the middle Grizzly (Men's) Downhill, while others like Bobby dropped straight down under the lift. I angled for the steep trees between the two. It was hero snow -- perfectly smooth, perfectly consistent and absolutely bottomless...until I suddenly found myself heading for the three-foot crown of a patrol-triggered avalanche. I zigged to skier's right and kept finding more and more lines unfolding before me. Somewhere in there Parks blew past me. About two thirds of the way down I stopped to give my screaming thighs a break and out of the trees popped Telejon, whose legs were doing the same so we were suddenly friends again. It was, to be certain, the best run of the season.
We headed back up for a more relaxed descent in the sun on the other side of the JP ridge.
We worked our way down by connecting tree shot with tree shot. I swear, the last 300 yards at the bottom of our last run at 3 p.m. constituted the only tracked snow we skied all day. While we slipped out of our boots, with the large crowd they had today Snowbasin announced that they were selling their killer home-baked cookies for only a buck a pop. Nice touch, Snowbasin. People headed to the cashier with eight or ten of 'em.
Winter's back, baby, and Snowbasin today truly delivered the goods! Game on.