Days 32-33: Back to normal
I know what you're saying. I'm well aware that a 75-inch base isn't quite "back to normal" for late January, but Alta is at least finally skiing normally. Thanks to another 8"+ on Thursday into Friday everything typically open during a major avalanche cycle is now open, including the High T, High Notch and upper Yellow Trail and Supreme Bowl (but not Spiny Chutes). Devil's Castle and East Castle remain closed but that's not unusual at all given the way avalanches are releasing right now. In fact, what little remains closed is due to avalanche risk and not due to a lack of cover. If you weren't a regular you'd no longer know that this has been a lean snow year to date.
We skied long and hard on Saturday catching up for lost time by skiing areas we haven't skied yet this season: Eagle's Nest, Garbage Chute, a full High Boy from the top, etc. Kingslug
is in town and joined us for Friday night's planning meeting over sushi at Suehiro and Skrad
is now back in town until the end of March following his extensive travels throughout British Columbia and Alaska. We caught the Backside opening and whereas most of Backside had slid I instead enjoyed a full-length untracked Yellow Trail non-stop to Glitch and then the flats out to Sunnyside, where most of the willows are now finally buried.
The High T is in surprisingly decent shape and the lowest line is downright clean. Even Garbage Chute, which in the summer is nothing but one non-stop series of ledges, is rock-free.
The sun shone brightly through clear, blue skies, but a stiff breeze on the ridgelines kept temperatures feeling cool for much of the day. The breeze was fortunately confined to the highest ridgelines, although it lowered a bit as the day wore on to freshly buff open areas into a new, clean slate.
Saturday was busy but not unusually so for a typical mid-winter Saturday. The same can't be said for next door, where they were parked along the road along most of the resort. I left at 3:45 and it took me 30 minutes to inch down the canyon from Entry 4 to Entry 1 as Snowbird's customers were leaving.
Some of the slides from this week were remarkable in their scope. Comma Chute ran full length, across Whodunit, and slightly uphill in places as it continued down through the trees and across the Bypass Road to end up next to the Snowbird parking garage below the heliport. Glory Hole went wall-to-wall as Bobby Danger's picture from Friday showed:
The debris pile on the floor of Glory Hole is shocking. At the end of the day we received word of the slide on Kessler Peak that killed a 24-year-old snowboarder. Sorry to hear about the guy's fate and prayers to his friends and family, but that wasn't the wisest choice of line with the conditions out there this weekend.
Further down the canyon traffic again ground to a halt. Down near B Gate a car somehow managed to spin around 180 degrees on a perfectly dry road and end up in the snowbank facing uphill. As I pondered the physics that could have possibly led to that scenario I noticed the license tags: California
Seven members of our regular ski posse, accompanied by Kingslug, got together for dinner last night to celebrate a trio of January birthdays. Those who whine about Salt Lake City being nothing but strip malls and chain restaurants need to take off their blinders and visit Lugano
. My bruchetta starter topped with roma tomatoes, house-made mozzarella and prima prosciutto was to die for and so was my pasta entrée with clams, mussels, shrimp and fish. By the looks of his empty plate Bobby Danger enjoyed his grilled 22-oz. Angus rib eye in a brown thyme butter, too.
By contrast, Sunday was a lazy day which was none too surprising following that dinner. Mrs. Admin decided to come up for the day, so that's why we got a later than usual start from the house just after 8:30 a.m. It wasn't early enough as a driver drove her vehicle over the edge this morning at the bottom of Seven Turns.
A fire battalion chief's Chevy Suburban sped by us on I-215, lights flashing, and he got off at the 6200 S exit but I still thought little of it other than that for a moment the flashing lights in my rear view mirror made me believe that I was about to get a speeding ticket. <Whew>. Shortly before we arrived at the merge with 9400 S at the mouth of the canyon, however, traffic ground to a halt. At first I figured that it was just from congestion at the merge but when we were still only inching up the road beyond the merge it became apparent that something more was going on. Before we even reached A Gate the inching stopped.
Skidog, who stayed home today, messaged me to ask if I made it up the canyon before they closed the road to clean up the scene and evacuate the injured. Of course, we hadn't. He was the first to inform me of what happened. While we chatted the Life Flight heli flew overhead down canyon shortly before 9:30. Finally, by around 9:40 we started inching up the canyon again.
The three women in the vehicle had taken an 80-foot ride down over the embankment before coming to rest against a boulder. One was flown to IMC with head injuries, another was driven by ground ambulance to another area hospital with relatively minor injuries and a third was reportedly uninjured. News accounts say that the driver lost control on black ice but I'm sorry, there was no black ice on the road that morning. I heard witnesses say that it looked like she meant to drive that way or was distracted by something. LCC Road begets respect.
So we didn't start skiing until well after 10. Only AmyZ and Kingslug were there as they got up the road before it closed. Bobby Danger and rdwore had been caught in the hangup as we were. It only took a half a run to swing into Baldy Brews for our morning latté.
I spent nearly my whole day cruising with Mrs. Admin. Ungroomed snow was a bit stiff from a cold overnight but softened quickly into something far more pleasant. Groomers were downright delightful from the get-go. Six huge craters showed evidence of a heli bomb drop in the bowl on the southwest side of Wolverine that surprisingly yielded little to nothing in the way of results. We found Bobby and rdwore for pizza in the GMD saloon for lunch after they spent the morning at Snowbird and reported that traffic at Snowbird was actually relatively light today. We then cruised a bit more after lunch before calling it a day. After the pounding my body took on Saturday it actually felt good to relax for a bit.
Unfortunately it looks like December and January's persistent high pressure is about to return for a couple of weeks. We may get a weak system or two this week but nothing substantial's on the long-term horizon until mid-February as a pineapple express jet stream of moisture will stay well to our north across B.C.