Mostly Snowbird, March 13-15, 2019

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Mostly Snowbird, March 13-15, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Mar 16, 2019 6:30 pm

The forecast storm started off on the high end of its range with 8 inches overnight Tuesday. However it also snowed all day Wednesday, 6 inches more. Visibility was not ideal but adequate over most of the mountain, except for the top of Little Cloud, where upslope winds were comparable to Mammoth’s finest. Any traverse towards Regulator or the Cirque was straight into that wind, with drifted snow on the normally groomed path. Twice I had to remove icicles that had formed on the end of my nose.

The weather impacted the road, closing it from roughly 9-10AM and again from noon – 2PM. Some people made it up the canyon by 9AM, but if not it was at least 11AM, which is what happened to Liz’ friends Ike and Lilly. I rode Wilbere and headed towards Peruvian, which was closed so I had to reverse direction and go to Gadzoom. Approaching Gadzoom 9:30AM I could see parking was only ¼ full with no new cars coming in, so we were in for at least an approximation of country club skiing for the morning.

I went up to Little Cloud where the snow by the liftline was a bit shallow due to the upslope wind. Thus I had to endure that traverse to get deeper snow for the next two runs, mainly in the Puckerbrush area. It was easier to take a lower traverse with less intense wind and more gravity assistance.

But to reach the Upper Cirque I had to take the masochistic highest traverse. I did get a reward for that at 11AM, when skier’s left of Great Scott was completely smooth though dense and not that deep powder. I continued on to deeper powder in Green Forest. From there I could inspect the Peruvian chair, which was now in motion but with no riders.

So I returned to Gadzoom, then to Gad 2. I went far skier’s right of STH and through a short shot of steep trees below. I had spent too much time in the wind and was starting to drain body heat, so I went into Creekside for a bowl of soup just before noon. Unfortunately I had zero cell reception in there even though 100 feet away at the base of Gadzoom it was fine.

After the break I returned to Gadzoom and Gad 2, starting down Bananas planning to duck into the trees somewhere. I heard someone in the group of skiers ahead wonder where Liz was. When another person mentioned her husband Tony I decided that was not coincidental. So I had come upon Ike and Lilly and 3 other NYC skiers.

The two Tigertail gates were closed but we skied into the Barn Door gate below, finding decent powder both in the trees and in Ted’s Bowl below. This was good enough for an encore. After the second run I led the two women through an unusually wide and soft Snake Pit while Ike and Rob Turner squeezed through some steep trees and got into the apron below the Get Serious Chutes.

I thought Ike and Rob would be up for the long steeps of South Chute or Wilbere Bowl. The traverse from Little Cloud was nasty even though we didn’t have to be on its highest line. But at 3PM the wind was on the Cirque Traverse too. We pushed past mid-Cirque but I was again draining heat and really needed to get out of that wind. I told them to push on farther to make sure they got the NW aspect down to the top of Big Emma, which I later found out they did. Where I descended turned out to be one of the last Gad Chutes dropping onto Roger’s Run. It was completely untracked but with west exposure I was sometimes contacting a crunchy subsurface.
I skied to the Peruvian chair which had finally opened at 1:30. I skied mid-Baldy lines of lightly tracked powder for my last run and finished with 21,900 vertical, about 11K of powder. These were modest numbers compared to Tseeb and our 30-something Iron Blosam contingent, all over 30K.

The real weather surprise came Thursday, with an unexpected 16 inches overnight for a storm total of 31 inches. This made it a top 3 powder experience of Iron Blosam Week, comparable to Monday in 2006 and exceeded only by Fat Tuesday in 2011.

I waffled on whether to ski Alta or Snowbird, but with the road closed until at least 8AM it seemed safer to stay at Snowbird rather than wait for a possibly delayed bus or exert the effort to excavate a car. For future reference it seems the buses have priority when the road opens and we saw one at the base of the Iron Blosam stairs when we headed out just after 9AM.

The simple line through scattered shrubbery from the top of Wilbere into Big Emma showed us right away what kind of day it was. Al Solish here:

We headed up to Little Cloud which had decent visibility and not yesterday’s wind. The snow was shallow near the top from wind stripping but plenty deep when you got down a bit, especially on either side of Regulator. On our last Little Cloud ride, we ran into another NY contingent, including Liz’ friend Rob Schrader, with whom we had skied a couple of days last year and on Dec. 4 at Killington where he is an instructor.

With the expanded group I suggested Tseeb take off, as he planned to ski hard for a few hours before driving to South Lake Tahoe. Liz suggested that Barn Door gate off Gad 2, where she had found a line that was deep Wednesday and needless to say much more so Thursday. A patchy cloud had moved onto part of Gad 2, but that was not a problem in that heavily treed area.

When we had been skiing Little Cloud there were lines of people waiting for the Cirque to open. I took Rob up there to check it out. By 11AM the Cirque had opened but now the fog enveloped the entire mountain. I decided we should ski South Chute, where the trees would provide orientation.

I was right about the deep snow there, but the fog still required a more measured pace. My DPS Wailer 112’s floated through cautious turns smoothly, but Rob’s skis were only 99mm underfoot and would occasionally bog down. I never saw the cat track above Big Emma until I was standing on it.

As memorable a run as South Chute was, we were ready for a break and skied to the tram plaza. It was just before noon so we shared a small pizza in reasonable time. But when Liz and Lilly showed up 20 minutes after us the place was overrun. I find it inexcusable that Snowbird with its growing popularity has decided to close the Rendezvous cafeteria midweek.

Rob and I barely missed a tram, rode the next one in still thick fog but were surprised to see that Mineral Basin had opened to the guntower in partial sun. We were too late plus the line I chose unwisely near the liftline had tracked and chunky snow. There was also a big line at the Mineral chair and we got separated.

I got to the top of the Mineral lift at 2:09 and decided I need to emphasize quality. We hiked the 10 minutes or so to the High Baldy Traverse, heading for Liz’ favorite LCC run. Adam took that traverse later and stayed within Snowbird where the snow was tracked but still plenty deep. But I continued on to the pristine Upper Armpit above Alta.

The Alta side had a partial clearing, permitting perfect deep powder skiing all the way down to Agee’s Alley. Unfortunately Rob was on a Snowbird only ticket so we couldn’t ride Wildcat and had to slog the Blackjack traverse that dumped into the condo area with a short walk needed to get to the bypass trail.

We had time for a final tram. The front of Snowbird was still hazy but we could see Cirque features from the tram so that’s where we went. We inspected the entry to Great Scott, which was worn down more than when I skied it Wednesday. But Jaws had a wide and smooth entry with no rocks or cornice and the usual lower constriction was well buried.


Jaws’ steeps were soft packed snow, but in the apron we could spread out and ski lightly chopped powder, which at that depth I was not hitting bottom on 112mm skis.

We continued to Green Forest.

It was about 3:45 and we called it a day. Rob skied to his room at the Cliff but later joined us for dinner at Iron Blosam. I skied 18,900 vertical, about 11K of the highest quality powder.

These two days were the true test for Liz’ new ON3P Jessie 108 skis, which replaced the Armada VJJ’s stolen in Val d’Isere last April. She’s very happy and has definitely raised her comfort level in deep snow.

On Friday I was quite beat from the prior two days powder festivities. Nonetheless there would be a few terrain openings so I got out by 9:30 and took chairs to the top. It was only 13F in the shade at the base of Gadzoom, but with spotless clear skies it warmed into the 30’s by 11AM.

Powder Paradise had opened but not Bookends or Road to Provo. Powder Paradise was partially tracked and surprisingly shallow (wind and/or settling of the <5% water content snow?) and I skied it like complete crap.

Next time out I looked for a shorter but less tracked line. That was better but I should have gotten in line for the Bookends, which opened while I was on that second run. So of course I went for Bookends on the third run, had to go far out for a clean line by then.
Needless to say the Mineral Basin lift line was huge so I hiked up to Baldy and headed for Alta just before 11AM. At the checkpoint I noticed people hiking u p to the Devil’s Castle traverse. Being lazy I decided I’ll ski down to Sugarloaf and then try that. While skiing down I noticed Sugarloaf was not moving. On the last pitch of Extrovert the lift was still stopped and I could see a full maze at the bottom. So I traversed hard right to get to Supreme.

I cruised a lazy Rock ‘n Roll and by this time Sugarloaf was officially closed and its liftline dispersed. I skied down to the rope tow and to no surprise Collins had a full maze. The info screen there said Sugarloaf would be down until 1PM. As it was 11:45 it was an easy call for me to ride Wildcat and takes admin’s favored route into Snowbird before the afternoon sun would bake it like Monday.
I skied to the tram plaza where I was pleased to see Road to Provo still closed. But it opened while I was in the tram line. I made the second tram from there, but the trams seemed slow and the one I rode stopped for 5 minutes over the Cirque, obviously not weather related on a calm blue sky day.

Thus when I headed out Road to Provo it has been tracked at least as much as by my third run Monday. So I took one run beyond Hoops and decided in my exhausted state to call it a day after one top to bottom run. Based upon Adam/Ben recommendations Sunday, I went a short way out the Cirque Traverse to Elevator.

View across to Baldy from there.

As on Monday the apron below Elevator still had some deep powder turns.

I finished with 13,800 vertical, about 3K of powder. I was late or missed all of the openings Friday, but I was glad I had used all my energy for the amazing skiing on Wednesday/Thursday.
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
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Re: Mostly Snowbird, March 13-15, 2019

Postby Sbooker » Sun Mar 17, 2019 4:44 pm

I'm obviously hoping for too much but I would love to think conditions the same time next season are half as good as they are in those pics. Stunning.
Early March most years has almost all terrain open and winter snow conditions from at least mid mountain up on the front side and a 50/50% chance of winter snow over the back?
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Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 18, 2019 9:39 am

The 48 inches of snow this year were the most in my experience. But my experience is unusually bad, 60% of expected snowfall over 127 days. At least that's up dramatically from 2 years ago, when I was at an abysmal 45% over 112 days.

Winter snow in south facing Mineral Basin in March is only during and immediately after storms, a close analogy to Jackson Hole. But Mineral is probably 15% of Snowbird's terrain. Front side is ~60% north facing and most of that stays winter snow for 2-3 days after a storm. I've been there during a lot of abnormally warm days, which means only the steepest north facing stays winter snow, maybe 15% or so.

FYI during our week Alta/Snowbird snowfall finally caught up and passed 2016-17. Not a surprise as we had zero new snow during Iron Blosam week in 2017. Overall North America ski area snowfall is also now ahead of 2016-17. It's been spectacular Feb. 1 - March 15, though we're finally getting a pause now.
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Location: Glendale, California

Re: Mostly Snowbird, March 13-15, 2019

Postby Sbooker » Mon Mar 18, 2019 2:31 pm

We were only around until January 14 in 2017 but despite the early season we scored perfect conditions at Alta/Snowbird and fantastic cover in Aspen. Our last stop that year was Sun Valley. We loved that mountain but I vow never to return because I want to remember it at its best.I think it very unlikely that we would time a storm cycle like that again. It was snowing so hard we got fresh tracks on every run for two whole days. We lapped the long chair on the Warm Springs side for a full day and the place was virtually empty.
Nearly missed our flight back to Oz because of a cancelled flight out of Hailey though.
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Location: Brisbane Australia

Re: Mostly Snowbird, March 13-15, 2019

Postby tseeb » Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:50 am

I skied Snowbird on 3/13 and 3/14. I did not ski with Tony Crocker much although we did take a couple of lifts together on 3/14.
On 3/13, I did not get out until 9:15 and after pulling my skis out of my SUV that was driven and snow-free on Tues, I put them on and skied down the driveway, then down four short flights of stairs and crossed the road and skied down to Wilbere. The stairs had only been cleared on one side and I had no grinding on them or when crossing the road where snow was dirty, but coverage was OK. Wilbere stopped twice, with the second one kind of long. It also was stopped when I rode it later to avoid slog (due to new snow) back to Gad 2 when employee apparently misloaded. I saw him climbing back up to re-load.

Snow early was too dry and not usually deep enough to avoid hitting bottom, but was still fun. Wind was howling at top of Little Cloud which along with drifts made it hard to stay on traverse to Regulator. Little Cloud along with the tram ran all day. In this picture taken before 10, it looked like sun was going to come out, but it never did.
Mineral never opened and Peruvian was delayed. Even without staying on the traverse, it was possible to get to Middle Cirque which I went past and came down Glen's as sub-surface was soft enough that the 8" overnight and 4-6" that fell by 10 AM skied well.

I rode Gad 2 with Bruce from Maine, who has been staying at the Cliff Lodge and skiing everyday that it has been good since early Jan. I told him I didn't really get the point of Gad 2 lift as it seemed like there were a lot of flats and traverses to get to short and often bumpy, treed and cliffy steeps. He shared with me a place he'd found where steep and mostly untracked was long and he also had some good ways to go the rest of the way down. After doing that twice, we went up Little Cloud and skied steep and deep South Chute to the tram.

We had a two tram wait, then skied down the Cirque Traverse to Barry Barry Steep which was OK although some of it probably slid so we skied shots next to it. He went back to the Cliff to see if his wife was ready to go out and I rode Gadzoom and Gad 2, then joined small group from Iron Blossom at mid-Gad for lunch.

After lunch, lizardqueen led us down Gad 2 to lookers right of the chair (first time I went that way this trip) and went into trees past Bananas where after nearly getting cliffed out, some of us found some deep untracked just past the ropeline. We skied to Baby Thunder which we rode a few times as everyone was enjoying the low-angle deep and very dry new snow there. I gave some powder tips and tree-well warnings to the group that including father and son from New Jersey who had just arrived the previous night and had never skied powder.

I left the group about 3 and got two rides on Little Cloud where wind seemed to be even worse, dropping into mid-Cirque on second lap about 3:30. I had time for a Peruvian lap and one on Wilbere before quitting after 4:30 with over 31K vertical. Some of the 30 year-olds in our group had 36K. Both are big numbers, considering a lot of it was in powder.
My SUV after skiing on 3/13

I took a picture of the Interlodge signs in the elevator at Iron Blosam and my SUV on the morning of 3/14.
Smile on my buried SUV
I told Tony Crocker early that if I could get 10 runs like our first Little Cloud lap, I would be happy. I ended up with 12, including getting a lot of face shots in Great Scott not long after Cirque ropes dropped, then had 4 laps on Peruvian, which surprisingly after recent history opened early although visibility nearly everywhere was bad by mid-morning.
I had one Peruvian lap with good visibility, then one where only middle third was bad, then it went bad all over the mountain. I think this is Lower Fields of Glory at 11 AM. I went out the mid-Baldy traverse three times from Peruvian.
I quit with 20.7K vertical at 1:30 and, after packing, loading and spending about 5 minutes clearing snow on, next to and behind SUV, I was on road at 2:30.
At Costco in Salt Lake City
I had big smile most of the way across NV. My SUV still had some snow in roof rack at Bonneville rest stop. I got to South Lake Tahoe before 11 where I needed to checkout cabin after all the snow and after my nephew was there celebrating his birthday a couple of weeks ago.
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