UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the western US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.

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UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Postby jkamien » Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:10 am

The snow surfaces remain bad. Two inches Monday into Tuesday helped a little. Every sort of combination of coral reef with death cookies, to rock hard pack studded with real rocks like you’d find in a low snow year in the East, to too-short stretches of silky wind drift that skied like a dream.

Upgraded to an AltaBird ticket on Wednesday, for my birthday. Snowbird probably had worse conditions than Alta on steep stuff. I mean, anything steep was REALLY scraped off. The few open entries to the Cirque looked REALLY sketchy. Is this due to the Bird’s slightly lower elevation or to the snowboard traffic? Who knows? All I know is that Snowbird was, without a doubt, a lot bonier than Alta.

Just one memorable story. As usual, Skylar and I were poking around in trees looking for snow. This led us to getting totally cliffed out at one point. Somewhere off of the Gadzoom chair-maybe Jones Avenue from the map?

After a few nice turns in lightly cut chop, we were confronted by a very steep gully, sprinkled with rocks. I decide to get past this nastiness and look for something better to skier’s left. Some side stepping and very exposed traversing, which included more than one entreaty to the Edgehold Gods, led to only worse choices and larger cliffs. So, we had to turn around.

This was where I discovered that not having taught Skylar the kick turn was a really ill-advised omission in her steep adventure skiing armament. We managed to get her turned around on this really exposed steep terrain by coaching her to execute a sitting kick turn.

More side-stepping and exposed traversing led us back to that aforementioned rocky narrow chute, but a little lower down. I figured a way into the chute that required one of those “leap of faith” turns around a rock that is really intimidating, but (almost) always is not too bad to execute. Then I had to convince Skylar that she could do it. And she did. But both of our heart rates were elevated, for sure.

https://youtu.be/zZJ326qeI3o

No complaints, though. Alta Roolz!
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Re: UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Postby berkshireskier » Thu Jan 21, 2021 2:55 pm

Ugh! Thanks for the update. Does NOT sound good. I know it has been a lean snow year in much of the Rocky Mountain west. Unfortunately, according to Weather.com, they're predicting that both February and March will be warmer and dryer across most of the country, including ski country.

https://weather.com/forecast/national/n ... tlook-2021
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Re: UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Postby EMSC » Thu Jan 21, 2021 6:57 pm

That sounds pretty bad. Actually for Utah by now they should be headed toward 100" base depths, but not so much this year. Crossing fingers for the next storm(s) this weekend, but the wind direction is all wrong for most of Colo.

Other than Wolf Creek, Colo isn't much better. My home area of Eldora over this way is still less than 50" season to date snow and even that is a gross overstatement due to incessant 90MPH winds blowing most of the snow to Kansas. I guess I don't have to worry about Coral reef action at Eldora since no natural snow trails are open (or likely to be any time soon).
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Re: UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jan 22, 2021 12:10 am

Alta has had 17 inches so far in January and the record low is 30.5 inches in 2003 and 2015. However OpenSnow predicts about 20 inches this weekend, though with much uncertainty.
http://bestsnow.net
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Re: UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:18 am

Thanks for the no BS report. I wish you'd kept shooting so we could see her sitting kick turn.
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Re: UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jan 22, 2021 10:52 am

jkamien wrote:The few open entries to the Cirque looked REALLY sketchy. Is this due to the Bird’s slightly lower elevation or to the snowboard traffic? Who knows? All I know is that Snowbird was, without a doubt, a lot bonier than Alta.

Not elevation overall. Snowbird is 500 feet higher at top of lift service but 700 feet lower at the base. The difference in base elevation does matter for the lower parts of Snowbird in early season/low tide conditions like now though.

The SNOTEL near mid-Gad is exactly the same elevation 9,600 at the Alta Collins site. Long term since 1989 that SNOTEL averages 89% of Alta's snow water content. Oddly enough, so far this season they are exactly the same.

The main issue in early season/low tide is topography. With less than a 50-inch base or so Snowbird is a minefield, and it really needs to be 70+ to ski "normally." Alta has pockets that need that deep coverage, notably around the Supreme Bowl area, but in generally with a 4 foot base about 80% of Alta skis comfortably.

The Upper Cirque is perhaps Snowbird's worst case scenario in terms of required coverage. Your description "The few open entries to the Cirque looked REALLY sketchy" was true during my March timeshare week in the lean 2015 and 2018 seasons, when most of Snowbird skied fairly normally. It doesn't help that the top of the Cirque is windswept so the approaches traversing in from Regulator usually have some exposed rocks even when the chutes are wide and deep.

As for snowboarders, scraping off snow is more an issue of competence than equipment IMHO. I don't have strong impression of seeing a lot of the Southern California Heelslide® at Snowbird. Needless to say, I've been seeing it a lot the past month at Big Bear.
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Re: UT: AltaBird 2021-01-19 & 20

Postby berkshireskier » Fri Jan 22, 2021 1:05 pm

EMSC wrote:That sounds pretty bad. Actually for Utah by now they should be headed toward 100" base depths, but not so much this year. Crossing fingers for the next storm(s) this weekend, but the wind direction is all wrong for most of Colo.

Other than Wolf Creek, Colo isn't much better. My home area of Eldora over this way is still less than 50" season to date snow and even that is a gross overstatement due to incessant 90MPH winds blowing most of the snow to Kansas. I guess I don't have to worry about Coral reef action at Eldora since no natural snow trails are open (or likely to be any time soon).


I follow the publicly-traded stock of Vail Resorts (symbol: MTN) and the stock price has recently hit an all-time high (although has sold off slightly in the last week or so) and has more than doubled in price from the lows in March of 2020. I realize Vail owns ski resorts all over the country (and even overseas) but the snow conditions all across the country have not been great and the pandemic shut-downs have limited skier visits and other revenue sources (food, beverages, ski school, rentals, etc) at almost every resort. I'm truly amazed at how well the stock has done.

https://finance.yahoo.com/chart/MTN#eyJ ... J0In19fX0-
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