December 19, 2010

Storm Skiing

Backcountry skiing in Upper Days Fork

Another classic Wasatch weekend... here's the rundown of what we were up to...

On Friday, Andrea and I both got out of work early and headed straight up to Alta. We made quick work of the climb up to Patsy Marley peak via Twin Lakes Pass (1700 feet in under an hour). Hoping for a spectacular sunset (which didn't happen because the storm was rapidly approaching), we settled for nice turns through recycled powder. It was still early enough to make another shorter (600 foot) run off the north side of the pass before darkness fell. Afterwards, we hung out up at Alta for a while before meeting Chris Davenport and seeing his new film about skiing in Antarctica, Australis. Check out the trailer on the Australis website if you haven't seen it yet. I'm planning to write more about meeting Chris and his new book in the upcoming week.

I mentioned that a storm rolled in as we were skiing on Friday. Well, this storm is picking up moisture from the Southern Pacific and absolutely drilling the Sierra Nevadas (total snowfall is expected to be somewhere between 6-10 feet). In the Wasatch, we'll probably end up with about 4 feet by the time it passes through on Tuesday. Anyways, it really started to come down on Friday night, and on Saturday the skiing was fantastic. We skinned up to Emma Ridge from Alta, and skied 5 laps in the Upper Days Fork Cirque, then one run back down to Alta. Six runs, 5000 vertical feet of powder skiing, in about 5.5 hours. Pretty awesome. Avalanche danger was moderate to considerable, but we made good terrain management choices and stayed safe. Sluffing was common on steep aspects, and by the end of the day, the wind had loaded some slopes to the point where I could intentionally trigger small slides with a hard ski cut. Upper Days is probably the best place we've skied so far in Utah - here's what it looks like when the visibility is better.

By this morning (Sunday) the avalanche danger had risen to high, and the snowfall rate had picked up even further, so it was a good day to ride the lifts at Solitude Mountain Resort. Eleven inches of fresh snow was there when we arrived, and it only got deeper as the day went on. Nonstop snow... we were SOAKED... but we skied powder all day, and it was awesome. In some areas, 2.5 feet deep awesome! Solitude is a great ski area... small (like Beaver Creek), but it gets tons of snow, and it seems like nobody skies there... I mean, today was a full-on powder day, and we skied right onto every single lift.

On my picasa site there is a full gallery with 57 pictures from the weekend. Some selected ones are below. Visibility / Light was poor all weekend (snowing and cloudy), but we still managed to get some decent shots...

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Mt Superior. An absolute classic that I can't wait to ski. It scares me and excites me at the same time.

Andrea skinning up to Patsy Marley on Friday afternoon

Andrea skiing the North face of Patsy Marley

Skiing Patsy Marley

Me and Chris Davenport. It was really cool to meet him and chat with him for a while.

Skiing on Saturday in Days Fork. You'll notice I'm wearing a helmet-cam. That's a new little toy... I'll get some footage up soon :-)

Andrea skinning up to Emma Ridge

Andrea ripping it off the top of Emma Ridge

Looking down at the area we were skiing, and the Reed & Benson Ridge behind me

Andrea on the Emma Ridge. We were skiing laps from this ridge down to the meadow on the bottom left of the picture.

Skiing the South side of the Cottonwood Ridge back to the car on Saturday

Skiing at Solitude on Sunday

It was DEEP

Two dozen bottomless powder runs is a great way to spend a Sunday

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