The Pineapple Express Diary, Part Two: Skiing Snowbird

We blew into Utah last week and ran headlong into the Pineapple Express. When warm, moist air from the Pacific runs headlong into the Rocky Mountains, the results can be spectacular…and wet. This is my Pineapple Express Diary.

Pineapple Express Day Three began as such, with our son complaining: “I was under the impression we came to Utah to ski, not to sit around and eat and talk about food.” 8:15 a.m. Time to go to Snowbird. Now, in our son’s defense, not 50 minutes later he turned to me on the GadZoom lift and proclaimed, “I love Snowbird, it is my absolute favorite mountain.” I understand him perfectly. There is something about Snowbird that grabs hold of your imagination and won’t let go. I am not sure if it is the endlessly varying fall lines, the perpetually steep faces found across the mountain or just the vibe. We feel at home at Snowbird. Yes, even when the weather is purely miserable and the Pineapple Express has switched gears, changing from blessing us with moderately wet powder to pummeling us with snain, we love Snowbird.

My son is very happy to be back at his favorite mountain.

The great thing about mountains is that you can always find good snow if you just go higher. We didn’t even go that much higher – just to the Gad Two lift, but the snow at that altitude was glorious. I don’t know whether it was the snow, the rockered K2 MissBehaved boards from I was (almost) rocking, or the company of my son, but we had a perfect morning, without ever leaving this one lift area. While the top of the lift was being whipped by winds and wet, cutting snow, once we ducked in among the trees, the wind quieted, the visibility improved, and all was right with the world.

While we two were loving the snow, and one another, on our skis, my husband was seeking a respite from us. One of my favorite lines from Warren Miller is “The family that skis together, bitches at each other.” Unfortunately, this is an adage that does ring true. But, I guess that is why it is an adage.

My husband and Craig, a Snowbird Mountain Host

So, needing a bit of a break from the joys and challenges of the family ski vacation, he met up with the 10:30 Snowbird Mountain Host tour at the tram base. On this damp day, my husband was the only taker. Craig and Gary were his guides for the next hour and 15 minutes, along with cameo appearances the mountain risk manager and the head mountain host.

The Snowbird Mountain tours are designed for intermediate and better skiers, but the hosts are prohibited from taking guests down anything other than blue, intermediate runs. When they asked my husband what he wanted from the tour, he told them he wanted the inside scoop on the most advanced terrain on the mountain. While they couldn’t actually ski those areas, the guides were able to point a lot of them out to him and describe them to him from the lifts. And, as for the inside scoop on Snowbird, he got more than he imagined.

So much snow, you could get lost. Snowbird on 12/22/10.

Riding up the Peruvian high-speed quad, he learned the history of Alta and Snowbird (for example, he now knows where Snowbird stores its water –in abandoned mines, but not in the abandoned mine with arsenic in it — and that the original transport to and from Alta consisted of narrow gauge railway cars pulled by mules). He is now a font of Little Cottonwood Canyon history, trivia and lore.

Later while skiing down the frontside to the Gad Valley his hosts pointed out some of their favorite pistes. These were some of my husband’s faves too, but now he knows their names and he learned about some new terrain, too. His is now our personal Mountain Host. I am happy to say that after lunch, when he put his new found knowledge to the test, he was a great success, drawing us further across a traverse than we’d been before and then taking us down Dalton’s Draw underneath the tramline. Well done!

Fresh from a "break" from the family, my husband and I are all smiles.

The only disappointment of the day was that we couldn’t ski many of the areas we love and to which we look forward. Parts of the mountain were closed and by afternoon, it was getting pretty miserable on top. Our younger son was cold, tired and having no part of any more skiing. When I expressed my disappointment to my husband, he simply smiled and said, “The mountain will be the same the next time we come.”

When are we coming back? I am not sure. But I know this, we can’t wait too long. We are feeling unrequited and there is only one remedy: Return to Snowbird. And return soon.

Oh, and by the way, at the end of the day when I asked my family if they had seen a snow report and if anyone knew how much snow had fallen the night before, the answer was a unanimous “Who cares?!” Pineapple Express Day Three, (soggy) success. (BTW, the answer to the new snowfall question? Only eight inches.)

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