Remember when you were a kid and had a gang? In our case, it was a gang on bikes. I’d ride my bike over to my friend Michelle’s. She lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids and we’d all meet up and ride and ride and ride. We’d ride just for the joy of it!
We were at Alta on Saturday, and although we don’t live in the neighborhood, we met up with our neighborhood gang: Marc Guido (editor of First Tracks Online), Bobby Danger (so named for his propensity to put himself into, and get himself out of, harm’s way), Matt Fatcheric (the Gear guy, as in skis, boots and bindings), Jon Ross (the token free-heeler) and Amy Zaref (because someone has to show the guys how it’s done and balance out all that testosterone). I was thrilled to join Amy and provide a little sisterhood. She was so appreciative that she promised the gang wouldn’t let me die. “We love guests,” she assured me. “We don’t want to kill them.”
Additionally, I’d invited Matt Gibson, a fellow Liftopia.com blogger, and snowboarder. If you think that doesn’t make sense, you’re right. Alta doesn’t allow snowboards, so Matt traded one board for two and skied for the first time in 20 years. I’ll be writing more about his adventure next week. (And a big thank you to Matt for sharing his professional photography skills with us.)
The great thing about a gang of locals is that they know exactly where to go, when to go and how to go. They also know the mountain so well, that they can find untracked snow almost all day. The bad thing about a gang of locals is that when I’m following and following skiers that fast, I don’t always know where I’m and I just cross my fingers that I can get back there again.
What I do know is that there were 2 inches of fresh snow on a two foot base, yet the mountain was skiing like midwinter. Gates and traverses that weren’t open last year in mid-December were open (although the Supreme Lift and steeper areas requiring more cover were closed).
Terrain that was treacherously rocky last December was covered and safe. The High Traverse was open, as were front side tree chutes like Eagle’s Nest. The conditions were still “early season,” but the new snow, on top of a spongy (rather than icy) base, softened things up. While there weren’t any face shots, there was still plenty of snow to spray and first tracks to make.
Even the day before, before the 2 inches of new snow, my family and I had a great day finding good lines in the trees and soft snow on runs like Lower Sunspot. The groomers were ripping, but again, softer than one expected. It was a good time to be at Alta and an excellent way to jumpstart December.
At the end of the day, we were, to a person, tattered. Tattered, but happy. Even our 16 year-old son who never tires, was beat. “These people go hard,” he said admiringly. I agreed. We didn’t want to stop and we certainly didn’t want to slow down.
We were a gang, skiing simply for the joy of it.
Equipment Notes: New Skis from Salomon
Although I don’t know the names of most of the terrain we skied, I do know what I was skiing on. Jamey Parks, a Utah skier and racer who is sponsored by Alta and Salomon, kindly set up me up with some new skis to demo.
In the morning, I was skiing the Rockette 90, an all mountain ski that is 90 cm under base, with a rockered tip and flat, early rise tail. The Rockette 90 was excellent on groomed terrain, holding an edge with confidence. In the new snow and in more off-piste conditions, the Rockette 90 was perfectly serviceable, although it took more effort to keep it flat and off of a firm edge.
Even more fun was the Rockette 115 which I demo’d in the afternoon. With 115 cm underfoot, and full rocker design, I loved, loved, loved this ski. It turned effortlessly in the fresh, responded quickly in the trees, and best of all, allowed me to make flatter, fatter turns. On groomed runs, the 115s want to run fast and straight. It’s a bit of an effort to carve turns, but then, that’s not what these skis are for.
My older son and husband demo’d the Salomon Rocker 2 skis. At 108 cm underfoot, these skis are more narrow than my son’s usual big mountain skis. His overall impression was that in deep powder, he’d prefer his fatter skis. But at Alta, on this day, he thought the Rocker 2’s skied very well. His found them a bit difficult to manuever on hardpack, but liked them a lot in soft crud.
He found them very forgiving in the variable conditions. As he put it, “You can go through stuff at any speed you want.” Additionally, on a day when we skied glades, tight trees, wide open snowfields and hard pack, he found them very easy to control.
Salomon calls the Rocker 2 “our most playful powder ski yet,” and my husband certainly enjoyed playing on them. Regular camber underfoot gives this ski more control on hardpack, while the full rocker floats in soft, variable snow.
Thanks again to Jamey Parks and Salomon for letting play on the new gear. It was a blast!
- Alta: Wild, Wonderful and Welcoming (Unless You’re a Snowboarder), November 17, 2010.
- The Pineapple Express Diary, Part Three, Skiing Alta, December 29, 2010.
- What’s New At Alta? You’ll Have to Look Under the Snow, March 31, 2011.
- Ski Trip Report: Alta Moguls, Ski School and More, December 20, 2011.
- Alta 24/7: Ski, Eat, Laugh, Repeat, February 6, 2012.
- The Five Alta Lodges: History, Charm and Family Fun, February 7, 2012.
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