Okay, I lied. Last week, I said there would only be one post this week. Then we went skiing in Utah. I just can’t help myself. I have to share. Cheers!
We blew into Utah last week and ran headlong into the Pineapple Express. The first three weeks of December had been ridiculously warm in Colorado. While the snow has been good in the Central and Northern Colorado Mountains, most of the storms had been to the North. Salt Lake City is just far enough north that we knew we’d find some great snow, but really, Idaho was the place to be. Then La Nina shifted just a little, picked up some warm, moist Pacific air and the Express began rolling.
Day One: Park City Mountain Resort. On Monday, December 20, we hit Park City Mountain Resort after what had been a surprisingly rainy day and a very productive night: 20 inches of fresh to be precise. 20 inches of skiers’ delight and 20 inches of headaches for the avalanche crew. 20 inches of unstable moist snow on top of an icy base, meaning that while the base lifts were up and running, the rest of the mountain was closed for snow control. Did we care? Were we going to complain? No way.
You can tell a lot about a resort by how they handle snowmergencies. Park City Mountain Resort had a full-scale mess on Monday. Until just around noon, only three lifts were open: Payday and Crescent from the base area and Pioneer uptop. The lift lines were long, but never impossible, wet snow continued to fall and the lift staff just kept smiling, despite the grumbles from the peanut gallery. Mountain hosts were posted at the top of the lifts to answer questions and politely make sure no one crossed through the closures or took a turn down a run from which no lift was currently providing egress. Considering the fact that even the lifts that were open were having trouble operating with all the ice that had accumulated overnight, tempers never flared and everyone was treated with courtesy.
Although we began skiing at 9:00, we only managed three runs in the morning. We had come to Park City with one plan: ski Jupiter Bowl. With the Bowl closed we needed a plan B and of course we didn’t have one. Unable to get a visual bearing on anything, we found ourselves with the masses on what used to be groomers, but on that morning were powder playgrounds. Then we made our best decision of the day: we went to lunch at 11:00. By the time we came out, 80% of the mountain was open, the lines were no more and we went on to ski ourselves silly.
We found ourselves on Thayne’s, an advanced section of the mountain, studded with old mining buildings. I was skiing on some fat Line Celebrity 100 skis from Utahskis.com, and thank goodness, because rather than digging into the the 2+ feet of heavy powder, I was floating. We never saw the surrounding mountains and I couldn’t begin to describe the town around us, but I can tell you that the snow on top of the mountain was sweet and by the time we quit at 4:00, we had no regrets. It was a great day. Pineapple Express, day one. Success.
Day Two: We awoke on Pineapple Express Day Two to about 2 inches of slushy snow in the Salt Lake Valley. Better than rain all night we thought and we were right. Park City Mountain Resort had been blessed with another 24 inches of much lighter snow and since much of the avalanche control had taken place the day before, the mountain was rocking by the time we arrived at 9:00. McConkey’s was open (it had stayed closed the entire day before) and when we asked another perpetually friendly and helpful host about that area, she told us “if you liked Thayne’s yesterday, you’ll love McConkey’s today.” We did. McConkey’s is way up high and is a a partially-gladed bowl that usually has moguls and rates primarily as a double-black area. On Tuesday, it was just a big old bowl full of hip-deep powder – the kind of snow that stops kids in their tracks and causes panic if a ski ejects. It was glorious.
Sometime a bit before lunchtime, Jupiter opened, although we didn’t know it. When we went in for lunch to the Mid-Mountain Restaurant (which I now believe is the coolest building in ski country – but more on that in a later post on PCMR), we heard the word. We were a little bummed. We had gotten distracted in McConkey’s and missed out on the rope drop.
Turns out we had no reason to be bummed. Jupiter Bowl is expansive, with traverses to both the left and right as one exits the chair, with plenty of lines to go around. The terrain is steep, but not scary-steep, especially when the snow is there to cushion and brake. The glades are tight, but not too tight, with majestic pines and short pitches that ease up before the legs get too tired. I had switched skis, choosing some Volkl Auras from Utahskis.com today, and while I was loving them on the packed powder, I wasn’t sure how they would respond in the glades. No worries, they rocked, making up for my fatigue.
The views of the surrounding mountains, well, I assume they are majestic too. While the sun sort-of came out and the visibility improved dramatically in the afternoon, the clearing weather was short-lived and pretty soon a fog was rolling across the top of the bowl. Fog or not, Jupiter Bowl made us feel like heroes. We were not disappointed. Pineapple Express Day Two, success.
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