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2/12-16, Park City/Canyons & Alta/Bird, Tale of two mountains!

abc

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This is my 2nd stop on my western grand tour (http://forums.alpinezone.com/showth...ski-bumming-season-2017-Part-II-North-America)

I have a friend who live in Park City area. They've lived there for 7-8 years. I've been visiting them every 2-3 years. So it's time for another return visit. Plus, I've not been to the newly combined Park City plus Canyons. I had high hope to get acquainted with the "biggest ski resort of America". It's included in my Epic local pass (except Saturdays which is blacked out). What's not to like? Well, if the snow god doesn't smile, that is.

Day 1 & 2, Park City & Canyons
Condition: hard pack


Saturday 2/11, rain and very wet snow fell on the Park City mountains. The rain/snow line was way up high. So we had low expectation for the next couple days.


Day 1 (Sunday), we met up with a friend of my host. She has a condo within walking distance from the lift of PC. So she knows the mountain well, well for her kind of skiing that is.


My friends I've skied with a lot in the past. They're boarders, like most proficient boarders, they can "smell" powder stashes from the next valley.


But today, we're following someone else. :( To made the task even more challenging, PC got rained on the day before! The snow/rain line was way up, just shy off the top!


First couple of warm up runs on the groomers were good considering the condition. They were soft enough to put an edge in, barely. But at 9:15, there's already a lift line. And the slopes are quite busy. Bit like a mega version of Okemo.


Looking down from the chair, we saw a run with some leftover powder and soft surfaces. But our "guide" thought the next run has better pitch. We found out the pitch was perfect, for forming moguls, which has then hardened (frozen?) into rocks!


Now the lift maze grew amazingly fast. So our group decided to move on. A few less than stellar runs later, Our host think the group is ready for some easy ungroomed blacks. But instead of taking the usual short hike, our "guide" opted to cut through some thick trees. That brought a chorus of moans and curses from the rest of the party, for the traverse had blind curves and trees that don't yield.


The resulting snow was nonetheless the best of the day, soft albeit heavy. Except it only lasted less than 10 turns. Not exactly worth the blind traverse through the thick trees. Still, after such good experience, we venture into the double black terrain off McConey Express. The terrain is perfectly fine, but the snow condition was less so, just chunky snow blocks and death cookies. We left after one run.


The crowd was worse than any I've seen out west. The hard pack surface doesn't exactly help, especially for majority of skiers who are not accustom to western "ice". There were unguided missiles coming from left and right.


After a short lunch break, we crossed over into Canyons, to the "Dream land" area. We left the crowd behind here. Except the condition wasn't any better. So a few runs later, we moved on.


By now, we had more or less enough of cruising hard pack groomers and occasional venture into inhospitable icy chunks on the ungroomed. So we took a lessor traveled blue cruiser on the far end of the mountain (Pay Day chair) back to the bottom. For once, there were no unguided missiles accompanying us so we actually got to enjoy the relatively decent condition of the groomer. (less traffic also means less scraped up surface too) We were ready to called it a day on that relatively "high" note.

The skiing may not be stellar, but you can't beat this view:

IMG_0745.jpg
 

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abc

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Day 2 (Monday) were just me and my host. She sneak out after the morning meeting and had a few hours before her next one. So we're restricted on the Canyon side because it's closer.

Based on our experience on the previous day, we didn't expect a great deal either. The groomer were hard and fast (not icy by eastern standard though). Being a Monday, we didn't have to worry about the crowds of unguided missiles today. So the groomer cruising was quite pleasant.

We tried a couple of the ungroomed bump runs on Saddleback and Peak 5. It was ok. Patches of nice soft snow intermixed with hard, glazed over slick spots or frozen chunks. Not bad but nothing to write home about.

Soon, my friend had to leave to return to work (from home). I stopped for a quick lunch, then resumed my search for soft snow, which I accidentally found in a short south facing stretch of groomer. Finally getting the hint, I aimed for any south facing runs. Found some nice cream cheese on both the groomed and ungroomed trails.

It's really spring skiing in February! But I did manage to make the best of the condition. I really stretched the day till the very last chair.

My only small mistake was the run down to the bottom at the end of the day. Despite being a Monday and the lack of significant crowd, the trails were noentheless scraped to the secondary surface which was slick. I think I'll stick to downloading from the gondola at the end of the day in the future!

Checking of my e-mail at the end of the day was when I learned I've been requested to appear on an in person interview in in New York on Friday!

I had 2 free days on my MCP for Snowbird and Alta. Given the less than stellar condition at the Park City side, I decided to ski the Salt Lake side the next 2 days. Skiing on the Salt Lake side also allows me to hop on a place for a quick trip back to New York.
 

abc

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Day 3: Snowbird.
Sky: Bright sunshine, blue bird day!
Condition: soft bumps with an inch or two of left over powder

What a different a thousand feet of elevation make!

It's a Tuesday, there's practically nobody on the tram deck. So I walked over and waited for the tram to drop in. A few more people materialized inside the tram, which whisked us to the top in no time.

IMG_0748.jpg
 

abc

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Aside from the million dollar gorgeous view, the snow didn't disappoint either.

There's a thick coat of loose snow right off the tram. I figure the south facing Mineral Basin would be the first to soften. I decided to test my theory with a quick run on one of the groomer. I was rewarded with delightful soft surface resembling cream cheese.

Further down the slope, I ventured into the smaller bumps next to the groomer. There too, the condition were soft and delightful!

The rest of the morning were a bit of a blur. I dropped in anywhere on the bowl where the snow looked appealing. Not all my ventures off the groomer worked out. Some of the lines were still a bit hard. I re-calibrated my timing with the sun and zero in on the aspects that I calculated to have just soften enough but not yet become gooey. Having "suffered" through some hard & slick refrozen surface of the past 2 days, I was back in a happy state of what we easterners come west for, soft packed powder or left over powder.

My legs were getting "soft" from the non-stop lapping of easy soft bumps. My watch was showing it's well past 1. My stomach also woke up with a loud suggestion of food. Lunch was long overdue.

Post lunch, I switched gear and focus on the north facing Little Cloud side. It by then had soften enough to be even more delightful than the south facing Mineral Basin. (the Little Cloud side didn't get the melt-freeze cycle at all, so it's pure leftover powder). I was happy as a clam and rode the chair till it's "you have another 45 second before it closes"!

It's only on the final run down to the bottom that i was reminded what Saturday's wetness did to the lower elevation. It was scratchy and slick just like on the Park City side. But fortunately, Snowbird has elevation on its side. The top half of the mountain was not impacted by any rain, and the snow that fell on it was much drier, so it remain soft and fluffy throughout (by eastern standard anyway)
 
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abc

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The skiing in Snowbird was so much better than Park City, I knew I would stay on the Salt Lake side for the rest of the week. Besides, I needed to cut short my stay to go back east for the interview anyway. So it works out just perfectly.

Except, I got notified late in the day they changed the interview date to Tuesday the following week. So I had to scramble to re-book my flight. Fortunately it was so last minute of my original booking that I was able to cancel it without penalty (within 24 hr of booking). The good news is I get to ski an extra day (or two, depending on the flight I could find)

The only caveat, I'm skiing more than my "free" 2 days on my MCP. I'll have to pay to ski any of the extra days.

My host had guests joining us for Thursday, and they had Park City in mind. So I had to choose 1) social skiing, for free, at Park City where the condition was far below par, vs 2) ski at Snowbird for ~$60 (I only pay 50% of window price with the MCP). I like the social part, so I suggested Snowbird for their consideration.

In the mean time, I decided to go to Alta for Wednesday. If my host and her guest comes over for Thursday, they will be doing Snowbird (my host is a boarder). So if I want to ski Alta, today is the day.


Day 4, Alta
Condition: packed powder, hard pack, sun-warmed cream cheese

Because of the need to re-booking my flights, I didn't get to the mountain till almost 10. Someone had already had their morning turns and left for work! I found a spot 2 cars from the base lodge!

I poked my head into the Guest Service room and asked for "strategies" for the day. The suggestion was: start on Collins, moved over to Sugarloaf as the sun warms the snow there, and finish on Supreme which faces west.

All very sensible suggestions. And it worked out ok at first. Collins were mostly leftover powder because it faces north and never melted. But when I moved over to Sugarloaf, I had a senior moment. :( I mixed up Supreme vs Sugarloaf and ended up at Supreme instead, and was wondering why it's so hard and fast. Hehe!

And there's also another phone interview in midday that I had to attend to. So by the time I re-emerge from the lodge, Sugarloaf was past prime.

On a whim, I decided to cross over to Snowbird side, knowing the Baldy part of Mineral Basin should be softened up nicely by then. I was right in my guess and I got to play at some pretty nice cream cheese snow. Returning from Snowbird puts me on direct path towards the Supreme chair, which finally soften up...

IMG_0765.jpg

All in all, Collins and Supreme (once soften up) was nice and lovely. So was Mineral Basin. It was a pretty good day. Could have been better had I not mixed up the two chairs though.
 
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4aprice

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Something about that 8000 ft line. Park City is down around 6700 Ft if I'm not mistaken. Winter is always a bit more in the Cottonwoods.

Alex

Lake Hopatcong, NJ
 

kingslug

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Its why I only ski Alta Bird..Ok I did hit Park City 2 weeks ago for the first time in 10 years but it was pretty good with 10 inches new.
 

skimagic

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When we were there, it was a little wet at the very bottom the last day it snowed. Stayed up top and it was awesome! Elevation is everything!


Is rain common at park city ski area? Or only recent years?
 

abc

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Catching up on the last day of my 1st week in Utah...

Day 5, Snowbird.

Condition: high wind on the ridge, re-distributed powder!

My host's friends turned out not to want to come to Snowbird, my friend was slightly disappointed but she lives there and will have her chances aplenty.

I was left alone to choose where to ski. The choice was pretty obvious. I returned to Snowbird.

I had in mind to repeat what I did 2 days ago, Mineral Basin in the morning and Little Cloud in the afternoon. After all, the temperature was about the same as 2 days ago and there's no new snow.

It wasn't until I stepped out of the car, that I was nearly blown over by a strong gust of wind!

I ducked back into the car and checked the lift status. I breath a sigh of relieve, no wind holds.

My preferred parking for Snowbird is actually Creekside, because I just don't like to trek all the way through the tram plaza. Further more, at the end of the day, I could easily ski right back to my car. I can still get to the top just as quickly with Gadzoom and Little Cloud chair.

On the Little Cloud chair going up, I could see a big plume of snow getting blown from the high ridges into both Mineral Basin and Little Cloud bowl. It's pretty obvious where I should go at that point. Well, actually, I could go in either bowl. So I chose Mineral Basin.

The traverse against the wind was pretty comical. I dropped into a tight tuck to minimize the wind surface, skating when needed, stand up to slow down. But it's all worth it...

There's a thick coat of new snow blown over by the wind. Further, the new snow had practically filled in the bumps and lumps on the ungroomed area, making them smooth as silk and just an absolute delight to ski. Big-S turns down the slope without a care!

There's a bit of a line at the Mineral Basin chair. But everyone in line was grinning ear to ear. It was just a very festive atmosphere. And when the clock strikes 12, as if by some magic swan, all the people just evaporated and I was skiing right onto the lift run after run!

Not wanting to waste the empty slope full of fresh snow, I kept on skiing. Until my legs could not take it any more. The wind was so strong that the uphill hike from the Mineral Basin chair to the tram house was pretty easy since I was going WITH the wind: one skating kick, and I glided a good 5 feet!

Tram house cafeteria actually has pretty good food (at ski area prices naturally), with views to match too. Chatting with another skier at the next table, we both concluded Little Cloud should be then had plenty of wind blown powder. So I woof down my lunch as quickly as I could and headed back out. Our calculation worked out, there's even more snow on that side.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur again. Just laps and laps of wind blown powder until again, the chair finally stopped.

Consider it's been 4 days since the last time it snowed, this was WAY better than expected.

View of Salt Lake City on the drive back down from Snowbird (I must admit my photograph skill isn't quite up to the task of capturing the true beauty)
IMG_0777.jpg

ParkCitytomorrow!PowderDay!!!
 
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