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Tour De Wastach 2/23-2/28

drjeff

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Jan 18, 2006
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17,254
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48
Location
Brooklyn, CT
Dates: 2/23-2/28

Areas Skied: Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird, Snowbasin, Deer Valley, The Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort

Conditions: Everything from Bluebird early spring to sticky paste to boot top powder

On this, my wife's and my 9th trip to Utah, and first trip in about a decade where we didn't have any pre-arranged kids programs to "hold us back" we went a bit crazy in our choices of where to ski each and every day. In hindsight, my whole family agreed that on our next trip to Utah, skiing a few days at a few resorts is a better choice than a different resort each day. And frankly if it wasn't for the fact that we had skied most of these areas multiple days before and knew our way around most of them pretty well, we wouldn't have done a different place each day, there's just too much good terrain at so many of these resorts to be able to cram into 1 day!

Our trip got off to a bit of a rocky start, as due to a ton of people flying out with lots of ski gear, we were 0-6 with our bags landing with us at SLC at 11:30 :mad: Originally, I had planned on trying to get a few hours in at Park City Mountain Resort after we arrived, but with no gear set to arrive until a 5:15 flight arrived, we called a bit of an audible with the 5 or so hours we suddenly had to kill and both checked out downtown SLC for a bit (I had never actually seen the Mormon Tabernacle before and its impressive!) and then drove up to Park City where we were staying for the week and spent a couple of hours at the Utah Wintersports park, checking out the ski jumps, the Utah Ski Museum (very cool) and even managed to get one of the bobsled rides on the Olympic track(highly recommend!!) In other words, we made some serious lemonade out of lemons!!

Day 1 (Sunday the 23rd) - The forecast was for sunny and nice temps (mid 30's) and just a day or 2 after a storm, my hunch was that it was going to be a busy day in the Wasatch, so I made the call to head to Big Cottonwood Canyon and take advantage of the Sol-Bright ticket and ski both Solitude (where I had never been before) and Brighton (where I had only skied once over a decade ago on just their night terrain). We pulled into Solitude about 9 to a parking lot that was maybe 1/4th filled, booted up and set off on our plan to work our way over to Brighton and ski there before lunch and head back over to Solitude for the afternoon. We enjoyed some nice groomed soft pack with some chopped powder on the sides as we headed over towards Brighton, and enjoyed some great views of the Wasatch. When we crossed over to Brighton, the terrain off the Milly Express and its soft chopped powder was worthy of a few laps. Then the crowds hit! :eek: I learned my lesson to check a resorts event calender here, as it was a big Burton Snowboards fest day at Brighton, and 10+ minute lines on everything but the Milly Express was what we faced for the next few hours. We liked the terrain off the Great Western Express and enjoyed runs on Aspen Glo, Silver Spur and Elk Park Ridge with a mix of soft bumps and some open trees to be had both on the designated runs and in the trees in between the runs. My park loving 8yr old had mixed reviews of Brighton's parks, my guess is it had to do more with the crowds than the actual park layout. After a long wait for lunch at the Milly Chalet, we headed back over to Solitude. Of note to anyone thinking of doing both Solitude and Brighton in one day, the connector trail, Sol/Bright, is very easy to ski from Solitude to Brighton, but requires a bit of hiking/skating when going from Brighton to Solitude. Back over at Solitude, we were treated to an afternoon of basically ski on lifts! We spent most of the afternoon skiing off the Eagle Express with a couple of trips into Honeycomb Canyon. If I was skiing solo I'd spend the day in Honeycomb Canyon exploring! Just a great variety of steeps and trees that kept a smile on my face! :)

Day 2 (Monday the 24th) Snowbird! Started off as a Bluebird morning, but the clouds rolled in by 11. Such a great mountain to ski! A bunch of laps in Mineral Basin and it's phenomenal open bowl skiing kept all 4 of us happy all morning. As the light was now getting pretty flat, we headed back over to the front side to get down where some trees could hopefully help with the visibility, along the way, my kids wanted to take the magic carpet one time from the top of the Peruvian Express through the mountain back into Mineral. It was the first time any of us had ridden that tunnel carpet and what a great job Snowbird did with it! Such a cool little history lesson along the way of the mining heritage of the area and also Snowbird's development! Spent the rest of the day doing laps in either the Peruvian Gulch or Gad Valley sides of the front, with the Tram, when we took it being walk on. Managed to rack up almost 30k vertical feet by 2:45 and called it a day. Such a great big mountain to ski!!

Day 3 (Tuesday the 25th) Snowbasin
Another Bluebird spring like day greeted us, with the temps already into the low 40's when we pulled into the base area of Snowbasin just after 9. This was the 3rd time my wife and I had skied Snowbasin, but the 1st day that it was actually sunny, and after seeing the views off the top of the Strawberry Gondola and the Mount Ogden Tram looking down over Ogden and the Great Salt Lake in the distance, I'm not sure we'll ever go back on a cloudy day again! Snow wise, we headed right to Strawberry 1st thing, which was had the top 1/4 or so dry packed powder which then transitioned into some beautiful corn for the bottom 3/4ths or so. It was so much fun that we made 5 laps in a row off the Strawberry Gondola before heading back down to Earl's Lodge to enjoy one of the best "cafeteria" lunches in all of ski country! After lunch we headed over to the John Paul side and up to the Tram to the start of the Olympic Downhills. Let's just say that Fritz Stroebl's winning time of about 1:45 in the Olympics wasn't challenged! A run down the Grizzly and Wildflower downhill courses on the same mix of dry winter snow up top and corn down low and we were off for a few runs off the Needles Express Gondola in the middle of the mountain to finish up the day. Both of my kids really approved of the park set up at Snowbasin with a series of 4 parks spread out over the 2300 verts of the Needles Express Gondola with some connector segments where some trees could be had in between the parks making for a few laps of fun before calling it a day!

Day 4 (Wednesday the 26th) Deer Valley
Another mainly Bluebird, early spring day, with the snow staying dry up top and on North facing slopes and softening nicely down low and on Southerly facing slopes. It's Deer Valley - 'nuff said. If you've been there before, you know that the food (I could eat a bowl of their Turkey Chili every day of the year for lunch and never get bored of it!!) and customer service are amazing and in spite of its reputation of just a wimpy groomer mountain filled with Bogner clad skiers, it may have some of the most underrated expert terrain and trees of any mountain. If you haven't been and you get the chance do so, but be prepared to have your opinion of what Deer Valley is be changed! Run of the day was the Centennial Trees off the Lady Morgan Express. Soft pack, dry bumps up top in the pine section and great corn down low in the aspen section. Deer Valley never disappoints me!

Day 5 (Thursday the 27th) The Canyons
This was both the worst and best day of our trip. Woke up and stepped out on the balcony (we were staying right in the base area of the Canyons) and saw that about an inch of snow had fallen over night, it was still snowing lightly, and it was about 38 degrees out. We booted up and headed out with the plan of attack to quickly work our way over to the Dreamcatcher/Dreamscape side of the mountain, make it back to Red pine for a late lunch and then finish up over on Super Condor. We then headed up the Orange Bubble and found maybe 2" of fresh at the top. As we started down to head over towards the base on Tombstone and on over to Burnt Mountain, that 2" of fresh turned into 2" of white paste glue :eek: Even on decent pitched terrain, you were sticking on the majority of your turns, and that was on skis that had received a fresh coat of fluoro rub on wax that morning. After a few runs on Burnt Mountain we headed over towards Dreamscape, encountering drizzle down low with light flurries above about 8500 feet. The skiing was better up high, but there wasn't a lift we could find that would keep us up in the dryer snow, so you were constantly having to deal with some real sticky snow on every run. I will say that in my 35+ years of skiing, that sticky snow down low that morning was about a bad as I've ever experienced sticky snow wise. We took a quick break about 11 at the top of Dreamscape in their "Cloud Dine" restaurant. Upon walking in, all you smelled was freshly made donuts! Yup, they make them right there on the spot in that summit lodge and the if the smell of a fresh donut wasn't enough to entice you to buy one, they even handed out free freshly made donut hole samples in the cafeteria area. Fresh donuts did help cheer up the rest of my family who wasn't really enjoying the snow! We headed over to Tombstone for a few laps, and it started snowing harder up high, but at the same time started drizzling harder down low and the snow got even stickier. It wasn't pretty, and I could tell that I had an unhappy wife and 2 unhappy kids with me, and that's not a good thing. We decided to try Saddleback's trees off the Northside in the Pines area, we started to find some decent snow, which at least gave me some hope that the rest of my crew might have some fun after lunch. During lunch at Red Pine, it started nuking snow, big flakes coming down fast! By the time we headed back out, there was 3" + of fresh snow that had accumulated on my bindings while we were inside for 45 minutes or so! My son and I headed over towards Super Condor via the Transitions park and while the snow was too deep (a solid 6" of medium light density powder now) for him to actually hit the big jumps in that park, it made of some great, untouched powder on the sides of them. Things were looking up now! Off to Super Condor and the Canis Lupis natural half pipe, which was a blast in the fresh snow! Then with it still nuking snow, and the temps dropping, it started to really get good! As my son and I (my wife and daughter had quit by now for nail appointments :rolleyes: ) headed back towards Saddleback, we kept finding untracked all over the place that was approaching boot top deep on me and knee deep on my son! Having about 20 days logged at The Canyons over the years, I have learned that some of my favorite trees in all of skiing are off the Northside of Saddleback in the shadows section of the pines. This afternoon did not change my opinion! My son and I got 5 laps through there before last chair with only our own tracks encountered. It was about a full 180 from the morning!! As we headed back to the base down Doc's we saw the effect of the elevation and it was maybe 3 or 4" of heavy snow down low. What a wacky day it was!

Day 6 (Friday the 28th) Park City Mountain Resort
PCMR was reporting a 14" 24hr storm total. We weren't exactly moving quick that morning either :( At 9:20 when we pulled into the parking lots at PCMR we barely got a parking space. The locals were out in force looking for freshies!! Since this was our last day of the vacation and my kids loved both the parks and adventure trails (think a slightly wider, somewhat maintained version of those through the woods "secret" trails we all took as kids that often resemble a bobsled run!) they wanted to go to PCMR and spend the day on them. I wasn't too upset about not getting on the hill until 10. After heading up the Eagle lift and making a lap through their GREAT small/medium "Neff land" park with my kids, we were off to the King Con quad and Silverlode Six pack to hit some of the adventure trails. Along the way, the openness of some of the low scrub brush in between the trails in the King Con area gave plenty of untracked powder turns up. I did find though that the "no friends on a powder day" rule applied completely as one of my friends, who used to work at Mount Snow, but now is director of marketing at PCMR, was rightly so not wanting to come down out of the recently opened Jupiter area and it's fresh lines to join up with us - can't say I blame him either ;) . A bunch of adventure trail runs all over the mountain, a few runs of Nastar, a few more laps through the Neff land park and we were done. The fact that down low it was getting heavy helped make that decision too. To put an exclamation mark on this vacation, we all took a ride down the mountain coaster at PCMR - very fun for all of us!

While it wasn't non stop Utah blower quality powder all week, it was a great vacation nonetheless! :)
 
Last edited:

thetrailboss

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Looks like you had fun, hard not to, right?

Did it r**n in LCC too, recently?

The rain/snow line, for the initial part of Thursday's storm, at Snowbasin would have been at about 8,000 feet or so. For LCC from what I heard it was all snow. Some wetter, but mainly snow. Base depths are very good right now...a nice rebound from where we were.
 

drjeff

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Brooklyn, CT
The rain/snow line, for the initial part of Thursday's storm, at Snowbasin would have been at about 8,000 feet or so. For LCC from what I heard it was all snow. Some wetter, but mainly snow. Base depths are very good right now...a nice rebound from where we were.

I 100% concur with that initial rain/snow line Thursday being somewhere around the 8k level (and I was glad to be wearing full Gore-tex attire when I went below 8K feet Thursday AM!!), at least in the Park City area until about noon. After that it did drop down to below the base elevation, but it was MUCH dryer snow above 8k than below
 

thetrailboss

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I 100% concur with that initial rain/snow line Thursday being somewhere around the 8k level (and I was glad to be wearing full Gore-tex attire when I went below 8K feet Thursday AM!!), at least in the Park City area until about noon. After that it did drop down to below the base elevation, but it was MUCH dryer snow above 8k than below

I fear that spring has sprung here. It is just too warm. What a weird winter....
 

drjeff

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Joined
Jan 18, 2006
Messages
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Location
Brooklyn, CT
I fear that spring has sprung here. It is just too warm. What a weird winter....

It was kind of a shock for me last week to see pretty full golf courses and packs of cyclists out down in SLC! Even crazier that right now as I'm driving through Eastern CT at a grand elevation off about 500ft and less than 40 miles from the ocean that my car thermometer is reading 19 degrees and the roadside snowpack is as deep, if not deeper than I was driving by in Park City last week!

Weird weather!!
 
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