It was fun to ski back in the hills where I learned the sport – and this year was especially great, as the snowfall in Utah has been record-setting this year. So I brought my new skis (Head Supershape Magnums) with little fear of “mineral interference” (a.k.a. hitting rocks).
And I’m glad I brought ’em, as the first day’s journey to Deer Valley dawned cold, with some clouds and hanging snowflakes (see this photo to see what I mean). As the previous days had been warm (save for a small snowstorm that dropped 7 inches of fresh powder), the base was hard-set and very “eastern” in feel. Thus, my carving skis, which excel on the boilerplate ice we get in the east, were just the trick for the buffed-out surfaces at Deer Valley. I also had some fun in the bumps and the trees, though the non-groomed surfaces either had the consistency of a concrete-set rockslide or porridge (depending on sun exposure).
Over the past few years, Deer Valley has shored up what was once its biggest weakness by adding expert terrain in Empire Canyon. The Daly Chutes are some of the most rugged of their kind in the greater Park City area, and they often retain fresh snow longer than similar terrain at other areas due to the relative paucity of expert skiers. And they added more to the equation with the opening of the Lady Morgan chair, which serves steep glades and rocky outcroppings that provide a good challenge. It’s too bad that there wasn’t much soft snow in these areas – had I been on longer, wider skis, I might’ve given them more time for exploration.
But it was fun, and the food, as is always the case at Deer Valley, was top-notch. There’s a good reason that they get written up in Gourmet, Food & Wine and Zagat’s: the food is that good.
Day two took me to Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the neighboring resorts of Snowbird and Alta. For the past few years, skiers have had the option of purchasing a ticket that is good at both resorts. To cross, you pass through a gate that’s perched on Sugarloaf pass, between Alta’s Sugarloaf lift and Snowbird’s Baldy Express lift. This meant that I had over 7,000 skiable acres of terrain to explore.
And explore I did. I started my day with some fast runs on the Peruvian quad, which was the easy way to get to the spectators’ gallery for the US Freeskiing Championships (simply put: insane skiers doing incredible feats as they ski down some of the craziest terrain at Snowbird). But I really wanted to explore the Mineral Basin side of the Bird, as my last visit featured some nasty weather and thin snow that made Mineral Basin a poor choice of places to ski.
So I rode the conveyor belt through the tunnel at the top of the Peruvian chair (called the “Basshole” by locals) and proceeded to ski into a cliff-laden area between the two chairs that serve Mineral Basin. I made my way down, dropping off an 8-foot cliff in the process, and enjoyed some perfect corn snow in the lovely, open southern exposure. Mineral Basin is relatively treeless, very European in feel, and has some great, steep, rolling terrain.
After sampling Mineral Basin, I decided to cross over to Alta via their connector gate, and cruised down Sugarloaf and over to the Supreme lift. After a quick run down Challenger, I went back up the Sugarloaf lift and decided to go on a hike. I hiked up to the top of Mt. Baldy, along with three other easterners, and after checking out the view from the top, I took the plunge down one of the Baldy Chutes. What a treat! The chutes were in the shade for most of the day, and as the rope had only been dropped on this area earlier in the day, there was still fresh powder to be found. After a small leap into the chute, I skied some fun turns down to the Ballroom area, and then to the Watson Shelter for lunch and rehydration.
I then returned to Snowbird, skiing a run off the Little Cloud lift, then heading down to Wilbere Ridge and remembering all of the races I had on said trail when I was a kid. I knocked off a couple of runs off the Gadzoom chair, and I returned to Peruvian to enjoy a few runs down Primrose Path (another race trail) and watch some of the incredible freeskiers compete at West Baldy.
Two days, three areas, magnificent skiing all around.
(You can click on the photo of me skiing at Snowbird to see more pictures from the trip.)