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two days of skiing under the belt

Spent the last two days skiing out here in Utah.

And if there was one common feature between the two areas I skied, it was the bitterly cold weather. But each place was its own, unique experience.

Yesterday, the destination was Snowbird. The weather had the mountains socked in, with lake-effect snows causing a constant fall of lovey, soft flakes. The snow cover was decent, though Snowbird is a very rocky location, so they need more snow than most resorts in order to guarantee a smooth ride (and they’re about 20″ short, give-or-take).

But the most outstanding aspect of the day at Snowbird was the wind. My first run of the day was on the back side of the mountain, which I accessed via a brand new tunnel through the mountain. There’s a moving walkway in the tunnel, and you ski onto it and enjoy a 6 minute ride (I’ll post pix when I get back to DC). On the other side, it was like a blizzard, as a steady 20 mph wind was lobbing snow from the front side of the mountain into Mineral Basin. as I’d never skied the Mineral Basin terrain, it was a bit of a “skiing-by-braille” experience.

I decided to return to the front side of the mountain, which involved taking a chair all the way up to the top of Mt. Baldy. As the lift approached the crest, the wind – which was now blowing steadily at 30 mph and gusting to 45 mph – pelted me with snow and ice, which felt very similar to being sandblasted. It hurt, and it also created whiteout conditions. Fortunately, I know the ways down from Baldy by heart, so I picked my way down to Little Cloud basin, where it wasn’t as bad. Less than 30 minutes after I’d left the Mineral Basin area, the resort management wisely closed all access to the ridge (and to Mineral Basin), as the wind speeds continued to increase.

So I spent the rest of the day skiing the lower half of Snowbird, which is still a lot of fun. I only wish I’d had the chance to cross over to Alta Ski Area, as I’d purchased a combo ticket. Alas, the only cross-resort access is via Mineral Basin.

Today, I skied at Park City. And today was the antithesis of yesterday: blus skies, calm winds – but still cold. Regardless, it was a perfect situation for skiing, and the thin snowpack doesn’t affect Park City as much, as its slopes are more grassy (like areas in New England or Colorado). I met up with old friends on the hill, including Olle, my coach from my ski academy days.

There were quite a few locals who were bemoaning the “ice” on the slopes, and I giggled at that. Most of ’em have never encountered true boilerplate ice, like they get in the east, and while there was certainly some of that on the hill, nothing was too hard to lay down a nice carve. I loved it, even though my preference is for softer stuff.

I skied non-stop, save for a 30 minute lunch break, and hit my last lift ride at 3:58 pm – two minutes before my all-day ticket expired. I wanted to milk my winter experience for all it was worth, as DC is still swimming in springtime.

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