Posts Tagged With: skiing

Jackson Hole Skiing, January 2019

By Dom Nozzi

I ski this resort with Maggie in January 2019. It was my first ever visit. We find Jackson Hole to have a very steep pitch, which made for very difficult blue, black, and glade runs. Not well suited for Maggie or I. Particularly due to the lack of fresh powder. I could see myself enjoying this mountain much more if there was a fresh layer of “hero” powder.

The tram ride to the summit is memorable. Each car packs in what seemed like about a hundred skiers. Near the top, a resort employee cautions skiers that there is no non-expert trail down. If any skiers are uncomfortable with that, they are welcome to ride the tram back down. After we shoot some scenic photos of ourselves at the summit, dom and maggie jackson hole, jan 14, 2019 (9)Maggie opts to ride the tram down.

I, on the other hand, choose to do battle with the steep mogul runs, which means slow-going and many falls. At one traverse, I notice an uphill climb in BOTH directions. Wondering what to do, notice that if I skied under a lift nearby, I could ride the lift to a place that would allow me to continue skiing down to the base area.

These days, glades are nearly all the skiing I do, but with the very steep pitch at Jackson Hole, I can only tolerate a minute or two in the trees before needing to bail. I end up spending a fair amount of time on a glade slalom course set up for kiddies.

Our last day at Jackson Hole Ski Resort is excellent. But very unusual weather. While the skies are clear again, we have a severe temperature inversion. At the base, the temperature is a brutal -3 degrees Fahrenheit. At precisely the same time, 4,000 feet jackson hole, jan 12 2019 (6)HIGHER at the highest elevation at Jackson Hole, the temperature is a broiling hot 28 degrees!

After each day of skiing, I soak in an outdoor jacuzzi in icy cold nighttime temperatures at our Snow King lodging.

During our drive to and from Jackson Hole, we notice a huge number of highway signs in Wyoming pertain to passing zones, how far it is to the next passing zone, and warnings about passing. I guess there have been a lot of highway deaths in Wyoming due to impatient motorists passing on highways.

Major industries in state appear to be highways, energy, and ranching.

In addition, on Wyoming highways we see lots of concern (via highway signs regarding wildlife crossings of roads). In addition, we see lots of wildlife statues near the roadway. We also see significant concern expressed by the fact that there are several substantially over-designed and over-priced wildlife bridge crossings. I must say, though, that these bridges are much more attractive than the hideous, modernist bridges we are used to seeing all over the US.

We learn that Jackson WY has a VERY high cost of living, as exemplified by the very expensive restaurants. And the very expensive apartments and homes.

Sinclair gas stations apparently have a WY monopoly for gas stations. We hardly saw any other station.

It seems that every time we drive highways in WY there is a huge backup of cars. Fortunately, on this trip, we did not experience a highway debacle.

On our drive back home, we opt for the scenic route through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We spot large herds of elk and bison, as well as a bald eagle perched in a tree next to the highway.

Jackson Hole characteristics:

With 2,500 acres of raw, sometimes terrifying lines, Jackson belittles flatlanders and challenges even the toughest locals with 55-degree chutes, wind-scoured bowls, and 5,000 acres of resort-accessed backcountry bordering Grand Teton National Park. (ranked #4 by Outside Magazine in 10/08 for snow and terrain)

  • Terrain: 2 mountains, Apres Vous and Rendezvous
  • 2,500 acres of in-bounds terrain
  • Vertical drop of 4,139 feet (greatest continuous rise in U.S.)
  • Base elevation: 6,311 feet
  • Summit elevation:10,450 feet
  • Uphill capacity:12,096 skiers per hour
  • Open backcountry gate system accesses over 3000+ acres

111 Named Trails on the map

The most (in)famous trail is Corbet’s Couloir. Many who gaze over the precipice simply lose their nerve, as the first move you face is a two-story drop onto a 55-degree slope. If you don’t carve the right turn quickly enough, you come face-to-face with a rock wall.

It is said that the backcountry that most makes Jackson Hole shine. Some say Granite Canyon in the backcountry is one of the most beautiful places they have ever skied. You need to take avalanche gear, and you need to know how to use it. Once you’re beyond the gate, there are dozens of chutes you can take. You need to know where you’re going, as its serious stuff; some of the chutes end in death cliffs.

Here are the photos I shot during our ski weekend at Jackson Hole:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/GZCCKnA4Dj8sjMpV8

 

 

Categories: 2011-Present, Skiing, Wyoming | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Skiing the best snow on Earth: Park City, Alta, and Snowbird

They have been at the top of my “must ski” list for a long time. Park City, Utah was rated fifth best ski resort in the Western United States by Ski Magazine in 2006. Nearby Alta and Snowbird average 500 inches a year of fluffy, dry powder. Alta is considered to have the most reliable, high-quality ski snow in the world, and was ranked Number One by Outside Magazine in October 2008 for snow and terrain.Snowbird ski4 Feb 2014

To say I was exceptionally eager to ski these three ski playgrounds was putting it mildly.

Despite the reputation, I grew worried as our trip date approached. A good quantity of snow fell at the first of the month, but not a single flake had fallen for three weeks. Would our timing be awful again for a ski trip??

Fortunately, there was justice in the world – at least for me on this trip. The day before my arrival, a foot of light, fluffy, soft powder falls on the Utah resorts we intend to ski.

Flying into Salt Lake City from Denver, our plane arrives at sunset, which provided an exceptionally scenic view of the Great Salt Lake, which appeared to be glowing orange as the sun set on it. And despite my living on the front range of the Colorado Rockies, I was surprised by the big, bold impressiveness of the large mountains that surround the Salt Lake Valley on all sides.

As I drive from the airport to my hotel on Interstate 80 and Interstate 15, I notice immediately that Salt Lake City if afflicted with highway GIGANTISM. The interstates are ten to twelve lanes in size. Of course, the ungodly amount of public money that was spent to build these HUGE monster roads did nothing to avert congestion in the region. Indeed, they did the reverse: We know from studies that these massive highways INDUCE new car trips that would not have occurred previously, which means that the Federal and State governments have spent ruinously large amounts of public money to create massive congestion every single day during the morning and evening rush hours. On my first day there, I felt extreme stress, unease, and anger. I was in fear for my life due to the crazy, high-speed jockeying of all the cars on the regional superhighways.

Every day, twice a day, commuters in the area must put up with the huge dose of stress and fright. How do they do it? How do they avoid high blood pressure? Do their relationships with friends and spouses suffer from the daily psychological damage? Is the region better off now that so many new car trips and suburban sprawl have been induced by the 14-laners?

Unfortunately for my Florida ski buddy, he loses a day in arriving, because his flight is canceled due to winter weather. And it is NOT weather in snowy Utah. It is weather in normally sunny and warm Florida.

As I head out to the car from my hotel room in Sandy, Utah on the first morning, stormy weather is still making itself felt in Utah. I come upon another skier who sees me with my gear. He asks what my plans are. I tell him I’m going to ski Alta. He informs me that the Alta website is reporting that the access road is only allowing four-wheel drive cars and cars with chains. I have a small, two-wheel drive rental car. Oops.

Park City6 UT ski Jan 2014Good thing I have run into him. On his advice, I opt for Plan B on the first day, then. Despite no prior plans to do so, I decide to drive out to Park City – a world-class resort I’ve long wanted very much to ski.

My first day at Park City is superb. A large number of exciting runs to choose from, including a healthy selection of tree glades, which are almost exclusively my ski preference these days. Because I am skiing alone, I’m getting on and off ski lifts much faster than I would if I had a ski companion. So on this first day, I ski an astonishing 22 runs – including two under the lights (I made a deliberate decision to ski the resort into the night hours to avoid the crushing highway congestion). Best-ever powder (much of it virgin, untouched powder – secret stash conditions) and tree glades I’ve ever skied. Favorite run: Motherlode Meadows. I get a good taste of Park City, and enjoy it enough to want to perhaps return some day. Here are photos I shot at Park City.

To further delay my return to avoid the rush hour frenzy, I stop at Squatters brew pub for some food and excellent oatmeal stout.

I was later to be reminded that I had once seen that the Canyons ski resort is top-rated for tree glades, and since I did not have an opportunity to sample Canyons at all, there is even more reason for me to consider Utah skiing again.

I pick up my friend that night at one in the morning at the airport. For his first day, we learn that the Alta access road is accessible, so we head there. It is my first experience at Alta. After a pretty good day of skiing, my impressions of Alta is that the resort, while in many ways good, has too many runs that are too easy, and too many that are too Alta ski resort6 Feb 2014difficult. Several chutes/gullies are found here, which I personally enjoy. But on this first day, we find tree glades to be too sparse and too small (in contrast to Park City).

In addition, too many runs require an uphill hike to access.

Given the disappointing features, we decide to sample neighboring Snowbird the next day. We don’t make the decision lightly, as we had just bought a four-consecutive-day lift ticket for Alta, and skiing Snowbird requires us to pay another $30.

As it turned out, our first day at Snowbird was substantially more enjoyable than our first day at Alta. Rather steep like Alta, but the tree glades and chute runs we find are much more to our liking. We enjoy several “dream” tree glade runs (some of our best-ever glade runs) in the secret stashes we discover. The deep powder we find at Snowbird is so forgiving that we find it irresistible to ski even impossibly steep runs (knowing we can control our speed in the powder). We are, in fact, often skiing runs we have no business being on, as they are normally runs that only extreme expert skiers have any hope of surviving.

For the entire day, it snows on us heavily (a first for me as a skier), despite weather forecasts of zero to ten percent chance of snow. As a result, we were essentially “skiing by Braille,” as our vision was so severely limited that we could not see hardly anything in front of us. In addition to the blinding snow, my 16-year old ski goggles (bought at Panorama Ski Resort in Canada) decide to reach the end of their useful life on this day. The scratches on the lens and the loss of ventilated padding (which is thereby regularly filling my goggles with snow), in combination with the snow, gives me the sensation that I’m skiing blindfolded. Not good for a skier like me, who needs to ski at high speeds and in tree glades that require lightning reaction speeds.

I make the call to end our ski day earlier than we had planned, as it becomes apparent that it is just way too dangerous for me to ski without reasonable vision.

We had started our day at Snowbird on their famous aerial tram, which is somewhat disconcerting. The tram moves at a relatively fast speed, is elevated to an unusually tall height, and delivers skiers to the somewhat scary upper reaches of the mountain. This is particularly true for us, as newcomers to the resort, not at all knowing if skiable runs awaited us at the tram summit. Adding to the anxiety, we are positioned at the front of the tram, and at an open window as the tram cuts through bitter cold wind, fog and snow on its way up.

Given the harrowing tram experience, we opt not to return to that lift.

Mike Byerly after sliding down a chute at Snowbird ski Feb 2014We opt for a second consecutive day at Snowbird the next morning (and the $30 added fee). We are thrilled to discover spectacular tree glades. And the combination of brand new ski goggles (which provided what seemed like my best-ever vision while skiing) and the soft, deep powder gives me, by far, the most confidence I have ever felt as a skier. It is no wonder that deep, fresh powder is sometimes called “ego snow,” as I felt invicible. Without fear. Like I was suddenly an expert skier. No matter how impossibly steep or tight the run looked, I found that I opted to ski it without hesitation (runs that just a few weeks ago would have seemed impossible). Cutting fast through big moguls was done with joy and ease. It is said that one must look relatively far ahead (rather than what is immediately in front of you) to best ski moguls and trees. With my big confidence on this day, I find that I’m looking ahead without thinking about it. After all, I have no fear that I will be negotiating what is dead ahead.

My favorite runs at Snowbird? Tiger Tail, Primrose Path, and Black Forest. Favorite runs at Alta? Nina’s Curve,  Westward Ho.

Plenty of soft, fluffy powder in the trees. Steep and deep. Learned that fresh powder means the skier can ski fearlessly. We didn’t hesitate to do runs that would have seemed impossibly extreme in the past. I never felt so confident or so skilled as a skier. It is said that Utah resorts get the best snow on earth. We can now see why.

Overall, as I look back at our Utah skiing, I would say that the skiing is excellent. Both Alta and Snowbird, however, Snowbird ski8 Feb 2014are relatively skimpy when it comes to providing signage for runs. We often had to guess where to go. Both resorts have outrageously steep runs, and the skier is often surprised to find himself looking at a cliff dead ahead. Both are intimidating when you drive into the canyon and arrive at the main parking, as the very steep mountains loom over and around you menacingly. And, unfortunately, both Alta and Snowbird require far too much poling and hiking to reach a number of runs.

Nevertheless, they are both world-class, and I recommend them for other skiers. Photos I shot at Snowbird are here. Photos I shot at Alta are here.

Our last day in the Salt Lake City region is a needed day of rest and healing from our days of rather aggressive, bruising, exhausting skiing. We spend the day sightseeing in Salt Lake City. Once again, the unbelievably huge roadways and confusingly gigantic intersections boggle my mind. Shocking. And as a colleague says, great opportunities for “road diets” (removing travel and turn lanes to improve the obese sizes).

As is typically the case, I’m only interested in visiting the historic areas of the city. Like most all cities, the more recent areas of the urban area are sickeningly car-happy or afflicted by modernist buildings, which leaves placelessness that has no charm. There is no “there there” in such a post-apocalyptic setting.

Fortunately, the modernists and conventional traffic engineers have not yet destroyed areas in or near the “temple square” area, where walkable neighborhoods and charmingly gothic buildings are in relative abundance. Our timing allows us to enjoy the daily noon organ performance at the impressive Mormon Tabernacle building.

Tabernacle2 Salt Lake City Feb 2014

I find Salt Lake City to be somewhat creepy and awkward. Why? Because while walking around in the town center, one frequently gets the impression that locals you meet have a hidden agenda. That the happy, friendly persona I encounter from locals I come upon is ARTIFICIALLY happy and friendly because the local knows happy and friendly people are more likely to persuade non-locals to consider the merits of Mormonism. Proselytization, in other words, seems to be just under the surface of those you meet — and seems to be something you will eventually be subjected to in the conversation.

We also visit the exceptionally charming, gothic “city and county building,” which has lovely faces in each of the four directions it faces. The county courthouse across the street is also worth visiting to at least enjoy the front lobby area.

On the grounds of the city/county building, we find, happily, a secular monument – a surprise in such an obviously and aggressively religious community. The monument reads: “I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, for liberty and justice for all.” No mention of the relatively recent, religiously degrading and unfair “UNDER GOD.” My hat is off to the City

We visit the Utah State Capitol Building, which sits desolately up on a hill far from any other buildings (or even trees). The inside of the building is magnificent. Do not miss it. We get a tour of Brigham Young’s “Beehive” house. The beehives are seen all over Salt Lake City, and are a symbol of industriousness.

Temple Square5 Salt Lake City Feb 2014A great many monuments, statues of people, water features, and public art are dispersed throughout the city.

As a grand finale, we enjoy great glasses of beer at the Red Rocks brewpub, and have an interesting chat with the pub brewmaster, who generously provides us with a delicious bottle of his Russian Imperial Stout (10.2 percent alcohol).

Categories: 2011-Present, Skiing, Utah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skiing Mt Bachelor, Oregon (January 2012)

Because my Colorado Epic Ski Pass allows me to ski at the legendary Lake Tahoe Ski Resort this year, my ski buddy and I decide on making our first visit to this skier paradise. For years, I’ve heard that Tahoe reliably gets big accumulations of snow each year, making for great ski conditions. How can we go wrong?

We book our flight to Reno (gateway to Tahoe).

But we then watch in growing horror and utter disappointment as snow reports out of Tahoe are unimaginably grim. The last time they have gotten so little snow in December and January was in the 1800s. A cruel reminder of our ski trip to Innsbruck Austria in February of 2007, when we learned that Innsbruck was suffering from its warmest winter in 800 years.

Could our timing be worse?

We start scrambling for a new ski venue. Our first choice is Schweitzer Ski Resort — a place I have not ever heard of, but considered to be a pleasant ski destination in Idaho. But while their snow accumulation is not awful, it is also not particularly exciting.

My sister alerts me to the thought that Oregon (where she lives) boasts very good skiing. I first investigate the well-known Mt Hood. But some of the resorts there seem rather pedestrian. My sister points out that by contrast, Mt Bachelor hosts Olympic skiers in training.

Sounds like a good fit to me for excellent skiing.

My buddy and I revise our flight plans so that we are now to fly into Portland. We are then confronted by a quite long night drive along narrow, dark, winding, icy mountain roads as I carefully and nervously seek to navigate our rental car to Bend Oregon, gateway town to Mt Bachelor.

For once, our timing is superb. Just before we arrive at Mt Bachelor, the mountain has been buried by over 100 inches of fresh, powdery snow.

We lodge at a surprisingly affordable and adequate Days Inn in Bend OR. Hot breakfast, hot whirlpool outdoor spa. Snow report each morning for Mt Bachelor – 24 mi away.

Bend is a sleepy, pleasant town full of roundabouts (quite impressive, speaking as a transportation consultant) that mostly have whimsical public art sculptures. The town is full of brewpubs brewing delicious, hand-crafted beer (indeed, we are told that Bend may have the largest number of brewpubs, per capita, in the world). Originally created as a railroad town, the economy was mostly based on lumber. Today the economy focuses on tourism. The Deschutes River passes through town. The name of the town probably referring to the town being at the “bend in the river.”

The Black Butte Porter and Deschutes BrewPub in Bend were both outstanding!

Our first day on the mountain is highly enjoyable. It is a Sunday, yet the number of skiers is sparse. And this is a few days after the mountain received a record dump of fresh snow – over 100 inches of powder.

Puzzling.

One explanation we are given is that people ski a lot, but need a day off (Sunday) to “do laundry.”

While there are a good number of challenging, enjoyable runs on the mountain (particularly the tree glade runs), we find that the black diamonds ski like intermediate blue runs.

On day two, we are happy to hear the great news that the “Summit Express” chair lift, which delivers skiers to the backside (where a large number of double-black diamond runs await) is now open (it was closed on our first day). But we opt to pass on the summit, as we are thoroughly exhausted from a strenuous day of glorious skiing in very deep new powder that had fallen the night before. The amount was reported to be only six inches, but it was clearly 12-18 inches of POW for the places we skied.

I find it joyous that I am able to ski the most virgin powder that I have ever had the pleasure to ski. Previously I had skied only a portion of one run of untouched powder, but on this day, nearly everywhere we ski all day is untouched. The snow feels soft, fluffy, and velvety.

It is as if I am skiing on clouds.

Day three: I have never, ever skied so much virgin, fluffy, untouched powder. Hardly anyone has skied the high-quality glades we ski. Deep powder everywhere means we have a fabulous time in the glades. We have no fear anymore of any glade, no matter how difficult or steep.

My favorite runs (amost all black diamond) on the mountain:

Devil’s Backbone

The unnamed run under the Northwest lift

Dilly Dalley Alley, which is mostly a kiddie run, but the tight little half-pipe is a lot of fun when run at high speed (and emptied of kiddies…)

Osprey

Snapshot (the mountain provides breathtaking views of a valley and snow-capped, mighty peaks on the horizon, although the large majority of runs at Bachelor provide spectacular views)

Sparks Lake Run

West Bowls & Glades

The glades off Rainbow lift

On our last day, in the glorious mid-day sun, we find ourselves sweetly, softly, smoothly carving our way through deep, virgin powder in the West Bowl glades.

Pure bliss.

This link is a YouTube slide show of the photos we shot while skiing at Mt Bachelor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwlCUNebQD0

Categories: 2011-Present, Oregon, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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