Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Big Freeze

At -5 degrees F the skinning was not overwhelmingly hot but the ski down, especially in the shade, was outright brisk. After the storm, and this was a good one, we got the big freeze so all is finally well and December did deliver albeit a bit on the late side. 
I went out on a minor conditioning tour, with Skadi, from my house and up Woodside Gulch past the old and abandonned Silver King Mine. I ended up on top of Walker and Webster Gulch overlooking part of PCMR. The powder was about a foot deep at 7,300 and about a foot and a half at 9,000. The snow was cold enough that the skis didn’t glide all that well but the sun was out and there was no wind so it could have been a lot worse. Here are the pictures of the day (click to enlarge):
Going up Woodside Gulch with Skadi on the way to lapping me again.

To the right Johns 99 trail coming from PCMR...

...crossing one of many service roads..

...and back to Johns 99, now going towards Deer Valley.

Jupiter in the distance with McConkey's bowl,
then Lady Morgan to the left. 

Close up of Jupiter that yet has to open to the public.

Skadi with her favorite hotel, the Montage at Deer Valley, in the background
(she gets exceptional service over there whenever she runs away from me).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Upper Silver Fork – East Bowl

East Bowl is best accessed through Grizzly Gulch going up the West side of the gully and then up Michigan City.

Trail head:                           Grizzly Gulch at Alta (Little Cottonwood)
Trail head elevation:           8,560
“Summit”:                             Hanging Bone
“Summit” elevation:            10,080
The line:                               From the Hanging Bone (or a bit below) ski down the west facing bowl.

East bowl, just like West Bowl, is a reasonably safe alternative when the snowpack is not all too reliable. From Alta, there is a 1,600’ skin up to the Hanging Bone.
Skin into Grizzly Gulch and up Michigan City using a combination of whatever skin tracks you can find (this is a high traffic area) and the service road (Michigan City rd.) that meanders up that side of the hill. The Hanging Bone is the highest point directly East of Davenport Hill and the beginning of the ridge line between Honeycomb Cliffs and Silver Fork. Shoot for the summit or a little below it to the West of it. Ski down the west facing bowl. The laps in that bowl are 700’ – 900’ for each descent depending on how far down you transition. This tour can be an out and back with ski out on the Alta side or a bi-canyonal tour with a ski out down Silver Fork to Solitude Ski resort in Big Cottonwood.

This tour was organized by the Wasatch Mountain Club and the group being large, it was split up. Our group consisted of Bob, Craig, Gibby (on a split board) and myself, here they are:

Bob, Craig and Libby on the uptrack in Michigan City

The tour took place yesterday and the snow conditions were absolutely fantastic (except for the occasional rock). We had a foot plus of good powder in the bowl and on the south facing ski out back down to Alta via Grizzly. There it was a bit over a foot of the very light, fast and fun stuff. There were no signs of instabilities in the bowl, however the weak layers in the snowpack were present everywhere you decided to plant your pole a bit deeper.

Here are some more pictures (click to enlarge):
View down Little Cottonwood with the most prominent peaks being from
left to right: Mt Baldy, Pfeifferhorn (the pyramid in the distance) and to the
right of the road Mt Superior. Picture taken from Michigan City.

Close up of Mt Baldy. Notice to the left of the peak, just before the shoulder
drops, Great Baldy chute.

Devil's Castel, Sugarloaf and Greely's in Alta.

The Pfeifferorn with Snowbird slopes in the foreground. 

Trees in East Bowl.

West Bowl seen from East Bowl.

Summit Lift top under Fantasy Ridge. At level with Summit Lift and behind
Fantasy Ridge starts a straight track (Highway to Heaven) taking you to Twin
Lakes Pass.

View of some of the Honycomb Cliffs.

Gibby boarding in East Bowl...

...and Bob skiing it.

Beyond the Meadows is Mt Raymond to the left and to the right
Gobblers Knob.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Upper Silver Fork – West Bowl

There are several ways to access West Bowl but here we are only looking at what we believe to be the most efficient fully human powered ones:

Trail head:                           Emma Tunnel at Alta (Little Cottonwood)
Trail head elevation:            8,560
“Summit”:                            The highest point between False Flagstaff and Davenport
“Summit” elevation:             10,240  
The line:                               From point 10,240 ski down the east facing bowl

West Bowl is a reasonably safe alternative when the snowpack is not all too reliable. From Alta, there is a 1,600’ skin up to the summit between Davenport and False Flagstaff. Once on the ridge line take a right (East) till you are on point 10,240 and ski down the east facing bowl. The laps in that bowl are 700’ for each descent. This tour can be an out and back with ski out on the Alta side or a bi-canyonal tour with a ski out down Silver Fork to Solitude Ski resort in Big Cottonwood.

Today the snow conditions were absolutely exceptional with a foot plus in the bowl and even more on the south facing ski out back down to Alta. There it was a bit over knee deep of the very light, fast and fun stuff. There were no signs of instabilities in the bowl however, given the avalanche report of the day, we did away from the prominent roll over in the bowl and way clear of Silver Fork headwall.

Here are some pictures (click to enlarge):

James making it to the ridge line a 100 feet or so from point 10,240.

Mike making it to the same point.

Mike and James on the ridgeline between Little Cottonwood and Days Fork
just above Jaws in Days Fork (Big Cottonwood).

View back down towards Albion  Basin in Alta. All tha snow for 1600 feet
down was knee deep plus of blower...

View of the entrance to Jaws. In the center between the trees you can see the
tracks of the guy that got caught in an avalanche here on Xmas Eve... 

He took a ride all the way down and got lucky to get away with a double
fracture of his tibia and fibula.

View of Main Days - a great Wasatch line.

The bowl held a bit over a foot of really
fun and fast powder.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The BC friendliest Ski Patrol? Deer Valley!

This preseason, like so many other, Deer Valley and specifically Empire Lodge to Empire Express summit has been a great spot for my backcountry conditioning. As you can see below, I am a frequent visitor in the preseason. These are just a few of the outings as most of them are not documented:

PCMR from Empire Lodge – Nov. 16, 2014

Pre-season fling with Lady Morgan  – Dec. 8, 2013

Skipping a few years to my first Deer Valley post:

Deer Valley, amongst people that consider themselves “true skier skiers”, does not necessarily get all the respect it may deserve. Between precious grooming, Bentleys in the drive-way and ski valets some will get the wrong impression... Whatever the case may be with that, and to contrast with it, I have noticed that in our area the Deer Valley Ski Patrol is the most back country skier friendly of them all. This has been true for years and when I talk to other back country skiers I hear the same assessment. All agree that they are beyond BC tolerant, they are BC friendly. So I wanted, in my small way, to recognize that.

This season I have been up to Empire a lot. Between living “just down the street” (Old Town PC) and the limited snow availability, Empire with its higher elevation has been a god send. Over my conditioning sessions I have added laps (Parking Lot – Top Empire Express – Parking Lot) going from one timed lap to two laps and then on to three laps. I wanted to do more and add a lap to have a four lap day up there.  Yesterday was planned to be the last closed day of the Empire Express lift so that was my last chance this season. I went up there, the Ruby lift was open and there was a fair amount of activity. The Ski Patrol was preparing the terrain for the opening and I know they just rather have no one there as they prepare. However they were very accommodating, asking me to stay out of the boundaries they were setting up, letting me know about the avalanche risk and the good spots to ski. I spent almost five hours “behind the lines” yo-yoing up and down till I got my four laps in. So here is a great THANK YOU to the Deer Valley patrol.

I believe deeply in the ski culture and that attitude by the Deer Valley Ski Patrol is a great display of just that. Skiing is not just an activity to regulate and tame, skiers have skier solidarity and that only works when the Ski Patrol recognize and understand that in that phrase “Ski” comes first…

Here are a few pictures of the Empire Express area yesterday (click to enlarge):

Turns in Empire Bowl.

Deer Valley high mountian has the snow...

...and it skis nicely.

Yesterday was opening day for the Ruby lift just next to the Empire Express.