Luke scopes the goods atop Solitude.
Now, this is the plan. Get your ass to Mars. ~ Hauser
Ah Salt Lake City. Home of the Jazz, perpetual smog and goodness a mere 14 miles up the hill.
Luke and I headed out early on Thursday. Rockin’ the ocelot on Frontier. SLC is just about an hour from Denver. Barely enough time to whack down a beer if you are the large-headed gentleman sitting in 6C. Yes, nothing goes down smoother than a Coors Light at 36,000 feet at 8:30 in the morning. Get your vacation on, I guess.
Aside from Luke packing like a girl (his bag was a bit heavy on the outbound and we had to stow his extra pumps and handbag along with my gear), we made it out to SLC without incident. After gathering our stuff and getting into a bitchin’ Sonata, we headed straight up to Solitude for a half day of goodness. Seriously, the Denver to SLC hop is the best thing going. We were literally at the area before half day tickets went on sale. Pretty kickass.
Typical of my Utah skiing experiences, there was plenty of snow (just shy of 100″ base, something like a foot overnight) and the slopes were pretty much empty. Amazing. Luke and I were both nursing bum knees but the top was calling out so we headed up the ridge to grab some fresh tracks in one particularly tasty chute. Smooth as butter. But fluffier.
Utah is renowned for its long traverses and we took full advantage of these to get to never-ending pow turns. Solitude, as Luke describes it, is a little Alta and I would concur. There is a lot of amazing terrain and we spent the better part of 4 hours exploring around to find the goods. Seems everywhere we turned there was more great terrain just stuffed with great snow. Even with poor visibility due to a steady storm, this is definitely the place to be if you like it steep and deep.
Post skiing we headed to a local burrito joint for an early dinner then jammed down to Casa del Kenny and Jen. These guys are the best and always open their doors to the ski bum in need of a place to rest their head. Jen is a wee bit preggers right now so they aren’t getting in many days out on the slopes. She is due in April so this season is pretty much a wash for them but they seem to enjoy living vicariously through those of us less knocked-up.
About 10 on Thursday, the neighbors plowed into our rental car, denting the driver’s door and smashing the mirror. They were super cool about it and said they just didn’t even look back as there usually aren’t any cars parked in that spot. Avis said they would give us a new car and to just bring the Sonata back out to the airport at our convenience. Coincidentally, Saturday about an hour prior to our departure was convenient for us so that became the game plan.
Friday morning, we found a Wifi hotspot, got a little work done and jammed back up the hill for some backcountry goodness. Brighton has a special “One Ride” ticket for $10 that gets you to the top of the hill from where you can explore the sweet backcountry. This saves about an hour and a half of skinning, which is nice.
We got to the top and headed up Millicent Peak (I think). Luke is a machine and broke trail the way up (shit, the whole day, actually). It was seriously storming with steady snow and fairly high winds which cut visibility quite a bit. We had scoped some lines in Wolverine Cirque the day before but decided to stick to the opposite side of the ridge, which was a bit more mellow. The avalanche conditions, relatively stable for Colorado, were in the moderate range for Utah. There was some fun, lower-angle terrain to be farmed and we dropped in one short pitch prior to skinning the remainder of the way up Millie.
In case you hadn’t heard, I am one sweaty Mofo and so I quickly started having some problems with my goggles fogging up then freezing. Good times. Frankly, with the blowing snow, I really wasn’t missing much and dropped from the top skiing by braille. As soon as we got back down into the trees, I could see much better and just fully enjoyed the over-the-head face shots. Man, so awesome. I wasn’t feeling super hot but kept up fairly well on the way back up. Interestingly enough, looking way up the hill helps for some reason. We met up with some snowboarders who were actually practicing solid backcountry technique (go figure) and were quite knowledgeable about snowpack, how to read conditions, and how to ride safely. Refreshing, actually.
I was pretty whooped once we made it back to the top and mixed survival skiing with blissful pow turns back down the killer, untracked terrain. More face shots and grins on the way out. By the time we finally made it back out to Brighton, both of us were seriously exhausted and friggin’ hungry. We bee-lined it to the nearest Noodles, chowed down and then headed back to Kenny and Jen’s for a nap.
Just as we got back to the house, we got a call from our buddy Ken (different Ken) who works at K2. He demanded that we come to the show to hang out so we changed and headed out to the OR (Outdoor Retailer) show. We were pushing the time limit on getting in and found a door that had been propped open through which we sneaked into the show. Great security. It took us awhile to find the K2 booth and we ran into several people with whom we used to work along the way. Good to see old friends. We hung out at the booth for a bit then hung out with Donna from Garmont and then grabbed second dinner with our buddy, Jonny Copp then headed home.
Saturday was allotted to going to the show and heading home. We made several key connections (K2, Garmont, Patagonia) and then high-tailed it out of there back to the airport. An uneventful flight home (blue heron this time), quick drive back up to Boulder, then back up the hill for me and back in my lady’s luvin’ arms by 11p.
Great trip. Seriously, get your ass to Utah.