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The idiots guide to powderchasing

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

After 3 planned trips to Utah the past 2 years and not being able to catch a true deep powder day, I'm changing strategies and just going last minute (live in Wash, DC and no, I can't get wife and kids to move).


I typically stick with cottonwoods for airport convience and dry light powder (vs. PNW) and it's close enough to Colorado and Jackson Hole if storm really shifted and needed to drive.


Any thoughts on how to pick a solid storm?  The current storm didn't seem big enough a week ago to finish off the base in Utah, yesterday it shifted to what looked like another 60" over the next few days.  This morning it looked like it was back at the 30" mark.  All beautiful #s but learned the hardway last year how important a base is in Utah so I'm waiting for the next one.


Any thoughts on what type of #s to look for, I'm guessing any time there's 3 days of consistent 12+ inches, it's time to go.


I spend my hours at night confused by weather forecasts and powder chasing sites

Us East Coast folks that get lucky enough to get a taste of true powder skiing from time to time will try about anything to find it. 

post #2 of 8

Book a heli trip.

post #3 of 8

Or cat skiing.  Seriously, there is no way you can predict what a storm will bring.  The weather forecast here about a week ago was for several days of 40% or greater probability of snow.  Guess what we got - zilch.  But 140 miles west, plenty of snow; 300 miles south, tons of snow.  If you truly want powder you need to look into a cat or heli trip in Canada or Alaska.

post #4 of 8

That's how I always traveled before moving to the mountains. Wait for a storm and jet up there. Some weather patterns around SLC are fairly solid and can be relied upon to produce for a few days. Learn to spot them. Good to go. You are on the right track, reservations are counter to the powder skiers MO.

post #5 of 8

How much extra in airfare will a last minute trip cost you?

Its probably worth the extra cost if you get a foot or more of powder. 

I like your Salt Lake Plan?

The National Weather Service website is what I use.

Its easier said than done. If you are solo it is very doable.

If you got a trip planned with family its not going to happen.

I got a trip planned to Vail on Jan 17th. I will pray for the best.

post #6 of 8

My wife and I have been chasing storms in SLC (6 hr. drive from our home) for many years with great success.  You need to follow the big weather picture on sites like Powderchaser.com to see things coming, and then the Cottonwood Canyon 24-hour forecast, which usually will include a prediction of anything imminent in the upcoming week and is the most accurate.  Check the Alta Report and hit the Weather Links, which gives you the 24-hr Cottonwood Canyon, 5-day Nat. Weather, and the Utah Avalanche sites.  We often run into people on the chair a Alta or Snowbird who flew out of east coast cities at 5:00 a.m. and were skiing half day that afternoon.  With a direct flight and 2 hr. time gain it can work.


If you want the goods you should avoid Alta and the Bird on weekends where the powder does not last long.  We will hit there for a weekday storm and then Solitude or Brighton on the weekend.  There is a large contingent of SLC locals that come out of the woodwork for first chair on a big powder day, but they generally go to Alta and the Bird.  Also tune in to the Alta phone snow report, which tells you what is happening with road closures in Little Cottonwood. If you get here and they have the road closed the crowd goes to Solitude.  Often when it dumps big parts of the Cottonwood Canyon areas do not open until late in the day or the next day (Mineral and Road to Provo at Bird, Summit and Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude, No Name at Snow Basin, Supreme and Devils Castle at Alta), so stay tuned to what is happening and there may be new untracked the day after a storm or late afternoon.


They are predicting a very large dump in the Cottonwoods over next 24 hours.  Maybe you should book your flight now.  I skied the last couple of days at Solitude and there is enough base that no one seems to be complaining, although there are definitely parts of the mountain that you should avoid or be extremely careful on.  Alta and the Bird get more wind hammered, so their base is extremely variable in different parts of the mountain, but this storm should solve a lot of that, although it is coming in with high winds again. 


IMO the secret to life is simply a pair of rock powder skis.  When its deep anything fat works well, and if you hit a few rocks while enjoying the goods you don't care. The only ones complaing are the folks who brought out their brand new boards.  Your edges and tune don't matter when its deep.

Edited by mudfoot - 12/17/12 at 10:15am
post #7 of 8

Well they have now significantly ramped back the projected snow totals for the Cottonwoods for the net two days.  Thus is the plight of the storm chaser. Hope you didn't buy that plane ticket.

post #8 of 8

I don't know about not buying that plane ticket. This storm has been really good for coverage and has brought some of the best powder I've seen for this time of year. There were some knee deep if not deeper stashes all day in Supreme Bowl, you just had to do some work to get to them. Sure I got some scratches on the bottom of my skis, but that's why they make p-tex. With the way things are looking now, the next two or three days should be really, really nice. Stood in my first line of the season for a couple of runs around noon on Sunday at the Supreme chair, but other than those few times, it was basically get on the lift as soon as I hit the bottom. The key is that the worse the visibility is, the smaller the crowds, especially those who don't want to hit the chutes to get to the powder.


But getting back to the point of this thread, I think that as long as the storms hit and dump something, even if not as much as forecast, you'll have some good powder days. It doesn't have to be some super dump to make the powder skiing very good. The key is getting to the slopes early and working an area where the powder builds up and not chasing first runs into the Castle, Ballroom, Backside or Catherine's. When you do that, you'll almost always miss some of the best skiing to be had.

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