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Quick Trip Coming Up - Report! Alta/Snowbird

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Hi Bears - first off thanks to everyone here who gave us advice and info on places to go, things to do, and coupons to do it. Huge thanks go to Iaian Mannix, cjbrowns, Stan from PA, Roger, Cheryl, and others! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Without all your time and input, we never would have made it out there. We just got back from Utah on the 21st, and after a day to decompress, here's a report.

We had a fantastic time. Soft snow, 40-43 degrees every day. We still have images of surreal blue skies, untracked snow, smiling faces and burning quads.

My fiancee and I were there 12/16/03 through 12/21/03 and skied Alta and Snowbird. By day, it went: Alta, Alta, Alta, Snowbird/Alta, Alta, Alta. Packed powder most of the time, with a fresh snowfall of at least 8 inches on the final day. There had been snow a day or two before we arrived, but because it was early season, the snow hadn't been skied out at all so to these eastern skiers, it was soft and plentiful.

The first day, we had intended to use the Quick Start pass to ski Deer Valley, but by the time we'd picked up our car from Budget ($149 for a week, including taxes - no ski rack, it was a Toyota Matrix - a small wagon, perfect for all our gear including skis) and arranging our ski rentals (Canyon Sports, Cottonwood - awesome guys, they gave us the first day for free because we weren't sure we would make it to the slopes in time), we decided to head over to Alta to take advantage of their ski free lower lifts after 3pm deal, because we were close.

It was hard to turn the steering wheel headed up the canyon with my jaw in my lap, but I managed.

That first drive alone and the impression the mountains made might have been a vacation by itself, but it kept getting better.

We hit the Albion base and received our free lift tags and managed a few sloppy warm up runs before the sun went down, I think Crooked Mile and Patsy Marley. We were so giddy just to be there after being in New York only a few hours before, we were literally laughing and chasing each other on the runs.

We stayed at a Comfort Inn that first night in Sandy, where the innkeeper Lydia was very helpful (gave us directions to the South Jordan School District for 50% off coupons for the tram at Snowbird - thanks cjbrowns!) but in hindsight, we would've booked that first night at the Lodge at Snowbird where we stayed the rest of the time.

Our main goal this trip was to improve via lessons at the ski school and we were overwhelmed with how kind, knowledgeable and fun the Alta instructors were. They're the main reason we fell in love with and kept skiing Alta, and a huge thanks and hello goes out to Steve Butterworth and Arthur Haskell - just phenomenal instructors, skiers and great guys to boot.

We signed up for group lessons and I was paired with a young brother and sister as we headed to the upper mountain, while my fiancee skied the lower mountain in a de facto private lesson with Arthur. With Steve B. we hit the Sugarloaf lift and skied all the blues up there: Little Dipper, Devil's Way, Devil's Elbow, Germania Return, Waldron's Way. The view from the top of Germania Return into Snowbird and Mineral Basin was incredible - and I decided right there that Valerie and I would have to take Iaian's advice and get over to Snowbird to ski Mineral Basin - but the next day, both Steve and Arthur came in especially to work with Valerie and me in "group lessons" that were thinly disguised private lessons as no one else was with us as we skied away. Steve B. and I had a blast on Day 2, skiing off Supreme and hitting Upper Rock 'n Roll, Big Dipper, Sleepy Hollow and 3 Bears. I can't tell you how much I learned and how much confidence I gained and we were laughing the whole way down. On the lift, Steve B. pointed out all the peaks and formations, sharing the mountain with a smile. We looked at all the untracked snow, the few skiers we spotted, and he mentioned how lucky we were, to be there right then, with our own private ski mountain. We took our last run side by side (for as long as I could keep up with him!). Just a heck of a good time. Valerie had just as much fun with Arthur on the upper mountain for the first time.

After 2 and a half days at Alta, next day, we took a break to ski Snowbird. The feel was very different, tons more skiers (and boarders) including piped-in music at the ticket windows. We'd studied the map, and wanted to wind up at Mineral Basin, but wanted to warm up first. Problem was the layout was nowhere near as conducive as Alta - every front side green was a traverse or was unprotected from black runs above it. I was looking forward to hit Chip's Run, but wanted to do Mineral Basin first with fresh legs. Valerie was a little nervous about the terrain, so we warmed up on Chickadee, then took a couple runs down the Bass Highway, a long traverse/road across the front side. Ran down Big Emma next. I was making short turns down the center and Valerie was making rythmic traverses in the clearly marked Ski School Slow Zone there when five skiers zoomed down making gs turns from the Wilbere Chutes double black just above Big Emma. One of them grazed her and one guy ran right over my skis - he turned and apologized just before wiping out huge. No one was hurt, but it was madness that simply shouldn't happen.

Next, we wanted to drop a layer because the temp was near 45 once again, but we were nowhere near a locker or rest rooms even though there was a ticket window, so we had to board a shuttle and leave clothes at home. Finally, we hopped the tram to Mineral Basin - packed like sardines, we missed the view of the ride up. Felt like the NYC subway cars we were trying to get away from!

Once at the top, we ran into Matt Krause, the head patroller running the show up there. We'd met Matt the night before at the Lodge at Snowbird at a wine and cheese reception. (Very casual, lots of good eats catered from the Lodge Bistro. The most frequent response to our question - Do you ski anywhere else around here? - was: Why? LOL, Great people and smiles everywhere. ) Even though a patroller at the top recommended skiing the blue/black Powder Paradise, it was in total shade and we figured nothing but ice - we chose to stay in the sun and run down Lupine Loop and later Bird's Nest.

Once we got off the upper half of Lupine (accurately described by the patrol as a "road, not skiing," the snow was soft from the steady sun, and turns were sweet and easy on Bassanova and lower Lupine Loop. The steep drop off at the bottom just before the final cat track to the lifts was a huge pitch of slush and dirt, and we made a few sloppy turns to get out of it.

Overall, the views were stunning back there, and I'm glad we went for the scenery alone - but the experience and skiing wasn't as rewarding as Alta. After another run, we skipped Chips Run and boarded an empty tram for the ride back down and caught the gorgeous view this time - well worth the ride of shame looks we got from the skiers hustling to get on for the ride to the top.

So we headed back to Alta to finish the day. Besides, Steve B. and Arthur had invited us to join them and the rest of the Alta crew - off duty - for snowcone margaritas made with fresh Utah powder! It was their Aloha Friday - How could we say no?! After making a few late afternoon turns on Alta's lower mountain for free, we watched the sun set from the Albion base, snowcone margaritas working our empty bellies, and more in hand, laughing it up with our new friends.

Next day, Alta once more. That morning I skied off Sugarloaf and started my runs on Sugar Bowl each time, and patted myself on the back for skiing Alta's easiest black. That afternoon, we were surprised by Arthur - who showed up on his off day - and asked if we'd like to ski together. Would we? Hah! Arthur skied with us all over the mountain. What a great time, and a great guy. We skied off Supreme and Sugarloaf, taking Valerie off some blues she'd never done before, and then he snuck us into hidden untracked powder stashes around the mountain where we whooped it up - until I took a massive faceplant. (Iain: you're right!) Getting back on my feet, my foot sank up to my hip - I hadn't realized we'd been skiing anything so deep, untracked 5 days after the last storm! It really was our own private ski mountain.

Our final day, we woke up to see the pines sagging under fresh snow! Too bad we had only a half day - but we rushed over to Alta and rediscovered all the runs we thought we knew under 8 inches of fresh. It was still coming down as we left, and we boarded our flight still in our gear. 3 and a half hours later, we were at JFK, quads still tingling.

Best: Steve B., Arthur and the entire Alf Engen school. Everyone there was phenomenal, happy to be there, to share the mountain and how to ski it.

Lodging: Lodge at Snowbird. We caught a sweet deal at $99 per night and can't imagine a better way to do it. The UTA bus (98 & 96) runs between Snowbird and Alta for free and on schedule. Sooo convenient. With our own kitchen, we saved tons on food having shopped at Albertsons on the way in. The service was much better than we expected: they brought a board to even out the sofa bed, did our dishes when we slacked off, and left cookies and chocolate.

We couldn't believe how open and friendly everyone was out there, especially at Alta, but every place we went. When we went out to dinner and the waiter offered to unscrew the too bright bulb over our table, I laughed out loud. But he wasn't joking.

The big story for us is we got hooked on Alta. We loved it, the people, the whole place. The gorgeous profile looking back down the canyon from Albion base. Alta Java...kicking back in the sun, blue sky and white mountain in front of us, going over the turns we made and how we'd do it next time. Aloha Friday with the crew, sooo kind to welcome us there, what a great bunch of people. And the mountain above all, I can't believe I never got to Roller Coaster and Amen, or Main Street or Mambo. Nothing off Wildcat. And we had to leave as the snow was falling. :

We're already scheming to bring the French brigade of Valerie's family out there, if we could just find cheap condo lodging for 5.

All for now, thanks again to everyone here for helping us pull this trip off!
post #2 of 2
It sounds like a great time.
You may be an alta-holic now.

I am going to Alta in January.
Then going back to SLC in March.
I couldn't think of any other place with that combo. of:
1) easy to get to.
2) great snow.
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