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Thanks EpiSki Bears... (and a long trip report)

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Well, I got back to Augusta, GA a week ago from my long 12 day trip out west so I thought I’d better post a report. Sorry that it’s long winded but most importantly many fellow EpicSki folks must be thanked for showing me around Utah and providing some great hospitality. So, for those of you not willing to read my long rave, just know that not only are Utah 49, Leigh, Maddog1959, Helen, Utah Jim, TomB and Stmbtres all very accomplished skiers, they are even better company.

I arrived in SLC Wednesday 1/28 at 10:30 AM and was booted up and ready to go at Park City Mountain Resort by 12:30. The three PC resorts have a great ski for free program but the best thing was meeting the knowledgeable and excellent skiers Utah 49 and Leigh for a tour of a mountain I had never visited before. My first impression was how steep much of the terrain was and that there was a very good variety for every ability level. Utah49 and Leigh tested my wobbly ski legs by throwing me into the steep 45 degree Blue Slip Bowl. Good fun and if it’s alright with Utah49 and Leigh, I’ll be back for another tour to check out some of the stuff we did not have time to ski.

On Thursday morning I met Maddog1959 and Helen at Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge. It was a strange weather day of rime and low visibility in the Wildcat/Germania area so we headed for the Sugarloaf and Supreme lift areas. Still, the snow, as it always seems to be, was perfect and fresh was found in the trees that also provided a visible path down the mountain. I let them talk me into skiing under the Supreme Lift to Supreme Challenge and made many other runs in the Supreme/Catherine’s area I would not have ventured into without their guidance. For me, it was the first time I skied some of that terrain so I’m glad I followed them. We ended the afternoon with beers at the Peruvian Lodge and a nice meal at the Porcupine. Great company and great skiers! Thursday evening I crashed the end of the Academy party at Tony Romas and had a beer with many Bears I met at last year’s Gathering and met a few new folks including the once elusive Gonso.

Friday I joined Maddog and Helen at Snowbasin where we met up with our first-rate host and skier Utah Jim for a tour of his home mountain. Super smooth skiers and fellow Bears TomB and Stmbtres joined us as well. The groomers were perfect but the off-piste terrain was crusted over and the flat light made the going a little tough. We found the best snow on northeast facing and tree sheltered runs where the breakable crust was manageable. Not only does Snowbasin have some great terrain and lifts but they have some of the nicest lodges (including the restrooms) and best food found at any resort, ranking up there with the famed Deer Valley. Stmbtres and I pigged out on freshly carved roast turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and apple struddle. Biggest and best on the slopes lunch I’ve ever had. I’m still stuffed.

Saturday I skied with a few thousand anxious powder-hounds at Alta in what seemed to be an underreported 6-8 inches of fresh overnight snow. Typical weekend powder day at Alta. Competition was fierce and I found out quick that they did not get quite enough snow to cover up and soften the previously formed hard bumps in the Wildcat Face area. I tried following AltaSkier and Fredo’s advice to head here on a powder day but should have figured out this was not the morning to be there when I saw no one else making tracks for the area. Oh well, ski and learn, on to West Rustler to try and find some fresh lines. Good snow but the rumor was that they were going to open Devil’s Castle so I hiked up and over the ridge into the Greeley Area and skied over to check out Catherine’s. There, I met and skied a few runs with a young lady named Kat from Mississippi of all places... as opposed to that other great southern ski state, Georgia. She was ski bumming out West for the winter and could really rip. It’s nice to know there are southern girls who know what to do in the snow. Devil’s Castle opened after lunch so I made a few short but strenuous hikes (for this lowlander) into an area I never skied before. The area had not been opened in over a week so the snow was knee deep. I managed to stumble upon the infamous Bat Cave and watched a few Powder Maggots straight line it. I decided against it after seeing one of them get hung up on a rock while attempting to make the mandatory hard left. Not my idea of fun anyway. Nickel, nickel. I made the final few runs on High Rustler and Stone Crusher, skied from open to close in great Alta conditions, and finished the day with a couple of beers at the Goldminer’s Daughter. Typical weekend powder day at Alta.

Superbowl Sunday was a treat. I made the hour and a half trip from Sandy to Powder Mountain for my first visit there. They received an additional 4 inches overnight so I figured it would be good and not as crowded as the big and little canyon areas. No one was there. The place was absolutely deserted and untracked snow was everywhere. Where was everyone from SLC? On my first rather slow chair ride of the day, I had the unpleasant experience of not clearing out of the way fast enough when the chair unexpectedly swung around and snapped one of my new Scotts in half. After retrieving my spare poles from the car, I rode my second chair with a patroller who told me where to head for the goods. At the top of the lift 3 cool Aussies on a two week Utah and Wyoming ski vacation overheard our plan of action so I asked them if they wanted to come along. We skied the entire day seeking out fresh lines in the many tree and designated powder runs. I would not have ventured into much of this hidden terrain by myself so I guess snapping a $100.00 pole was actually good karma. Powder Mountain does not have very steep terrain, nothing we found appeared to be over 35 degrees but it was a perfect place for fast tree skiing. In fact, I have not seen a better place for tree skiing in the country. The pitch and tree spacing were perfect and with 5,000 acres there were plenty of places to explore and hunt for some fresh lines. This place is funky and laid back. It is totally mom and pop. I can see how many destination skiers would not like it but this could, along with Grand Targhee, be one of the best mountains in the country for intermediates, and beginning off-piste powder and tree skiers to gain confidence and have fun while learning. The going may be a little tough on really deep days, due to its less than steep terrain, but the Powder Runs down to the road offered some good pitch and then you get the added bonus of riding the old school bus back to the base. Overall a great area and one more reason why I think Utah has the best skiing in the country.

Sunday Night it was on to Tucson, AZ for a sales meeting. What a strange and alien landscape. I did manage to see some snow fall and supposedly Mt. Lemmon opened for skiing that weekend. I played golf instead.

Friday I made my first trip to Taos, NM. They had just received 4 feet of snow and everything but Kachina Peak had finally opened. I had mixed feelings about the experience. Early on, I found some nice deep snow in the Walkyrie, Sir Arnold, and Lorelei areas but it was quickly gone and patrol closed the area after lunch. The place was steep but offered nothing that was steeper than what you will find at Alta/Bird, Squaw, or Jackson Hole. It was, however, considerably smaller, less open terrain, and tighter in the trees than those other places so the fresh overnight snow was bumped up by lunch. Unfortunately, those bumps were large, irregular, and firm making smooth skiing on the steep terrain with my wide Chubbs a challenge. I can see why this is one reason the area does not allow snowboards. The bumps on the less steep and more famous Al’s Run were a little better allowing for smooth skiing as opposed to survival skiing. On a chair ride I met and made several runs with a local builder named Steve who showed me around the place for many runs in the afternoon. We found some good late afternoon snow in Castor and Pollux despite ski patrol’s numerous hand written warning signs of rocks and stumps. I can see how Taos can produce many great bump skiers as he readily sought them out over the powder. My skis, legs, and conditioning, however, could barely hang. Thankfully, The St. Bernard served Guinness.

Saturday I decided to head to Wolf Creek, Colorado as per the suggestion of the rental car agent in Albuquerque. What an incredible two and a half hour early morning drive through Northern NM and Southern CO. Wolf Creek is a very cool little area that just so happens to receive the most snow in CO. And, they had plenty of it. It had been a couple of days since their last snowfall but there was plenty of deep snow to be found in the trees that led to open terrain. I managed a few face-shots in some areas, the only ones this trip... saved them for the last day. The mountain consists of many steep flat... steep flat... steep flat runs that if you are not careful, you can find yourself getting caught in the deep snow. Due to this, I was surprised to see the large number of snowboarders here. They may have actually outnumbered skiers. Surprisingly even with boarders, the bumps that formed were better than what I found at Taos. Maybe it was the snow. I managed to make a few runs with a couple from Breckenridge. The guy was an ex-pro mogul skier who could really rip. The Waterfall area and in and around Area 54 hold lots of snow and are a nice challenge. I measured numerous short tree lined chutes that dialed in at a very steep 45-50 degrees. Overall, the openness of the mountain and quality of the snow reminded me of Utah and I liked the feel of the place more than Taos. It was an enjoyable and scenic 4 hour trip over the Continental Divide and back to the ABQ airport for my early Sunday morning flight to Augusta, GA. I spotted numerous elk herds along the way. Thankfully, none of them were on the roadway like the biggest wild turkey I’ve ever seen that darted right in front of my car. I’ll go back to ski Taos and WC again along with some of the other nearby areas like Telluride and Angel Fire but nothing has yet to beat Alta for me.

Once again, it was great to meet and ski with some fellow Bears and friendly strangers who made for another memorable trip. Thanks to all of the Bears who are some of the nicest, most accommodating, and best skiers on any mountain. Them Maggots, they aint got nothin’ over us. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #2 of 3
Rusty, Great report. Liegh and I had a great afternoon skiing with you. Your a much better skier then you give yourself credit for. I was impressed with your bump skiing on The Hoist, those were some mean bumps. For your first day on skis with weak legs you more then held your own. Next time your in the area we will do a hike into Puma bowl, then do a few turns back in Jupitor. Sounds like the rest of your trip was also a success. Oh and thanks for the Free Beer!
post #3 of 3

I made the same drive (Pagosa Springs to Taos and back) on 2/9. New Mexico Highway 84 is sure fantastic! I also agree that Wolf Creek has the goods. Face shots all day on 2/8! I haven't seen Mrs. Skicrazy have so much fun since Fernie. Taos was nice, but we would have rather skiied Wolf Creek an extra day.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Thanks EpiSki Bears... (and a long trip report)