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Alta For One [Dec 6-11, 2005]

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Alta For One
Skiing my first powdah
December 6 - 11, 2005

This trip was a real big milestone in regards to my skiing adventures, as it was my first time skiing a real mountain with real snow. Before this trip, I had skiied a total of 10 days in my life; all in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin over the past three years. As you all know, vertical height at these resorts is around 500 ft. I did do Granite Peaks Rib Mountain in Wausau, WI which is actually 700 ft and that's where the idea was planted that I needed more vertical and more challenging terrain.

Once I put my motorcycle away for the winter, my focused switched to skiing and I was itching to go. I knew going out west was going to cost quite a bit, so I decided to get some early season deals. And then there was the task of choosing which resort. I did a fair bit of research here on EpicSki.com and other sites and settled on Alta.

Things that appealed to me about Alta were 1) they seemed to get the most snow coverage in the area, 2) no snowboards, I wanted to see how that was like and 3) everyone was raving about it so much in the magazines and on the web. I chose Utah over Colorado as I heard Utah snow is much more the true powder snow and besides, I got the itinerary to work out pretty nicely with flying to Salt Lake City, due to the proximity of the resorts from the airport. Initially, I also wanted to take advantage of the Quick Start program at Park City, where if you catch an early flight into SLC, you can ski free at the PC resorts that day. In the end, it didn't seem worth it with all the logistical challenges of where to keep the bags while I was skiing and shuttles between PC and Alta, etc.

I also got an excellent early season package deal at the Snowpine Lodge: $123 for a dorm bed, lift ticket, 4 course dinner and full breakfast. I got a round trip ticket through Delta for $206. I maximized my time by arriving at SLC by 10:30 am on the Wednesday, planning to ski half day, then full day skiing till Sunday. I caught a red eye flight out of SLC on Sunday night, arriving in Chicago Monday morning and having a friend pick me up and take us straight to work. Rough, I know, but I'm single and young and had to make it work.

Many of my friends and coworkers couldn't understand how I could go on such a trip all by myself and I kept telling them that it's all about meeting cool new people and I sure did that over this trip. Staying at the Snowpine was an awesome experience and I'm definitely heading back there, maybe late season. The maximum capacity of the lodge is 40 people, so everyone gets to know you and it becomes a friendly environment. It's quite an old lodge and is built into the side of the mountain, which looks across at the Alta slopes. It was so much fun to be staying at a ski-in/ski-out lodge for the first time. They had tow ropes that pulled you right up to the lodge. And they also had a heated wooden closet for your ski books, so that they were nice and dry in the morning.

It was real interesting to try an outdoor hot tub in the winter for the first time. It was a great meeting place for all the young people staying there. I also got everyone into doing "polar bear" runs, as it had just snowed 24" in the past 24 hours before I got there. One of the Russians from New York was bravest to try it first and it involved rolling around in the snow and jumping back in the hot tub. It really awakens your spirits and the tingling feeling lasts for a good 5 minutes.

I was told that there's no night life in Alta, but I wasn't much interested in that. I was more there for the skiing and meeting other skiers. The general itinerary for the days was get back to the lodge around 5 pm (after catching the last lift at 4:30 pm and making it back to get the tow rope before it closed at 5 pm - it was quite a hike if you missed the tow rope). Then, jump in the hot tub for about 45 mins, take a nice shower, sit down for dinner at 6:30 pm, which never ended before 8 pm, as there was so much talking going on, then watch a movie or ski documentary with the others in the main room and hit the sack by 10 pm. It was my goal to make it to the lifts as early as possible in the morning. About the documentaries, we saw one of the 10th Mountain Division (WWII army unit that specialized in winter mountain conditions, which involved lots of skiing) and it was interesting to see how after the war, these started some of the big resorts out west - Vail's one of them. Also saw a documentary on the history of skiing and one on Alf Engen, prominent figure in Alta's history.

And now the skiing... I currently own a pair of 170 Rossi Bandit X, which are very good all mountain skis, but I didnt know how they would fair in the powder. My first half day there, after a few blue groomed runs, I thought I'd attempt the powder, seeing that it didn't look all that scary. I didn't know how to control my speed through the powder and fell so many times that I didnt know if I would make it out of there. I decided a lesson was needed. After getting an intro to powder lesson on Day 2, I was hooked and stayed off piste most of the time after that.


Day 1
That's all that I was taking, my ski bag and boot bag, with everything else wrapped around them. My carry on was my ski jacket. Nothing got damaged during transportation.

Salt Lake City

Day 3 (no pictures the first day, I was concentrating more on the skiing)
The Snowpine Lodge

Looking down from the lodge

Here's the trail map of Alta for the ski pictures, so that you can place them

From the top of Corkscrew, looking across at the Alta Lodge and Snowpine on the right

Mount Baldy from Collins Lift

Hiking up Baldy to ski fresh tracks

Looking down the Ballroom Area - my first off piste skiing

My Rossis in fresh powder with my pistol grip poles - I love them!

Edited by JamminSki - 10/30/13 at 9:13pm
post #2 of 22
Thread Starter 
Entering expert area for the first time in my life at Race Course Saddle

Looking down Race Course Saddle (59)

Looking up Race Course Saddle (59)

Looking up Jitterbug (79)

From Wildcat Lift looking back. What a view and check out those blue skies.

Ski tracks on the mountain behind the lodges (out of bounds). I couldn't understand how people were hiking up that big a slope with all their equipment. Then someone mentioned that there's a road high up on the other side that provides access, but still...

Untouched powder near Wildcat Lift

From the Wildcat area - one of my favorite areas on the moutain, lots of fresh powder to be found, even 4 days after a dump

The last run of the day, heading back on Home Run (6) looking at the sloped behind the lodges

Day 4
I thought I should demo some powder skis to see what the difference was and maybe if I wanted to get something similar for next season. Demoing the Solomon Gun:
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
High up on East Greeley (95). The first day, when I saw the tracks so high up on the mountain, I said I would never be able to do that in this trip. And here I was venturing into that exact terrain. Woo hoo!

Looking across to Sugarloaf lift from East Greeley

Trees of Wildcat on Bear Paw (110)

Talk about Rocky Mountains, from the Wildcat lift

Totally skiied out Collins Face (74-80)

Avalanche Sign on Lift Pole

Powder still left in Wildcat

Looking down at the groomed run Mambo (56) off of the Collins lift

Directions to Snowbird from Wildcat Bowl (113)
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 

Trees of Wilcat (112)

Volkl AC4's floating on fresh powder

Looking at some of my first fresh tracks, what a feeling...

Day 5
Everyone at dinner heard about how Day 5 was going to be my 15th day of skiing and they were all amazed at the runs that I was doing and how great it was that I was coming out west to ski. Whenever I mentioned to anyone on the lifts, or in the day lodges that this was first time skiing powder, they all said, "Well, you've come to the perfect place!" And I really felt that too.

Staying at the lodge in the dorms were many other single guys and we all sort of bonded over the days. There was a Canadian ski instructor, Matt who was vactioning with his brother from Toronto. Matt requested if he could give me a few pointers and help me out with my technique in the morning. Wait no, I dont think that's a good idea.... Of course, I accepted. How lucky was I to have free private time with an instructor? He said he was itching to teach somebody. Right place, right time.

I explained to him that I was still doing the pizza wedge on the powder to make slow controlled turns (dont worry I can carve pretty good on the groomers). In the morning, we worked on pole planting on the groomers, with a slight jump to initiate the turns. For carving, he also showed me the technique of where during a turn, you squat down and then fully extended after the turn and squat again to make the next turn. Doing this in a fluid motion felt very comfortable and greatly added to setting rhythm down the slope.

Then they all wanted to go off piste into the big black runs, and I asked if I could tag along. They were comfortable with that and while they zoomed down the mountain, I was picking my way down and having fun along the way. By mid afternoon, I was getting some rhythm down, but still doing a few magnificent face plants.

And then the most hair-brained thing that I did was follow these guys for a "little hike" to get to some untouched powder. We took the High Traverse (69) to get to Greeley Bowl (90).

Not that bad of a hike, besides the fact that if you slipped you would be sliding all the way down. And I did just that, but luckily that green tree below stopped me when I lost my grip on the rocks. Snow boots aren't any good when there's no snow. I didn't panic during my 20 ft slide, and just got back up to where my skis where and climbed over the ridge to meet the guys, who were waiting for me.

View from the top of Jitterbug (79) looking down at the SLC valley

Since I was demoing, why not go for the best - Goode carbon fiber skis. I loved the light weight, it was very nice to make the sharp turns that I was doing in the powder to control my speed. Looking down Greeley Bowl.

That's Matt. His suit had little red maple leafs all over the back, just in case you forgot where he was from...

Edited by JamminSki - 10/30/13 at 9:23pm
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
And he was quite the looney, climbing to the peak

Ok, see this tree. It's at the top of Greeley Bowl and...

Can you see the same tree to the right of the second rock out crop. The picture doesnt do justice to the slope, it was steep as hell and those guys agreed too.

5 days after the dump, we were still finding fresh powder hidden on the beginner side of the moutain, where probably most of the skiers felt it wasnt challenging enough, but there were blacks through those trees and all that powder too.
On Patsey Marley (2)

That's me, at the Alta/Snowbird border near the top of Sugarloaf lift

The guys: L-R, Larry, Mike, Mark, Dave, Bob, Pete, Kevin, Matt and Moi
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 

What an exciting introduction to skiing powder! Everyone warned me that now that I was spoiled I wouldn't be able to ski the icy bumps of the Midwest. It was challenging even on the groomed runs to ski non stop from top to bottom whilst keeping good form - talk about thigh burners. I loved it that I was sweating while it was below freezing (mainly when I was struggling and hiking, etc.). My skill level shot up tremendously over these 5 days. Slopes that I thought were out of my reach on Day 1 were being skiied on Day 5. I wasn't smooth at this point as I was more worried about getting down the slope, but I still enjoyed it very much.

The lodge itself played a big role in making the trip enjoyable. It was good not to have to deal with transportation at the end of the day. Finish skiing, jump in the hot tub. And the people and the ambience were just perfect for skiing. It was clear blue skies the entire time that I was there, which was nice, but I wished it snowed a bit to cover up the tracks.

When I was planning my trip in November, I thought I might be coming too early in the season to really enjoy the terrain, but luckily it played out the way it did. Their slogan is "The Greatest Snow on the Earth" and it sure felt that way for me and the other skiers reiterated that even compared to other resorts, the snow here was pure heaven. I'm hooked and definitely coming back...

Edited by JamminSki - 10/30/13 at 9:27pm
post #7 of 22

Great story and Picks, WOW!!!

I'm also a Chicagoan. I took a solo trip (leaving the wife and kids behind) to Snowbird in May last year.

Best trip ever!

Cheers And thanks!

post #8 of 22
Excellent report, and getting me stoked for next week!
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Great thanx for the comments guys. I think I set the bar pretty high with Alta
post #10 of 22
How were the guns? AMAZING PICS
post #11 of 22
NICE!. Now I want to go back, right NOW!
post #12 of 22
Wow. Excellent pics and story, well worth the 5 weeks to post the report . I'll be taking my 1st trip out west to SLC area next week. Although I've been skiing much longer than you, I hope to make a lot of progress durng my 5 days there. I am also an off-piste virgin. I think I'll be making Alta an annual trip after next week.
post #13 of 22
I am extremely jealous... and now I definitely have to go to Utah. = P
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by aleks329
How were the guns? AMAZING PICS
I dont know if I'm adequate enough to know the difference yet, but they ofcourse floated a lot better than my Bandit X's. I felt the Volkl were pretty heavy and I also demoed Rossi B4's 158, which were amazing on the powder (duh), but they were bright green, ewwww

In actuality, I was more concerned about not falling down and face planting, so my eval of the skis wasnt top priority Next time though.... But they did make my off piste experience much better.
post #15 of 22
Jammin', thanks for taking the time to share some awesome pics and great thoughts! It's easy to see how excited you are about the trip, even more than a month later! Now you know why we all love Alta so much. It really is like no other resort.

Yep, they set the bar high for any other resort. Especially when it's your first powder experience. But don't worry, you'll find other resorts you love too. Don't forget to give some of the others a chance!

post #16 of 22
Originally Posted by JamminSki

That's me, at the Alta/Snowbird border near the top of Sugarloaf lift

You don't mention what length you demo'd but given your height and level of interest I would definitely get something slightly longer and definitely fatter if you plan to be out west more. There are lots of good recommendations if you patrol the other posts here.

post #17 of 22
Jammin', this was an awesome TR! We leave for the 'Bird and Alta tomorrow, and you've just fed my jones! Thanks!
post #18 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Thatsagirl
Don't forget to give some of the others a chance!
Dont worry, I've already been out west trying some other resorts. I'm in the process of writing my trip report for my Banff trip that I did a few weeks ago. But, I feel I'm going to gravitate to Alta again, pretty soon

Originally Posted by viking kaj
You don't mention what length you demo'd but given your height and level of interest I would definitely get something slightly longer and definitely fatter if you plan to be out west more.
Oh yeah, I definitely plan on getting some nice powder/all mountain carving skis. The length I'm not sure about. I know longer is better for stability and speed, but right now, I'm more inclined on making smaller turns through the powder to control my speed.

Originally Posted by ssh
and you've just fed my jones! Thanks!
Good to hear. Next time I'm there, I'm going to check out the Bird. Have fun.
post #19 of 22
Originally Posted by JamminSki
Oh yeah, I definitely plan on getting some nice powder/all mountain carving skis. The length I'm not sure about. I know longer is better for stability and speed, but right now, I'm more inclined on making smaller turns through the powder to control my speed.
The smaller turns could be related to the skis you were on, although the guns should have let you crank a little. If you get the right ski, like volants, these days you can really rip through powder. And the way you have the jones I would expect that you will want to buy skis that you can keep as you go to the next level.

While I can tell that you are too big for those skis, without the data on your camera and distance and sun angle I can't triangulate any absolute numbers. What's your height and weight?
post #20 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by viking kaj
While I can tell that you are too big for those skis, without the data on your camera and distance and sun angle I can't triangulate any absolute numbers. What's your height and weight?
I'm 5'10" and 165 lbs.
post #21 of 22
For fat powder skis you will be looking at maybe 170-175cm. Demo a couple the next time you are out there to check what you feel most comfortable on. The Guns are supposed to be this years version of the Pocket Rocket, which has been a very popular powder ski over the last several years. You may see the older PR's telemounted if you look carefully at Alta. Many here are also enamored with the Dynastar Legend 8800 and the Rossi B3's. If you are on a budget Volants from a season or two ago, especially the FB and the V2 Chubb can be worth looking into since a lot of these have been remaindered since Atomic took over the brand. Most of the above skis are good in powder, but can also be skied on the groomers once the powder is gone, so they are pretty good western skis but probably not as good for Wisconsin and Michigan. Otherwise keep patrolling the posts around here, you'll see there are many other favorites (Gotamas, Seth Pistols and even more exotic fare).
post #22 of 22
Great inspirational thread! Thanks for taking the time to write it and post pics. I'm going to Alta march 2-7th. But going to try a solo west trip this spring.
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