OK. Let me try this again (I had it written once, and mistakenly closed the browser...ARG). I may miss some things I had written before.....If something isn't clear, just ask.
We just got back from our trip, and I wanted to finalize my review of Hellgate.
We were in Utah Sat. to Sat. (the 8th to the 15th). We stayed at the Hellgate Condos in Little Cottonwood Canyon (http://www.hellgate-alta.com/
). The staff was VERY nice and friendly. The units were nice. The price was right (about 1/2 anywhere else in the canyon). The skiing was good. There were some disadvantages to staying at Hellgate, and I think it is important to point out because no one tells anyone about these things. Before I get started, here is a drawing showing where Hellgate sits in the canyon:
As you can see, the Hellgate condos sit between two road closure points. On the inside of either of these road closure points are two avalanche chutes. Just a bit of trivia, the western chute is called Hellgate.
There is a condition in the canyon called interlodge (everyone knows about this) where you cannot go outside. But what never gets mentioned is that it is not a canyonwide state. The marshalls can put different parts of the canyon on interlodge at different times. While we were there, Sun. - Mon. we were on interlodge all the time; however, the rest of the canyon opened between 8 and 10. Becuse we were interlodged, we couldn't get out. Hellgate had to get special permission from the marshalls to take us out in their shuttle. When we did this, the driver had a beacon. We would drive up the canyon to the road closure gate, he would get out, open the gate, get back in, drive through, get out, close the gate--well, you get the picture. So, there are times the canyon is open, everyone is skiing, but you are stuck at Hellgate.
Additionally, there is a condition called maximum interlodge where you can be "extra" confined. When this happened, we had to go to the basement (actually, staff quarters).
Sunday and Monday, the conditions were as I described above. Everyone was interlodged and the road closed till 9ish. We were interlodged all day. The only way we could get out was the Hellgate shuttle and "special" permission of the marshall.
Tuesday, the entire canyon above Snowbird was interlodged all day except for a two hour period. Alta never opened. Snowbird was sort of open (very limited). Tuesday we were on maximum interlodge for 2.5 hours.
Wed - Fri was great skiing. The road was open, we could get in and out, etc....
We were on maximum interlodge one other morning, but I don't remember when it was.
In conclusion, I liked the skiing. The staff at Hellgate was excelent. The units were clean and well cared for. Would I stay again? I don't know. You take a risk...if it snows like it did while we were there, you could be on interlodge all the time. You could go to the beach and it could rain every day. No one can predict the weather. If I went back to Alta to ski, I would probably spend the extra $$$ and stay at an all inclusive lodge slopeside with ski-in/ski-out ability. This would cost more, but I think the convienience of ski in/out would be worth it. I'm not ruling out Hellgate...I would consider staying there again. I'm upset with the management/those who run the place because they were not clear about what could happen. The staff did their best and went above and beyond to make up for our lack of information.
Utah49, I don't know what you are trying to say. You are correct when you say I have little experience in "BIG" mountains in the winter. However, you would be incorrect in thinking I have little outdoors experience. I could survive in the wilderness quite well. I have respect for nature, and understand that stuff can go bad fast.
Yes, avalanches are real and a real danger. They are a real threat (look at what happened at Park City on the 14th. Look at other avalanches where people were dumb...the people took the risk with none of the responsibility. No Becons. No probes. No shovles. No nothing). People don't respect nature. They always think someone else will be there to bail them out (and as you mention, those other people put their lives on the line to rescue the dumb person when they cannot handle it).
What I don't understand is why we could ride the Hellgate shuttle and be perfectly safe (even though we had to sign about 15 releases
) but our own vehicles could not be just as safe? Why does the marshall make provisions for the hellgate shuttle but those own provisions aren't good enough for our vehicles??? If it is safe enough for one, it is safe enough for the other.