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My son (age 17) and I (age 53) did the "Team Loel" program at Snowbird during the recent "Utah 2/15-2/22 anyone gonna be there?" get-together (while most everyone else was at Alta).  The group was filled out by Greta (a woman more or less my age) and Alex (a kid in his 20's who moved to Salt Lake this year).

It was an amazing experience.  We skied hard (and a lot) and found some good snow.

The Snowbird website describes the program "Team Loel is a program designed for expert skiers seeking steep challenging terrain and off-trail snow conditions."  Loel describes his job more simply: "powder guide."

There was about 5 inches of snow the night before, so we had to find the places everyone else had overlooked.  We spent most of the day piecing together short pitches in up to boot-top powder, and a few tree shots that were a bit deeper.  There wasn't anything that was super-gnar, though there was a lot with reasonable steepness.

Loel says "Those expensive heli-skiing operations will give you 15 thousand feet in a day.  If you have the legs for it, I'll give you 30."  We did not quite make that, but according to my GPS we did ski 26 thousand feet of vertical.

We got our first ride at 9:08.  I think it was the second tram.  We stopped for lunch at 2:30 (the cafeteria closes at 2:45).  We got our last ride om the last tram just after 3:45 pm. (At about 3:40, halfway up the hill, he asks "Anybody got a watch handy?" "Ok, we can make it."  Loel has an interesting habit of skiing off while he is still talking.

I think we did 6 trams, a Gadzoom, one Gad-Two, one Little Cloud, one Baby Thunder, and one Peruvian.

I had only skied Snowbird one day, so I was not really able to keep track of where we were.  Here's a map -- you can see we did a lot of traversing and a lot of overlooked stuff in the middle.  (There are a couple gaps where I lost signal)  I estimate we skied over 22 miles horizontally.


This is the closest thing we have to a group photo:
That is me, Greta, Alex, and Loel.  Kevin took the photo.

Here Loel is pointing out where we were the previous run.
This is one of the more mellow but deeper pitches we skied.P1000261.JPGskied.

We did ski some steeper stuff (Gad Chutes, I think)  but it was more about finding snow than finding steep.  Remember, this was not even close to being a powder day.

I would have enjoyed the end of the day more if I had done a better job of going to the gym the month before.  By the end I was holding on out of stubborness. 

Plus, I managed to hurt myself on the next to last run.  We were on a long traverse (under Baldy maybe? I was just following) and I jammed my ski tip into the hard-packed uphill side of the traverse track.  The ski stopped very abruptly and I hurt my calf muscle on that leg.  The odd thing is that about 30 seconds before I noticed my skis were no longer tracking straight in the traverse and told myself "You've got to fix that."  But because of a combination of fatigue and nevousness brought on by poor visibility I couldn't seem to get them straight.  And sure enough, it caused a problem.  (Experimenting the next day I figured out the mechanics of what caused that.)

Loel has definitely figured us tourists out.  About mid-morning, as I was starting to feel tired and whiney, Loel makes one of his guru-like pronouncements, "An expert skier never makes excuses and never complains."  Ok, I guess I'll keep my mouth shut.

Oh, and Bushwacker was right.  If you can't hack it, he bounces you to ski school.  He was talking about it with an acquaintance on one of the tram rides.

I mentioned someone said "I hate Mountain School" as we skied past through a gate.  His response?  Hah, I was skiing back there before they were born.  I ought to be complaining about them.

At the end of the day, Loel says "I pulled a little trick on you.  To get out of here we have to go through Hot Foot Gully."  It wasn't really a big deal, but vertical rock walls always make me nervous.  And fatigue made it look narrower.  In reality, it was probaly at least 15 feet wide and not very steep.  But still - what a way to end the ski day.

I strongly recommend Team Loel.  Kevin and I both enjoyed it a lot.  If you already knew Snowbird, you could absorb a lot more info about hidden spots -- I rarely had any idea where I was.