Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Skiing in Snowbird/Alta Provides Endless Possibilities

One of the great things about snow skiing is the variable conditions that you deal with. Often times you get dressed put on your skis and have no clue what you are getting into. Unfortunately, sometimes you expect fresh snow and find none. At the same  time there are days where you go out with minimal expectations  and find powder shots you wouldn’t dream possible.

 Springtime in Utah means one thing: variable conditions. Today was my first day on the mountain.  I spent the day skiing with my Dad and we were out early and ready to have a great first day. After the first few runs we could tell today was not going to provide the best skiing conditions. The weather was up and down all day and there were also several other factors that contributed to the subpar snow today.  A big storm passed through about a week ago and provided optimal skiing for the next few days.  Not long after that storm the greater Utah area experienced a warm front and the once fresh powder became flattened heavy snow.

Numerous times throughout the day
I saw skiers having difficult time with conditions
For those of you not familiar with Snowbird and Alta let me give you a background of why its such a sought after place to ski. Snowbird averages 500 inches of snowfall annually. Alta typically receives a similar amount. These two mountains hold a distinct competitive advantage over others outside of Salt Lake City because of there geographical location. Little Cottonwood Canyon experiences a phenomenon called “lake effect” (if you are unfamiliar with the lake effect I will explain it in a later post.)

Knowing that skiing was not at our optimum level we set out to find the best runs on the two mountains and stick with those for the remainder of the day. We ventured over to the Collins Tree’s at Alta, which is usually a go to spot for guaranteed good snow; today the good snow was not there unfortunately. We decided to return back to Snowbird and this proved to be a great decision.

I am typically not a big fan of the Tram but we decided to give it a shot and try to find some good snow. Let’s just say the Tram was the best decision. The tram takes you to the highest point off the mountain 11, 000 feet. We found a great bowl right off the tram, the Upper Cirque. This bowl is almost always great to ski as it gets snow blown in it from close areas on the mountain and it does not receive as much direct sunlight as most places on the mountain. It was so good that I decided to make the 3,240 vertical foot decent three times.

As if skiing today wasn’t enough, Snowbird was hosting the World Freesking Championships today. Some of the world’s best freestyle skiers took Snowbird cliffs to a whole new level.

Freestyle World Championships Provide Locals and
Visitors the opportunity to relax and watch some crazy skiing.
A day of spring skiing always ends with a final lift. My last lift actually eneded up coming prematurely. I got to the base of the mountain and learned that the lifts were temporarily shut down due to a lightning strike not far from the mountain. Thus I had to make a short vertical hike to The Cliff.

Only in Utah.
Only in the Spring.