“I’m over it,” my friend Susan said to me as I described my day at Alta. “The traffic, the scene, the waiting in line everywhere. I don’t need it. I can go to Solitude.” She’s right I thought as I paced myself through the last 24 hours.
A storm was brewing. It came in like a sheep yesterday, doing nothing in Park City. Maybe an inch before nightfall. As I made my way home eastbound on I-80 I considered my options. For sure I would ski. The reports were all predicting powder for the morning. But, ugh, Susan was right. Getting up early to sit in the trafficsnake up Little Cottonwood Canyon only to fight all of those lucky souls who were staying in the condos and hotels at the mountain and were out tracking everything before I could get my first boot on seemed futile.
So do I skip it and ski Park City? Or maybe I head up Big Cottonwood Canyon instead. Solitude is an awesome mountain and should absolutely NEVER be considered plan B. But there’s something to be said for the ritual. The one that includes sitting in a line of traffic, anticipating the goods for the extra 45 minutes it tacks onto your journey. Last week, however, in LCC and the line on the tram I was over it too. Yep. It was soft but it was tracked and packed. People everywhere fighting for a turn and a 40 minute wait to get to the top. What to do. Alta has a tendency to get a lot more terrain open sooner than the Bird, the singles line moves ten times faster than the tram line and it’s easy to find new friends. Snowbird is not the place to ski alone. Alta, hell, yeah. It’s like the friendliest place in Utah. I don’t know what it is but no matter when I go, I always come home with the number of a new ski buddy. The people you ride up the lift with want to know you, want to know your story, they ski at your level and they’re happy to share a run or two or the rest of the day with you. That doesn’t happen anywhere else. Ask anyone who has skied there. They’ll all agree.
It was settled. I’d ski Alta and get a room at the Alta Lodge while the storm buried us. The Lodge first opened its doors to overnight guests in 1940 and I could swear the kids of some of those skiers are dining at the table next to us. Generations of skiers return annually either to vacation or work. Some might complain that the ambiance lacks the glitz of a Ritz or Regis but there’s an old money elegance here that keeps you from ever thinking you’re slumming it.
The rooms are clean and quiet and the food itself is some of the best in LCC. Though the employees are all ski bums, they’re alert and friendly. Our server at dinner (the Sunday buffet is included with your room) chatted with us about the tight parking situation around the Lodge before retelling the story of how he stood in line for two hours waiting for Collins to open. It never did. We (I met up with friends once I got to Alta) had a similar experience but I chose not to wait.
We rowtoped it to Sunnyside where I emerged onto the longest line I’d ever seen at the triple. That’s what you get when Collins isn’t open. We found some doubles looking for a single and loaded in less than five minutes. We hit the singles line at Sugarloaf and were skiing soft chunder in ten minutes. The wait was nothing while the skiing was everything.
It was like the first powder day of the season all over again. I got a faceshot! No way, a real faceshot. It had been a month since I skied snow this deep. Last year, we had freshies every day. The trick today was getting around the mountain without the resort’s main lift. The opening of EBT made it easier. We looped around from Sugarloaf and skied under Collins, Greeley and Eagles Nest. The cold wind kept the snow soft and buttery. It felt dense but not heavy. You floated and arced with ease today. My grin nearly cracked my goggles. I’d share photos but they would all look like white boxes.
The road remained open tonight. It’s closing at 6 a.m. with an interlodge at 6:30 a.m. No cars up or down, no people moving between the lodges or from their rooms to the resort. All still while the snowpack is tested. If my calculations are correct. We’ll be first in line at Collins (which finally started to turn by 3 p.m.), there will be 12-24″ of new snow on top of the previous 26″, and the rest of the world will be stuck in traffic at the mouth of LCC. Teehee.