I heard they were opening the backside. We’re talking Alta Ski Area- steeps, lots of rocks, known for serious powder. And I thought yeah, maybe not. We haven’t had a lick of snow in the last two weeks so I’m thinking it couldn’t possibly be worth the risk. I wasn’t about to wreck my skis on rocks or possibly impale myself on them. But, to be frank, after a few runs down Razor Back off Sugarloaf the groomers were getting boring; and by about 10 a.m. they were firming up. Venturing off trail had an appeal. The off-piste was soft, stable and sweet to my delighted surprise. It was- dare I say- fluffy? Now at this point I was still hesitant to explore more than a foot from the groomed but then there it was.
I had gotten off Sugarloaf slid across the unloading area and peered over toward Little Dipper. What the heck. I found a notch between the band of rocks on the rim and dropped in. The smile was inescapable. It spread from ear to ear. This is winter skiing.
There were soft gentle bumps in the belly that began to form from the clear days and eager skiers. But they were nothing that would cause you to grit your teeth. The snow spread like butter under my skis and I gleefully made turn after turn all the way to the Razor Back connector. I was hungry for more and ready to take the next chance I got to jump into more ungroomed.
Don’t get me wrong. The main trails weren’t iced over but they were hardpack and I hadn’t quite found my edges yet. Plus, people were bombing all around me. I’m not ready to go that fast. At this point in the season I have no ego. I’m willing to take my time and ease into the winter that seems to be easing into Utah. So avoiding the main flow of traffic never hurts.
Then the back side. We took the rope tow over to Collins, came around the patrol shack and traversed through the back gate. The sun was beating down on the bowl but the shots above Glory Hole were filled with fluffy crud. We skied down to the lower traverse and wound into Greeley Bowl. Granted, that’s a lot off traversing but considering the High-T is littered with scree, this was our best alternative. When I looked below me I saw what is arguably Nirvana for a skier who hasn’t skied all summer- an apron of untracked snow. It had been buffed by the wind so it wasn’t your typical 40-inch Utah blower but it was still soft and I could still make tracks and that was good enough.
We played all the way down until the run funneled into a grove of twigs. Normally, this section is covered and we can just cruise but today we gingerly weaved right and left to avoid getting tangled. In the maze at Sunnyside, I looked at Ryan. Both of us said without using words, “Let’s do it again.” We spent the rest of the day running laps in Greeley; it was just so good. We stopped into Albion for a brief snack and to rest our pre-season quads. Then it was back out for a taste of Ballroom on the front side. Unfortunately, the rocks were more prominent there. It was back to the back side.
All in all it wasn’t a bad day for the middle of December. Of course I’m the first in line to complain about our lack of snow right now but I’m also the first to cheer when we can actually find the sweet spots. Alta delivered; as it always does.