Saturday, December 28, 2013

White Pine Canyon 12-27-2013

Monte Cristo and 'Directmissimo' couloir, from the White Pine Trail. 
 Went ski-touring with Brett in White Pine Canyon today.  The Wasatch currently has a thin (generaly less than 45 inches), rotting snow pack, which is bad for skis, knees and avalanches, so we skied mellow (low angle) lines all day. We skied a run on lower Red Baldy, then skinned over to White Pine Lake and skied the open slopes below the lake. The NE and NW aspects had a thin sun-crust but the direct N aspects had nice, settled powder and the sunny slopes, once melted a bit, offered fun, creamy turns.  A beautiful, sunny day, warm in the sun but cold in the shade. It was one of those days when you build up a sweat skinning in the sun then freeze when back in the shade. There were not a lot of people up there, surprising considering it was the Christmas Holiday and it was in Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is a crowded place, winter or summer. I am spoiled to ski in Davis County which has few back country skiers. Maybe Davis County skiers just head to the Tri-Canyons (LCC, BCC, Millcreek) because they don't like the long, brushy approaches? I'll take those nasty approaches to avoid the crowd. Today was a great day in the mountains.      
Dromedary Peak and upper Tanners Gulch from the White Pine trail.

Maybe 36 inches total snow at the run-out of the Tri-Chutes (9,500 feet or so). Wish winter  would act like winter and start DUMPING!

The Tri-Chutes on the NW flanks of Red Top.

Lake Peak and its Chute, above (w) of White Pine Lake (the dam is visible directly below the chute). 

Skin track heading up 'Rock & Roll', a ski run on the NW face of Red Baldy, upper White Pine Canyon. 

Skin track from the POV of my Garmont Radium's. The sun is just above 'West Pass', upper White Pine, which leads one south, over to Silver Creek in American Fork Canyon. 

Lake Peak and Chute, above White Pine Lake, and Dr. Seuss trees.

Brett, contemplating his next huck , above White Pine Lake.

'Mr. Huckage', Lake Peak above and White Lake lower right.

Our ski tracks (below the big rock) on lower 'Rock & Roll' (NW apron on Red Baldy). Don't know who the skiers on the skin track are, but they spooned our tracks, which was aggravating because there is TONS of room up there and I like my elbow room. Apparently they think a crowd makes it safe avalanche wise? If it didn't slide on us then they were also safe? Who knows what they were thinking, just wish they'd keep their distance. I don't resort ski for a reason.   

Red Top Mountain with the Tri-Chutes just visible behind the spindly trees in the center of the photo. Just over the ridge is Snowbird's Gad Valley.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

BC Ski - Flagstaff Peak from Alta, December 13, 2013

Toledo Bowl from Flagstaff's shoulder. Cardiac Bowl is just beyond (west), hidden in the clouds. Alta's long range plan calls for a lift that would pass directly over my approach route up Flagstaff's shoulder. If so, Toledo Bowl will be either a mogul field for experts or a groomer to appeal to the general public. In any case, with a lift carrying skiers to the edge of Days, Silver and Cardiff Forks, the Central Wasatch "back country" will be nearly extinct. If you thought it was crowded now, just wait, you're going to see Skyline High pep rallys Main Days or Cardiac Bowl. 
Flagstaff Peak from Alta – December 13, 2013

There is no bad snow or bad skis, just bad skiers. Today I really could have used my fat skis to handle to harsh sun crusts, so I must be a pretty damn bad skier. Every ski season has a few dogs, some days are tough and no fun. Today was one of those days. Conditions were painful and it left me asking, "why do I do this"? Fortunately, the great days, those days when the skinning is effortless and the skiing is like flights through heaven, cancel out the bad memories and make you long for more. I need one of those days right now.

Statistically speaking, the law of averages dictates 2 rotten ski days for every 30 good ski days, and since I’m a glass-half-full sort of guy, it’s comforting to know that I have only one more dog day to endure for the 2013-14 ski season.

So what was wrong with the day? First, what the hell is it with Wasatch B.C. skiers setting a skin track at an ungodly angle? Yeah, I have no business whining when I didn’t break trail after the last snow, but that skinner up Flagstaff was so steep I doubt my skins would’ve found purchase if I was the first guy up. The skin tracks out of Alta are obviously one-time use only, after a bit of traffic and some sun, they are as hard as the sidewalk in front of my house, and very few skins will grip, especially if any edge if exposed. At least my neighbors don’t urinate in the middle of my sidewalk like Wasatch skiers do. Yellow snow aside, given the hellish angle and the icy conditions, the only way I would NOT slip backwards is to use shag carpet for skins. Come to think of it, maybe I could score some cash by selling carpet remnants as skins? I’d call them ‘Wasatch Hippie Fur’, maybe just ‘Wasatch Fur’?

Second, the snow, the skimpy 24 inch coverage we have, just plain sucked. Thursday’s bright, sunny weather inflicted a deep melt, then Thursday night’s near zero temps made the south aspects a landscape of plywood over sand. Worse, Friday’s overcast sky meant no sun to soften that crust. And it was one tough crust of two or three inches of punchy, hard snow, which translated to one ski atop and the other breaking though to rock and shrubs. I’ll admit, my turns today were almost as bad as any in my career, maybe as bad as 1972 when learning to ski on the moguls of Bob’s Bowl at Solitude, on my woody, J.C. Penny specials and leather lace-up boots.

My day went like this: I started late and was rushing daylight, but I skinned up Flagstaff anyway, half on the established track, half my own, aiming to ski upper Days Fork and Silver Fork, then descend under headlamp back the way I came to my truck at Alta. The higher I climbed to more disillusioned I became, so when I finally topped out on Flagstaff, and was met with a storm front, complete with strong wind and blizzard conditions, with only an hour of day light remaining, I had no heart to continue, knowing it was going to be ugly descending that crappy snow in the dark. Yes, the snow on the northerly aspects of upper Days was very creamy and would’ve made great turning, but I was seriously concerned about blowing an ACL, or face planting on those razors crystals, or ripping my new, fashionista-B.D. pants. I even debated removing the skis and booting down, the only thing prohibiting that pussy action was thinking half the guests at Gold Miner’s Daughter were watching through binoculars - and laughing. In hind sight they were probably in hysterics anyway as they watched my pathetic turns, but I made it down in one piece, tail between my legs, but encouraged knowing I now have only one more dog day to endure for 2013-14.  Like I said, there is no bad snow or bad skis, just bad skiers. Seems I’ve been fighting that for forty years.

Flagstaff peak and upper Days Fork (r).

Snowbird from Flagstaff.

View NE towards the Days-Silver Fork divide. The forested ramp (starting on the left, mid picture) offers easy access to Silver Fork after skiing laps in upper Days. 

Upper Days Fork. Fun skiing in the glades. Main Days it just over the ridge running down, left to right.

Upper Days Fork meadows.

Dead tree above Snowbird's base.
A few snow flakes to hike the rocks.