Sunday, February 14, 2016

Burro Mine Table Scraps, February 12, 2016. Bountiful is down there somewhere.

Shadows and surface hoar on K's Pot Farm.

Burro Mine Table Scraps, February 12, 2016
Monday, 2/8/16, scoping the Burro Mine area of Bountiful Ridge with binoculars, I see that about a third of the visible terrain (half is hidden by ridge-lets) has been skied, presumably, by Wasatch Powderbird Guides, the local helicopter ski guides. I say 'presumably’ because very few folks are game enough to hike that far for short (1000 ft. vert.), brushy runs, and I could see 20-30 ski tracks. No way did the Bountiful 32nd Ward Boy Scouts hike that far.  

The plan was to ski Burro Mine later in the week (if I can get off work). To avoid disappoint (mine), and resentment of folks I've never met, I try to get some beta out of Powderbirds. I call them Monday evening and ask if they are planning any more flights this week to the Burro Mine. I don’t want to hike all that way if it'll be skied out. Mind you, in their blog Powderbirds describes everything in Davis County as “the Sessions,” which is a total misnomer because Sessions is just one Mountain out of thousands.  It’s a total generalization and a discredit of their attempt to “communication” with back country skiers. It’s like telling your wife you’re going to the market to buy milk and eggs when you’re actually headed to Wendover for a night of gambling and whoring.

A guide answers my call and tells me he doesn’t know where they’ll fly, but they will fly anywhere they can to find cold snow (we’re currently under high pressure and warm temps). I ask them why they aren’t more specific in their blog and tell them that “Sessions” is just bad information because the Burro Mine is actually across a major canyon from the real Sessions Mountain. He replies that “Sessions” is as specific as they can get in describing their flight plans.

Tuesday, 2/9/16, I scope the Burro Mine again and see that Powderbirds has tracked out another third of the area, leaving the last third and worst third still open (worst because its brushy and sun exposed). But I'm still game so Tuesday evening I call Powderbirds, again, and ask them, again, are you going to ski the Burro Mine area again this week? This time the “girl” won’t connect me to an actual guide but repeats the line I was told yesterday, “we’ll ski where we can find any cold snow.”

The rest of the week I work late and it's dark before I can scope the Burro.

Friday, 2/12/16, I actually get a day off work and start early (10AM is early for me) for the Burro Mine. The valley is cold and totally socked in with fog, but less than half mile from the trail head I break out of the fog to clear, blue skies and sunshine. A brilliant, beautiful day in the mountains. It’s a long way in to the Burro Mine area of Bountiful Ridge, about six miles from the trail head, and, because the skiing is on the opposite side of the mountain which you are ascending, you can’t see ANY of the ski runs until you are literally standing at the top. Can you see my dilemma? One must hike for several hours not knowing if Powderbirds has tracked the place to hell. Worse, the weather has been hot which has further ‘manked’ the possibilities.  

But it’s a beautiful day and I’m committed to ski the Burro. Surprisingly, North Canyon and Kara’s Pot Farm still hold dry, re-crystallized snow so I’m hopeful I’ll find good skiing and not re-frozen, trippy sun-crusts. Above Rudy’s Flat, I follow John’s skinner from last week and it’s so steep and so refrozen that I was kicking myself for not bringing my crampons. The steep head wall climb would have been much easier with crampons. I HATE when the skins lose purchase and my edges skate. Plus, John is all business when it comes to maximizing his return on skin track investment. The steeper the better to to access the goods. At least that is the implied theory, based on the angle.

Once on the ridge, the Burro Mine area is just a hop-skip-jump from the top of Rectangle Peak, my usual choice for lapping Pow (who the hell talks like that?) and I’m excited to ski the Big Drops, the names I’ve given to the lines in the amphitheater above the Burro Mine (Big Drops 1 through 13 working south to north towards Grand View Peak from Bountiful Ridge). The first run encountered, on the south end of the bowl, is Big Drop 1, and that is my first choice for the day, assuming Powderbirds didn’t take it. It is steep and narrow through the trees, and I assume that Powderbirds will leave it alone because it’s just too narrow for a group of eight (or more) skiers. I assume Powderbirds can’t justify an expensive helicopter ride for rich clients to such meager offerings, or else they may get some flak from said rich clients.

But when I top out on Big Drop 1, after more than two hours of skinning, I’m horrified at the site: urine tracks all over the ridge, a landing-zone wind marker and, worst, moguls down the gut of Big Drop 1! Holy Hell! How many skiers did they fly up here? The place is tracked out like Big Emma at Snowbird!

I re-group, count to three, take a deep breath and hike a bit further to the top of Big Drop 2. Thanks Heavenly Father, it is not tacked out. Any paying client would be nuts to settle for Big Drop 2. It’s a steep tree shot and looks mostly unskiable from the top, but once through the first trees it opens, revealing a beautiful, gladed pitch on a direct north aspect. So that was my first run. The snow was perfect, cold re-crystallized powder and I felt like a hero. About 600 vertical feet down I came upon the Powderbirds landing zone for pickup. Really? Those fat client pay $1200++ for 600 vert ski runs? Stupid or what?
But who am I to talk, I just hiked up here. To my credit I didn’t settle for a mere 600 feet, I skied down to the bottom of the drainage, another 900 vertical, total ski run of about 1,500 vert. The problem was I was now on the wrong side of the mountain and had to re-ascend my run to get back home. I didn’t mind though. I love skiing the Burro Mine. It is a watered down, poor-man’s Alaska in the sense that it seems remote and otherworldly, yet so close to the Wasatch Front. Despite Powderbirds activity this week, it is still rarely visited, especially in the winter. I feel a thousand miles from humanity when I’m back there. A perfect antidote to an unfriendly, pushy world. When skiing back there I can actually hear my own thoughts and dump the negative voices I hear continually in the real world.   


Moose bed and morning purge. Lots of signs of moose toady, but I never saw it/them.

Rudy's Flat under 99cm (39 inches) of snow.

Someone dug a snow pit last week. Good idea, but I sometimes question why? A pit provides one tiny snapshot out of a huge universe of data. Does your pit really represent what you'll ski? With the "Christmas Ribbon" profile of Bountiful Ridge, with its constantly changing aspects (NE-NW-SW-WW), one snowpit can reveal entirely different results than another just 100 feet away, which could give a false-positive (true-negative?) for the slope 100 yards distant. Plus, I've seen many folks dig pits only to ignore the data and ski whatever the hell they want to anyway. They have a clear agenda from the outset and won't bend even if the data suggests otherwise. Me? I put more weight in the big picture: listen to the snow, listen for collapsing, watch for cracking, watch the drifts, look for natural slides, then be brave enough to say NO if conditions are wrong.      

Mid Rectangle Bowl under 135cm (53 inches).

Holy crap that's a steep skinner! (Steeper than the photo suggests.)

Coyote poached the skin track.

SLC under fog, Oquirhs to the west.

View down City Creek Canyon.

From Rectangle Peak, Black's Peak is the pointy open peak. Big Drops 1 and 2 (ski runs) are on the tree-lined ridge just to the right, recessed back a bit, which is just above the Burro Mine. The ski runs drop down the opposite side of the ridge about 1200 feet, so anything skied must be re-ascended to get back home.

Wastach Powderbird Guides landing zone marker at the top of Big Drop 1. Damn! Hoping it would be untracked!

Peak Number 7 and Big Drop 12, tracked out by Powderbirds. Grand View Peak is barely seen on the right.

View down Big Drop 1. Would you pay $1200 per day to ski this?
At the top of Big Drop 2, over looking the Burro Mine area with Peak Number 7 and all the Big Drops (ski runs) .

Skinning back up from a 1200 foot run down Big Drop 2, looking towards Peak Number 7. The real Sessions Mountain is in the sun on the left, across the canyon from the Burro Mine area of Bountiful Ridge.

Almost back to the top for more skiing down Crescent Bowl.

Crescent Peak, and my skin track from mny ascent earlier in the day.

Bountiful is down there somwhere.

Antelope Island.

Powderbird's LZ marker at the top of Big Drop 1.


Midway up from the bottom of Howard Hollow.

Sessions Mountain from mid-Howard Hollow.

Antelope Island, like a battleship on a white, Sargasso sea.


  1. Nice day. I was working, you should have called...

    1. Sorry Brett, I should've called. I've been working late hours and Friday morning I was so tired I slept until about 9 and didn't start skinning until after 10, and didn't think you'd want to waste PTO while I lazed half the day. I'll call next time for sure.

    2. First off, my comment was lame - so no apology required. If I can, I will ditch work at a moments notice - that said, next time you call I will probably be trapped at work - life is not fair...

      As for competing for tracks with Powder Birds, things are getting busy everywhere. (Crazy to think people would spend money on a helicopter for the short shots of the Wasatch) BC skiing is being heavily marketed. We benefit from better gear and opportunities to ski the world. We suffer from crowding. New people learn about a spot because their friend takes them there, then they take their friends, then... I was on the Cutler Ridge trail when another skier commented about the up tick in traffic in the area. He was right, the last 10 years has seen a steady increase - even more the last 5 years - in traffic on Cutler. "Back in the day" you were always breaking trail, now you never have to - "Back in the day" is the new reality, seems everyone has been skiing the secret stashes forever and now everyone else is invading. Few of us can actually make a legitimate "Back in the day" claim. With so many people living so close to the skiing, it is only going to get worse. You know things are crazy when your old dental hygienist is hitting the BC with her daughter... So here is to the good old days when we got fist tracks, last tracks and only tracks in that secret powder stash.