Monday, January 12, 2009

Ski Weekend: Trip Reports

The weekend was filled with good times skiing and has left me back to work this Monday with sore legs wishing I was still out in the snow. The avalanche danger in the Wasatch range recently came down to a tolerable level, inviting backcountry skiiers to enjoy all the new fallen snow. This would be my first foray into alpine touring this season and only my third trip to the backcountry. I was a bit nervous given my backcountry skiing abilities and my lack of experience in touring. Though nervous, I was also excited to gain experience and learn a few things to make my touring days better.


Chet and I made plans to meet at the park n ride at 8:00 to catch the first bus up Little Cottonwood Canyon. We were at the Alta church by 8:45 to begin the skin to the top of Flagstaff. I have little experience in ascending a skin track leaving me lots of room for improvement. The first ascension went well with no flailing and no problems making direction changes on the traverse.

Shot of Chet enjoying the view and nice weather

The first run was down a North-Northwest facing slope at the top of Days fork. Snow was a little heavier then expected by spoiled Wasatch skiiers but still very fun. The picture below shows our line, we began just to lookers right of the protruding rock on the ridge.

We made our way to the flats out of the avalanche run-out zone to begin preparing for the second ascension. So slow taking that thing apart.

After getting skins on we made our way to the top of days fork for another run. Immediately after hitting the skin track, I was feeling worked. My legs were burning and I knew we still had a lot of work ahead. My flailing began 300 yards uphill on a very small but steep section of the skin track. Following some grumbling and Chet passing by me, I was back on track and making good progress. Things went smoothly til I reached a point 300' from the summit. The skin track was damn steep with me losing a feet of elevation for every two feet gained. My efficiency level was way down and there were others quickly approaching from behind. As I struggled to keep my footing and meet Chet at the top, the lady behind me was giving pointers. Not something I usually welcome but her suggestion to use my highest riser setting ended my struggle with me beating her to the ridge.

Chet and I traversed the ridge down canyon, ending up at a great area with lots of vertical to the bottom of Days Fork. Our next line was down a North-Northeast facing slope with lighter snow. The sun shining brightly allowed me another learning opportunity in the backcountry. Upon pulling my skins off, I left my skis base up on the snow while preparing myself for the downhill. After clicking into my bindings, I made my way to the top of the line we discussed and immeditely double checked to see if I had taken my skins off. My skis were so slow in the snow leaving me to think I needed to put a coat of wax on since I had confirmed that my skins were indeed off. After Chet ripped a line down the slope and was in a safe area for me to ski the slope, I dropped in. Again, It felt as is I was skiing with my skins on requiring all my strength to stay on top of my skis and not my face. After whining to Chet about my skis and the need for wax, he suggested I scrape the bases. Ahh, they were mcuked up with frozen snow and ice after having melted water from sun exposure followed by sitting on the snow. The rest of our descent was great, bottomless light powder with no tracks to dodge.

After reaching the bottom of Days fork, we discussed making another skin up for one more run but I didn't know how much more power my legs had. Chet let me off the hook and led the way to Spruces campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon for the bus pickup. Timing was excellent with the bus arriving 5 minutes after we made it to the bus stop. Thanks to our timing, we were back at the parking lot by 1:15. Great weather, good snow and a patient touring partner made for an excellent day of learning and turning. Thanks to Sarah who did her part by sending "the best" homemade M&M cookies to energize Chet and I throughout the day.


I awoke Sunday to Sean asking when we would be headed out to ski. Keep in mind that this was 7:30 in the morning and literally the first words he spoke. Needless the say, he was excited for a day of skiing. After Sean and I arrived to a full parking lot at Alta, some creative parking sign modification shortened our potentially long walk. We got Sean's skis, boots and helmet rented and were off to stash our lunch in a locker. We made our way down to the rope tow and proceeded to ride the tow 7 time before Sean asked if we could go eat lunch. During our second run up the tow rope, Sean asked if he could ride it by himself. I didn't think he had the strength but allowed him a go at it the next time around. With a little help from me, getting the tow rope handle in his hands, he was riding up by himself. Though I couldn't see his face, I can only imagine his smile was a mile wide.

We headed into the lodge, grabbed our lunch and proceeded to find an empty spot in the crowded lunch room. Our home packed lunch contained my lunchtime staple, PB&J, along with a banana, almonds, a granola bar and lots of water. Sean made my day while chewing away with a mouthful of bread and said "Dad, this is a great day". I could only agree as my heart melted and all the work of getting him on skis became worth the effort. Lunch with Sean didn't last long, he was asking to go back outside to ski immediately after finishing his half of the granola bar.

Gotta eat fast, those fresh powder lines don't last long.

We returned to the tow rope and made 6 more rides up the tow with Sean only taking one face plant. Every time we arrived at the top of the rope tow, we would pause and look down the hill. Sean would playfully say "What are we gonna do now"? I played along telling him I didn't know. Sean would immediately yell out "were gonna ski" and turn his skis downhill. After another break in the lodge and another session with 4 rides on the rope tow, we were both worn down and ready to head home. Sean was exhausted by his skiing adventure and fell asleep in the car 5 minutes after we left Alta. Though the weather was nasty with light snow and wind, Sean never complained about being cold.

Sean still has lots of learning to do when it comes to skiing but his attitude will help him become a great skier in no time. I thoroughly enjoyed our day together and cannot wait til we have the opportunity to ski the whole mountain together.

1 comment:

chet's amazing log said...

great tour!looked at map looked like first climb started at 8800' ended at 10300' skied down to 9300 back up to 10300'
ended at spruces 7300' total of 2500' vert climbing
about 4000'vert decending thank uta for the 1500 diff