Utah Snowbird, the week that was Jan 21-28, 2017

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Jim Kenney, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. Jim Kenney

    Jim Kenney Travel Correspondent Industry Insider Team Gathermeister

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    Part one of two.

    So I've had a week to reflect on it. I've posted photos at several places on the web, but here is a coherent (hopefully) recap of the best week of powder skiing in my life. To set the story, I flew into SLC at about 4PM on Jan 21, 2017 and flew out about the same time on Jan 28. Snowbird and much of the US West was already enjoying a very snowy ski season. My son, who lives in SLC, told me that after a slow start the Wasatch had received steady doses of snow every week since Thanksgiving. He was skiing the Saturday I arrived at the airport (Jan 21) and reported that from Friday evening into Saturday Snowbird was expecting to receive 5" of snow. Instead they got 27". Talk about an over-producing storm!


    I would ski Snowbird five out of the next seven days and basically it didn't stop snowing until Thursday afternoon. I saw a statistic that Snowbird received 81" of snow from Jan 20 to 27. It was like one foot refills every day for a week. And it was good dry snow with fairly cool temps never surpassing about 15 or 20 degs F on the slopes all week so that even after it got chopped up the snow remained in big 2-3 foot puffs all over the place for days.


    Maybe for those of you who live in western ski towns or commute every weekend to snowy locations a week like this isn't so extraordinary? But I've lived in Virginia my entire ski career - the last 50 consecutive ski seasons. I've perhaps averaged close to 20 ski days per season over the years and maybe have a 1000 ski days lifetime. There have been a bunch of sweet 8-12" powder days. I skied Aspen one time in 1991 when they got 30" of snow in 30 hours. Just last year I skied in 28" of snow over a two day period in West Virginia and an 18" day at Snowbird. But in these instances the snow was either heavier, or the sun came out the next day and fried things, or in the case of WV the terrain wasn't the best for supporting deep powder skiing.


    What I experienced at Snowbird skiing on Jan 22, 24, 25, 26, and 28 was a whole other level. I used a pair of Volkl One skis (186cm x 116mm) borrowed from my son all days except the 28th and I was glad to have them. I flailed in the deep pow and was pretty sore after my first day, Jan 22. Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) was closed on Jan 23 due to avalanche danger and that proved to be a very useful rest day for me. Over the week my stamina and enjoyment factor improved as I adjusted to the altitude and the deep snow conditions. My son and his buddies took me to all kinds of places on the mountain I would never have found on my own or wouldn't have the nerve to try without guidance. With the abundant snowfall many of Snowbird's double black diamond runs were about as user-friendly as they ever get and it was a great opportunity to ski parts of the mountain that might normally be beyond my skill level.


    Here is a photographic tale in about 40 pictures of the week that was. I apologize that I am a bush league photographer. I don't have the gear or skills to do a good job catching the deepest snow that my friends and I skied. Usually I was too busy surviving the conditions to capture photos of the steepest and deepest situations. No doubt, it was a rugged week with low visibility for days at a time and sometimes high winds on the upper mountain. But here is what I've got and it will have to suffice as the record of the best week of powder skiing in my life.


    January 22, 2017


    The dark side with LCC when it receives this much new snow is that road closures are a big issue. We went up at 545am on Sunday Jan 22 ahead of a two hour road closure and killed some time soaking in Cliff Lodge hot tub before lifts open. Tram was on wind hold most/all day.
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    I skied with a friend of my son’s all day and this is him on, I think this is STH area under Gad 2 Chair
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    We skied a lot off Gadzoom and Gad 2 chairs and I think this is in the trees somewhere off Gad 2
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    STH
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    Gad 2
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    We did three runs in the Lower Cirque area, visibility was bad, but the snow was great here
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    A wipeout meant you were up to your neck
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    January 24, 2017


    Awesome day. Possibly the deepest/best snow I've ever skied in a single day. By this point they had more than 5’ since 1/20. It took patience this day. I skied with my son from bell to bell, but only Gadzoom was open early. As the day went on other chairs and the tram came online. Each new opening created a rush to pillage virgin territory. What an experience.


    Waiting for Gadzoom to open, six feet of snow on top of lift terminal
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    These shots are of my son Vince in the trees off Mach Schnell I think.
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    He was on a pair of Volkl Two skis, 186cm x 124mm.
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    Great Scott skied like Big Emma it was so full of snow
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    Lower Down on the Peruvian side
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    PugSki was here
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    and here
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    January 25, 2017


    Another sick day at Snowbird when all the locals take sick from work. My son's buddy in yellow rides a ski on these days that is 141mm underfoot:
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    Surfing on the 141s in Wilbere Bowl
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    They opened Baldy for the first time in several days. I joined the ascending hordes. No friends, no family, no pictures on the descent:snow:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
    newboots and Muleski like this.
  2. Thread Starter
    TS
    Jim Kenney

    Jim Kenney Travel Correspondent Industry Insider Team Gathermeister

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    Part two of two:

    January 26, 2017

    My son and I were up at Snowbird again on Thursday and it was sensational great day. A lot of locals did not venture up since there was only about 3" new snow. The tram was walk-on all day and so much leftovers...2-3' of puffy chop all over the place still. There was a little better visibility this day and it was slightly more photogenic. I finally got to see some of the terrain I’d been skiing the previous three days.


    Random powder shots

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    I did a bunch of tram runs down various aspects of the Cirque with my son until he had to leave around noon. The mountain was tamed a bit by all the snow. They were calling Jaws (in about center of this pic)...Gumsogsmile
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    A highlight was the chute in the center of this pic from the tram called Elevator, it's in the Upper Cirque area.

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    Dropping in Elevator
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    Rock n Roll - Love in an Elevator
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    Geezer in survival mode
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    Unbeknownst to me, the nice guy looking down from above took a video and shared contact info with us next tram ride.
    Sharp Edged Skis


    Sun came out for the first time all week from about 130-230PM. This is STH area under Gad 2 chair. So much snow!
    [​IMG]

    January 28, 2017

    It was a sunny morning on my last day in Utah when I skied a final few hours at Snowbird with my son leading me around the Peruvian Gulch side of the mountain. I took a flight home in the afternoon, but until 1PM we used the Tram and the Peruvian Chair for some great runs. It was a busy Saturday, but the lift lines were very manageable, in fact we walked-on the tram twice. With the bright sun the mountain presented a whole new type of fun.


    Summit of Hidden Peak, 11,000.
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    P-Tex Point:
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    Dalton’s Draw (I think)
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    View of the Cirque area in daylight from a chute in lower Baldy above Chips Run
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    It was great to have a home-grown mountain guide.
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    Playing follow the leader down Great Scott near the summit of Hidden Peak. This was my last run of a fantastic and snowy week I'll never forget. Vince is an instructor in the Snowbird Mountain School and leads a recurring Expedition Team program for advanced level teenagers every Sunday.
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    At night I count ski things the way some folks count sheep. I've skied mostly in the mid-Atlantic over the last 50 consecutive seasons, but have also skied quite a bit in New England and out West. I believe I have the equivalent of approximately 22 weeks life time spent skiing in the US west since my first western ski trip in 1976. This late January 2017 trip to Snowbird featured the deepest and best snow of them all. Late in the week an older local man told me that Saturday, Jan 21 was a contender for the best single powder day in his 50 years of skiing Utah.

    I skied six out of seven days out there (went for a solo day to Park City on Jan 27). I was real sore (back, legs, shoulder) after the first day at altitude flailing in deep powder while contending with low visibility conditions on borrowed 116mm skis. I was eating Motrin all week like potato chips. On the second day when the LCC was closed all day due to avi danger we thought about skiing elsewhere, but my son decided to go to work and I rested and did laundry at his place. I had planned one rest day in the middle of the trip and just moved it to the second day. It was a VERY helpful rest day. My son and tons of Snowbird regulars can ski double blacks all day in rapid succession. I can't and never could. One survival tactic I adopted was skiing with him or his buddies for only 3-5 hours, and then putzing around on groomers by myself. I am going back out there later this season and hope to meet up with some age-appropriate buddies to set a less insane pace. It was an intense week, but I guess you have the rest of your life to catch your breath when Utah immerses you in a most righteous powder baptism;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
    BobMc, Phelmut, nay and 4 others like this.
  3. tromano

    tromano Goin' the way they're pointed... Skier

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    Awesome tr. I was able to get way from work durring the end of that storm cycle. That Tuesday was like top 5 best pow days and for sure the deepest I have had at snowbasin. A-maze-ing.
     
  4. Thread Starter
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    Jim Kenney

    Jim Kenney Travel Correspondent Industry Insider Team Gathermeister

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    Tim, I should have thought to see if you might be hitting the Bird that week, but in a situation like that it's sort of everyman/woman for themselves. Some crazy avalanche stuff was going off in various Wasatch locations and affecting more than one ski area access road.
     
  5. newboots

    newboots Atop Killington Peak Skier

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    Stunning!
     


  6. Tony S

    Tony S aka qcanoe Skier

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    Wow, Jim. Good for you!
     
  7. nay

    nay dirt heel pusher Skier

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    Awesome report and thanks for sharing!
     
  8. Thread Starter
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    Jim Kenney

    Jim Kenney Travel Correspondent Industry Insider Team Gathermeister

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    Tony, weren't you out there a week before me catching something similar?
    Nay, conditions in CO are also excellent correct? I'll be in CO last week of Feb.
     
  9. fatbob

    fatbob Making fresh tracks Skier

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    Brilliant. Bet Vince isn't regretting moving to SLC, nor are you that he's moved there. That's some tidy skiing of yours in the video clip.
     

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