Asst. Gathermeister-- Jackson Hole 2020
- Northern Virginia, USA
A view of the valley from Snowbasin
"I'm looking forward to next year in Utah already!"
-- Me, in last year's Whistler Gathering trip report
That quote summed up my report last year, and this year's Gathering had a lot to live up to --------- and it did. This year it was at three different resorts due to the "free" days available on the MCP - 2 days each at Snowbasin, Alta, and Snowbird. I tend to really enjoy trying out new places to ski, and had never been to Utah to ski, so everything was new and fun.
I skied all 6 days of the Gathering (Sunday through Friday), and put in more vertical than I ever have before in that many days. We had quite a variety of conditions - but none of them bad. The lodging and food were good, the fellow gatherers were great, and the skiing was fantastic.
Snowbasin - March 3rd and 4th
The first two days of the Gathering were at Snowbasin. On Sunday morning, Snowbasin reported 5" of snow, so I expected some nice conditions. As it turned out, it was more than nice, with nothing groomed since the snow fell, and some runs being much, much deeper than 5".
At Snowbasin, the Gathering group had a rental room in the lodge to use for booting up, bag storage, lunch, and apres. It was really nice to have, and worked out great as a way to get everyone introduced and into the Gathering.
Our room - the Huntington Room at Snowbasin
@Philpug and @Tricia addressing the Gatherers
After booting up and meeting a bunch of folks, we organized into some groups and headed out. I was in an intermediate group that @jgiddyup graciously volunteered to lead. With the new snow, the gondola line was long... so we bypassed it to head up the Wildcat lift via Little Cat.
The first run we took was mostly a cat track to the green Bear Hollow back to the lift. Even the cat track had a few inches of snow on it - the first sign that there was more out there than we realized. The next couple of runs we did down some of the blues - Herbert's and Wildcat Bowl I think - and found 8" or so in most places... more where it seemed to have blown into some of the bowl areas.
Non-pugskier in Wildcat Bowl area
@MegKan (Meg), Tommy, and Me on Wildcat
View down Bear Hollow
@aveski (Averum), Meg, and Tommy on Bear Hollow
I hadn't skied anything like this since Whistler last year, and it took a while to get a feel for it again. I'd say for most of the morning it was a very fun learning experience. By lunch, I think everyone was getting the hang of it. After the Wildcat area, we took the Gondola up to ski some of the upper mountain. Dan's Run is usually groomed, had a nice layer of snow, and was wonderfully soft and smooth. And again a bit deep in places.
@bigguyski (Kent) finding some deep stuff on Dan's Run. Given his height, that's got to be 16" or so
@jgiddyup (Jim) leading the way (nearest, in red)
Tommy, Kent, and Averum
Wide open fresh snow
Later in the day, the group decided to try some more of the upper mountain, and checked out the Porcupine lift area. This turned out to be the deepest, and best runs of the day, and we lapped it a couple of times. The main run (Porky's Face) was pretty chopped up by this time, though the snow was really soft. But just off to the skier's right were some barely skied areas that were shin deep or maybe a bit more. Really nice stuff now that I was getting more of the hang of it - just a little brush and trees to avoid. The sloooowwww lift and windy conditions were a bit painful, but the trip was worth it.
Porky's face area... lookers left of the snow guns (through the light trees/brush) was terrific
Kent coming through the lower Porcupine area
After those runs we made our way to a final couple on the lower mountain. I was very tired, but the sun was coming out, and it was a fantastic first day.
Sun cutting through the gloom on the far mountains near the end of the day
The second day at Snowbasin was a lot like the first, though with less fresh snow. We spent a lot of the day skiing cut-up powder or, if you prefer, soft crud. I felt a lot more confident in it the second day. The morning was mostly the Gondola, Middle Bowl, and Porcupine where it was still not skied out as much as I would have expected. Dan's Run had actually been groomed and was just a terrific groomer with lots of piles and deeper stuff off to the sides.
I had a good yard sale playing around in some little bumps/jumps somewhere in Middle Bowl... left both skis behind me when I landed on a bump. Thankfully it was a landing into some soft snow.
Jim leading down Dan's Run
Visibility was a little tough at the top, but you dropped below it pretty quickly
Better vis lower down in Porcupine
After lunch, some folks (like me) really wanted to get into the Strawberry area. We had avoided it the first day as there were low-vis warning signs up all the previous day. They were still up this day, but things looked better so we headed over. It was a great choice and some of my favorite runs. The Strawberry area is long, with a good amount of variety. Different faces, open bowls, groomers, gullies, etc. It was a lot of fun, and I'd love to go back and ski a lot more of it. It was easy, too, with no gondola lines, and plenty of wide open runs with hardly anyone on them. I didn't even think to take more pictures of the actual runs! We finished out the day there with a couple of top to bottom runs, then one final run down to base, and Snowbasin was done with.
(On this day, Jim had to leave us to help tend to @Uncle Louie who was thankfully not injured worse. It was quite nice to see everyone's concern and support for a fellow PugSkier. Thank you again to Jim for taking the time to show some of us around a bit, and to take care of Uncle Louie. Heal up fast and get well soon Uncle Louie! I never did get to ski with you... we'll have to do it next year.)
@RMc_PA, Kent, Averum, and Phil negotiating the long Gondola line in Strawberry
@MattSmith coming down Main Street from the short hike at the top
View of the Needles Peak (I think) still in clouds at the end of the day
Sun in the valley again late in the day
Alta - March 6th and 8th
Since both Alta and Snowbird had 2 days on the MCP, the Gathering alternated days there - Tuesday and Thursday at Alta, and Wednesday and Friday at Snowbird.
The weather changed over to bluebird conditions on Tuesday, and Matt Smith, his cousin Ross, and I made the move to Alta and to stay at the Goldminer's Daughter (the GMD). The drive up the canyon had me excited by the views. And Alta and Snowbird had gotten quite a bit more snow out of the last storm than Snowbasin had - so we expected pretty nice conditions.
Since Alta wouldn't pre-send a pass like Snowbasin, I had to get my MCP in the morning. Luckily I got in just before about 15 more PugSkiers showed up, so I didn't have to wait in line too long.
My group started at the Albion base, in order to head up to the Supreme lift area. That meant taking the rope tow from the Wildcat base where the GMD is - which I would not recommend. It's very long, and my forearms were burning by the end from gripping the rope. Better to take the Collins lift from the Wildcat base and ski down to Supreme.
The rope tow from the Wildcat base to the Albion base
Line up before the lifts start at Alta. (Lift start is, somewhat oddly, 9:15)
First view of Devil's Castle, heading up the Supreme lift, over beautiful corduroy
We spent the morning doing the groomers and some bumps off of Supreme and Sugarloaf. They were in fantastic shape and it was easy to lap both and get some nice runs in.
View near the top of Supreme... some great steep groomed shots drop off this cat track
The Giddyups! @jgiddyup (Jim) and @mgiddyup (Michel) on the Supreme lift
A view of the bowl between Collins and Sugarloaf, with Mount Baldy on the left
@johnnyvw (John), @Weegie McAdams (Weegie) behind him, Kent, Jim, Michel, and @DanoT (Dano)
Me, Weegie, Dano, and Jim on the lift
View up a line above the cat track back to Collins area
The Ballroom - I didn't ski it, but should have. Something to do next time!
View of the GMD from up on the hill
After lunch, some of us (Kent, me, Averum, and @tch (Tom)) decided to do the short hike, and take the traverse out, into the Catherine's area. We traversed quite far out, to the Sunset run area where we found a nice snow field. After skiing there and moving skier's left, we got in a bit of a tough spot and had to negotiate some little chutes and cliffs. Kent had a fall after hitting a stump, and lost a ski above him. And Tom climbed up quite a ways to help him get it. BIG thank you to Tom for getting us out of that without anyone having to ski back around or anything. After that, we stuck to the more heavily traveled areas, and had a nice ski out of the area. I'd like to go back at some point... maybe with someone who knows the area better.
Tom in Catherine's at about the Sunset area on the trail map
View down the Catherine's area with nice soft snow
Tom and Averum waiting for Kent to come down. Unfortunately, a stump under that little cliff at the top delayed him.
The rest of the day was more cruising around the groomers and soft and/or easy bumps. I skied Extrovert, which was only the second western black bump run I've ever done. Of course, I fell when someone yelled some encouragement at me from the lift. (Phil? Was that you? ) It's getting to be more fun and a bit less work, and this week did a lot to make that happen. Nothing like skiing 6 straight days in good conditions to improve.
View of the Devil's Castle area
You never know which other groups you'll run into at the Gathering. Tom, @RMc_PA, @MattSmith, and @JohnL
Kent, Tommy, @gski (Garrett), and @Dean in the Supreme area
View of the top of the Sugarloaf chair
Weegie and Kent in the Supreme area
Apres at the GMD! @JohnL, @David Chaus, @Phelmut, @Philpug, @Gary Stolt, Kent, and Garrett, among many others
Goggle sort-of selfie... @Pumba and Kent on the left
The second day at Alta was Thursday, and we had another gorgeous day! We spent a lot of the day on the groomers and looking for nice snow. The afternoon focused more on the Wildcat lift area, including the steep groomed Collins face, and nearby Bear Paw bumps. All-in-all, a great couple of days at Alta.
Me, Weegie, Kent, and Dan (who needs an account here!)
Devil's Castle on the second Alta day
Snowbird - March 7th and 9th
Given it's reputation and marketing (all those 1-star reviews!) - and my lack of experience with steeps and/or trees - I was curious about what I'd think of Snowbird. So on Wednesday we headed there to find out. We took a shuttle from the GMD, and got to the Tram plaza in plenty of time to get our MCP passes, and be ready to get in line for the first tram.
I'd never ridden a tram before, and frankly, didn't like it. Mostly because they pack it in so much. Even later in the day when I rode it, it was completely full and a bit sardine can-ish. I suppose given the vert and speed, it's not too bad. But I'd prefer an equivalent gondola, or even a chair as long as the weather wasn't nasty.
PugSkiers in line for tickets - including Madeline and @tromano nearest to the camera
@Jim Kenney volunteered to show folks around the first Snowbird day. We started off the top of the tram by heading down into Mineral Basin and doing quite a few laps on the Baldy and Mineral Basin lifts. Baldy has a lot of gentle but fun terrain, and Mineral Basin lift serves some steep rolling wide-open groomers with some other little bump and crud shots. The snow on this day was starting to firm up, but was still pretty nice off the groomers.
View from the top
Twin Peaks view from the top
Morning groomers in the Baldy area
Panorama of the Baldy Ridge from the Baldy Chair
View from the top of the Baldy Chair
Our fearless guide, Jim Kenney
Before lunch we left Mineral Basin and headed down to the Gadzoom/Gad2 area for a run, before taking the tram back up for lunch. One thing I'd learned about Snowbird at this point was they have nice groomers, and some of the steeper ones I've been on. Lots of fun!
Coming down Mark Malu Fork
Dan in the Gadzoom area
Panorama off the tram balcony
View of Baldy and the top of the Peruvian lift
Incoming tram at the top
Incoming tram at the top
After lunch, a group decided that they wanted to do the tunnel back to Mineral Basin. The plan was to take Chip's run down to the base of the Peruvian lift, and then ride it up to the tunnel. Just for the novelty of it. Chip's run is way too much cat track and not enough run; I'd suggest looking for other ways down if you're looking for easier terrain on the Peruvian side. But we took the chair, and the tunnel, and spent the rest of the afternoon in Mineral Basin.
At the end of the day, those of us that were staying in the GMD were able to ski down through Alta to get back and avoid taking a shuttle. (On the MCP passes this year, they aren't Alta-Bird passes, just individual Alta or Snowbird passes, so you can't freely ski both the same day.) Turns out you just have to stop by the little booth near the top of the Baldy lift and give them your name and room number. So I headed back to Alta with Ross and Matt, who I was rooming with. We happened across some folks I was happy to meet for the first time there as well - @Drahtguy Kevin, @Chris Geib, and @Ron. Maybe next time we'll get to ski a bit together too!
The tunnel entrance
Lucia and Kent ahead of me on the magic carpet in the tunnel... the tunnel had all kinds of displays, most of which I didn't pay attention to
@MattSmith and @RMc_PA on Baldy near the end of the day
Panorama of Baldy Ridge
The second day at Snowbird was Friday, the last official Gathering day. The goal was to explore more of the mountain and spend some time in the Gadzoom and Gad2 chairs. We again started with the tram, but this time went straight out the traverse to the front side, rather than Mineral Basin.
The runs in the area were in nice shape, though definitely firm. Some of the folks I was skiing with (Dan, @Poolskier Vinny, @cmackvt (Chet), Chet's son - sorry I don't remember your name, @Danny, @Dean) found some nice runs in the trees and some OK bumps too. We also did a couple of runs down Regulator Johnson... impressively steep, long, hardpack groomer that was a lot of fun. (I think people in Utah might have called it icy... but I thought it was fine.) We did a lot of laps overall, then broke for lunch.
Another view of the Twin Peaks - the cat track on the left leads to Mark Malu Fork, a steep groomer hard to see in the center of the photo
Vinny in the foreground, with others in the background, coming down Mark Malu Fork
Vinny skiing some nice bumps
Son of Chet, Danny, and Dan in the bumps
Dean near the Gad2 lift base
Son of Chet, Chet, and Danny at the Gad2 chair
After lunch some of us wanted to check out what we hoped would be a sun-softened Mineral Basin. So we headed back to the tram via Big Emma and the Wibere lift. Mineral Basin was in pretty nice shape... bumps or well skied areas were nice, but the cruddy areas were pretty rough. We skied a few runs there and had the sunlight go away and everything get very flat. The last run was terrible, without any definition to the runs and a bit of skiing by braille to find the bumps.
We skied down the front then to the creekside area for Apres. Turned out a bunch of folks went to the tram plaza instead, so after a beer, we hustled over and got the last chairs on the Mid-Gad double. We skied back to the tram and had a couple of drinks on the plaza, then Matt, Vinny, and I went to the Tram Bar.
I can highly recommend it - we should have done a full apres ski there! Nice bar, lots of tables, good specials, sports and ski movies on the TVs, and you can view the tram flywheels.
And with that, the last ski day ended. Though it was a GREAT day!
View of the Snowbird base area from Bass Highway
Dean in Mineral Basin
View from somewhere in the Baldy area
Light getting really flat late in the day
Kara, Chet, Dan, and Chet's son at Creekside
@PisteOff, @jimmy, and @Phelmut at Creekside
I now have 20 days skiing this season, the same as my final total last season. So I should set a new high this season. I did my two biggest ski days ever (in terms of vertical) the last two days of the Gathering - ~25K on Thursday at Alta, and ~31.5K on Friday. This will definitely be my biggest season ever.
Lodging and Food
For Snowbasin, we stayed in a couple of rooms at the Atomic Chalet in Huntsville. It's a cool little B&B and Wes, the owner, is very nice (and you're likely to see him during the day at Snowbasin). There are some rules to follow - no shoes inside (slippers are provided if you want them), breakfast is no earlier than 7 (though he did make us coffee when we left before that one day), etc. So if you don't have a problem with that kind of thing, I thought it was a great place to stay to ski Snowbasin or Powder Mountain and would stay there again if I was skiing those resorts.
For the Alta-Bird days, of course, we stayed at the GMD. Ross was only there until Tuesday, so we were a bit cramped with three in a room with a cot, but it worked out fine and saved a little money. I liked the GMD - it's very spoiling and convenient to not have to go anywhere for breakfast or dinner. The ski lockers are pretty rudimentary, but the hotel room was nice, and the meals were very good.
Lunches were on-mountain at all three places... Earl's lodge at Snowbasin, Alf's at Alta, and the tram station and mid-Gad at Snowbird. Food was as expensive as you'd expect, and not bad from a quality/value point of view, particularly at Snowbasin I thought (where portions were large).
Thanks, and Next Year
And as always, a big thank you to everyone who made this event - Big thanks for @Philpug and @Tricia for the site and hosting, @Uncle Louie for the planning, and @jgiddyup and @Jim Kenney for being intermediate guides. And thanks to @RMc_PA and @MattSmith for rooming and hanging out - maybe we'll do it again next year!
Also thanks to everyone I met, talked to, skied with, etc. : Lucia, Pilot Dan, Madeline, Tommy, @MegKan, Shamora, @Weegie McAdams, @bigguyski, @Dean, @Phelmut, @jimmy, @Pumba, @Poolskier Vinny, @Danny, @mgiddyup, @tch, @PisteOff, @AmyPJ, @tromano, @cosmoliu, @Chris Geib, @Ron, @Drahtguy Kevin, @Gary Stolt, @SKI-3PO, @KevinF, @mdf, @Matchstix, @gski, @ChunderBlunder, @David Chaus, @Andy Mink, @Anne, @johnnyvw, @tch, @JohnL, @Tony, @Tony S, @cmackvt, @Unpiste, @DanoT, @MaryG, @John Webb, @Needham, @LaurelHillCraze, Mrs. Crazie, @aveski, @Crank, @Vince, @Rich Peters, @Near Nyquist, @Stephen, @MarkP ...
Sorry if I missed anyone - I'm sure I did. And for anyone I didn't meet or ski with, I hope to next year at Big Sky. I'm looking forward to it already!!