Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Utah Skiing

I have always wanted to go skiing somewhere west where you have long downhill runs.  It was on my Bucket List.  My friend, Robb, called and invited me on a ski trip to the Salt Lake City area for a 5 day trip.  There would be 5 guys in the 30's  and old, retired me.  One person was from VT, 3 of us from MI and 2 from IN.  We all flew into Salt lake City and Scott and Robb got the cars.

We had a Chevy SUV and a Ford  Taurus and they were loaded with gear.  It was amazing to be in t-shirts at the airport and look up to see the snow mountains surrounding SLC.

The mountains all had snow but the east facing side had the skiing!  We drove about one hour up to Eden, UT and the narrow canyon road had lots of snow.

We stayed at the Wolf Lodge Condos. The unit only had two Queen beds but the couch had a pull-out bed and the futon couch/bed in the loft. Nothing fancy but well equipped for us. The guys complained about the beds but we were usually tired so we got by.

After we unpacked, we went down to the grocery store for food.  We got food for breakfast, things for sandwiches on the slope, and some good beer.  We decided to eat at the local Shooting Star bar that served anything you wanted as long as it was hambuger!  They had nice, juicy bugers with chips and a beer for $6!  We talked to a few guys at the bar about snow conditions and decided to hit Powder Mountain for the first day of skiing.

Next morning we were up and out by 9:00 am as it was only 20 minutes to this resort.  We had a great egg breakfast and packed our lunches so we could stay until closing.  Everyone got out their hydration pacs and I realized that I didn't have mine along.  I found a 16 oz. water bottle that would fit in my jacket.  I was warned that you have to drink lots of water as the high elevation and exertion will get you dehydrated fast.


Pow Mow has 7000 skiable acres with 2500 vertical height and 134 runs.  This was my first big mountain and it was high!  We got our lift tickets - around $56 for the day.  We took the quad chair lift to the top and it was 8,900 ft. elevation.  A warm-up run down a 3 mile run started out easy and then turned into rough ice from the frozen grooming. It was fast and rough to ski.  The afternoon sun would soften things up....we hoped! 

If you have never been out west to ski, it is breath-taking  It is so beautiful up high and very scary.  The runs that have close to 3000 vertical feet demand good skiing.  I was soon to realize that I was adrift in a group of really good skiers!  I should have picked up on the fact that they all had had lots of surgery and broken bones!  Nothing scared these guys.  As for me, I carefully picked my routes down the mountain.  It was so exciting to be on a big hill.  The guys always led the way and stopped and waited for me to catch up.  It was nice to take short breaks on the long runs.  You had to do so much turning that your thigh muscles started to scream after a few runs.  It really does take strong legs to ski from opening to closing! Robb had been running for several weeks, I climbed the stairs twice!

The next run was to go down 3 mile run and the group was looking for some softer snow. We started down and then we came to a spot.

Here are Robb, Jeff, Ryan, Scott W, and Scott waiting for me to head down.  They got down the run and suddenly went off trail to some moguls in deeper snow.  Just like in the Olympics.....I watched and then said ..."Why not?"    A few seconds later, I fell and struggled to get up.  I started again and fell.  It looks so easy on TV!  After the third fall in a very short distance, I tried to walk over to the run.  The snow was very deep and I struggled to get to the guys.  They decided to ski over to the run...I tried to walk.  I was at 8000+ feet and breathing heavy.  I couldn't get my breath.  I waited for 15 minutes and started down the run only to stop for another breather.  My heart was racing.  Two guys stayed with me and the other three skiied to the lift to call the Ski Patrol.  In 15 minutes  a guy from the ski patrol came over and checked on me.  I was feeling better and ready to ski down to the lift when the snowmobile arrived.  It was decided that I should ride up to the 1st Aid Hut and get oxygen.  I climbed on the snowmobile and had to carry my skis and poles across my lap as the snowmobile shot off across the hill on a diagonal.  This was my first snowmobile ride.  And it was going fast across the mountain and slightly uphill.  I couldn't hang on to anything with the skis in my hands so I clamped my legs tight to the seat and prayed.  When we arrived at the 1st Aid Hut they checked my vitals.  My heart rate was up and my blood pressure was high. I drank water and had about a half an hour rest with oxygen.

This is in the hut.  They checked each other's blood pressure and decided the gauge wasn't working right.  I also got several chocolate covered cookies.  Mountain Sickness or High Elevation Sickness, they said was probably the problem.

Just imagine me in the jacket with the oxygen attached.  In 30-45 minutes, my friends checked in on me and I was ready to go back skiing.  I had to leave the oxygen tank behind......darn!  There weren't many people and we had most of the runs to our selves.

The guys are making fun of my skiing...I'm taking the picture!

After a great day of skiing we headed back about 5:00 pm for our condo.  The guys got their swim suits on and headed out for the hot tub.  Nobody told me to pack mine!   I needed to relax and rest anyway!   Robb and Ryan cooked up steaks, garlic potatoes, grilled vegetables for supper.  Then the plans for the next day were discussed.  They all wanted a bigger mountain and powder!  The next day was to be Snowbasin.

Snowbasin has 2,959 vertical feet of elevation, 3,300 acres and over 400" of snow per year. Lift tickets were $65.  I, of course, got the Senior Discount at each place and saved $15-20 at each place.  I didn't even have to ask for it!!


If you check on the Trail Maps you can see where we skied.     This was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics!!!

Wow!  The mountains were getting taller.  Snowbasin has peaks at 9570 ft.  Off to the right  was the Men's and Women's Super G start. When they say Double Black Diamond, they mean it!!

This hill had a gondola ride up that just kept going....up....up....up!  Just as we would crest a hill, another larger hill was behind it.  Excuse me...I mean another mountain, not a hill!

So many new experiences.  It was nice to ski with great skiers.  They all took turns keeping an eye on the old man.  We took the Needles Express Gondola up and skied down Strawberry Traverse to Dan's Run to Bear's Run and then School Hill to the bottom.  This was my best day.  I didn't fall once and skied nice long runs all day.

The guys were doing great and found interesting runs to do.

Here I am standing right in front of a cliff that they ski.  I think you can see that there is a sharp edge or downhill right behing me.  Notice that I am not facing the downhill but pointed towards the edge where a gentler slope awaits me.  I pride myself in my selection of runs that I think I can manage.  Actually, I just try to decide if a fall will only hurt me as opposed to breaking bones if I fall.  This keeps the decision  making much easier!

This is Snowbasin Trail Map.  If you click on it, you can see an enlarged picture.  Off to the right side is the Black Diamond Runs.  Yes, the boys did those...while I took a break.

After another great day, we headed back to the condo.  Time to watch some basketball games.

It was decided that we would hit our last resort on Saturday.  I guess they were saving the best for last. 

Snowbird Resort is a very popular place.

The World Freeskiing Tour was going on.

We got here about 8:30 am on Saturday and got our tickets.  Snowbird is about one and a half hours south of where we were staying.  It has 11,000+ ft high peaks.  3240 vertical feet in 2500 skiable acres.   Snowbird has 85 runs and Chip's Run is 2.5 miles long.  They also have a 125 person Tram and 4 quads and 6 doubles.

When we got on the Tram and headed up I wondered what the day would be like.   We went up to Hidden Peak.

That is 11,000 feet elevation.  You can see SLC down in the distance.

We skiied across the top and went down the other side of the mountain to Mineral Basin.  Beautiful snow and lots of choices.

Here is the bottom of Mineral Basin.  This was nice because the guys could ski Black Diamond runs and chutes and I could go down easier Blue and Green Runs and meet at the same ending place.  The snow was finally softening up and the skiing was great.

I like these big, wide runs!  I felt comfortable skiing down by myself on these runs.  My thighs and calves were getting tighter.

The guys had to do the Mogul Chute down a Black Diamond Route.  Here is Scottie W coming down with Jeff and Robb right behind him.  I would love to be able to ski like those guys.  No Fear.

Later Scott and Jeff did a  backcountry traverse to ski a very steep ridge. They had to climb up s narrow stepped trail to get over to where they wanted to start.  Fresh tracks down the mountain looks so nice.  Jeff hadn't skied in 5 years but it came back quickly as he did everything!

You had to stop and take in the views that were great in every direction.  What an amazing place.  The best snow in the world they advertize.

This picture shows some of the traverse routes to take you to a less steep part of the run for some of us slower skiers.  This was great but I hated the narrow trails with steep edges and sharp switchbacks.  Of course my legs were about gone at this point.

I am coming down and the guys are going up.  I would rest every other run the last day. 

This is the large Tram that goes up the main hill.  I was thankful that Scott took me down the mountain in a gentle traverse route.  I had to pass right between the spectators and the finish line for the World Freeski Tour.  Then I came to a narrow chute with steep sides to lead down. Ug!  A couple of falls and my legs were gone.  I headed down to the main lodge.

This is my thumb.  The photo shows some of the large outdoor patio right in front of the slopes.

I am done and it is only 1:00 pm and the guys are going to ski for 3 more hours.  I think I'll have a cold beer and watch the fun in front of me.

The Freeskiing World Tour was handing out prizes for answering questions. Scott won an aluminum water bottle and compass!

This is back at the car and the last look at the mountain, at least  the front lower third you can see.

We decided to head to Park City, UT to see the resort town.  It was up-scale and quaint.  The ski area didn't look too impressive compared to Snowbird.  We walked around town and found a great Pizza place for our final dinner of the trip in Utah.  Then It was back to the condo.  We left at 7:30 am and returned by 9:30 pm! A long , great day.  We totaled up the expenses for the condo, cars, gas, food and beer.  It came to $300 per person plus about $150 for lift tickets.  A six way split helped make the 5 day trip affordable for all.

Sunday morning we were up and packing.  We finished off the eggs and toast, steak, sausage, cheese and anything else in the refrigerator.   Some left at 11:00 and the rest of us were out at 12:00pm. 

This was our farewell shot of SLC.  But we were flying American to Chicago and then on to GRR!

We got in to GRR at 10:20 pm tired but with great memories.  Wait, Snowbird has snow until mid - May!!!!

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