Utah – Rain, Snow & Sunshine!

On top of Snowbird on a Bluebird day!

by Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

Turns out that I did not need to leave New Hampshire to find new snow. I don’t know why but every time I head west it snows like crazy at home.
I thought going to Utah for some fine spring skiing would be just the thing to do. But after my second day of skiing in the rain I was having second thoughts.
Inside Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter day lodge I looked at my cellphone. Becca Snowboarder sent me photos of riding in the new fluff at Cannon and of her skin tracks up Tenney Mountain. Bria posted photos of Waterville Valley and Loon and reported packed powder conditions. Charlie was at Black Mountain for the Wild Corn Festival and he successfully competed in the uphill race.

Barb, Chuck, Tracy and Sylvia at Alta testing and comparing DPS skis. The Salt Lake based ski company, DPS, designs and manufactures high-tech and light-weight high performance skis. DPS has introduced Phantom, a one application permanent base coating that eliminates waxing for glide for skis and snowboards that is easy to apply and better for the environment.
  1. I should have left my phone in the car. All this good news from home made me a little homesick.
    No complaints, OK except the rain and the lifts that didn’t run because of the bad weather.
    My long weekend started on Thursday night. I flew into Salt Lake City after flying the JetBlue redeye from Boston and I didn’t make it to my room at the airport hotel until 1:30 in the morning. That’s the same as 3:30 am in the East, it was a long day. In the morning I ate breakfast in the lobby and then took the shuttle back to the airport to pick up a rental car.
    I drove north in light rain to Snowbasin and once I arrived at the ski resort it really started to downpour. I was the only person in the lift line and I asked the attendant if it was possible for her to give me a garbage bag. She did. In the Gondola I took off my helmet and poked my head through the bag and did the same for both my arms. I looked goofy but the garbage bag kept me dry. The ski area was a ghost town, very few were crazy enough to ski in this kind of weather.
Day 1 of 2 skiing in the Utah rain. In the gondola at Snowbasin are Barb and yours truly wearing a garbage bag. Snowbasin hosted the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Downhill races.

Up high the rain was snow and sleet. This made for some fine mid-mountain skiing and for some interesting snow pinwheels (snowballs rolling down the slope beside me) and sliding blankets of wet snow. Many slopes were closed due to avalanche danger.
Barb, from Montana, met me for the last hour of skiing and then we both drove to Salt Lake City.
Chuck invited Barb, Tracy and Sylvia; and Sylvia invited me to come to Alta for the weekend to test DPS skis and to have fun. We zoomed back to Salt Lake and met the rest of our friends at the AirBnB just in time to all ride up to Alta for a meet and greet and a showing of DPS Skis Cinematic short films. The ski flicks were outstanding and made us all excited to ski.
Overnight the rain didn’t stop. I felt badly for the ski reps, it rained sideways and it down poured. Alta shut down all the lifts at 1:30. New snow, heavy rain and high avalanche danger are not the best conditions to try out new skis.
Sunday morning we returned to Alta and the rain had changed over to snow flurries and dark clouds surrounded the mountain. Ski conditions were interesting. We found good soft creamy snow and sometimes firm icy stuff. Still not the best conditions to try out skis but my hats off to my friends they kept on trying different skis.

Yours truly, Chuck, Tracy and Sylvia on the lift at Snowbird. We sure ended the ski trip on a high note. The day was warm and sunny and evaporated any memory of the previous bad weather.

I confess it was all I could do to stay on my feet on my own skis in the varying conditions. My goggles didn’t dry out completely overnight and they steamed up between the lenses. I skied a couple runs by feel before I smartened up and borrowed a pair of lost and found goggles. Skiing was much easier when I could see.

Snowbird’s Tram car is packed with skiers and snowboarders on a nice day. Where’s Sylvia? Sylvia wears a pink helmet and somehow always manages to wiggle her way up to the door’s window

I knew what we were missing. Last year I went to Alta and the snow was deep and the sun was bright in the sky. A great deal of terrain was closed due to avalanche danger. But we still had a lot of fun skiing together and hunting for the good soft snow.
The next day, Monday morning, was the day I was dreaming of—blue sky and sunshine.
We packed up and cleared out of our rented house and drove up the canyon to Snowbird. We all met at the Tram plaza and skied on fresh new snow. I put sunscreen on my face and wore sunglasses. The conditions were the best where the sun warmed it first. Nearing mid-day more terrain opened and Mineral Basin was ours to make first tracks. The resort was busy, lots of skiers and snowboarders joined us (no Snowboarders allowed at Alta). A lot of pent up energy was being released. We skied all over and enjoyed the big mountain vista that had been hiding from us all weekend.
On our last run Sylvia stopped and flopped down on the snow and stretched out on her back and we all joined her and did the same. We looked down the canyon at Salt Lake City and up the canyon at the sharp mountaintops. The last Tram ride was now long gone and this last pitch was our final ski together. We savored the moment—the cold snow against our body, the warm sun on our face and that magical combination of the thrill of skiing and comradery.
Everyone made it home safe, back to Bozeman, MT and to Fort Collins, Colorado. These are long drives especially after a full day of skiing. I am still tired, exhausted really. I flew a redeye back to Boston and arrived at 6 am and in time for me to take the earliest Concord Coach Bus north to Concord.
By the weekend I’ll be raring to go skiing. I hope the snow holds until May.
Have fun.