Carly and I took a ski trip to British Columbia at the end of January. This trip was organized by one of Carly’s MBA friends. Dave usually plans a big trip up to BC every year and this year we were able to join in. We drove up to Nakusp, BC over two days from SLC. We opted to sleep in the van which turned out to be great for this type of trip. The 8 hours of driving per day went by reasonably well. We did have a little bit of a scare at the end of the first day when the van was making a funny noise. I suspected a wheel bearing and we opted to try and get it fixed ASAP the morning of the second day before getting into the middle of nowhere BC. Luckily a Chevy dealer in Missoula, our chosen rest stop for the first day, had the parts and was able to push us through in just a few hours. We made it to Nakusp in good time and weren’t even the last ones to arrive at the meeting spot.
The lodge is in the backcountry and accessible only via helicopter in the winter. I’ve only flown on a helicopter one other time so I was looking forward to the ride in. Despite it snowing pretty hard we had no trouble getting into the lodge. The visibility was pretty low for the ride in and the pilot stayed a 100-200′ off the trees for visual reference.
The accommodations at Snowfall were great. Despite being in the first year of operation it was quite plush. Full kitchen, in-door pee toilet, comfortably heated, electricity, drying room, the works. Backpacking will be rough change of pace in the future.
Skiing was amazing. The snow in BC falls at a warmer temperature than here in the Wasatch and it forms these pillows on terrain features. These features would be something to avoid at home because you probably would hit whatever was under the snow. In BC these pillows were usually many feet thick and soft. It snowed on average 6″ per day for the trip. This was good and bad. It created some poor visibility and unstable snow. This kept any of the 16 of us from getting on any big lines. It did however refill the few areas were were able to access.
We got a few hours of clear weather about mid-week. This afforded some amazing views of the terrain around us. It reminded me of my previous trip to BC with Christina and Drew. The experience was quite good and I’m hoping I can make this an annual occurrence.
In November 2016 I headed to Chamonix, France to feel out a seemingly unbelievable opportunity. That trip was my first to Chamonix and I didn’t get a peek at the riches that the area has for mountain scenery and fun. The clouds hung low for the duration of that trip and snow fell frequently. Since that date things have accelerated significantly and at the beginning of May it was time to return for a longer and more productive trip to solidify the gel that has started setting. In short the opportunity was to work with Blue Ice, a small Chamonix based climbing company. I would go along with Bill Belcourt to discuss opening an additional office in Salt Lake City. We would head the hardgoods design effort here in SLC and softgoods would continue out of Chamonix. Six months after the project kicked off we are six strong in Salt Lake and augmenting the team of 13 in Chamonix. Stay tuned to see what we’re working on…
As for the trip. Adam and I headed out at the beginning of May just as one of the team from France was leaving a visit to the US. The itinerary was to visit a number of suppliers, climb, ski, and live in France for the bulk of May. Check, check, check, and check.
In Nov. ’16 I didn’t get to witness the scale since the place was socked in and we didn’t get out for any climbing. This time however, our ride in from Geneva left us with a clear view of the magnitude of topography that is Chamonix. The elevation at the cable car, téléphérique as it’s called, in town is 3,379′ (1030 m). The top of the Aiguille du Midi which the téléphérique brings you to is 12,604′ (3,842 m). Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe, is 15,774′ (4,808 m) and only 3.4 mi (5.4km) away. I thought that Salt Lake City had some of the best relief in the world and it is only half of that of Chamonix. The scale is mind blowing. Looking up at the peaks from the center of town almost hurts your neck in how high you have to look.
While there was quite a bit of working on the trip we were able to get out and do some fun in the hills and mountains.
The afternoon of April 14 we had a cold front move through the state and generate some pretty crazy weather. Dust from the many large dry lake beds was whipped up in the winds which gusted to 90 mph in some of the canyons. Because of the crappy air quality in the winter we have air quality sensors around the state and the one in SLC spiked to almost 300 micrograms per m^3. This is described as “Hazardous” by the EPA, or in other words: “This would trigger health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population will most likely be affected.”. Luckily this warning is based on a 24 hour average and the spike was only a few hours long, but it was impossible to see the mountains or more than about 1/2 mile.
After the front the temperature dropped, precipitously about 20+ degrees in 10 minutes and continued to fall after that as it began to snow. Keep in mind the max temp at the SLC airport was 75 degrees on April 14.
So what does one do when it snows in Utah? Go skiing of course!
Skied this morning at the Bird. Conditions were…awesome compared to a normal East Coast winter…good compared to a normal Utah winter…very good for this Utah winter. I did get 1.5 clean shots into Mineral Basin as the roped dropped. Best turns all year for sure. Last night after work was apparently the holy grail as we had some wind overnight and today adversely affecting the snow. The guys that dusk patrolled last night said it was the deepest they’d ever skied and they are not fresh off the bunny slope types. All said and done: Snowbird 45″ and Brighton 22″. Solitude, Canyons, PCMR, Deer Valley, Snow Basin all already closed for the season so who cares? They did get much less due to the magic vortex of snow generation that is Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Today Carly and I headed out for a tour with Adam from work and his girlfriend, Stephie. We headed to Porter Fork off of Millcreek Canyon, a place none of us had visited before. The weather was bluebird but cold, similar to the last day Carly and I went out. We got a good start for New Year’s Day, leaving my house around 9:15. The first leg of the skin was easy and up a road that has had some snowmobile traffic. The second section was a bit more technical and primarily involved Adam breaking trail to gain a ridge below Gobbler’s Knob which we figured was Cabin Run. Carly and I were tuckered from the 5 mile and almost 3900 foot skin so we dropped in a little farther down the face than Adam and Stephie.
The snow was pretty good. Not quite as soft as the last day we were out, but still pretty good in spots. There was a bit of a sun crust in spots so it required a little more backseat style. I have to say that during those turns down untracked snow makes all the time spent getting there go away. The next section brought us through some great trees, nicely spaced and good snow. At the bottom of the trees we entered the survival ski portion of the tour. Pole Canyon was a heinous death march through bushes and downed trees across the drainage. Definitely the worst ski out I’ve had as in addition to the schwack it also had a couple steep sections that were a bit technical. We eventually all persevered and made it back to the snowmobile road and out to the car 5 hours and 45 minutes after we started. Garmin track here.
Last weekend I had the very nice pleasure of hosting some friends from the East Coast. While they claim it was to see me and catch up, I believe the odds they’d visit me in Kansas would be pretty low. Of course the big draw in the winter in Salt Lake for tourists is the ski resorts. There’s plenty of them and they usually have some of the best snow around. This year is a little light on snow, but not terrible.
Lot’s of stories could be told but they would take far too long to write and probably wouldn’t be very interesting to read, at least coming from me. Seeing Eric, Jon, Christina, and Dave was great. They are the first of my back east friends to come out and it was nice catching up and having some laughs over food, beer, and on the slopes. Definitely a good bunch of friends.
Being able to get out on the slopes and keep up with them was a nice surprise for me. While they probably don’t hold up to “BD Ski Athlete” aka sub-Olympic standards, they are all fairly good skiers, especially since all but Dave are East Coast natives. I had gotten out a bit earlier this year to remember how to ski, it certainly helped. It also helped to be getting out with some friends who could push me to work to keep up. I was able to do basically all the same terrain as they did, though bumps are not my forte at this point. Need to learn how to huck as well so I can clear the scratchy rock stuff at the top of the chutes.
Today I hit the slops again with my new ski setup. Last weekend I went to Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Today I thought I’d hit the other resort in BCC, Solitude. Over the last couple of days we were hit with a storm and the lower elevations actually got hit more. At my house there was at least 16″ of super fluffy stuff. To give you Eastcoasters and idea. Imagine running a shovel down the full length of the driveway and never having so much weight in front of the shovel that you had to stop. Granted I didn’t shovel the whole 16″ at once, but I probably did 8″ or so.
Heading up BCC the sign for 4×4 and chains was illuminated but they weren’t at all necessary since the uphill side of the road was down to the pavement. If you were headed down canyon they probably would have been helpful. Either way I got to the resort about 45 minutes from my house. It took a little longer than normal because of the traffic and many of the regular roads were a bit snowy.
I was able to get on one of the first dozen or so chairs headed up the hill, which meant first tracks on some of the trails I took to get down. Since I’m still trying to get my skiing skills back I stuck to the greens and blues again. My fitness nor skill are at the point where I can make it down the whole run without stopping 3-4 times. But that gave me a chance to enjoy the sun coming through the low clouds and see the shimmer of flakes in the air. Though it was cold it was a beautiful day.
I hit just about every lift at Solitude and thought it was a great resort. Most of the trails were in good condition. There was powder, though tracked, to be had almost all day. There were also nicely groomed wide trails to carve on too. There was also plenty of terrain which was above my head that I could see from the chairlifts and from the safe side of the rope warning skiers of expert terrain. Not sure who someone could miss it but whatever. Awesome day out on the slopes!
PS Though I’ve spent a bunch of money on a ski touring kit, I would love to get onto a snowboard sometime.