Ski Blog... Been doing this since 2005!

July 18, 2009

College Journalist Compares Alta Not Allowing Snowboarders to Racial Segregation in 1960's

And one wonders why journalism is a dying art:

At first glance, Alta Ski Area seems like a pretty friendly place. Its website claims "Alta Ski Area welcomes you," but Alta is segregating the world of winter sports, similar to the segregation by skin color some southern states employed until the 1960s. The website later states that "Alta is a skiers' mountain. Snowboarding is not allowed." Doesn't sound so welcoming anymore.

A little more info on Ms. Dunn:

I’m a senior at the University of Utah in mass communication. I love writing but I enjoy all aspects of journalism and media. I love photography and editing photos and video. I have experience in web design, page layout and visual editing/design, as well.

I’ve written for The Daily Utah Chronicle’s outdoor section. Snowboarding and surfing are my passions, and I dream of working for an outdoor related magazine or publication. I would love to work in any aspect of the outdoor magazine.

Somewhere down the road I want to create a women’s magazine of my own that will cover either a specific or all extreme sports. Most magazines are more male dominated, but females are progressing in all levels of the sports. They need more publications of their own, and I would love to make that a reality.

Jessica, you are awesome. First, you want to break down the color barrier... er... skier barrier, then you want to take on that sports magazines are male dominated.

A little bit of a marketing lesson for our Mass Communications major. First, extreme sports if that is a realistic term now that snowboarding is so extreme that John Kerry does it, are dominated by men. Not that men are better at it, just that they are the ones that have the majority of the purchasing power in the industry. If there was a niche of female extreme athletes clamoring for a magazine, it would already exist. Not trying to deflate your dream, just trying to bring you back to reality. Women read men's magazines and women go to men's basketball games. I don't read Cosmo and I don't go see the WNBA. So start by figuring that 75% of "extreme sport" participants are men, and alienate that audience right off. Good business plan.

Second, a bit of a history lesson. I have never seen a bunch of skiers lynch a snowboarder or abduct a snowboarder and force him to man a lift at a skiers only resort for free and beat him if he gets "uppity". I am at such a loss for words when it comes to using the word "segregation" in these two contexts that I cannot explain how profoundly idiotic you sound.

If all snowboarders are as illiterate to the historical context and the difference between their winter sport and 200 years of slavery plus another 100 years of segregation including a Constitutional Amendment and several landmark Supreme Court Decisions that it took to break through the wall of racism AND A COLLEGE EDUCATED JOURNALIST compares HER SNOWBOARDING TO SITTING IN THE BACK OF THE BUS OR HAVING THE GOVERNOR OF A STATE LOCK YOU OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY--I don't think I should be forced to share the mountain with your ignorant ass.

Maybe someday the real barriers will be broken down and we can elect a snowboarder President. That will be a landmark day and a monumental achievement that ends the decades of segregation and discrimination against snowboarders.

Posted by Justin at 06:35 PM | Comments (1)

May 23, 2009

Snowbird Extends Season into June

Good news for SLC skiing:

Snowbird just extended its ski/ride season through June 14th, making the 2008/09 ski season the second longest in resort history with a total of 200 days. The longest occured in 2004/05 when Snowbird stayed open until July 4th.

Of course, this extension will only happen if conditions in the Wasatch Mountains will allow for it, but folks at Snowbird seem optimistic that the massive amount of snow that fell this winter has left a snowpack that will last through June.

Currently the resort is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with limited lifts operating including the Tram, Little Cloud, and Mineral Basin.

Even though there is enough snow to keep the ski season alive, summer operations begins on May 22, meaning that foot passengers are now allowed on the Tram from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Downside is that southern Utah got Jack this winter.

Posted by Justin at 10:44 PM

April 28, 2009

Snowbird Cracks 600", Alta at Almost 700" for the Year

From the Examiner:

Following a 15-inch storm over the weekend, Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort surpassed the season-to-date snowfall total of 600 inches for the second straight year. Crossing the mark on Saturday, April 25, 2009, puts this season a full month ahead of last year's pace when the 600-inch total was passed on May 26, 2008.

The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort averages 500 inches a season. Dating back to 1980, the biggest season on record was 1983-84 with a total of 688 inches, according to Jared Ishkanian, Snowbird public relations director.

Snowbird is the only resort in Utah still open for spring skiing and snowboarding. With a total snowfall of 612 inches and a mid-mountain base of 137 inches, there should be ample snow to ride on through Memorial Day. Snowbird generally stays open much later than other Utah resorts thanks to its primarily north-facing exposure and high altitude. Snowbird's lift-served terrain tops out at 11,000 feet.

“The mountain is remarkably still in mid-winter form,” said Snowbird President Bob Bonar. “This season we experienced the resort’s second-earliest opening ever, and we are excited to push the season through May and possibly beyond thanks to all this March and April snowfall.”

I only wish that I could have gotten more than one day for the season at Alta.

Posted by Justin at 04:13 PM

April 20, 2009

Almost 700" at Alta for the Season

Article from the SLC Tribune:

On March 21, Alta had received 445.5 inches of snow this season. None had fallen in the previous 11 days. But then the skies opened up. The 9.5 inches of snow recorded March 22 kicked off a 27-day period in which the resort had measurable snow on 20 days.

"We had a series of four to five storms that were almost carbon-copies of one another," said National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Dunn. "We got locked into a pattern and the same thing happened over and over."

Big troughs from the Pacific Ocean dropped into the Great Basin and closed off, dropping off of the main jet stream and circulating very slowly.

As a result, Dunn said, "a lot of times we get storms that last eight to 14 hours. These lasted for days. This last one arrived and here we are on Friday and it's still cold and cloudy with some showers over the mountains. Five days from just one storm. That is what is impressive about this four-week period."

There have been bigger snowfall months at Alta.

The resort received 244.5 inches in December of 1983 -- in the middle of Utah's two big flood years. And because this year's impressive total straddles two months, neither March nor April will surpass the 206 inches measured in November of 1994.

"But it's still a lot in a one-month period," Dunn said, noting that the storm cycle has benefited the whole state.

Now the downside:

Coming so late in the season, however, this abundance of snow is unlikely to yield great financial dividends for the state's ski industry, struggling like everyone else to survive the recession's bite.

I got to ski right at the start of the massive storms but got epic pow for March. Too bad the storms all stayed North and Brian Head only received 250" or thereabouts this season.

Posted by Justin at 10:25 AM

March 29, 2009

Alta Trip

Talk about a cool trip. I got my 61 year old grandmother taking her very first ski lesson and on the mountain for the first time in over 30 years. While she was waiting for her lesson and in school, it just happens that I got an entire day of epic Utah blower powder during the last week of March.

I rolled up on Thursday and they had the canyon closed until 10:00 AM to do avalanche control. THAT IS A GOOD SIGN. By the time we got tickets and settled in, it was almost 11:00 and there was no morning ski school class. That left her to check out the Albion lodge, where the food was rather unimpressive. Horrible chili and terrible cheeseburger that cost $17.00 for the two plus a soda.

I headed up the backside to Sugarloaf and met Matt who was working at one of the condo complexes during the winter and took the day off to ski. We took several different lines down, but the best was Extrovert right under the lift line. Steep and perfect powder, though a short little jaunt, it was waist deep. After about a half a dozen runs, I headed over to the Collins side and caught a couple descents, but the backside was less crowded plus I wanted to catch up with my grandmother for a run at the end of the day. I lapped her and her instructor on Sunnyside while watching her work her way down the runs back to the lift.

And this is how I know I am a total loser... she brought only a $20 and spent $14 in the lodge waiting for me. I was cash broke. So we had a total of $6 for a tip for Dave who was an outstanding instructor. I felt like the biggest piece of dirt for shorting him on the tip, but there was no ATM and nothing we could do. I am writing to Connie Marshall, the PR director, and thanking them for the job that he did and sending a card with cash. I should have known better and brought more cash, but it was a flurry of a trip and poorly planned.

I rented a set of K2 Apache skis for the powder. They rocked. You just hammer your leg into turns and they float right through the carve. I am still kinda sore in the quads and rode in the backseat too much. I could tell that I was out of shape for that kind of pow, but I blame a poor winter at Brian Head. I have been working out at the YMCA but no amount of time on the weights and treadmill can prepare your quads for a 3' powder day.

It was epic. Grandma was hooked and all she could talk about was going again. I got sick pow run after pow run. It was by far the best day of the year and perhaps in the last couple years since I went to Wolf Creek with Erich and Tim.

Alta is heaven. That is all I can say.

Posted by Justin at 07:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2009

Heading to Alta This Week

I have a wedding (reception actually, those Mormon weddings) to go to in SLC. I never get invited to weddings, just the receptions, but what can you do? =)

Turns out that Alta got 11" last night and expects snow on Wed and Thur and I happen to be driving up there.

I am probably just taking boots and renting some powder skis to see what is out there equipment wise. I will offer a full report.

I am so stoked for my cousin Jenn who is marrying a third year Med student at the University of Utah. Just a solid guy. Got to meet him last summer and she done good.

Posted by Justin at 10:53 AM | Comments (3)

November 12, 2008

Snowbird to Open This Weekend

From the SLC Tribune:

Snowbird announced Wednesday it will operate the Tram and two lifts, Gadzoom and Mid-Gad, starting at 9 a.m. Friday, the second-earliest opening in the resort's 38-year history. More than 3 feet of snow has fallen there this month, building upon a base created by snowmaking. Early season all-day lift tickets will cost $62. "This storm and the subsequent lake effect have provided a timely blanket of snow in Little Cottonwood Canyon," said Snowbird President Bob Bonar. "Skiing early season powder is a great way to kick off the season." The Regulator Johnson run off of the top of Hidden Peak will be open for skiing, along with Big Emma and Bassackwards.


OK, that is kinda crazy. But it does open skiing for the SLC area and that is a good thing.

Posted by Justin at 04:53 PM | Comments (2)

February 10, 2008

Jackson Trip Cancelled

The Idaho Dept. of Transportation closed Highway 26 into Jackson from Idaho Falls on Friday night, ending our plans to ski there on Saturday. Sucks because we had to cancel our hotel reservations and all. Drifting and blowing snow. Since I was travelling with the whole family, we didn't have the time to drive up on Saturday.

And my annual sinus infection returns. I am on antibiotics, pain killers, and steroids. Not even full blown bad yet, but I am already hurting.

Gonna try to get in a day at Big Sky and Alta on the way back.

Posted by Justin at 02:52 PM

December 20, 2007

Running the Numbers

I use Beaver Creek as an example, but in reality I am referring to any major megaresort--you know, the ones that the ski magazines drool about. This is more an illustration of the pros and cons of major destination skiing at a high end resort (Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone, Park City, Whistler, etc.) versus skiing at a smaller resort in the Rockies that costs half as much but also offers less. I am going to run down the resorts that I have skied and compare and contrast them:

Colorado - Wolf Creek, Beaver Creek, Loveland, and A-Basin
Arizona - Snowbowl, Sunrise
Montana - Red Lodge, Big Sky
Utah - Alta, Brian Head

What you find is that once you find a place that you really like, you tend to go there until you find a better deal, get bored, etc. So I am an Alta guy because I just like it so well because of the price, location, skiers only policy, snow quality, and experience that I never drive to the other resorts in the area. Now, I am probably going to have a tough time ever going to Vail because Beaver Creek is so awesome and I have yet to even scratch the surface of all that is there. I am not sure how to compare Beaver Creek to Vail to Keystone to Breck when you couldn't touch all the mountain on any of them in a week or solid skiing.

I am assuming that for folks with the Colorado Pass, they choose their resort based on snowfall numbers, location, or just plain familiarity. So since I haven't skied all the resorts, I leave it open for more comments and info. This is somewhat generic, but there are just too many resorts to know everything about. For the most part though, the mega resorts are that way for a reason--they have a lot to offer and all compare very favorably to the next tier or resorts.

In my mind, there are three categories of ski resorts. Megaresorts. Midsize resorts (and this is a broad category). And places that just plain blow. First, let's talk about the mega resorts. You are going to get a well developed base area, great restaurants, touristy bars, lots of high end shops, and a few high end hotels. Expect lots of folks that are crazy rich and have really nice stuff. Expect people in $1000 jackets riding $2000 worth of gear on groomers who look crazy pimped sipping lattes at the base area. Folks from the East Coast can't get this kind of snow or experience so expect most folks are destination skiers or locals that get really good pass deals or work at the resort. Lots of folks from Europe, etc. Just a different kind of guest. But folks don't come for just the base area. The mountains are massive, but you gotta have the skills to relly enjoy it. And the money to spend because it ain't cheap. EVEN WHEN YOU GET A GREAT DEAL.

The next category is the smaller Rocky Mountain resorts and most East coast resorts. Places like Wolf Creek or Bridger Bowl or Brian Head. Usually these resorts are smaller mountains and do not offer the same level of amenities as the big guys. Not as much vertical. Off the beaten path. Poor airport access. No development rights. Less snowfall. But far lower prices. So then it is a matter of what you are willing to sacrifice. All of these resorts are missing something and it is up to you to decide what you are willing to sacrifice. I am willing to sacrifice shopping, dining, amenities, and nightlife but not snow. I would rather ski powder at a small resort that offers nothing (i.e. Wolf Creek) than ski crap snow at a more developed resort.

I won't get into the third category of places that just plain suck, but they are out there. Usually they have a couple old doubles that some other resort took out 20 years ago.

Beaver Creek was the first place that I didn't have to worry about a sacrifice. I look at the things that I usually am willing to give up. First, I give up base area amenities. I like to stay in town where I can afford it anyway. Then I give up nightlife. Then I give up some of the massive areas and vertical. What I usually don't give up is snow.

I can't get over the $92 price tag. So now it really highlights how good the Colorado Pass is. Season pass at Key, Breck, A-basin, and then the free days at Vail and Beaver Creek. I am just hating that I don't live in Colorado. The Beav and the Colorado resorts are so affordable for locals due to VRI's passes. I can't help but sing their praises. If you want to ski these resorts, you just have to look for deals and I am able to ski Vail and the Beav for the same price as Brian Head.

Posted by Justin at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

September 12, 2007

Alta to Debut RFID Ski Products

For those that don't know what RFID is, it is an embedded chip that has called a Radio Frequency ID that is a unique identifier. We use them for prox badges and identification on hardware assets and lots of companies use them to track shipments.

This from First Tracks Online:

NEW TICKETS: Alta is implementing a skier-friendly, web-friendly, hands-free ticketing system. All ski products will be loaded on the Alta Card, which will have an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip embedded in it to allow access through entry gates to the lifts. The hands-free system means no more showing a pass at every lift. Skiers place the Alta Card, with a valid ski product loaded on it, inside a pocket by itself and leave it there for the day; antennas will do the rest. At the end of the day, skiers can visit and enter the Web ID on the Alta Card to personalize the card, track ski history and reload the card. On the next ski day, skiers can go straight to the lifts and skip the extra stop at the ticket office.

Tell me that doesn't rock.

Those crazy folks at Alta. Want an old fashioned ski experience so they boot the boarders and get rid of the terrain park. Then they go and get rid of the ticket office and lift tickets for passholders. Like skiing in 1960 only with RFID.

Posted by Justin at 12:43 AM | Comments (4)

April 10, 2007

Statistics on Utah Skier Visits

I have added a new page with detailed statistics of Utah skier visits from the state's Demographic and Economic Analysis Department. Check out the new page and info. Here is the chart:

Some interesting info, but Skier Visits have increased dramatically since 2001.

Utah still lags far behind Colorado as a national ski destination, but the state has a ton to offer. I rec'd an e-mail today that said the following:

I was lucky enough to ski Breck in January and Snowbasin in March. What are your thoughts on Snowbasin? Skiied it on a Wednesday and Thursday. No lift lines and the two gondolas were awesome. Different atmosphere than Breck.

Check the stats for Snowbasin:

  • Vertical rise: 2,959 ft (902 m)
  • Average yearly snowfall: 400 in (10 m)
  • Total lifts: 12
    • 1 Tram
    • 2 Gondolas (high speed detachable)
    • 1 Quad chair (high speed detachable)
    • 4 Triple chair
    • 1 Double chair
    • 1 Magic carpet
    • 2 Hand rope tows
  • Total lift capacity: 14,650 people per hour
  • Skiable area: 2,650 acres

Compare this to Breck that receives roughly five times the number of skier visits on the same acreage. Here are Breck's comparable stats:

  • Vertical rise: 3,398 feet (1,036 m)
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 300 in
  • Total Lifts: 29
    • 2 high-speed 6-passenger SuperChairs
    • 7 high-speed quad lifts
    • 1 triple lift
    • 6 double lifts
    • 1 8-passenger gondola
    • 4 surface lifts
    • 8 carpet lifts
  • Total lift capacity: 37,880 people per hour
  • Skiable Area: 2358 acres

Utah is nearly untouched. Colorado gets 12M + skier visits per year to Utah's 4M. Alta-Snowbird is absolutely massive and Snowbasin, Solitude, Brighton, and the West Side resorts getting half as much traffic as Park City.

Long story short--Utah has far fewer people than Colorado and the resorts are much less crowded. Down side is that the nightlife is lacking (save Park City) and the beer flows like water--but it has the same alcohol content and tastes like water too. Utah has a very different feel than Colorado, but as far as pure skiing, I prefer Utah. No, I take that back--I prefer Alta, and it happens Alta is in Utah. I have yet to try Snowbasin, but plan to early next year. Just been spending almost every day at Brian Head this season.

Posted by Justin at 03:44 PM

April 08, 2007

The Year That Was in Utah

The SLC Tribune has an article on the year that was in Utah:

"We got some good early snow," he said.

But starting in November, a high pressure ridge parked itself over the West until about February.

That weather pattern acted as a bubble, forcing snowstorms to other areas, he said.

Utah's loss was Canada's gain, as many storms shifted to the north, McInerney explained.

Meager snowpacks, which reached about 50 percent of average in northern Utah, are not only bad news for skiing, but they also spell trouble for the Salt Lake Valley's water resources in the summer.

This season sucked in a bad way for me. Early snow, but no mid season snow at all. I finally had my place done and Brian Head got 225" of snow (and a huge chunk of that came in March). Normal snowfall is over 400".

But take what you get and thank the Ski Gods for the wonderful sport. It still was a ski season and the laws of averages mean that sooner or later we will have another 600" winter like two years ago.

Posted by Justin at 11:21 PM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2007

Alta's "No Snowboarding" Revisited

Adam at Highly Obsessed had a recent post on Alta's no snowboarding policies. In a previous article he states the following:

There's an Associated Press article out on Alta, a ski area in Utah that still doesn't allow snowboarders on its slopes. There were a couple of lines in the article that caught my attention:

"At the risk of offending my snowboarding friends, I have to say this is another reason why I like skiing here -- I love snowboarders, but without them, the loose snow doesn't slough off the mountain as quickly."

On one hand, that sounds like total bullsh*t to me. [Isn't it lame that I edit what he says by simply replacing one vowel so as to obscure his profanity? =)] Do snowboarders really have a more negative impact on a slope's snow than skiers? I don't think so, but it made me realize skiers and snowboarders probably have different effects.

I am reminded of a posting at Wil from 120daysofpowder's other site, Baseballtopia, titled "48 Homers Hit, Time to Get This Off My Chest"

There is one thing that destroyed the game purists loved more than anything else over the last decade. How’s that for a starter, Jack? “In these decadent and depraved times what could he be after?” you ask yourself. “America is in a war with itself, gas costs $5/gallon, and Bush is learning to play a fiddle on the roof of the White House. What could possibly be wrong with the adopted bastard grandson of the hardy men from America’s Atlantic pastures?” you beg of me!


Write it down, I said it, take down all bets, no one will be turned away! There won’t be one starting pitcher this season to end with an ERA of under 2.90! Not a single cock-eyed one of them!

Baseball used to be a pure sport, not a sport filled with juiced up "power hitters" that use "the cream and the clear". There are purists who watch Field of Dreams over and over and long for the days when baseball was a thinking man's game, not a game of juiced players and inflated home run numbers and ERA's. Alta is a mountain for skiers that have the same nostalgic love for pure skiing that baseball purists have for 1-0 Pitcher's Duels, hit and runs, bunting a guy over, stealing bases, and scrapping for wins. Alta is a purist's mountain.

Baseball is a business, just like skiing is. And baseball probably would not survive and be as viable for today's MTV junkies that like the XFL, WWE, and UFC where steroids and quick soundbites are encouraged. An old school game would not make for SportsCenter's quick clips. Baseball abandoned their pure sport and started things like Interleague Play and All Star Games that end in ties. They sold their soul or so many say. But then there are people like me that didn't grow up with a Major League ball player as their grandfather (which Wil did) and didn't go to games as a 4 and 5 year old. I never knew the game purists love. I love the new brand of baseball because of a love affair after 9-11 with a team in the Desert of Arizona. That was baseball to me. Because of my own lack of historical perspective, I don't understand the longing for an era that long since passed.

I can liken this to the ski and snowboard industry and my comments at Highly Obsessed:

Alta is under $50 for a lift ticket when Deer Valley, Park City, etc., as well as most of Colorado run around $75. Again, Alta does have plenty of room on their mountain. They have almost 2,500 skiable acres and better than 2200 vertical feet on one lift alone, plus only get around 350,000 skier visits per year. Families that are "mixed" still go to Alta-Snowbird which boast almost 4,500 skiable acres combined because they are connected now and Snowbird offers snowboarding.

Go ski with a 60 year old dude that has a couple thousand skier days under his belt and lived in a VW in the 70's skiing places like Breck, Keystone, Winter Park, Abasin, etc., before anyone had ever heard of Jake Burton. Alta has plenty of them and many of them teach. And because Alta is skier only, people gravitate there. The 600"+ that they received last year doesn't hurt either.

I love Snowboarders. My brother rides. All but a couple of my friends do. This is not meant to offend them. Just like Wil is not trying to offend me because he loves a different kind of baseball than I have ever known. There is a special magic there about a pitcher's duel like in the 2001 NLDS when Curt Schilling and Matt Morris stared each other down twice and Curt sent Mark McGuire into his retirement looking plain silly, despite being juiced and having hit 70 HR's just a couple seasons before. It is even more magical when it reminds 30 year old men of the time their grandfather took them to a game at the old Busch Stadium or Wrigley or Fenway. I cannot even begin to understand because I wasn't there back in the day.

Alta is today's pitchers duel. It is something to behold and love for those that want to escape to a different era before terrain parks and Jake Burton. It is ours. And if you don't understand, that is fine. I can't explain a beautiful sunrise to someone that has never seen one. I can't explain baseball before it was a made for TV sport to taday's ADHD kids. I cannot explain or describe Alta and its appeal to someone that has never been a part of skiing in its pure form.

Posted by Justin at 04:27 PM | Comments (1)

November 28, 2006

Utah Locals Polled BY SLC Tribune on Their Favorite Resorts Pick Alta and Snowbird

This is a non-scientific poll done by the SLC Tribune of their local readers. Check the results:

And, finally, the question "Why don't more Utahns ski or board?" produced a predictable response: 472 people, almost 43 percent, cited the cost of lift tickets and equipment. Laziness, fear, dislike of cold also were cited, along with a fair amount of cultural bashing: too many children, too many church responsibilities, too little remaining time and too little regard for outdoor activities.

"After paying 10 percent to the LDS Church for tithing they can't afford to ski," said Mike Montmorency. "I pay my tithing to the snow gods."

FAVORITE RESORTS Like Montmorency, many respondents described skiing at Alta, just being at Alta, as a spiritual experience. While Snowbird devotees gushed about its terrain and the quality of its snow, few described the 'Bird with the reverence Alta advocates regularly reserved for their favored resort.

"God's country," "close to heaven" and "mecca" were three descriptions with religious connotations, along with another conclusion that Alta has "soul." Others called Alta "a purist's mountain," "old school," "the granddaddy of the class resorts" and a "hidden treasure." Andrew Stevens summed it up: "It's cheap (relatively), the employees are friendly and helpful, the terrain is incredible, and the snow is always fantastic. But most of all, the skiers are there to ski, not to be seen, not to judge other's abilities. It's a very pure skiing experience." Or as Billie Daugherty opined: "No snowboarders and as close to heaven as you can get." Ah, yes. No snowboarders. Of the 294 people who designated Alta their favorite resort, 114 (39 percent) cited no snowboarders as one reason why. Conversely, 43 of the 60 people (72 percent) who ripped Alta as their least favorite resort based their answer on the snowboard ban, as did 22 percent of those who designated Deer Valley, which also prohibits 'boards, as their least favorite.

I had a conversation with one of my friends and described Alta as Mecca. If you are a skier, you must make the pilgimage. Insane steeps and deeps. 500+ inches of snow a year including over 600" the last two years. Lake effect snow that keeps coming and coming. Great prices. And 30 minutes from a major Delta hub.

Alta is skiing. It is everything skiing is about. If you are a skier and have not been to Alta, you are not a skier yet. You can ski with a 50 year old in nasty Walmart coveralls who is riding on straight as an arrow 210's that makes you look like a gaper. Or you can see guys hucking off cliffs and rocks. They don't have a terrain park. Instead they have soul. They have ambiance. They have everything a skier is about. You don't need $5,000 worth of gear. Just a skier's heart and soul.

And the folks in Utah that have God's skiing playground at their front door agree.

Posted by Justin at 08:38 PM

September 28, 2006

Ski Magazines Rankings in October Edition - Alta and Big Sky

Ski Magazine ranks Big Sky #24 and Alta #28 in this years Rankings. And both have similar knocks on them. Not enough night life. Not enough restaurants. Just not enough besides the skiing to do.

I just wonder what folks are looking for. I look first at the skiing. Then at the price. Then at the price of accomodations (usually off mountain). I might eat whatever crappy greasy burgers they serve for lunch and grab a Dew, but I don't look for five star dining when I ski. Just give me a Reese's with my grease burger for lunch so I have the juice to finish out the afternoon after a day of quad burning magic.

But then it kind of hit me, that is what skiing when you are poor is about. You look for a good deal and you bring your own lunches. You bargain hunt.

First, Alta is rated as the best bargain. No kidding. Duh! $52 for a lift ticket. Crazy cheap accomodations in SLC less than 20 minutes away. And so on. But Alta has no nightlife. And honestly, that is a huge knock against Utah for destination skiing. The Alcohol does not flow freely enough. Big Sky is too cold and does not have enough night life. Forget the 5k acres and Lone Peak. Discount 4,100 feet of vertical. They have bad on-mountain food.

I wonder sometimes if I am the strange one. I look at Alta and see small crowds, massive snowfall totals, tons of powder, great vertical, tons of terrain, and the Snowbird connect. I see SLC right next door, cheap accomodations, great food, and plenty to do in the evenings in SLC. Let's not forget the proximity to the Airport. Plus if you get bored, there is Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, etc., right there. But there are no snowboarders, which may be the best part.

I look at Big Sky and see the doorstep of Yellowstone, INSANELY MASSIVE VERTICAL AND ACRES, a growing base area, an almost unspoiled old west town, cheap accomodations in Bozeman or in the local motel, and great conditions year round.

I don't take week long vacations at Aspen. I save the $10,000 that a week with a condo for my family would run, get season passes at Brian Head, and spend that money on gas and a condo that I own at a smaller resort off the beaten path. I eat on mountain for lunch most of the time, but it is a dog or a burger or some pizza then right back to the slopes. Dinner, we actually eat something more, but usually that is someplace cheap and something like pasta at home or maybe a couple of pizzas. It is not a "vacation" but rather a very frequent event, so we look for bargains so that it can be even more frequent. A vacation to me is taking a cruise or going to Disneyland. Skiing is not a vacation, but rather, part of my daily or at least weekly routine.

I think it is skewed to have rankings based almost solely on rich folks from the city that have money to burn and want to take their week in Aspen. But that is what the industry caters to. That is who Ski Magazine writes for. They don't write about e-Baying equipment. They don't write about season pass deals or Frequent Sky Cards. They write for destination skiers.

I don't knock folks that enjoy the sport this way or the fact that the ski media writes for these folks or the fact that our resorts market to these folks (and price for these folks). It is a fact of life. I just think that it is important to recognize that backwoods places like Wolf Creek, Brian Head, etc., exist and have a great value proposition for folks that are looking for a different experience than flashing more cash for a week in Aspen than most of the locals working at the restaurants and on the lifts make in an entire season working at the resort. Big Sky and Alta are places that may not appeal to folks that can drop $500 on a night of drinks and want the local nightlife, but since I am not one of those folks, I look for something different in a resort.

Posted by Justin at 01:22 PM | Comments (2)

August 30, 2006

Snowbird Upgrades for 2006-07

First Tracks reports the latest in improvements in Utah at the resorts. Perhaps the biggest change is happening at Snowbird:

Snowbird's Peruvian double chairlift was removed this summer to be replaced with a new high-speed quad. While the base will stay near the original base shack, the top station will be located below the steepest Chip's Run pitch, an approximately 2,600-vertical-foot rise. This 8,000 linear-foot lift transports 1,800 people per hour, providing an eight-minute ride. Should wind conditions prevent Tram operation, this lift will allow for continued skier access to Peruvian Gulch and Mineral Basin.

At the top of the new lift, a 595-foot tunnel with a conveyor lift will provide access to Mineral Basin. This lift makes Snowbird’s intermediate terrain more accessible to skiers and snowboarders by eliminating many switchbacks and the steepest pitch of Chip’s Run. The 12-foot high, 10-foot wide tunnel provides a four-minute ride, and allows quick access to Hidden Peak via the Mineral Basin Express chairlift.

Snowbird's flagship property, the Cliff Lodge just completed a $5.6 million renovation. Features include upgraded lodging rooms with new furnishings, flat screen televisions, bedding, bathroom tile, fixtures and artwork. In addition, the spa level rooms now offer Tempur-Pedic beds.

I am certainly planning a trip to Snowbird this winter. Mostly since Jeremy and my other snowboarder buddies can't go to Alta. Sorry guys...

Posted by Justin at 10:04 PM

November 29, 2005

Alta Photos up (all two of them)

Due to popular demand, the pictures of Sunday's Alta trip are up. Not much to look at, since visibility was so low. But certainly, they explain the conditions at Alta the last couple of days.

I am heading back up there as we speak and will share more photos if I can get the snow to let up. It is dumping again today.

On another note, my boots were seriously painful. I didn't realize how bad it was until I looked at them today. I have three quarter sized bruises on my ankle bones where the boots were pressuring them. Consequently my quads and calves are killing me still too. But live and learn and the gear will be tuned for the rest of the season.

Posted by Justin at 07:49 AM | Comments (1)

November 27, 2005

OK, I lied, The Season Started at Alta

Lake effect snow. What wonderful words. It dumped the last two days and though the storm moved through, the snow did not stop at Alta and Snowbird. The lake effect was in full effect. Alta did not disappoint. It never does. My offseason regimen of sleeping late, eating out, and doing nothing certainly did disappoint.

My day started at 5:30 at my aunt's house in Evanston, Wyoming. Left by six since I expected I-80 to be in worse shape than it was. I was at Alta by 8:15 and parked right up front. I had set up a visit with Tyler who works in the PR department for Alta and took me out for the morning. I left Jake in a half day lesson and hit the slopes with Tyler.

We worked our way around the Sunnyside and Sugarloaf lifts for the first few runs. Tyler and I talked on the lift about how spoiled we were by last year's record snows and some of the areas were roped off because the base still was not well developed. Most of our time was spend debating, "Do we want to chance a rock in what looks like a sick powder stash?" The base was a little lacking before the big dump this week but as it packs down, the next storm will yield Alta-like conditions. The first run, we dropped of a little ledge right by the Sugarloaf lift and I hit a rock and went down like I was shot by a sniper. "MAN DOWN!"

Tyler and I took two runs off of the new Collins lift. Last year, when I was up for Thanksgiving week, it was still not finished, but now the lift accesses close to 2000 feet of vertical with a high speed quad. This was the first real ski day this year so there was a short line (maybe 10 minutes or less), but Tyler works in the PR department. We both sat talking about feeling kind of guilty for using the ski school only line and cutting in front of some folks, as we took the lift up.

We took one run off the front side and took a second off the back into Sugarloaf. The frontside was awesome and had a good two plus feet of powder, but the backside was almost totally untouched. I came over a small drop and hit 15 foot high dip and got too far out over my tips and lost a ski. I MEAN LOST A SKI. Second sniper shot of the day. I sunk almost chest deep in fresh and filled my goggles with ice and snow. I spent the next 1200 ft of vertical skiing alternatingly blind with goggles or crying from the snowfall into my eyes before getting warmed up and the snow cleaned out.

I tried not to whine, but my new Nordica boots were just killing me. Turns out that the boots had a couple of problems. First, they have a set of racing "spoilers" that force your calfs forward. Second, the stock footbeds suck. Third, I have fat ankles. They were putting pressure right on my bones. Being forced too far forward over your tips is not really what you want in deep powder. My stance was horrible and consequently my thighs are still burning.

I picked Jake up from the ski school and we were debating where to eat. I wanted to get the boots fixed ASAP, so we did that during lunch. The Deep Powder House is one of a few Master Boot Fitters in Utah, so I stopped in there. I had new footbeds done and they took the plastic and they have some kind of a press that heats the plastic and stretches it. Scotty at Deep Powder House was able to feel the spots where my ankles were pressing against the liners. Finally, he adjusted the canting. They are literally like new boots. But it kinda killed the day.

It never got over 12 degrees today and snowed all day. Tomorrow, there is more snow coming and that is good news for the rest of the week. I am not sure what my legs are going to feel like tomorrow, but right now, I just want a hot bath and a bottle of tylenol. But what a great start for the season.

Thanks Tyler for making me feel like a local and for the opportunity to spend a day at what is quickly becoming my favorite place to ski. I am going to post more details about Alta and some really good info about the resort on a new page on the site that I am working on. Well, working on once I can stand and walk again. Now I am going to bed.

Posted by Justin at 06:50 PM | Comments (1)

November 25, 2005

It is Official--2005-06 Season to Start for Me at Snowbird on Sunday

2005-06 is going to start with a powder day on Sunday for me. Alta-Snowbird is expecting almost 20 inches in the next 36 hours according to the National Weather Service.

I will be completing posts on both Alta and Snowbird and meeting with reps from both resorts to get more information on how best to enjoy what both have to offer. I will of course share particullars on the site and absolutely love skiing the SLC area.

Since I am taking time off work, I believe it only fitting that Jake take some time off school to head up there with me. The Avalanche is packed. The new Nordica Beasts are calling and Jakes 1080 Fish and new Nordica boots need broken in right. I can't think of a better place than Alta-Snowbird to get some first turns in on some new gear.

Oh, yeah, and one last thing... GO DEVILS! ASU 23 - U of A 20. I could not help thinking about the drive ahead of me tonight as I was watching my Devils smack down the Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. Hopefully my first ski trip will be as exciting and memorable as my trip to watch the Territorial Cup today. Have a nice drive back to Tucson Wildcat fans. And enjoy the offseason. We have one more left to play.

Posted by Justin at 07:33 PM | Comments (3)

November 10, 2005

New Website for Alta

Alta has a new website that debuted Monday. Better information and much more user friendly.

That said, there still is not any new snow. Reporting a 13" base right now. I cannot offer a fully informed opinion on the new website until the website contains something along the line of:

New snow in last 24 hrs. -- 24" Weather forecast for today -- High 25 degrees and sunny

Message to Alta and other resorts... stop teasing us and make with the snow already.

Posted by Justin at 03:29 PM

November 07, 2005

More Snow for Alta on the Way

This just in from the National Weather Service Forecast for Alta for the next two days:

Tonight: Snow. Snow accumulation 2 inches. Probability of measurable precipitation 60 percent. Southwest wind 28 mph. Low 32.

Tuesday: Snow. Snow accumulation 8 inches. Probability of measurable precipitation 80 percent. Southwest wind 20 mph. High 34.

Tuesday Night: Snow. Snow accumulation 3 inches. Probability of measurable precipitation 60 percent. Northeast wind 12 mph. Low 24.

Alta is reporting that they have a 14" base now and are going to open November 17th (always conditions permitting).

All of the now seems to be bypassing the southern resorts like Brian Head and Wolf Creek, but Summit County and the Salt Lake City area resorts are tracking for on-time openings.

Posted by Justin at 10:50 AM

October 31, 2005

Northern Utah Snow Update

I have been depressed that my travel plans to Wolf Creek for this weekend or next have had to be postponed due to lack of snow. Finally some good news from Alta:

12" New Snow in last 24 hours

Extended Forecast-Mostly Clear through Wednesday with snow possible later this week and next weekend.

I am planning a series of early season trips to northern Utah and Colorado mid-month, snow pending. I hate to take the new skis out in rock conditions. I have my rock skis, but I hate to take them out in rock conditions too.

Posted by Justin at 09:38 AM

October 28, 2005

Alta is getting 4-8" tonight

Good news for Northern Utah. Alta is getting 4-8" tonight.

Heading further south, Brian Head is expecting several inches with hopefully more to follow tommorow. From the NWS for Brian Head:

Tonight: Cloudy. Slight chance of snow. Snow accumulation 3 inches. Probability of measurable precipitation 20 percent. Southwest wind 15 mph. Low 21.

Saturday: Snow. Snow accumulation 4 inches. Probability of measurable precipitation 60 percent. Southwest wind 15 mph. High 34.

Saturday Night: Mostly cloudy. Slight chance of snow. Snow accumulation 2 inches. Probability of measurable precipitation 20 percent. Southwest wind 14 mph. Low 17.

This is the most recent web cam image of Alta. You can see several inches on the ground plus more is on the way.

Alta-October 28th

Posted by Justin at 05:31 PM | Comments (1)