A great man named Bluto once famously explained, “Nothing is over until we decide it is!” When I finished my last east coast lap of the year at Killington on April 29th, I was beyond content with the 2017-18 season. I skied the coldest, deepest, and steepest runs of my life, I traveled to British Columbia, Quebec, and all over the northeast, and I managed to pull off over one million vertical feet of skiing in 44 days.
But I wasn’t ready for the season to be over.
Fortunately for me, an opportunity fortuitously arose to cap off my season with two more awesome days of spring skiing when my good friends Julia and Kyle (we know them as Kulia) invited me to join them for a last-minute weekend trip to Utah. How could a ski junkie like me pass up the opportunity to ski in May? I met up with them at JFK on Friday night, threw back a few beers and some overpriced airport food, and we jetted out to Salt Lake City.
On Saturday we chose to visit Snowbird, as neither Kyle nor Julia had ever previously skied there. We started the day right with a massive 50,000-calorie breakfast at The Forklift, then we headed to the tram for a scenic ride to the summit. With 60° temperatures and bluebird skies, we were all giddy with anticipation of some epic, big-mountain spring skiing.
We started our day in Mineral Basin, a giant 500-acre bowl on the backside of the resort whose east-facing slopes soften early as they bask in the morning sun. We took a few runs down the groomers then switched to the off-trail for some steep and technical lines. The corn snow quickly transitioned into super sticky mashed potatoes, so we ventured back to the front side that was now loosening up from the sun.
On the front side of the mountain we headed down Chip’s Run; a giant, endless blue trail that alternates between narrow switchbacks and wide-open steeps for nearly 3,000 feet back to the tram base. This was Julia’s favorite run of the trip, and it was great to see how much she has progressed in a relatively short time skiing. On our first run down Chip’s, Kyle and I got a glimpse of the famous Cirque that bisects the front face of the resort, and we decided to have a go at the steepest lines while the snow was prime. The pitch of the runs is always shockingly steep when you haven’t been out west (or to Tuckerman’s Ravine) recently, but after a couple turns we settled in and enjoyed a steep and wild ride on some phenomenal soft snow.
We closed out the day with some runs off the Little Cloud chair on the other side of the Cirque; the last area of the resort to soften up. The snow was like cream cheese at this point, so the skiing was getting pretty difficult anywhere that had lacked traffic. I was surprised by how few moguls had formed given the weather, but there was just simply too much terrain for the relatively small number of skiers to build up the bumps. We did find a steep run though with a handful of moguls in their nascent stage, and Julia proved her grit to finish off the day.
On day two we headed further up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta; my favorite resort in Utah. While some of the locals can be a bit crusty and I don’t really get the snowboard ban, the terrain is unbeatable and the old-school vibe is soulful and smile-inducing. Sunday was closing day at the resort, so everyone was in costume and having a great time. Kyle and I donned our Hawaiian shirts, which felt quite appropriate for the 65° sunny day on the mountain.
We started the day with a few laps down the groomers off the Collins lift, which were surprisingly firm given that the temperature had failed to dip below 40° overnight. This led us to head across the resort to lap the Sugarloaf lift where the trails were much softer already thanks to plentiful morning sun. When the off-trail softened up sufficiently, Kyle and I headed to the high traverse in search of some steep, slushy lines. We found exactly that in the Greely Bowl, with a steep, untouched field of slush that skied like the heaviest, wettest powder imaginable. Once we figured out our balance and got in a rhythm though, it was glorious.
After some cold beers and a quick impromptu dance session, we returned to the Collins lift where the three of us lapped the now corn-filled groomers and bowls. While Julia took a brief break, Kyle and I took three more runs on the high traverse, hitting three of my favorite lines: High Rustler, Lone Pine and No Name. These are the steepest lines at Alta that don’t require hiking, and with soft corn snow under a sunny, royal blue sky they were absolutely blissful.
We finished the day with a few more runs down the Collins-side trails, including a run with journalist and former racer, Wina Sturgeon. Wina shared some wisdom about skiing, health, and enjoying life to the fullest, and she showed off some sweet turns down Mambo and Corkscrew.
With plenty of time to kill before our flight after the lifts closed at three, we elected to spend the remainder of the afternoon at Red Butte Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden located on the University of Utah campus in the foothills northeast of downtown Salt Lake City. It was hard to believe that we’d just been skiing as the warm, dry 85° breeze wafted the aromas of freshly-bloomed flowers throughout the garden, and it honestly made me want to come back for another spring weekend next season.
This has been a fantastic season, and our weekend trip to Utah provided a much-needed sense of closure. Now begins the season of hiking, camping, grilling, and annoying my wife by watching ski videos and counting down the days until the 2018-19 season begins. Enjoy the summer and I hope to see you all out on the slopes in six months!