Two Days in Alta: The second coming of the famed Wasatch snowfall

January 23rd, 2012 by

Snowflakes had been few and far between when I boarded a flight to Utah last Monday. But by the time I made my way back to Colorado four days later, that tune was sounding rather off pitch. 

See, Tess Weaver and I were invited to come to Alta to ski with the Salomon crew on Tuesday, January 17 to test their new Guardian AT binding. After a full bluebird day on snow with the Guardian, the crew and no new snow, we figured one more half day on hard pack would be enough and we'd be on our way down the hill to Salt Lake City where I'd drop Tess at the airport and continue on to the OR tradeshow.

However—after lapping groomers until noon on Wednesday—the snowflakes starting wisping through the air and we started to rethink our game plan. Only problem: Our reservations were set to expire at the Goldminer's Daughter and Tess had a plane to catch.

To stay, or to go? The task of getting the goods was certainly not light work. But sometimes, the price you have to pay to find snow when your hands won't stop shaking from powder withdrawal is worth changed flights, hotel reservation extensions and eating bananas and granola bars for dinner that you smuggled from the breakfast buffet that morning. That being said, this story goes on.

We checked in with a couple patroller friends, refreshed every snow report site we could find and made the call—the allure of possibly skiing pow was too strong. We were staying. $150 change fees be damned.

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Olivia of Mountain Magazine en route to the goods. P: Tess Weaver

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Thankfully, the good folks at The Goldminer's Daughter were sympathetic to our plight and offered us a reduced rate if we forewent the included dinner (hence the smuggled bananas). The ski-in-ski-out accommodations ensured we would have first feeding of any and all white stuff.

After a quick trip to SLC that afternoon for previously scheduled meetings, a gnarly drive back through sideways falling snow, a cozy chick flick (The Proposal is probably not worth adding to your Netflix queue), a sympathy salad from the dining room to go with our bananas (thanks bus boys!) and an early bed time, we were dreaming of pow.

Then, we woke up to 14 inches. Yes, double digit snowfall. Praise the snow gods. We were on our way to shralping pow for the first time all season.

It wasn't 14 inches of the famed champagne pow, however—it was 31 degrees at the base—but we were stoked. In fact, this was the exact type of snow the mountains needed to fill in the depleted base. Light stuff would just blow away, and hell, 14 inches is still 14 inches. The only problem now: Ski patrol had a lot of inspection and bombing to do before lifts could start spinning. Our turns were so close, yet still so far.

The snow was heavy and the coverage below was sparse. But that didn't stop lines from forming by 8:00 a.m. The anxiety was palpable as pow addictions were about to be fed. Snowball fights broke out and hoots and hollers erupted as charge-fed avalanches made their way down the mountain. Lifts finally boarded skiers around 11:30, and those that had braved the treacherous conditions of Little Cottonwood Canyon got their just reward.

The storm came in waves and is still pumping in the Wasatch and around the country as we speak, feeding addictions and bringing smiles to faces young and old, near and far. Keep it coming, La Niña, keep it coming.

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