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Archive for December 21st, 2006

Four Days in Utah

December 21, 2006

Here’s the report I meant to write yesterday. If you’d rather just look at the pictures—and I don’t blame you one bit if you do, because this is a really long entry—see here.

I took the afternoon off because our flight was at 4-something and I work an hour and a half from the airport. There are a couple things I need to remember for next time. First, even though my ski boots fit so perfectly into my big hard sided suitcase, it’s better to bring one of the rolling duffles because a carry-on can be stacked on the duffle but not on the hard sided bag, and stacking is good when there’s also a big ski bag to wrangle. (Also, the duffle is lighter and less likely to cause one to be shamed with a heavy tag.) Second, I like Delta because they have Coke products, big by airline standards drink cups, and free cheese crackers.

The highlight of the day was seeing two dogs in baggage claim in Salt Lake City. I like dogs (when they are not biting me). One was a German shepherd police dog; that canine was obviously happy to be at work, sniffing luggage and people and zigzaging around the area with an officer in tow. I felt honored to get official police dog slobber on my ski bag. The other was a small white terrier wearing a red sweater with bells sewn on it and a service dog vest over the top of that. I had fun imagining what services might be rendered by a tiny jingling dog.

I’d never been to Snowbasin before. It’s a Sun Valley resort, which sort of worried me, since I hadn’t much liked Sun Valley. Like its sister resort, Snowbasin had fancy lodges with fancy bathrooms complete with marble toilet stalls behind solid wooden doors (but no baskets to put gloves in, though the newer building did have shelves in the stalls and not right next to the toilet either, so that’s some improvement). Unlike Sun Valley, the runs had some character. The ones we could get to, anyway; it being early season and a not-so-great snow year only about 40% of the runs were open. Lunch was a nice surprise: my bill came to only $9.50, which is dirt cheap for on-mountain fare, especially at a luxe resort like this. For that, I got a drink, a huge cookie, a roll with butter, and a big bowl of delicious cheese-potato-beer soup. The run we took after lunch was a not-nice surprise. I do not know who the Dan of Dan’s Run is, but he should not allow his namesake trail to be open in the condition it was; I had some bad crust flashbacks to Lake Tahoe (where I tweaked my knee once upon a time) as I picked my way down trying to stay on my skis. Still, overall I enjoyed the day and want to go back someday. The feel of the place was friendly and relaxed, and they obviously have a sense of humor, what with a run named Porky Face.

Saturday—Powder Mountain
Unlike Snowbasin, I had skied Powder Mountain before. That time, we stayed on the main part of the mountain, but this time we were almost forced to try the ski school area as well, as it had one of the only two lifts that were open this early in the season. (The good part about so few lifts being open is that they weren’t charging full price and lift tickets were only $30.) The snow was better here than at Snowbasin, but some runs had an unfortunate hard layer of ruts under the powder which meant less usable terrain than it first appeared. Despite the limited number of runs available, we managed to spend a full day having fun on the slopes before driving back down to the hotel in Odgen as it was getting dark.

We could see the top of Ogden City Hall from our room. That view didn’t do justice to its dandy Art Deco-ness. I wish I’d been able to get some good pictures of it, but we were only there at night, walking around enjoying the lights and displays of the Christmas Village on the surrounding block. (Oddly, in this age of Flickr, I can’t seem to find any good photos of the building.)

Sunday—Snowbasin (again)
There’d been snow overnight, so we thought that we had a good chance to find improved conditions at Snowbasin. Based on the way the wind was whipping through Ogden we weren’t sure the lifts would be operating, though— the trees were thrashing around and the light poles in the parking lot were rocking back and forth. We’d had a day like that at Deer Valley some years back, where eventually they had to shut down all the lifts but one that was semi-protected from the gusts. But we were there to ski so packed so off we went to the mountain (bringing reading material just in case we had to sit in the lodge for a while). Surprisingly, there was hardly any wind up at the hill and we got right on the gondola and off we went.

Conditions had improved, to the point where they’d opened a whole area that had been closed until that morning. Evidently the excitement of the new snow and new terrain caused me to forget certain key skills, like staying upright. I had my worst fall of the trip when I caught an edge in some sticky manmade snow and bounced my (fortunately helmeted) head off the ground. I took another tumble on the top of the next run, but at least that was kind of steep so I had some excuse. I was very impressed by the concern shown by other skiers—within a minute three people came over to ask if I was okay, including a kid on the Snowbasin ski team, and I hadn’t even lost any of my equipment so it wasn’t a particularly showy fall. It took another couple incidents, including clipping a hidden rock with one ski and doing a face plant into powder, before I really got my ski legs under me for the day. We stayed so late that we got to see them putting the gondola cars into their garage for the night.

Monday—The Canyons
The morning newspaper led us to believe that there’d been a lot of snow down in Park City and little to none at the Odgen area resorts; Mr. Karen called the ski report numbers on the phone and they confirmed that, so we decided to go to The Canyons in Park City for the day. I’d never been there, either, though I sort of felt like I had because it’s very similar to Deer Valley in spots. They did have a lot of snow on the ground, but it was a sunny day so the crowds were the worst we faced all trip.

I wasn’t thrilled with the way we had to park far from the hill and take a gondola up and then trudge through the village to get to the slopes, but other resorts make me do similar things and I still like them. Not this one. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t make it easy to get from one part of the mountain to the other. For instance, I couldn’t just ride to the top and ski back down to where I started, which was rather annoying, especially since once I did manage to get back to where I started, there was still the trudge and the gondola required to get back to the car. And go back to the car I did, to change from my powder skis to my hardpack ones, leaving Mr. Karen on the hill to play in the trees and steeps.

It took a while for me to get there, though. First I had to do a very long road which should have been called Tour of Expensive Ski Homes, then I missed the run to the lift I needed to get to access the slope to the base. I ended up at the top of a high traffic run where I fell and slid maybe twenty yards down the hill while one of my skis slid another twenty without me. (In contrast to Snowbasin, no one asked if I was okay.) Because I am stubborn, I went back and did it again (still with my powder skis on) because I wanted to do it right. Hah. It was worse the second time. I stayed on my feet, but only by side slipping under a snow gun that was making rain rather than snow, which was why the slope was so slippery and so many people were falling. They later closed the run entirely it was so bad. I finally got to the transfer lift I needed to get back down, but stopped at the top of it to have lunch when I saw that the restaurant there wasn’t nearly as crowded as the one I’d stopped to deice at after the rain gun incident. The food was good, but the prices were a little steep: $5.50 for a cup of hot chocolate, for instance. It was a big cup, true, and came with whipped cream, but still. When I eventually got back up onto the hill with my non-powder skis, there was true joy in Karenville. I swooped around on various blue runs the rest of day, stopping only when the lift I was doing laps around shut down at 4.

We left Odgen before breakfast and it took until dinnertime to get home. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: I do not feel any safer for knowing that I and all my fellow passengers have taken our shoes off for screening and stuffed our tiny toiletries into quart-size ziptop bags. There has got to be a better way to foster airline safety than making sure I check my four ounce bottle of saline solution instead of bringing it into the passenger compartment with me. Now that I and my liquids and gels are home, we’re going to stay home for a while. My coworker who went to Colorado while I was in Utah did not get home; she got caught in the storm and is not sure when she’ll be able to get back. That could have been us; I’d love to have had all that snow to ski on but not the associated travel problems.

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