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Author Topic: Snowboarding 2013/14 -- Observations on Park City and Brighton  (Read 5068 times)
Tommy T
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« on: December 21, 2013, 12:19:12 AM »

We are in for the winter in our little house in Salt Lake City.   Park City Ski Area (which, like Linda and I, is celebrating its 50th anniversary) and Brighton Ski Resort (at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon) are my season passes.  I also have three day passes each for Deer Valley and Alta as part of my $225 Park City deal (local property tax payor, early purchase, extra $25 off for purchasing during the season last year, and, of course, over 70), so I might actually get the tele's back out and snowplow down Deer Valley once or twice for that long dangling plum of area number 100.  (Alta is not an option for number 100 -- I skied it legally several times in the last century -- and there is a rumor that I poached it on my board a couple of times.)

The great new is that Park City gives a complete weather report for several days out and augments it with current conditions (with a time and date stamp) from 7 on-line sensors located from bottom to top and side to side on the area.  With the kind of bad reporting and sort of "wall of silence numbness" that we have been encountering more and more in recent years when conditions are concerned, this is a real treat and a major credit for the Park City management.

The Wasatch snow is off to a good start with solid base numbers and season snow-fall that is right on the averages.  In fact, we're expecting another foot or so out of a new storm on Saturday and Sunday.

As I mentioned last Spring, I'm not planning to do a daily blog kind of thing.  I'll get reviews and pictures on the forum rating Park City and Brighton and whereever I may go for #100, but otherwise, if you want to know how I spend my time on snow, just look and the "Annuals" for the past several years.  I plan to keep my averages up in the million foot, 100 days range, and I'm feeling like there are several years of that still in the old (literally) body.  And, I'll keep some adventuresomeness in how I spend my time, in-and-out-of-bounds.  (Park City Area confronts county laws that make illegal the use of lifts to ski or ride off of the ski area.  Thus the Brighton ticket.  Brighton is well situated for lift assisted-backcounty and is located such that day touring down Big Cottonwood Canyon, or crossing the ridge to Little Cottonwood Canyon, or crossing the back-bone of the Wasach Range for a ride down into the Heber Valley side are all feasible.   I am already equipped with a Wasatch Back Country ski guide book and an excellent topo map with specific ski route annotations.

I recently parked a picture in my gallery for use in another context, so I'll bring it up here.  This is taken in Cape Town, South Africa, and Robben Island can just be made out on the ocean/skyline at the extreme left edge.  It is summer down there now, so the timing is good and Robben Island is where Mandela was imprisoned, so it is topical.



Tommy T.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2013, 01:51:54 PM by Tommy T » Logged

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Tommy T
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2013, 11:17:38 AM »

Snowed most of Friday and Saturday and a "Wintery Mix" is expected today, so first day is going to be tomorrow.  Good news is that Brighton (a Boyne resort, which is a corporate identity that seems to have good management) also has real, real time, information.  Brighton also had a link to the Salt Lake area Unified Police Department* road reports for both Canyons.  The report time stamped at 7:45 this morning indicated that both canyons were open without chain restrictions and showed the recent history of posts for the past few days.  Fridays report read as follows:

Dec20: Both Canyons is open 7:15AM  

Well, give them a break -- they are trained to look for rock slides and icy patches, not to be skilled writers.

Tommy T.

*Like Boston, Salt Lake City metro region is made up of a lot of small local government units.  Unlike Boston, among many of the small communities the local police system is unified into a single command and response system with shared resources, such as a single forensics lab and coordinated response teams, managed by the county sheriff.

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Tommy T
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2014, 06:41:26 PM »

I started gradually this season and today I exceeded 20,000' for the first time this season.  Park City was running the Jupiter Lift for the first time, and I made a number of runs up there at 10,000 feet with first turns of the season in terrain that is new to me. 

I have spent several days at Brighton, almost entirely off piste in lovely woods.

So, Park City has a municipal ordinance that prohibits skiing outside of the area's boundaries.  Brighton has an open boundary -- there are a few, well located, gates with avi information but skiers and boarders may leave and reenter any place at any time.

At Brighton, I made a run with S-turns around the boundary markers, just because it was OK.  I did the same thing at Park City, just because it is banned.  I felt pretty good about both demonstrations.

Tommy T.
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2014, 11:18:34 AM »

End of the first week of January.  Things are pretty good in-bounds but uncontrolled territory is "iffy."  This is the general advice part of today's report from the Utah Avi Center:

We have partly-increasing-to-mostly cloudy skies as the first in a series of weather disturbances crosses northern Utah. Mountain temperatures have rebounded from Sunday/Monday's single digits and are now in the upper 20s to low 30s at most locations. The week's northwesterly winds slowly backed to the southwest, lost some steam, but have now increased to 15-20mph along the high ridgelines. Riding conditions are hunt and peck with the term "variable" used as a compliment. Still, remember that any time spent in the mountains is a gift.

And a picture from yesterday, thanks to UTAC:



Yes! I am still happy with having bought the house.

Tommy T.

(I love that part about "variable" being a compliment!)
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2014, 11:26:59 PM »

January 9th -- snow from top:



(Top of the Milly lift right about Noon, actually)

to bottom:



(Believed to have been constructed by students waiting at the bus stop in front of our house this morning.)

It is forecast to keep snowing into next Monday.

YES!!

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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2014, 07:27:08 PM »

Even with the good showing at the top Brighton and the snowman in our SLC yard, Park City Ski Area got a bit carried away this morning with their web home-page announcement of eleven feet in 24 hours!!



(Insert added to make that single quote mark clear!)

Tommy T.

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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2014, 08:13:40 PM »

In terms of total precipitation, the Wasatch and adjacent areas are running a bit behind averages so far this year.  In Summit County (Park City and Canyons area) SNOTEL stations, as compared to average and mean numbers, are at around 75%; Big Cottonwood Canyon (Brighton and Solitude) are about the same;  Little Cottonwood Canyon is reporting from Mt Baldy at about 90%.

SNOTEL exits primarily to track water content for the river managers and climate study people and does not report either total snow fall or on-the-ground snow depth or quality as a seperate item.  One inch of ice or ten inches of champagne powder can appear as the same number in SNOTEL reports.  Local knowledge of the season's weather patterns is needed to get a clue as to skiability in terms of depth, stability and quality of the snow.

We currently have a pretty good surface for riding but it is on a snowpack of unconsolidated layers and of deep facets.  Back country, right now, demands real expertise in route choice and snow pit analysis.  Frankly, I'm staying in-bounds or at least in very conservative out-of-bounds territory.

Tommy T.
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2014, 07:03:27 PM »

Monday at the end of the second week of January.

All the Xmas and New Years vacationers are gone and it has been snowing on and off for about 6 days.  7" last night, mild breezes, mostly cloudy with a few thin spots of blue, and temps just under 32 degrees.  Minimize long-term vacationers and over-enthusiastic groomers by avoiding Park City and gain a few hundred feet altitude by driving up to Brighton.

Brighton (often overshadowed by its big name neighbors to the North (Deer Valley, Park City and Canyons) and to the South (Alta and Snowbird)) it is a compact and varied area with 5 high speed quads and a triple that pretty much radiate out of a single base.  A little over 1000 acres in bounds with an open boundary policy spilling into National Forest and providing direct access to Solitude (a Sol/Bright ticket is available).  I don't have total vert numbers from the area, but on a good, up-to-date topo it looks like about 8650 at the bottom of the Milly's quad to 10440 at the top of the Great Western quad.  The Boundary gets up to 10,750 (Clayton Peak), 10,315 (Preston Peak) and 10,452 (Mt. Millicent), strung along a North to South ridge on the crest of the Wasatch.

I spent most of today riding the Milly Express.  It primarily serves a large Northwest face of Mt. Millicent with mostly open bowls, ridges, cliff areas and sparse trees.  It is marked with mostly black and double black "trails" ("routes" would be a better term) and a few blues and a single green that forks off the top into two easier routes back to the base.  Generally speaking, my reaction to the entire area served by the Milly is one of a single, large exposure, light on the grooming, within which a capable boarder or skier can go anyplace with little chance of getting stuck or lost. 

It looks like about 600' feet hiking through an avi control gate, above the lift will deliver the hardy adventurer to an in-bounds, "show piece chute" marked on the trail map as "Elevator."

I got a nice briefing from a Patroller who noted that Elevator was sort of "must do" for people like me and he mentioned that he had done just "because it's there" but he described it as not really worth the climb in a ski region where there are so many really classy test pieces.  It comes off the summit above the main bowl on the area side and is vigorously avi controlled by gas explosions which can leave the surface looking like a broken-up ice flow instead of the beautiful powder that we had today -- it was still closed for control today.  (When I do it, I'll try hard to get some pictures.)

Really, it's a testimony to Brighton that this was my best day so far this year -- off the Milly I got about 1/2 the vertical that I got off of the Jupiter at Park City at the beginning of last week, but the choices were much freer and the variety was quite a bit larger.  (Park City will get its turn to shine when the ridge around to the skier's left of the Jupiter (Scott's Bowl and Pine Cone Ridge) opens for hiking soon (I hope).

Tommy T.
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2014, 05:20:50 PM »

I'm jealous.  I've only had 3 days on snow this season so far. Lots of daddy duty.
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2014, 06:58:33 PM »

Weather isn't being very nice to us for the first season in our SLC house.  Wasatch Weather Weenies" -- blog of a meteorology prof. at U of U -- reports that the Wasatch resorts are running just over 50% of average.  That's bad news for a lot of skiers and boarders, mainly because most of the Wasatch resorts do only a little bit of snow making or none at all.  (Canyons is an exception, but I didn't repeat there again.)  Snowbird isn't allowed to make snow after December because of water shed problems; Park City has snow making capability only on about 1/6th of its terrain and that is mostly competition and training courses;  I haven't seen any sign of snowmaking at Brighton.

It isn't as big a problem for me as for some.  I'm perfectly happy out-of-bounds at Brighton or up on serious hike-to ridges at Park City.  A couple of days ago, I put in two hikes of over 500 feet vert. each to reach the main ridge off Jupiter Peak and a third hike of about 400 feet to hit the far side of Scotts Bowl.  There is good snow holding up there and it isn't skied very heavily.  Of the two Brighton is the only option for out-of-bound, but the lift served out-of-bounds with reasonable return to the area at the bottom are used very slightly and are really, really saving my January.

The mountains west of the Cont. Divide are being denied H2O by a powerful ridge (the same ridge is funneling Arctic cold into New York/New England -- hope you all back there are enjoying it).  There is strong likelihood that it will finally give way in about 4 or 5 days.   (Then we'll probably get hit so hard that the Cottonwood Canyon road will be closed -- that's when I'll be back a Park City!)

Here is a pair of photos of Mt. Shasta, one taken in November and one last week.  Look at how much snow has been lost since Winter started!!



(These were passed on by Wasatch Weather Weenies.)

Sundance Film Festival is either just over or just winding down.  As usual, we've been to a couple of shows -- one was good, both were interesting.

Trumpet life has taken an uptick -- I was invited to join a local amatuer orchestra as first trumpet
(that in addition to my seat in the Murray Community Band and a gig playing in the pit for a community production of Fiddler on the Roof.)

Tommy T.
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2014, 10:08:14 PM »

My brother in law who is a fly fishing guide for a corporate retreat in the Provo Canyon area was just saying how hes worried about the lack of snows affect on the rivers this year.
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2014, 03:23:53 PM »

There is strong likelihood that it will finally give way in about 4 or 5 days.   (Then we'll probably get hit so hard that the Cottonwood Canyon road will be closed -- that's when I'll be back a Park City!)

Right on schedule:  Brighton reports 12 inches in last 24 hrs; Park City weighs in at 9 inches.

Both Canyon roads were closed early this morning, but Big Canyon is now unrestricted and Little is open but 4X4 or chains only. 

I'm home in SLC doing two plumbing repair jobs   Undecided.

Tommy T.
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2014, 03:53:45 PM »

Park City Ski Area is doing well by me.  My pass includes the right to by-pass the crowds at the bottom and few skiers and riders take advantage of the upper ridges -- even fewer hike above the lifts.  This is an area that can compete with Big Sky or the north end of the Tahoe region as being a top choice for families or groups of widely different abilities who want tough and easy from the same parking lot.

So far this season, the long hikes around the boundary on skier's left of the area, up on top of the Pinecone Ridge, have not been open, but the long hike up from McConkey's Lift to the Jupiter Peak has been a major source of fresh tracks and interesting technical challenges for me.

This is an image of the area in question taken from a busy little intersection near the top of the Cresent Lift (one of those spots where first-timers get confused about how to get down and follow the black diamond "Shaft" down Cresent instead of the green "Home Run" down under the Bonanza Lift).  To get to Jupiter Peak from the site of the photo, one goes down to Bonanza from the top of Cresent and rides up Bonanza and skies down to McConkley's.  Up McConkley's and you're ready for a 500 foot climb to the peak.



(The picture is a bit mis-labeled in that the West Face is on the other side of the Pioneer Ridge, overlooking the Jupiter Bowl area.)

First time up, I was following three Patrollers on their way up to man the little shack on top of Jupiter.  As usual, I talked a lot during the climb.  As we came to the top, one of them said that most boarders didn't keep up with them on a climb and asked my age.  I responded with something like "Most boarders aren't 70 years old and haven't climbed through 20,000 feet ASL on two continents."

They gave me the tips that make runs through the cliffs on the East Face possible and I laid in first tracks on one of chutes down that side.

I've got to say, I was absolutely stoked.  It was a couple hundred feet of a rocky line that would fit in at Jackson Hole just fine.  Then it openned out into the "O Zone," where there were some other tracks, plenty of freshies, and on down to the return traverse.  I went right back up McConkey's and laid first tracks down one of the gaps between trees in the "P Zone."

One more hike up to the top and over into the Jupiter area found less snow and more tracks on the ground but still a nice run in the trees followed by a couple of runs off of the Jupiter Lift, and I had about 1300 feet of vertical hiking up to around 10,000 feet. 

(My car has made it's last trip down from the ski areas until it's brakes get some attention Monday morning.  Last trip down it sounded like my pads were well on their way to that happy resting grounds where the Colorado River dumps all of its accumulated silt each Spring.)

Tommy T.

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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2014, 07:02:39 PM »

Pinecone Ridge, the long ridge that forms the skier's left side of the Park City Ski Area, has been a difficult avalanche problem in the early season, unstable snow.  Finally, it has been openned for public use.  Reaching the top of the Ridge is a good test of one's desire to make some fresh tracks.   The "easy" way from the parking lot requires a minimum of four lifts and a traverse -- that puts one at the top of the Jupiter Lift, near the high point of the ridge that defines the Jupiter Bowl.  One then traverses that down that ridge over a couple of intermediate high points, involving 100 feet or so of uphil climb, to the avi gate at the start of Pinecone.  The high point on Pinecone is then about 600 feet back up.   At that point there is a cute little cabin (used by Patrol on avi control?) and around 750 vertical feet of open snowfield.  Clear through January, the open snowfield was marked almost daily by explosive triggered slides.  Finally, the slope has been stabilized and two days of new powder produced that kind of white heaven that almost all of us with skis or boards dream of.

I turned down hill and didn't stop OR CROSS ANOTHER SKI OR BOARD TRACK for the entire 750 foot height of the open field.  Only when the trees began to impinge did I stop, look for prior lines into the open aspens and take a picture.  I only had my cell phone with me to record the view and no other skiers or riders were around to give any perspective.   This is what my view looled like from the bottom of the open slope, looking across at Jupiter Peak and the P and O zones shown in the picture in the prior post.



A few hundred feet further through reasonable trees brought me to the creek line at the bottom and the tracks began to converge on a woods road that, with only a little bit of one-footing it, connected with a well beaten trail out of the Jupiter Bowl back to the Thaynes Lift.  (Studying the area  trail map, I suspect that my descent was roughly along the line designated "Two Goons.")

In my various lists of area rankings for various purposes, there is the list of my personal favorites for lift-served riding for my own use when conditions are great.  One and Two on that list are Jackson Hole and Big Sky/Moonlight Basin Combo, with the order shifting around from to time to time.  Number three on that list has kind of floated around amoung Breck, A-Basin, Squaw Valley, and "One of the Wasatch areas."  The more time I spend up above the lifts at Park City, the more likely it is that Park City is going make a claim on that number 3 spot.

Tommy T.




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« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2014, 01:39:00 AM »

Massive snow event starts tonight.  Reports pretty much agree that the next nice day will be my 71st birthday next Tuesday. 

Between now and then it is expected that the Central Wasatch resorts will get 4 to 5 feet of snow.

http://utahskiweather.com/forecasts/brighton

Nice birthday present, huh?

Tommy T.
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