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Author Topic: Snowboarding Solitude and Park City '14/'15  (Read 2347 times)
Tommy T
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« on: November 04, 2014, 10:47:57 AM »

Wow!  It's November.  

Utah Avi Center has gone active (with substantially nothing to report) and I received the first of this year's updates on the condition of the Canyon roads (both roads are clear and Guardsman's Pass is closed for the season, based on the calendar and not on the weather).

As the Subject title suggets, this year's passes are at Park City and Solitude.

At this point in time, I am ranking Park City as my number 3 choice for my personal use as a full season ski vacation destination and I am designating it as a "safe" choice for early booking for any type of skier/rider for a one week of vacation, if that is necessary.  (It's always best to wait as long as possible!)  It's number 1 in Utah in the same categories.  It's only qualification is that it is crowded on major school vacation weeks and somewhat crowded on local single day school closing and holiday week-ends.  (I am most eager to see, and I shall report as to, what happens to PC's excellent management policies under the new Vail veil.)

I have a few days spread over a few decades of experience with Solitude.  Terrain is very similar to Brighton; open boundary policy applies; and the boundaries access some great potential runs, loops and connections to other areas and potential pick-up spots.  My favorite apres-ski lunch and bar lodge is the Silver Fork Lodge.  The Silver Fork itself is a long gully that runs down to the Lodge from high on the Western side of the ski area.  (A beautiful backcountry run, it is, unfortunately, a huge avalanche trap that is very avalanche prone and it is a rare day when a big dump is paired with a low danger level.)

December 21 (by coincidence the first day of Winter) is the earliest that we can arrive in Utah and not become Utah income tax payers.  I have a Texas band concert in the prior week and we usually make a leisurely, three day drive of the trip out, so the timing is working out pretty well.

We are expecting an average Wasatch winter, based on the long-term climate models, and in the Wasatch, average is just fine.

Tommy T.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2014, 11:37:14 AM by Tommy T » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2014, 06:02:46 PM »

Well, we're at home at our home away from home -- all moved in to our Salt Lake City House and facing 5 inches of new in the last 12 hrs at Solitude (at least 4" down here in the City) for a season total of 106" and 59" base.  Unfortunately, we're in a winter weather warning with several really pretty bad weather to come and chain rules are effective in the Canyons.  I've got new cable sytle chains for the season but I tend to treat them as ways to get home in an blizzard rather that as a way to venture up the mountains in the face of winter weather warnings.  But that's not the main reason that I haven't been on snow yet this season.

I've had a major set-back in the past few days -- either a mini-stroke, or a different, harsher and longer Alzhiemer incident than I ever had, or something similar.  I've completely lost all memory of December 24th.  I remember driving into SLC and pulling into our garage and unloading the car, all of which happened on the 23rd, and my next memory starts someplace on the morning of the 25th. I think (thought?) that the 25th and 26th were otherwise normal.  Yesterday, the 27th, seemed to go pretty well, I drove by myself about 25 blocks through SLC to buy some the new cable/chains and to pick-up a pizza for supper-- turns out that pizza shop is out of business and I managed to find another one which actually is better that the one we've used in the past.  I got home, we enjoyed supper and this morning I looked out to see that the back hatch on the van had been left open all night.  Nothing was stollen and the car was mostly in our garage with just the open hatch sticking out.

I'm still pretty rational -- I decided not to face Big Cottonwood Canyon in the bad weather and I repaired our kitchen faucet this morning!

Let me be really clear right here:  They will not lock the door of the ward on me.  My family knows how I feel about this.  I've been a national orienteering champion, an Eagle Scout, an honors grad in college and law school (Harvard), a partner in one of world's premier law firms, and a damned good trumpet player in classical, jazz and theatre settings.  I've done a traverse of Mt. McKinley and I've climbed the French Ridge of Mt. Huntington; I was one of the final four on the first American ascent of the Polish Direct on Aconcagua.  I'll not settle for settling down.

If I can't snow board, fly fish for trout in Alaska, read dozens of great books each year (good fiction, thoughtful essays, and science are my  choices)...  If I can't make week long solo trips on my Ducatti (probably the first Ducatti Monster ever to fjord a river in a state forest in northern Alabama)...  If I can't play my trumpets every day and play for public enjoyment or entertainment at least a few times a year... If I can't argue politics or religion with anybody that wants to try me...

My wife and extended family all know this.  Well, don't cry at my funeral.   Celebrate my detemination that it's going to be my way or no way at all. 

Meanwhile, back in the present reality, my wife is busy on the nurse's hot line that comes with our health insurance, finding a good G.P. out here who can serve as the gateway to an appropriate evaluation of my present situation.

Tommy T.

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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2015, 08:58:37 PM »

Shots of Park City and Canyons backsides from just above 10,000' ASL at Solitude:






This was my first day of the season and Solitude was working with 5" to 7" of new snow, beautifully groomed.  I mentioned the quality of the grooming to several staffers and learned that the area has some new this year equipment that works on different principles than the older machines.  I'll try to get some additional facts on this because the result was really the best groomed snow I've ever ridden on.

Solitude in known for having a liberal backcountry access policy and I stopped by a Patrol shack and asked for briefing.  The area boundary is roped and access is through gates that have information as to conditions and status -- going through closed gates is a county regulation violation, going through open gates and it's a free game.  Crossing into adjoining Brighton (or from Brighton into Solitude) is acceptable by agreement of the two areas but there's no lift back up without a Brighton pass (or vice versa).  (It is possible and permitted to go from Solitude into Brighton up high and then cross back down low, but neither the trail systems nor the lift layouts make that particularly inviting.)

Park City may get neglected this year.  I do want to watch what Vail Corp. does with the area and whether the management changes are obvious.  But, the drive to Park City is 30 minutes on the Interstate.  The drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon looks like this:



I layed in about 10,000 vert.  My wife is going into knee replacement surgery in a couple of weeks and about a dozen relatives are scheduled to visit over the season.  This isn't going to be any record breaker but I am determined to have fun in the snow.  I'll be certain to pass on my observations on the Vail Corp in Park City.

Tommy T.

« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 11:49:24 AM by Tommy T » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2015, 11:49:15 PM »

Two of my four granddaughters are identical twins.  They and a friend have arrived for about a week vacation with us.  The little girls that I taught how to snow-board are now college upper-classmen planning their graduate study programs.  The friend rode for the first time today.

Solitude is a great place to introduce someone to snow sports -- the setting is Rocky Mountain rugged; the snow is sublime; the grounds crews are all friendly, the food is quite good, and the crowds are widely spread around Solitude and 7 or 8 other major resorts.  This shot is one of the girls enjoying plenty of space under weather conditions that are the stuff of dreams:



Twins and friend have plenty of room to enjoy a beautiful Wasatch day:



I always worry about whether or not I wear them out too much -- Back home in SLC; I guess they haven't outgrown their afternoon naps:

« Last Edit: January 06, 2015, 11:52:11 PM by Tommy T » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2015, 09:40:15 PM »

Jump to Vail Resort's newly aquired Park City Mountain Resort

1.  First time this season at PCMR -- No big changes are obvious yet.  Two pieces of good news: (A) Park City has stood up to Vail and said "No" to some requests or plans; and (B) Vail has announced rather complete details of a $50,000,000.00 plan to join PCMR and The Canyons via a new set of lifts renovating and connecting the existing lift systems of the two areas.  The intention is to be completed in time for next season.  It will result in America's largest ski area and I will buy that ticket if it is at all reasonably priced.

2.  This morning was perhaps the most beautiful day in the mountains that I have ever experienced.  The sky was absolutely perfect blue with only a few scattered clouds.  The abundant evergreens were packed with the white of about 18" of snow spilt over the last couple of days.  There was a clear and easy to see Moon setting in the West.  And, all of the valleys below the area base level were filled with heavy ground fog that obscured all man-made structures.  Near the bottom of the slopes, one began to enter the fog and the result was a really, really weird, triple rainbow display.  I would guess that we were seeing rainbows created by refraction by water vapor at one altitude, refraction by water droplets at another, plus a huge, white-light arc against the high background clouds which was simple reflection.

3.  Neither want of snow nor avalanche prone over-abundance of the same interfered with my desire to seriously work the terrain around the Jupiter Lift and, especially, Pinecone Ridge.  500 feet of vertical climb up from the col above West Scott's bowl to the high point of Pinecone Ridge was rewarded with about 1000 feet of dropping on steep, virgin snow into another 400 vertical feet of gliding through reasonably open woods, down the line of Thanes Canyon to the Thane Lift and a crack at the day's next adventure.

Overall, it was the best day of the Season so far and probably a top ten day for my entire snow sports career!!

Tommy T.
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2015, 09:30:26 PM »

I come from a family with two kids -- me and my sister.

She has never skied (and doesn't want to) but, when she came out to Salt Lake City for a visit to our probable retirement home, she said that she wanted to see a ski area.

Well, most of you know that a ski area from the parking lot looks a lot like a parking lot.  You really can't get a true feel for the deminsionality of a ski area from below.

But then ...

... Snowbird has rather inexpensive tickets for senior citizens to walk-on for a single, round-trip ride on the Tram.

So my sister and I took a little trip:



Now she knows.

Tommy T.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2015, 09:32:15 PM by Tommy T » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2015, 01:43:24 PM »

Quarter-Moon run!!

Run of the Year -- to date:




Three or four lifts and a short hike will take you to the Jupiter Lift -- a traverse around Scott's Bowl (with about 200 feet of vertical hiking thrown in) will take you to the start of Pinecone Ridge.  500 feet up the ridge is a high point and a patrol shack used mainly for avalanche control and rescue work.  A slight descent off that point and with a couple more short climbs along the up and down crest of the Ridge, passing the skiable zones known as Pinecone, Two Goons, Constellation, and Half-Moon, one arrives at the Holy Grail, Quarter-Moon.

Quarter-Moon looms 1000 vertical feet at an average pitch of 45 degrees (my estimate from a topo map and my recollection of high school trig) over the loading station of the Thanes Lift and the old mine remains next to it.

When I reached that point, there was one track going down off the ridge -- went I left there were two.  I put in 1,000 feet of non-stop vertical without crossing another's line!!!

WHAT A RUN!!!

For the full length of the run there was about 5" of very light and dry snow sitting of a couple of feet of consolidated base.  2/3rds of the vertical was open slope and the bottom third was well spaced trees.

It wasn't a busy day and the liftie at the Thanes had watched my run and complimented me on it.  The two lines were clearly visible from the so-called "summit area" where a number of lifts top out at a little village of food stops, restrooms, a ski shop, an information center and the usual collection of pro-photographers.  One of the photogs tried to capture the two lines down Quarter Moon but the Sun and lack of contrast just didn't cooperate.

Vail corporation is going to put a lift tower with an unloading station on top of Pinecone just about exactly where the picture was taken as part of the PC/Canyons interconnect.  That will enable the ski patrol to do avi patrols further down the ridge and open new terrain.   Vail is also considering the possibility of new trails on the North side of the ridge.  I don't know how I feel about that -- lots of conflict in my mind.

Tommy T.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 07:09:57 PM by Tommy T » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2015, 09:08:24 AM »

Quarter-Moon run!!

Run of the Year -- to date:





Tommy T.
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« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2015, 08:13:11 PM »

Reports from the Cottonwoods, Park City, and Alta stations, as well as from the areas in the northern Wasatch, all consistent with the water content reports from the government operated SNOTEL system, all are in rough agreement that the 24 hours ending about Noon today delivered about 20" to 24" at the higher elevations.  Both Cottonwood Canyons were closing from late afternoon to early evening for avalanche control on the slopes above the roads.  Even on the Easten side of Salt Lake City in the mountain benches and foothills(say 4,000 to 5,000 feet ASL), we were out shoveling 4 to 6 inches off of our walks and drives (although afternoon highs got above freezing and some late afternoon Sun has dried the sidewalks while leaving a nice white cover on the yards.

Looks like winter, feels like winter and it is highly likely that I will have some nice fresh snow riding pictures from Solitude ready to post tomorrow evening.

This is a picture (lifted via Wasatch Weather
Weenies [again]) of the front rolling up Little Cottonwood Canyon this morning:



We've a nice full Moon just over the mountains to the East and are about 30 minutes from what should be fine Sunset to the West.

Tomorrow will be the kind of day when the Park City resort is packed and Solitude will have no lines at all.  

Tommy T.
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2015, 01:12:48 PM »

The snow season in the Wasatch wasn't great and it is beginning to wind down on the early side.  I didn't actually count and divide, but it looks like Park City has closed about 1/3 of its named trails and/or features including a lot of the higher, more challenging terrain.  Solitude is still putting on a pretty good show.  Two days ago I had real memory maker:  a rather nice late season storm had dropped 7" overnight and when I arrived at the unload station on the highest lift  the Patrol was just opening the gate to the highest entrance to HoneyComb Canyon.  Right around 2,000 feet of vertical from the top of the area's highest lift to the bottom of the lowest loading station.  A guess at the line on the ground would be that it averages around 40 degrees -- steepest at the top, uncomfortable tending toward level right near the bottom.  I was first through the gate with nobody close behind me -- ski patrol had been working ridge above the canyon.  It was a perfect run -- virgin all of the way -- I didn't even see anyone else except for the liftee at the Honeycomb Return lift -- a short cut back to groomers about 2/3rds of the way down -- where he was shovelling out his up-loading area. 

What do you do after a run like that?  Well, I linked together 3 lifts and went back up to the top.  SECOND TRACKS ALL THE WAY!!!

This picture shows the gate in question and the beginning of the transition from bowl to canyon.  This was taken a couple of weeks ago:



That's the gate that was opened just for me.

The next picture shows what the upper slope down into the canyon looks like with no tracks (yet!!):




Snow season is winding down early but the other side of my life is booming -- I have over 20 commitments to playing trumpet in public between now and the end of this season's expected stay in Utah.

By the way, we are within just an inch of making a commitment to Utah and becoming voting residents here instead of Texas.  We are actively making plans to get our bikes and my motorcycle out here; we have established a primary care physician relationship with one of the clinics associated with the U of U; and we are adjusting our investment holding to be "Utah Friendly" in income tax terms.

If one of the worst years since snowfall record keeping started in the West is this good, we figure its the place to be.

Tommy T.


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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2015, 07:24:08 PM »

The arrival of my youngest grandaughter to stay with us for her school vacation week sent me to Solitude again.

Monday, March 30, 2015 -- said to be a terrible snow year, setting records for low snow and high temp -- don't know who said that, but Solitude Ski Area has been great fun for the last couple of days.

Without a lot of commentary, here are some shots of Noora at Solitude:


Just a waive to greet you to a sample of Big Cottonwood Canyon and corn skiing at its best:




No crowds, no lift lines, just the corn and a few of us that don't work and never give up on the season.




They don't call the area "Solitude" for no reason.  This was a beautiful day with excellent corn snow.  And, absolutely no crowd at all, anyplace -- every lift ride was straight into an empty chair.




During our lunch break, Noora received a new cap celebrating her new favorite ski hill -- the shot is from the outside, second story plaza on the main base building -- a good place for lunch on a good day for skiing.




Noora wanted a picture taken down in the canyon -- her school classmates think that a canyon is something like the Ohio River Valley and she wanted to show them the real thing:




Well, the girls (wife and granddaughter) are off at movie and I'm getting ready for an 8pm to mid-night rehearsal for a musical up at the University.  I don't want to brag too much, but, you know, I get paid for living in Paradise and playing my heart out on trumpet.

Tommy T. 
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« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2015, 02:44:03 PM »

End of another season . . .

Solitude closes on the 12th of April, Park City is trying to hang on until the 19th.

Park City lists 58 black and double black trails -- 55 of those are closed today.

All the high bowls, ridges and the lifts that serve them are closed.

King Con and Thayne lifts are accessible and have few open blues, but that's about all there is that might interest me a bit.

Solitude's percentages are a bit better and the open lifts are serving a fair percentage of the important runs in the blue category, but all of the legal off-piste areas are down for the season.
 
Given a mixed weather forecast heading into the final days and a bunch of other commitments, I'm probably done with snow for the season.  Although the season as a whole was late starting and under performing for the year, I had a few top rung experiences, such as the Quarter Moon run at Park City and the first and second tracks day in Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude.  Both grandsons and three of four granddaughters made it out and good times.  My sister actually came out to visit -- I think that is a first ever!!

It was an outstanding year for my trumpet work: 27 public performances with an orchestra and with the pits for two musicals -- one put on by a community theatre group and one put on by the University of Utah.  (The pit for musicals and operas is my favorite gig.  My first musical was in high school; first opera was in college; first community theatre was while I a first year student at Harvard Law; first professional review was opening night of a touring company doing a Gilbert & Sullivan on the Charles River -- my wife was the lighting designer (that was her career) and forwarded me when the group's only trumpet player called in sick on opening night.  The Boston Globe's review of the opening included a sentence that went somelike this: "While the small touring orchestra in the pit occassionally sounded like the Toonerville Trolley taking a curve on a rusty rail, the sparkle of Sullivan's music clearly came through."  (Sounds like a rave review to me!!))

Tommy T.,  signing off for another season


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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2015, 12:10:45 PM »

End of another season . . .

Solitude closes on the 12th of April, Park City is trying to hang on until the 19th.



And then Big Cottonwood got eight inches last night.

Tommy T.
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« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2015, 11:58:18 AM »

WOW!!

If anybody is still following this -- well, you're nuts, but here is a little reward anyway:

We've had a few days of incredible weather -- I-80 was closed for a 99 mile stretch from the Wyoming line through Salt Lake City and out into the Great Basin.  Between SLC and the airport, a huge chain reaction pile up involving at least 11 semi-trucks and literally dozens of cars left some fatalities and around 50 hospitalizations.  It started with a dust storm that reduced visibility in the City down to a few blocks -- our house sits on the edge of high bench between down-town and the Wasatch -- we can usually see at least 20 blocks down and across the center of the City.  During the dust storm that occurred before the snow started, our viability was reduced to about 3 or 4 blocks.  The wind, which was reported at hurricane levels at some stations around the area, blew out a window on the house adjacent to us on one side and damaged the roof eaves on the house on the other side.

Then the snow started.  Temperatures just above freezing kept the accumulation in town to a manageable level.  Streets were cleared and we have a contract for mowing grass, raking leaves and clearing snow! which saves my 72 year old back from having to shovel.  

SNOWBIRD WAS REPORTING NEW SNOW ACCUMULATION IN THE 40" RANGE!!!  The up-to-the minute reports (rumors) have gone up and down several times.  I assume that wind drifting has made an exact number difficult to establish.  Of course both Cottonwood Canyons have closed roads -- I suppose I could skin up on my telemark gear, but I'm pretty sure that I am not going to do that.

Utah Avi Center has discontinued regular reporting for the season but did put out a special discussion bulletin that indicated 36" at Alta.  It noted that, other than over packed groomers in-bounds, the snow is pretty much unconsolidated and sitting on bare rock.

My gear is put away, Solitude is closed, Park City is showing something like 4 trails plus some stuff at the bottom--all bowls and all ridges are closed, undoubtedly for the season.   I have 6 trumpet gigs with the U of U theatre this week-end and 3 concerts with the Oquirrh Symphony following that, so I really don't want to smack my face a rock or something like that.  

Of course, in spite of the storm, somehow the flowering trees remain in bloom and my seasonal allergies are not treating me well.

GOD!!  I love this life!!

Tommy T.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2015, 04:20:45 PM by Tommy T » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2015, 05:32:11 PM »

Picture of the dust storm as it was moving East toward us:




And, the same view two days later after the dust storm and the following cold front/snowstorm passed us:

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