Spring Skiing Fever

I have been slowly getting back into running after my back and leg issues over the winter.  This means I am only running a couple of times a week and only short distances (my longest run has been 10 miles).  Since I am not able to run long distances yet, I have been keeping my ski season alive.  We have had a great spring with over 18″ of snow falling from 07-11 May.

As I mentioned in prior posts, spring is always a fun time as you can get into areas I usually don’t feel comfortable on in mid-winter (due to avalanche conditions).

On 03 May, Mark Christopherson and I skied the NW Couloir of Twin Peaks. This is a great line and one of the most visible ski lines from the Salt Lake Valley.  The approach to this is long (5300′), up Broad’s Fork to the summit of Twin Peaks.  After skiing the shot, you can either skin back up and ski down Bonkers and Broad’s or make it an adventure by exiting out Deaf Smith Canyon.  In the spring, Broad’s is typically too warmed to be safely skied (at least for me) so I enjoy the fun of the bushwhack out Deaf Smith. On the approach Mark and I were lucky to be able to start skinning (sort of) at the bridge up Broads.  We had great snow for the climb.  For the descent, wehad variable snow, but we were able to ski 4100′ which limited our walking/swacking to only the last 2000′ descent.

Here are a few photos of our Twin Peak ski (click on image to enter slide show mode)

The following week, Chip invited me down to Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park.  Wheeler Peak is the second highest Peak in Nevada at 13,064′ (although the highest peak is not technically a peak since it is a sub-peak of a peak in California).  I could’t pass up the opportunity to ski a big peak.  It was also a rarity for Chip to be able to get away for a night and not having skied with him much lately, I jumped at the chance.  We left after work, drove the 3.5 hours and camped just outside of the park.  We were accompanied by Roland, a friend of Chip’s, and none of us had done a significant amount of research into the area.  We knew 3 good ski options off of Wheeler Peak and 3 more off of neighboring Jeff Davis Peak.  We had hoped to ski a shot off each peak.  We camped close to the entrance of the park and were woken a couple hours after going to sleep with a very wet tent.  We fixed a few items and restlessly slept a few more hours waking up at 5:30 with everything pretty wet.  We knew when we left SLC that the weather was not looking good, but we figured we had the time we should go for it.  Waking up wet, we were starting to second guess ourselves.  We packed up a wet camp, found a shelter to cook breaky under and talked ourselves into it.

None of us are sure if it was a good idea or not.  The snow levels were high, we were left with a 4 mile road walk to the trailhead where there was enough snow to skin, then we spent a lot of time skinning through rocks.  We had little to no visibility the entire day.  In fact we were never able to actually see Wheeler Peak and had to check the GPS to ensure we were actually standing on it.  We picked our way down through the rocks for the first 1200′ before getting into the NE couloir of Wheeler.  The snow was variable at top, but very good down low.  We enjoyed the turns and eventually hit the summer trail again where we had to skin back to the road for the long walk back to the car.  We had high ambitions that since the  weather was so back maybe we could ski part of the road, but those were short lived and we had a long walk ahead of us.

The storm that dampened our Wheeler Peak day made for a great weekend of skiing in the Wasatch.  One of the best things about spring skiing is that most people have given up on skiing so you can have the Wasatch all to yourself (almost literally).  Tom D and I headed out Saturday morning with no specific plan and ended up having an amazing day.  We arrived at Alta to find no skin track up Flagstaff at 8AM (in mid-winter after a storm there is a skin track up Flagstaff by 5AM).  We made a run down Flagstaff in great snow, climbed up and made another great run into Days Fork.  We decided the Hallway would be our next stop and had another set of first tracks there.  Climbing up Cardiff from the bottom of the Hallway, the visibility was poor, but we still had the place to ourselves so we broke a trail up Ivory Flakes.  When done we were trying to determine our exit and Tom mentioned skiing Holy Mole.  Neither of us had skied this so we thought we better try this out.  After missing the entrance our our first attempt and booting out, we both loved the steep shot.  After a quick skin to Pole Line Pass, we finally crossed another set of tracks to ski back down to LCC.

Saturday Emily and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with an amazing meal at Gliterind at Deer Valley followed by a leisurely Sunday morning.  I finally left the house a little after 9 and eventually met up with Eric and Jackie for a few laps.  The weather on Sunday was full on winter with nuking winds, snow, and cold temps.  Not the standard spring skiing conditions.  This made for some tricky snow conditions to find snow that was not wind affected, but we finally found some great snow in West Bowl of Silver Fork.

According to the forecast, this is likely our last storm of the season in the Wasatch.  With over a 100″ base, we should have at least another 3-4 weeks of good skiing.  Eric, Nick, and I are also planning a volcano tour where we hope to ski 4-5 volcanoes in the same number of days (Rainier, Hood, Adams, St Helens, and Jefferson).