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It is rare for my scheduled-months-in-advance trips to coincide with a storm cycle, much less hitting what are perhaps the best conditions of the season.  Perhaps I was owed some Karma for what this winter had served up in the NE?

Arriving Wednesday night, the plane and the van to Park City were each delayed by several hours because of the weather conditions.  Annoying, but anticipation was building as tomorrow was going to be a powder day!

Our group had decided ahead of time we would ski the Canyons resort on Thursday.  I expected a full-on powder rush, with every skier in Utah calling in sick.   Maybe it was just the sheer size of the place, but it didn’t seem that crowded.  We never waited more than a couple of minutes for a chair.

The 9990 lift (the ‘good’ terrain) was delayed for around 3 hours while they did control work – and there was a huge line at the lift the whole time.  I don’t know about you guys, but I would not give up the first 3 hours of a powder day waiting in line to fight for a single first track run, but YMMV.  We had no problem finding run after run of fresh lines, with several excellent runs down the trees off the Peak 5 chair.

My impression of the Canyons was that it was sort of like McDonalds or Disneyland – it did not seem to have much character.  It was certainly excellent on a powder day, but I am sure that every single resort in Salt Lake was excellent that day as well.  The place is huge and we could not cover it all in a single day, but it seemed like it was the same terrain played over-and-over across the resort.  To be fair, we never made it over to Mudock Peak which on the map appears to have some interesting terrain.

On Friday, the consensus was to visit Deer Valley – which I had to be dragged to.  But contrary to my pre-conceived notions, the place rocked.  There was certainly the stereotyped crowd there – fur coats,  toy dogs, Bogner suits – but there were also good skiers and good terrain.  In getting me over there, my friends said, “The crowd there never skis off-piste”.   Well, that is not true – but there were still lots of fresh tracks to be had.  We had several primo runs down Mayflower bowl in the morning, lots of tree shots and in the afternoon a few runs down the Daly chutes. We backed off one of them because of the amount of exposed rock at the the bottom of the 50 degree entrance, but the others were filled with soft, soft snow. 

Saturday morning we moved our base of operations to a friend’s house at Solitude.  Three of us broke off for a BC tour in the morning.  It was in the 20’s with light cloud cover and lighter winds.  Living at sea level, I found skinning up at 9,000’ to be quite the aerobic challenge.  But we took a slow and steady pace and managed to get around 2,500’ of descents in three runs and 4 hours.  And what descents they were!  The snow was soft and consistent and untracked and supportive and bottomless. Not blower, but the kind of snow you find on a really good Vermont day.  Turns were easy, through mixed open slopes and Aspen groves.

In the afternoon, we rejoined the group for a couple of hours skiing at Solitude resort.  Like Deer Valley, this place exceeded my expectations.  There is a large variety of terrain and the place is beautiful – definitely on my list for a return visit.  We amused ourselves with runs through the Headwall forest.  Each run was different in trees or tight chutes, with a variety of pitches, some quite steep. 

Sunday, inertia took over.  We abandoned plans to drive to Alta to remain at Solitude.  Some left for the airport in the morning, so it was a smaller posse on the mountain.   It was a bluebird day without any trace of wind.  While Saturday had been overcast and below freezing, the snow had definitely been impacted.  The bumps had set up and were no longer soft pillows to be skied through.  We attempted to follow the sun around the resort – but with nary a cloud in the sky and rapidly warming temperature, it was a race.  We did one run on the sunny side of Honeycomb Canyon – but even at 10 am the snow was well on the way to cream cheese.  No longer effortless to turn in, we looked for other options.  We found the best snow of the day on the opposite wall of the Canyon, skiing through the trees.  Here the warm temperature had softened the snow without baking it. 

We skied until lunchtime and our own departure for the airport.  Last run was a stop in SLC at the Red Iguana for a lunch of fish tacos, totally excellent mole negro and reeb. 

Sorry I did not cross paths with other listers - sounds like we were pretty close!

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