Day 3, Solitude, 1" overnight
You might think that with only one inch overnight, this would not have been a magnificent day. But then I'd say you don't know Solitude. Having worked for Solitude my first year in UT, I know it extremely well, and knew it would be stellar.
I arrived at Solitude with Rob W., my main partner-in-crime in SLC throughout the '90s. Rob is the kind of athlete who performs at top levels in every sport he tries, no matter how long he's been on the couch: climbing 5.12, boating class V, running and biking long distances, surfing big waves. This day he would be locking his heels down for the first time since putting on leathers in the '80s.
Text-message plans were made to meet the Baumans at the Powderhorn lift. Rob and I rode up the Eagle Express, planning to scoot quickly down to the meeting spot. But something I had expected to happen did happen, and we never made it to the meeting spot. The Gate of Navarone had opened. Someone had gone right. Rob and I went 10 yards left and dropped some six or seven hundred vertical feet without seeing another track. We quickly hopped on the Honeycomb Return lift and called Jim, apologized, informed him that he needed to meet us at the top of Eagle Express and promised him it would be worth it. Rob and I bombed down my favorite cruiser in the world,Challenger, made all the much better when covered with lightly tracked snow, and then we headed up the Eagle Express to meet the Baumans.
Rob had expressed concern that he was taking a sick day off to ski and would be skiing with 3 young kids. I told him not to worry. We met the Baumans, headed through the gate, went 20 yards farther left(our tracks still being the only ones here) and told the Baumans to have at it. Another 700 verts of steep slope without seeing another track, this time with the Baumans hooting all the way down. Rob remarked that there would be no way to lose a kid with all the hooting.
Next up was the Powderhorn gate. One time left to Black Forest, one time right to Here Be Dragons, both times to 700 verts of almost untouched powder.
I'd heard on Monday that the boys had enjoyed some chutes that Guido had shown them, so I decided to show them one of my favorites. Parachute holds a special place in my ski consciousness. There are several choke points that are no more than 2-3 ski widths wide, and 3/4 of the way down it makes a 90 degree left turn. When I moved to Utah, I could only ski it with a lot of sideslipping. I worked on that run over and over until I could ski it with style. Today, it is so etched into my memory that I can picture every turn in it even though it had been 5 years since I last skied it. I gave the Baumans instructions to follow the funnel down into the first choke point, so that I didn't have to worry about the boys discovering any of the many cliffs littering that side of the mountain. At the 90 degree turn, one of the boys asked if it was possible to go straight. Rob replied "You can, but I wouldn't. There's cliffs." You can guess which way the Bauman boys went.
From there we went up to the summit and traversed/hiked out to Buckeye Junior in Honeycomb. At this point Daniel had a little breakdown. I don't know if he was crying because he was cold or didn't want to hike, but Jim & Kathleen said it was really caused by the fact that he refuses to eat breakfast. I pointed Kathleen and Daniel downhill sooner than the planned destination and. figuring it best that they had someone who knew the terrain with them, I went along. And whaddya know, the three of us had another 700 verts of untouched powder.
It was a bit past noon, and time to split up from the Baumans. Rob and I had some hiking plans up to a place I'd rather not name in a public forum. We did three runs. On the first run we dropped the left side of the ridge, a different aspect from what we'd skied all day, and found the lightest snow of the day. I'd forgotten to put my neck gaiter up and found myself choking in the type of snow ski magazines have taught us to fantasize about. Second run, we dropped the longer vertical on the right side of the ridge. Rob let me go first and the steep chute and lower bowl gave me the run that I will dream about in August; the deep snow a consistent platform for every perfect, rhythmic turn. The third run, we headed left a bit lower down the ridge, finding a chute that neither of us had skied before, not knowing whether to delight more in yet another stellar untracked run or in the fact that we were still coming upon new finds in an area we knew so well.
By this point, it was clear that this was the best day of my year. It was past 2:30, and I had to call it quits, knowing that Wednesday would be yet another powder day and I wanted to have some energy left for it.
To be continued...
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