Powder skiing is overrated :
2 years after the release of this very controversial article, which had a largely negative opinion on powder skiing, I feel the need to write a follow up. I will preface this by saying, yes, powder skiing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on, and in some extreme cases, with your clothes off. Skiing untracked powder is an unparalleled feeling. We all yearn for it, that sensation of flotation and flight mixed into one effortless descent down a snow covered mountainside.
However, in this day and age, particularly at larger resorts, the powder day has become passé. Let me present to you an example from my home mountain, Snowbird. It was late at night, or rather early in the morning. I’d been tossing and turning, looking out my window, watching the snow come down. Finally, after endless hours of trying to fall into blissful sleep, I gave up. My clock read 4:30 AM, and I finally thought to myself, “Fuck it, I’m going skiing”. I knew that the traffic from Salt Lake into Little Cottonwood Canyon was going to be a shitshow, and by leaving my apartment at 4:45, I would avoid all of it. With at least 8 inches of snow on the road, I took my beastly Hyundai Tucson down the highway toward the ski area exit at 6200 S which leads to Brighton, Solitude(aka Misnomer Meadows), Snowbird and Alta. Upon reaching the exit, there was a police officer blocking it. “Hey, what’s going on?” I exclaimed, “I’m just trying to get to the cottonwoods.” “Oh, yeah, sorry bud. There’s a semi truck that got turned at a 90 degree angle blocking the entire road, you’ll have to go all the way around.” No issues there, I thought, as I had left myself an utterly unreasonable amount of slop time to reach the mountain. After a sizable detour, I found myself driving up Little Cottonwood, ready to snag that first tram I so clearly would get by arriving at 6 AM. I found myself waiting in line for the tram, pounding coffee, and eating a burrito from the surprisingly affordable General Gritts downstairs, talking with a small, but growing group of people. It had snowed 19 inches, and I was the 5th person in line for the tram. We saw patrollers being ferried up the mountain in the tram car, so our fears of a wind hold were put to rest, and I waited outside, hoping that we would be let on soon enough. At 8:55 AM, we got the word, “It’s gotten windier, and there’s still a lot of work to be done, there’s a chance the Tram doesn’t run until 12 PM.” Having just waited for 3 hours, I said goodbye to my acquaintances, and hiked downhill toward the lower mountain lift, Gadzoom. Upon arrival, it was clear that this lift would not be moving anytime soon either. I quickly spotted 2 friends in the line, which now stretched far back past the maze and up the cattrack behind. After getting in with them, we noticed that the even smaller lift, Mid Gad, had almost no one waiting, and we decided to make the move over there. We had a good exchange with some people behind us who turned out to be in the know on Snowbird’s employment that year, and informed us that they were running the mountain at a deficit of close to 400 people. I do not know how many of those 400 missing employees include Patrol, but if Snowbird was unable to open any of Gad Valley, the only open terrain, until 10:37 AM, I would imagine they are affected as well. That’s right, 10:37 AM, that was when lifts started spinning to some half-hearted whoops and hollers from the crowd. We all were happy, but you could feel how a 2 hour wait on an uncharacteristically cold day in the Wasatch can kill morale. I got my few powder runs on what little terrain was open, but having to take an exam later that evening, I had to blitz back down the canyon at around 12:30 or so. The skiing was fun, but the whole debacle, and admittedly my lack of sleep and stress regarding the exam killed that childish joy I usually get while skiing.
That night, I slept like a rock, 12 hrs straight after pulling an impromptu all nighter. I woke up at 9:30 to see it had snowed another 6 inches overnight, and would snow another 6 before the end of the day. I drove straight up the canyon, no delays, no line of traffic, just bumping some Led Zeppelin. I felt elated, stress free, and absolutely excited about skiing again. Immediately, I met up with 4 members of the usual gang, and we were feeling it. The snow was soft chop and bumps, but it was more than enough to go fast without the fear of finding a single hard mogul to send you over the handlebars. The landings were soft, leading to some of the first tricks of the year being thrown off the usual spots. We all cheered each other on, going faster and bigger with each hit. Lap after lap after lap was had, skiing at ‘just pinning it’. We were so enveloped in the skiing that we didn’t even feel the need to drink a beer, or even consider going inside to warm our frozen faces. The smiles, and experiences we shared that day were more than enough to keep us warm as the sun dipped over the American Twin Forks to cover Snowbird in shadow. Finally, as we were nearing the bottom, I asked, who wants to see if we can get another, but alas after a quick time check, we saw that 4 pm had come far too soon. We said our goodbyes, remarked on what a day it was, and headed back to our respective vehicles.
If you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering, what’s the point? My point is that perhaps CLQ was on to something 2 years back. Maybe what he meant was that the modern day resort powder experience is no longer what it used to be. However, the day after, minus the stress, the powder fever, and the epicly ikonic crowds, is where one can truly bask, and enjoy the experience of skiing as we remember it. I’m sure there will be another great powder day in my future, and you can be sure I’ll still be getting up early to ski it when it comes, but in the back of my mind, I’ll be looking forward to the next day, the day after.