When The Gang Goes To Ski
(Based on a True Story)
Part One: Preface
Everyone knows that Little Cottonwood Canyon is the best place to ski in all of Utah. It's not even a question. Sustained steepness, crazy good snow all day, every day, and a bevy of some of the most beautiful, badass lady shredders you’ve ever set eyes on. Yup, Little Cottonwood Canyon is definitely the place to be if you’re a serious (or not so serious) skier in Utah. Buy yourself a season pass to Alta, Snowbird, or both, and you’re guaranteed to have the season of a lifetime.
But as with all things in life, temptation awaits, just around the corner. If you buy your pass early enough, you get a little something to pique your curiosity, known as Wasatch Benefits. Think of it as a hall pass from your home resort to one of the neighbor’s. You’ve never been there, and even though it’s really nice where you’re at, you kind of wonder, what’s it like over there? Is the snow better? Are the moguls softer? Is the terrain steeper? Maybe, just maybe you need a quick break from your spot, to branch out, to try something new. Maybe that Brighton has some killer weed to smoke. Her cute older sister, Solitude might have some cool new things to show you in her room. And maybe, just maybe, the sugar mama of all sugar mama’s, Deer Valley, will let you borrow her Bentley while she’s out of town and stay at her place with all of your friends.
Deer Valley is notorious for being the home of some of the most wealthy, stuck up people on the planet. Do you live in New York to run your hedge fund but still want to be able to drive right into your 20 million dollar slopeside mansion in the dead of winter? No problem! Here’s your million dollar heated driveway and road, batteries not included because we know you can afford them you filthy rich son of a bitch. Wait, you don’t want to hike the 50 yards back up to your slopeside mansion? Don’t worry, here’s your own private chairlift, complete with an automatic ejector function, quickly activated if the butt imprint detected isn’t identified as yours. Want a nice dinner, but don’t want to come down to the main lodge from your castle? Not an issue, we are the only place in the world to offer ubereats via helicopter. Money can buy you almost anything at Deer Valley, save for one thing: Protection from the bums of the cottonwoods who get one day a year to bring down the man, and you can be damn sure they’ll be on their worst behavior. Fables of marauding gangs of snowboarders on rental skis and magic mushrooms from the 90s still haunt the minds of the loyal patrons of Deer Valley.
Part 2: A Plan Emerges
Our story follows the path of one skier in his mid 20s. He was fresh off of a beautiful first half of a season shredding Snowbird, and occasionally passing through Alta. Though the single day is offered to Deer Valley, most Altabird locals have one response when asked if they want to go there. Why? Why would I want to go ski groomers with a bunch of rich old guys who pay way too much money to be there when I have gorgeous, snowy Little Cottonwood, littered with kickers, side hits, and butt puckering lines a plenty. Unfortunately, disaster was about to strike Little Cottonwood. A midseason storm, with an enormous amount of snow showed up on the horizon. It snowed for 3 days straight, but not the right kind of snow. This was not the beautiful 3 percent density alta powder that Lee Cohen dreams of taking the same picture of on low shoulder year in and year out. This was a storm that came in cold, then dropped about 3 feet of hot crud right on top of 6 inches of blower fresh. For those of you who don’t get the picture, this created some of the most incredibly dangerous avalanche conditions this side of the 21st century. Interlodge for 3 days, roads buried 10 feet deep, trees snapped, signs missing, bears awoken from hibernation, and angry tourists aplenty. Our protagonist noticed this, and merrily observed the videos from his job in the valley, happy he wasn’t stuck up in that storm. As soon as everyone left, he’d roll up the canyon and ski it all the same with the usual crowd. But as the weekend approached, it became clear that this storm was not going to be cleaned up in time for the usual antics in Little Cottonwood to take place. Even with crews running day and night, this meant that for the first time in his memory, Little Cottonwood would be closed at least on Saturday, without the prospect of beautiful blower powder to reward his patience on the horizon.
After a quick consultation with the homies, it became clear that the gang did not want to spend a day sitting in traffic only to not ski Little Cottonwood. Someone finally said, “Well, I suppose we could go check out Deer Valley.” And thus, the plan was set in motion. Now we all knew that Deer Valley wasn’t going to be quite the same type of mountain we were accustomed to, but that was okay. We certainly weren’t the type of clientele that Deer Valley was accustomed to either. After a raucous Saturday night party, spent discussing the many ways of which everyone would show Deer Valley what for, the gang nodded off. The next morning, our protagonist woke up uncharacteristically early, and decided to head up to Deer Valley to see what it was really like before a cacophony of cottonwood comrades was set to lay waste to the place.
Part 3: Flying Solo
It was a bright sunny day when he set off at 7:30 AM. He’d packed his trusty black hoodie, extra smelly of course. His skis of choice: banged up, topsheets chipped, and clearly about 50 mm too wide to ski deer valley. Most importantly, he had brought with him enough alcohol to drown a medium sized elephant. Upon arrival, he realized that he had to wait in line to get his 1 day benefit, but time was of no matter. Unlike the others in line, our fearless hero did not have to pay 200 dollars for mediocre skiing after waiting in line for 20 minutes. He got to spend 20 minutes drinking a pair of ice cold PBRs, to get his day ticket for free.
All those around him watched in horror, as he clipped into his beat up skis. Who was this glorious alpha male with the audacity to ski in something other than the newest Arcteryx parka? This was Deer Valley, you could be kicked off the mountain for such an offense, or at least be forced to purchase one at the rental shop. He set off for the lift, happily singing along to some Wu Tang he was bumping, keeping a weather eye out for patrollers who might be interested in pulling his pass on grounds of hoodie musk alone. After a quick lift ride, it was time to ski those beautiful, perfectly groomed runs that Deer Valley locals brag about so often. That much can be said, the groomers were indeed beautiful. As much as we like to make fun of racers, stringing together some great carves at breakneck pace is one of the best sensations in skiing. Despite a minor altercation with a group of New Yorkers who claimed he had scuffed the back of their brand new supershapes in the liftline, our protagonist was having a pretty good day so far.
After some warmup laps on the groomers it was time to go find the upper mountain. It was at this point, he realized a major issue: There was no upper mountain. The closest thing to a mountain at Deer Valley is accessed by a lift known as The Empire Express, which travels a total of 1200 vertical feet over a little less than a mile in length. Now to all you midwesterners who grew up on less than 300 vertical feet, this may seem like a dream lift. However, coming from Snowbird, where the tram stretches far out of sight and almost 3000 feet up, this was a somewhat disappointing discovery. Sure there was one zone with some freeride-esque lines, but nothing major past that, and despite asking several lift attendees, there didn’t seem to be any park to speak of.
In skiing, there is often a decision to be made: Is it going to be a skiing day, or a drinking day. Skiing days are the blower pow days, the beautiful, fast, sunny hardpack days, the gorgeous slushy spring days. To put it plainly, skiing days are days you want to make the most of, the 9-4:30 days where you can honestly say, “I went hard all day.” 1-2 beers max. Drinking days are the opposite. Vis is low, maybe the snow is just awful, maybe you went a little too hard the night before. This is not going to be the day to send it. This isn’t the Freeride World Tour or X games, and it sure as shit ain’t worth jeopardizing your season by trying to send the 30 footer you’ve been looking at all season to an icy run out. That said, it’s as good a time as any to be having a fun day with your friends getting drunk and screwing around on the slopes(responsibly of course). The problem with that decision, is that what often starts out as a skiing day, can sometimes turn into a drinking day by accident once you’ve landed your tricks and lines. Then with enough drinking, it suddenly turns back into a skiing day. No brakes, no fear, and no regard for human life.
As soon as our protagonist realized that there was no real mountain to ski, the day was confirmed as a drinking day. A quick call to the homies confirmed they were almost at the parking lot. It was 11:30, and time to stop in for lunch. The dining area was a very nice spot, with lots of space and beautiful wood tables. He took a seat, pulled out a fresh PBR, and a can of spaghetti-Os. This seemed to attract the attention of the wait staff who asked, “What would you like to order?” Apparently, "access to a microwave to warm up my spaghetti-Os" was not the right answer, and he was promptly asked to leave the dining room.
Contrary to popular belief, cold spaghetti-Os are not the worst thing in the world, though drinking a can of them in the lift line did attract some attention.
Part 4: The Homies Arrive
Lunch behind him, it was time to go back to the parking lot for a beer run and to unite the crew. Hugs were exchanged, beer was shotgunned, piff lit, and it was time to get back out there. Hooting and hollering, the gang rolled up on the liftline, and got ready to tear up that hill. Once on the chair, equal opportunity heckling ensued. Cries of “DAD??” “I LOVE YOU!!!!” “EVER HAD YOUR ASS LICKED BY A FAT MAN IN AN OVERCOAT?” and many more were heard all across the mountain. Of course, credit is given where credit is due, and the best groms, the hottest, fastest moms, and the fastest carving dads were greeted with wild whoops of enthusiastic encouragement. Egging each other on to new heights, one of the crew members proudly proclaimed, “I’m single!!!!” from the non singles part of the liftline. An awesome 60 year old lady lift attendant, Gloria, said, “Is that so? My shift gets off in 5 minutes, take a run, and then I’m coming with you!” After that lap, Gloria, now revealed to be an ex mogul champion, and the crew ripped the shit out of Deer Valley. A few runs were taken under the lift, where there were some small side booters. Upon seeing the youth training the bumps and jumps in some tracked out pow, some of the Deer Valley locals got into the spirit of things, and started heckling as well, hitherto unheard of.
After having as much fun as they could mobbing around Deer Valley getting absolutely shitfaced, often riding backwards and catching air, the gang decided it was time to go for broke. The aerials course was up and running at the bottom of Deer Valley, and there were some conveniently placed bushes right near the drop. One of the locals in the liftline suddenly shouted, “OH MY GOD!!! WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!!” Lifties and patrollers alike turned their heads up the hill to see the first, and quite possibly last, naked backie train on the closed off Aerials course. A moment of silence hung over the village as 8 naked backflips were performed one after the other. Time stopped, ski moms who had only ever seen Dad carves were instantly moistened, and children’s faces were covered to protect their innocence. Then after the last of them came back down to earth, and a quick moment of shock, they were all met with thunderous applause. This was silenced quickly by the bullhorns of ski patrol who instructed them to take off their skis and give themselves up. Instead, they turned their skis downhill, and sped off into the woods, never to be seen again.
After 5 days of fruitless search, a manhunt involving 130 patrollers and 15 patrol dogs was given up. It is rumored that they are still hiding out somewhere in the Stein Ericksen residences to this day, poaching hot tubs at night and eggs in the morning with the help of Gloria, who refuses to speak to any of the authorities. They had their day, perhaps next year, they’ll be back again. Soon we’ll all be back again next year, be it Deer Valley, Snowbird, Alta, or whatever place you slide down snow. There will be days to come just like this one. We’ll make up for lost time by skiing twice as fast, sending it twice as big, and hugging everyone twice as hard when cold winds blow again, and the gang goes out to ski.