make do with what you have...

The snow is still holding out on us in the Wasatch.  My northern home is nearly dry as a bone.  As much as I'd love to get winter kicked off there is nothing I can do.  The nice thing about the Wasatch is that there is always something to do when the weather changes.  When it finally does come I will make the best of it just like I am now.

^Snowbasin opened up for business so I figured I should at least get out for some turns.  It is good to get out and wiggle around a bit even if only for a little while.

^Still really thin though.

^I took one run down the white strip of death and decided my time would be better spent hiking the lowlands with my dog.  She was stoked, and so was I.  Snowbasin being situated where it is I was able to go down into the lower elevations just below the parking lot in forrest service terrain to hike with my dog.  I can't even take her out of the car in the Cottonwoods without getting harassed by the police.  Not up here.  

^We found some beavers getting some winter prep work done.  

^Pretty cool in my book.  I thought that it was a good idea.  If we aren't in the midst of winter, then we might as well do some prep work for when the snow does arrive.  My dog, Murphy, and I hit some of the local spots we like to ski together to scout the situation, as well as branch out to try to find some new slopes too.

^It is cold, and the resort is blowing snow.  There was ice on the trickling creeks, but no snow replacing the melt off up high.  Murphy and I were having a great time tromping around the woods looking for hidden gems, and colorful photos like this one.

^We succeeded in finding some new lowland meadow skipping terrain for her to enjoy with me.  She loves to downhill cross country ski with me in the mornings before the lifts turn.  We found a killer slope that we had never seen before hiding in plain sight.  I was totally surprised when I came around a small ridge to find it.  We only ski small vegetated slopes, and this one is perfect.  I am excited to get out and ski with her, but for now the scouting missions will do just fine.  Make hay when the sunshines, and make turns when the snow flies. 

thin to win...

Thin to win is an old concrete pouring mantra, but it is still the story here in the Wasatch as well.  We have received two good storms, but neither storm pounded both regions.  The first storm favored the Northern Wasatch, and the second storm favored the Central Wasatch.  Both received good shots of snow, but there has also been very little in between.  That being said, coverage is decent, but still a bit thin.  However, I still need to get it into shape so I have got to be able to make the call to ski the thin to win.

^Ben Geiger and I have been touring the thin...

^...and cautiously turning in the thin.

^It is really all about just getting out, walking around, and getting in shape.  It is good to see how the early snowpack is setting up, and start scouting for later in the season.  It is starting to come full on as the resorts begin to open up for business.

^The whirlwind of an early season start left my office in shambles.  I had to address that before I could even think straight.  

^Then my wife, Christine, and I caught some bluegrass in Salt Lake City.  "The Devil Makes Three" put on a fantastic evening, and a bluegrass state of mind is a good place to be.

^Snowbird is open for business so I cruised down south with my bluegrass state of mind focused on getting in some quantity work on the tram with Ben Geiger.  2 for 1 passes makes the early season pounding skiing on a day pass a little easier to swallow.  A good hard leg beating was exactly what I was looking for.  I wanted to get after it for a few hours to really blow out my legs early enough to call it in time for my night shift at Delta Airlines.

^Ben and I hooked up with another telemark ripper, Lance Hamblin.  Lance is a Snowbird pass holder, and a freeheel monster.  I am not sure he knew what he was rolling into when he asked to take a run with Ben and I.  We like to pick our way through scetchy rocks and trees to slip into creamy spots.  Often times most folks are not willing to abuse their gear like we do, or take the time to slowly pick around in the rockier terrain.  We don't get to crazy or anything, but we have acquired a pretty high tolerance for billy goating it around in sharky terrain.  Lance handled it really well, and skied it tough.   

^Ben is approaching a small rock band to maneuver in this photo.  Again, nothing too crazy, but good technical training and a leg burning workout.  Pretty much about as good as you can get for this stage in the season.  I was pleasantly surprised.

^We were getting the blood flowing and knocking the summer dust off some of the more techy skills that we usually don't get to test this early in the winter.  It was nice to run into a bunch of old and new friends on the tram deck too. Blowing out the legs with a bunch of Snowbird Tram laps was the right perscription.  Ben and I were stoked to get to rip a run with my old friend, Ben Johnson.  He and his wife Katie are the owners of 2nd Tracks Sports in Salt Lake City.  The best new and used outdoor shop in the city.  The season is slowly starting to setting in.  I am anxiously anticipating the winter going full on, but I am still taking advantage to the chances to properly get ready for it.   

Bikes and Brutus...

Late fall in the Wasatch means taking whatever weather mother nature throws at you, and making the most of it.  I started this particular story at the Utah Snow & Avalanche Workshop.  The conversations inside where everything snow, but the hot sun outside was in severe contradiction.  So much so that I would be taking out the mountain bikes with my appreciative bike loving wife.  Only a week later though and I would be entertaining rumors of a beastly storm named, Brutus.  Brutus would quickly bring snow back to the topic of my conversations, and the front of my mind.     

^Pictured above is the Telemark Skier booth at the avalanche workshop.  It was good to catch up with a lot of folks I haven't seen in about six months or so.  We were signing up subscriptions all over the show too.  These are good folks to have on our subscriber list also.  They are all true professionals and advocates of our sport and mountains.   

^This is a photo of one women who is very happy to be getting out on her bike.  My wife loves to ride, but I've been itching for snow.  However, in the Wasatch you can be on a mountain bike one day and on skis the next.  Therefore, I was not too upset to be chasing my wife around on a bike under a beautiful blue sky day in the foothills.  All good in my book.  

^Christine ascends the hill on the right-side of this photo.  The scene of fall was just fine and dandy with me.  I was enjoying a nice warm day on the bikes with my lady.  I knew full well that it fall could be over with at anytime.  All it takes is one big storm, and winter moves in for the season to stay for a while.   

^The creeks were running cold with the snowmelt from the early October snow storm that quickly retreated under the hot fall sun.  By the time of this photo, well into the first week of November, only the shadiest slopes at high elevations retained any coverage.  The rest of that October snowpack was trickling into this creek.  

^I hit up the voting polls, and waited for a new president as well as new snow.  A storm was on the forecast, and looked like a promising lineup.  As the electoral votes were being counted the rumors of big snows were also adding up.  By the next day everyone was talking about Obama, but my mind was on Brutus.

^The cold front moved in late Thursday night.  By the time I awoke on Friday morning the seasonal shift was in full swing.  Outside my window was a winter wonderland.  The same pathway that I rolled my bike down to my car a few days prior was hiding under eight inches of snow.  The same kid that was blowing leaves off that sidewalk a week before was now shoveling snow from the same sidewalk. Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to get up into the mountains to check out the storm.  By Saturday my good friend, Ben Geiger, and I had been going back and forth about the snowpack for two days as he sent me photos and correspondence from his solo tours inside of the storm.    

^Brutus finally began to clear out on Saturday.  Ben sent me this photo of his last cautious tracks in the early season snow coming into view with the break up of the storm.  The coverage looked good, but you could still tell that it will be some time before it is a green light.  The avalanche conditions were ripe, especially in the higher elevations.  Ben was treading lightly in fear of the white dragon.  The northern Wasatch was not experiencing as much rotten faceted basal snowpack as the central Wasatch because of the difference in elevation.  The higher central Wasatch was reporting vast and drastic avalanche activity above 9,000 feet.  The northern Wasatch tops out at about 9,700 feet so the basal snowpack actually went isothermic in the heat rather then faceting out.  Most of the activity that was taking place just to south of us was on northerly slopes above 9,500.  Ben reported some natural avalanches in the northern Wasatch's highest peaks due to some windslab formation, but he could not find any evidence of facets in even the highest northerly terrain up in our neck of the woods.

^Murphy and I were watching the storm move out on Saturday night.  As the sun set below the remaining clouds of Brutus, we walked through the brand new winter wonderland.  With my mind fully focused on running through avalanche scenarios for the upcoming week, I paused as I approached a danger I have not had to think about for a while...   

^...which was walking under a pedestrian bridge that was primed for a different kind of avalanche of snow.  This tunnel of hanging snow probably would not hurt me, but it would fill my jacket with an unpleasant surprise.  Murphy was not afraid, but she is covered in fur.  Just like Ben was backing off suspect slopes up high, I backed off from walking under this hanging slab of whitewash.  It might have given some passing drivers a good laugh to see this whole load of snow come down on top of me, but I figured that I would spare them the hilarious distraction.  We turned around. 

^Walking back home I stared up at the last clouds of the storm stretching out across the valley.  The mountains were wringing the last flurries out of Brutus as it departed the Wasatch to move across the Great Plains towards the Midwest.  My mind was still going through all of my conversations about the new snow, and how my weekly operations in the high country would play out.  The week of bikes followed by the weekend of Brutus has brought the big shift that will place me at the beginning of another wild and crazy winter.  One that officially kicks off this week.  Here we go!