Spring Is In… After All

It has been the worst of winters. From the perspective of snow fall, as well as my own perspective fighting cancer with my young son, Amos, who has battled Leukemia all winter long. I had hoped for a good spring so that I may be able to have a little bit of a ski season, but to my dismay that had not been appearing to be in the stars. However, a late storm and some optimism has served to give this spring some last gasps of breath, and Amos is recovering really well. Spring is in, after all.

^In the picture above my good friend and long time touring partner, Wes Knopfel, looks out over a closed Snowbasin resort as we made the most of the high elevation terrain that still had good coverage. This was just after a small storm in the earlier part of April that Wes and I took advantage of just after Snowbasin had closed. Some good butter snow laid down a nice smooth blanket that when found in combination previously smooth surfaces made for some nice riding.

^The spring has also served to allow me to get to the task of testing products that I have been involved in. Mostly notably I am testing some new bindings that are coming to market from Moonlight Mountain Gear. These are prototype telemark bindings that tour on a tech toe system and can make both telemark turns or alpine turns on the down. It has been a lot of wrenching and testing, but I am excited with the performance in the backcountry. Of course, now that Amos is home that means that I also have to manage Daddy day care responsibilities from time to time. Nap time affords me some workshop wrench time as well, which means a new tool in the workshop… a baby monitor.

^My buddy, Travis Larsen, looking out over the vast brown spaces on the west side of the Ogden range of the Wasatch. Yuck.

^Above is a picture of another buddy, Luke Buckland, boot packing through the dirt and shrubs on this south facing shoulder that we typically have a nice casual skin track switchback up on. Sign of the season for sure.

^Luke is topping out on the Middle Bowl Cirque ridge at Snowbasin in this picture above. We got corn snow on the east face once the clouds broke and finally cooked it up. It cooked fast too. Really fast.

^Another small storm a bit later gave us yet another shot of butter snow that my old buddy, Ben Geiger, and I got out to tour on bagging this classic chute. We got on this north facing beauty just as the spring sun started to come around on it. We were just in time to ski it while the snow was still cold. If we'd waited just a few hours longer then it would have gotten wet and sloppy. With only four inches of butter snow that probably would not have forced us off it, but it would not have been ideal.

^After Ben took off to go attend to some work that he had in town I circled back to take a gamble on a east face. I had hopes that cloud cover in the morning had helped it remain cold. I lucked out. It was starting to cook with afternoon sun, but it was still relatively cold and skied really well. An onlooking skinner gave me a big hoot and holler as I came out. Those tracks are art to me. Paint the canvas!

^Then in the latter part of this April, just a few days ago, it just straight puked on us. Odgen City got a good eight inches of snow while the mountains recorded a huge twenty inches on the Snowbasin snow stakes. A bit much for this time of year, and it actually shot down some Farmington Canyon plans I had because the gnarly gravel road would have been too perilous for my little Subaru with twenty-plus inches of snow on it. 

^So back up to a closed Snowbasin I went. A partly cloudy day with twenty fresh inches felt like some kind of surprise birthday party a few months early. With cloud cover coming in and out over the peaks it made for the perfect combination of bluebird day views and just enough cloud cover to help keep the new snow cold on a warm spring day. 

^I was rolling solo so I had to keep my slopes small and manageable with the threat of twenty inches heating up fast and going off wet. This was my first test slope at a mid-elevation of about 8,000 feet above sea level. It held up really well, and was nice and cold. Therefore, I headed up for another slope higher up in elevation to keep pressing the ramp-up process to higher and bigger slopes.

^A bit higher, a bit more exposed, a bit steeper, and this next slope also held up and was also still nice and cold. This particular run was just above that last one so I rolled it into a second lap on the same small slope as before...

^…like so. Beginnings of a turn farm! I then pushed up even higher yet in the ramping-up process to head up to the main ridge line, but was stopped short by high winds on the higher elevations on the ridge at 9,000 feet and above. I settled for a north-facing slope that was just barely staying sheltered below the wind. I rolled that one into the same two slopes I had previously skied for a nice little three stage run.

^The wind scoured ridge. No thanks.

^I lapped that same three stage run a couple more times and ended up with a couple nice little turn farms. 

^With a little wind at the elevation of this slope you can see how my old tracks began to fill in as the day went. Originally my main concern of the day was the heating factor, but the wind quickly became a bigger priority as the day went and the wind speeds began to pick up. I was also beginning to lose my legs with it starting to turn into a pretty big day, but it was so good that I had to keep rolling.

^I pressed out laterally to a whole different area in the mid-elevations and found some more settled snow that had indeed began to take on some heating at that point later in the day. I kept my slope angles extra low and with plenty of vegatation and shadows to try to benefit from those tree shadows. I lucked out with some creamy settled powder snow in some pine trees that as I rode lower and lower gave way to this aspen grove pictured above that is one of my favorite mellow meadow skippers. I call it the "Enchanted Forrest", but I call almost all aspen groves that because I just love the magic vibes I sense anytime I find myself in the golden hue of aspens. So it was the worst season I have ever seen in Utah, and I also spent most of it in a hospital with my son battling cancer. However, just one day like this quiet solo twenty-inch day soaking up powder turns and the solace of ski touring alone in the mountains and I felt vindicated. I got home exhausted with noodles for legs and all I could do was smile as I laid on the couch in my living room with a Mt. Odgen peak picture-window view and a giggling healthy little boy playing on the floor in front of it. The winter snowpack had indeed sucked, and everyone knows that cancer sucks, but at that moment, on that couch, after a twenty-inch powder day, with a bouncing boy on the floor, and alpenglow lighting up the mountains in the picture window… none of that mattered anymore. Spring was in, I was back where I belonged, and I was feeling in balance again as a goggled-tanned, powder-pleasured, leg-beaten, proud Daddy, with a mountain view.