Downtown Tuesdays

For the last few seasons I have had a weekly ritual of a dawn patrol tour in the big city Central Wasatch just east of Salt Lake City. I live and spend most of my time in the northern Wasatch in sleepy Ogden situated just an hour north of Utah's capital city. In my younger days I frequented the Salt Lake Wasatch much more, but as I aged and fell comfortably into my place in the north country I kind of stopped making the one-hour commute down to the busy city. A few years ago I started scheduling a weekly meeting with the fellas down at Telemark Skier Magazine, which is headquartered on Salt Lake's west side. As a result, I began doing a weekly morning dawn patrol tour to make the most of my southern migration each week. I rallied a few friends and by now we have a nice little weekly tradition going. The early season this year had a late start, but has come in pretty heavy recently ramping up the avalanche concerns, but our short and small slope approach to our weekly dawn patrols has paid dividends in low angle sheltered ski turns with relatively low avalanche exposure. 

^Sunrise in the mountains is a special

Dropped Third Strike

I grew up with a baseball in my hand, and as such I carry a lot of classic baseball analogies with me in my life despite not having swung a bat in many years. This weekend's endeavors harbored a scenario that I would liken to a dropped third strike in baseball. I still struck out, but then I still got on base too.  I swung and missed, but the catcher dropped the ball opening the opportunity to advance to first base remaining in the game, and possibly still scoring arose.

All this baseball applies here as a metaphor in that I was scheduled to go down south to Fruita, Colorado to meet up with a bunch of my college buddies for a long weekend mountain biking trip. Due to a variety of factors the whole trip melted down at the very last minute. A real swing and miss. A full-on strike out, and all the disappointment that comes with it. The dropped third strike scenario comes into play in that one of those old college buddies had a friend of his, Brian, that was traveling to my area in northern Utah and was looking to ride an area just north of his destination in Orem called Corner Canyon, a little over and hour south of where I live in Ogden, Utah. Our mutual friend made the network connection between the two of us and the plan was on. I also have a ski buddy of mine, Lance, that lives right at the base of Corner Canyon. Lance and I have been trying to link up for a ride all summer, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to put it all together to have Lance show me and a new friend around his backyard trail system. An opportunity to get on base and possibly still have the weekend result in a mountain biking score!  

August Fly By

It felt like the month of August flew by in a blink of an eye. Perhaps because of all the flying on airplanes that I did, but also perhaps due to the schedule that I put together to take advantage of some free time away from my night job. I lucked out to receive the entire month off from my Delta Air Lines night job, and I intended to make the best use of it that I could. First and foremost was a family vacation to the north woods of Wisconsin, followed by plenty of work on my properties, a mountain bike guiding certification course, and a reunion trip with some of my oldest friends. The time flew by in between all of the actual airline flights. 

^My family and I have been

Dirty Snow & Muddy Boots

Summer is yet a few weeks out on the calendar, but has arrived in weather to the Northern Wasatch Range. The gate for one of my favorite spring skiing zones, Farmington Canyon, took forever to get open this year and as a result I missed most of the good skiing conditions up there this spring. I was irritated at the delay from the U.S. Forrest Service to get the gate open, but once it finally did open up I decided that despite my irritation I might as well get up there to check out a few more spots I have wanted to ski. By the time I could get up there the snowpack had receded to full-on summer snowpack, which is good for avalanche concerns, but not all that great of skiing conditions. 

Spring Fling Scouting Mission

Spring skiing is still in full swing in the Wasatch Range and the Uintas here in Northern Utah. My season still slows down to a certain degree as I add more construction projects into my daily life. Despite the increase in other work, I still find some time to get out into the mountains for skiing. Corn snow is the name of the game this time of year, so early mornings, and sunrises are a staple of the spring corn skiing diet. The high temperatures and strong sunlight cook the snowpack quickly so the aspect and elevation of a particular slope is a key element to harvesting good corn. 

Dusk Patrol Solo

This time of the year sunset in Northern Utah is around 8:30pm. This particular spring day the temperature was going to be a high of 52 degrees fahrenheit and raining in Ogden City where I live at 4,300 feet above sea level. The highest mountain peaks in the Ogden Wasatch Range are at about 9,700 feet above sea level. I knew the high country would see some snow, but the elevation where the rain would switch to snow was in question. A rule of thumb states that for every 1,000 feet higher in elevation it can be expected to see a 5 degree drop in temperature. The base area with which I wanted to start my tour was to be about 6,300 feet above sea level. Some simple math shows that if I started my tour at the highest temperature of the day, typically around 2pm, then there was a good chance that I would be starting my tour in the rain at 6,300 feet above sea level and roughly 42 degrees fahrenheit. With some luck I could be out of the rain and into snow by 7,000 feet above sea level. I was not particularly stoked about touring in the rain, but I held out hope throughout the morning.

Workshop and Wisconsin

What we call "third season" is still in full effect in Utah, but I took a week and half off from the mountains to get a little work done. I also took some of that time to go back to my hometown in Wisconsin to visit family and friends. My wife had some business in Chicago. Our hometown in southeastern Wisconsin is just and hour north of the Windy City so it was perfect to get some family time as well. 

Psychology of the Death Cloud

Snowbasin resort in the Ogden Wasatch Mountains is a basin dominated by a north-south running ridge line with five peaks across the ridge. The dominant weather pattern is from the northwest through southwest. Every once in a while we will see swirling weather from the south or east, but rarely. Any time that weather comes from anywhere other then straight south or north, which even more rarely happens, the clouds will get hung up on the Snowbasin ridge line and linger. They must linger long enough to empty out their precipitative mass to then move on. On this particular day the Ogden winds were blowing from the east to the west stacking big thick clouds up against Mt. Ogden and the Snowbasin ridge line. This has come to be called the infamous, "Death Cloud" of Snowbasin. It is a phenomenon we know all too well, but still it has a way of messing with my head when I am in it. The other day was no exception. Well, actually it was an exceptional day, because I allowed the Death Cloud to get in my head more then I typically do. I suspect my particular schedule that day was playing into my mental state, but typically I can play the game much cooler then I did.  

Nap Time Ripper

Spring time in Ogden Utah is that magic time of year when I can ride my bike as well as ski lines up in the higher elevations. On this particular day I was scheduled to be home all-day with my young two-year old son, Amos, so I was not able to get up to the higher elevations to ski. However, another nice thing about the particular part of Ogden in which I live is trailhead access is literally just a ten minute pedal away. This affords me the opportunity to have a quick little mountain bike ride route that I have come to call the "Nap Time Ripper". I can spend all morning looking after my boy and when I put him down for his daily nap around 1pm I take the baby monitor down to my lovely wife. She works from home in a basement office at our house, which is also a really integral part of the "Nap Time Ripper". If she had to work from the big city high rise office down in Salt Lake City all the time the "Nap Time Ripper" would not be feasible. 

Triple Threat

I first learned the term, "Triple Threat", as a young basketball player in my midwestern youth in reference to the body position and situation while in possession of the basketball with the ability to dribble, shoot, or pass. When I came to Utah after high school to ski as much as humanly possible while I earned a bachelor's degree, I met a couple locals that would play pivotal roles in shaping me as a skier. Paul Wright was a mentor. Ben Geiger was a peer. Both were with me a couple weeks ago when we completed a three canyon circuit tour in the Ogden backcountry thus forever changing my personal use of the words, "Triple Threat". 

Midwest Powder Machine

Many skiers know that the Great Salt Lake to the west of my current home in Ogden, Utah is a world famous powder snow making machine. Lake-effect snow is a weather phenomenon in which a large body of water works in relation with cold air to create moisture and thus snow in the winter months. However, many people don't know that the same "lake-effect" takes place way up north in the midwest of America on an obscure peninsula off the top of another peninsula. On the northern shore of the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan is another peninsula called the Keeweenaw Peninsula, which juts out into the middle of the Great Lake Superior. Storms come across Canada slamming into the Great Lake and then swell up until they cross over that obscure peninsula dumping gobs of the moisture gained while crossing the lake as light and cold midwest powder. Upwards of 300 inches of cold dry snow is pumped out of this midwest powder machine each winter. Frigid cold temperatures can make the skiing conditions hit or miss to a certain degree, and I have certainly missed the good snow in passed years, but this was not one of those years.

Layover at Home

Traveling to Japan to ski powder with my Dad was all-time. I still can't believe how good it really was. The travel slog back home to the U.S. was legit, and I was worn out for a while. However, there was little time to rest as I only had a week or so to get back to work in the Wasatch before I had to board another airplane for another trip soon after. Honestly, it felt more like a layover at home then it did actually being home. The time flew by. Before I knew it I was packing again even though it felt like I had just unpacked from Japan.


#Japanuary has become a popular hashtag with skiers traveling to Japan in January on the social media sites of the internet. Droves of skiers are now beginning to flock to the powder paradise of northern Japan and its north island of Hokkaido. I fell in love with the place nearly a decade ago when I went to Niseko, Japan to film for a ski movie by Sweetgrass Productions called, Signatures. When I returned home from that trip I immediately called my Dad and raved about the place. I told him that one day he would have to come with me. A couple weeks ago… he did, and we were calling it; #Dadpanuary!

Working What Works

It is an interesting tell of my age that the latest backcountry zones I have been scouting are relatively low angle, low elevation, and heavily gladed areas. However, with any amount of understanding of avalanche terrain and characteristics, it makes more sense. As I slowly age and morph into a crustier and more diligent backcountry traveler, and I spend more and more days alone in the woods, I have found myself seeking out and exploring more terrain that can be skied safely on even the highest of avalanche danger days.