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.

^Another great thing about this new zone is that I can walk on the cross-country trails with my wife and pup for a while before peeling off to head up into the woods. It is a real treat to be able to combine the two objectives of family time as well as feeding my need to make lonely powder turns in the woods. As my busy life requires more and more efficiency from me this helps out. I can cruise around the trails with them for an hour or so and then simply bust off the cross-country trail and blaze my own trail up to higher elevation terrain.

^"Bye Honey!" as I bang a right and push off into the powder leaving the wife and pup behind. I have been scouting this terrain in the summer for three years now, and after loosing last winter to poor snowpack and my son, Amos', cancer battles it was a really great feeling to finally put skis into the area. All the binocular squints and bushwhacking was finally paying off.

^It was also interesting having my skin track broken in by the local four-legged talent. I followed up mule deer and rabbit tracks for a lot of my travel. It was kind of cool for a crunchy ole' nature lover like me. I get all hippy dippy about that kind of stuff. Later in the day I finally came up on that mule deer on the ridge, and she gave me the pleasure of watching her bound effortlessly down an untracked slope. I didn't mind watching her put in the first tracks on a slope. She worked for it too. Hell, she slept out there! 

^A view of some of my beloved Snowbasin low elevation terrain. Glades abound. Thankfully, not just inside the resort either. I now have my own little gladed powder paradise just and hour and a half walk from the parking lot. It is accessible anytime I want it too. Be that day, or night, or an early dawn patrol before the lifts start turning over there. Not to mention the family cross-country warm-up time as well. I am excited about it for the variety of positive factors involved beyond the untouched powder. No one really ever skis out in this area. It is just not typically on someone's radar who has driven up to Snowbasin. Their eyes are usually fixed higher up the mountain than where this place is situated. 

^No shortage of good views either. 

^Glades and sunshine. Check.

^If you look closely you can see the wind plumes ripping off the higher terrain. Not down low though. While there was a little bit of wind down at this lower elevation, it was no where near as fierce at what was going on up there. Add "sheltered" to the myriad of other factors that makes this area a real plus for me. At the time of this walk the avalanche danger in the upper elevations was high bordering on nuclear and there I was skinning for untracked powder without another soul around in very safe snowpack and conditions. That is the real key here. When it is 'no-go" almost everywhere else. This area is still relatively safe. That is a good option to have in the back pocket for someone like me spending more and more time solo touring and less and less time fighting the crowds of the powder hungry public in the ski resort. The older I get the less appealing that becomes to me. Since I retired from sponsorship skiing I am not quite the "showoff" that I once was when I was the walking talking billboard for those sponsors.

^Now-a-days I am more worried about just being walking and talking period at the end of the day for my young family's sake. All my ego is left in the parking lot when I am solo touring in new terrain. No one to impress and a little boy and a wife awaiting my "all clear" call at the end of the day.

^I must say too that if this scene of untouched powder in some lonely trees is not good enough for me, then I would say I had bigger problems to deal with. However, in my current state of life as a skier, this is perfect. This is exactly what I was hoping it would be when I was working the terrain the last three summers glassing and bushwaking my way around in there. Family inclusion, relatively safe avalanche factors, access at any time I want it, and not another soul even thinking about putting in the work to tour in the area… yeah… that works for me.