Oh yes, I finally headed out to Little Cottonwood. After a week in Orlando wearing sundresses and shorts and tracking Disney Princesses, I arrived back in SLC and head first into a storm. The forecasters didn't lie or even get it wrong this time. Today was epic. Think April 2010 but with less terrain open. I made the bonehead move to blow off changing out my tires and was forced to leave the Blizzaks in the garage and grab the Thule snow chains to get out of my driveway. At least a foot of powder stood Â between me and I-215. Did I mention that I have never once put on snow chains? In my entire life of weekend roadtrips to Mammoth Mountain, Calif., my guy friends always did the honors.
I watched a quick YouTube Thule installation video and had those puppies harnessed around my rear tires in 10 minutes. (They recommend placing chains on rear tires of 4WD/AWD cars.) Â I rolled up to Chickadee at the crack of noon. The drive up the Canyon was a slow crawl with many a vehicle doing the fishtail boogie. Alta probably would have been the better call because they have more terrain open, a singles line at Collins and the trees make whiteouts manageable; but I parked at Chickadee. I'm a wuss in the cold and the Tram's like a womb- warm, safe and rockin' the good vibes.
It's still early season despite the reported 14" this morning so I clicked into my rock skis and cruised to the tram dock. The line was insane. Full maze inside then out the door around the back of the building and out toward the plaza, ending at the ski school office. What could you do? The Peruvian Lift won't open until Friday. Gadzoom was running but I wanted the top not the middle. I wanted untracked powder not Big Emma. I stood in line. Like going back to school after summer break, there were all the familiar Bird faces.
I ran into Alta Lodge's Joni Dykstra on the dock and we hooked up for the first run. I hate skiing alone especially when the visibility sucks and my fingers are cold. The temp meter at Hidden Peak was pointing to 15 degrees. We took the Cirque Traverse for the Sign Line. We dropped in to the most forgiving snow you could have ever dreamed of on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Usually we're getting this kind of fluff the day after Turkey Day. Not this early. Every turn was creamy and if we were guys we'd be high-fiving each other at the bottom. Instead, we snapped iPhone photos. Back in the tram line others echoed our amazement. How could it be this awesome, this early? One guy went so far as to say, "Global warming my ass."
Joni's friend Larry Dunn joined our unit and filled us in on the La Nina/El Nino banter. Those little siblings love to take annual turns toying with Utah ski conditions. Larry is the deputy director at the NOAA Salt Lake aviation weather center so he knows a little something about weather. Supposedly, we're in a La Nina season. COLD COLD storm systems that will dump copious amounts on winter crack. He says we've got another 2-3 feet coming by Wednesday, then an arctic front that will push in to deliver a few clear, brutally cold days for Thanksgiving.
The tram line had mellowed a bit now that the morning hardcores had left. We did another run in mid cirque. It was 3:25 p.m. when we boarded for our third and final lap. That's three runs in three hours. Not a record but seeing as how my legs burned after the first run, I wasn't complaining. Larry cut across Reg to the traverse and mentioned something about dropping down the backside; i.e. Nirvana. Sure why not? He'd been spot on so far. OMG! Not only were we the only ones in the whole area but we laid down the only tracks. I got my first face shot of the season. Up until now I had been tentative. No one wants to wreck and hurt themselves before March let alone before Thanksgiving. But here I was faced with a couloir with bottomless blowage. I had to attack. Sorry, Ryan, this was better than sex. The turns happened when they were supposed to, the legs extended when they were supposed to the hoots came out when they were supposed to. I was in the zone. I was in the zone? Already?
By the time I got my SUV unstuck from the parking spot it was 4 p.m. and the line down the Canyon was moving 2 mph. I heard those trying to leave earlier in the day had it worse- an hour and half to get to the mouth. But the traffic was worth it. I was able to make three phone calls spraying about my day to those who decided to sit it out. NEENERS.
Most people don't plan Thanksgiving ski trips. There's usually no snow. This year, Utah couldn't have wished for a better marketing campaign to get the tourism phones ringing. Where will you ski this Thursday?
P.S. The Canyons really ought to figure out a way to make their passholders happy. Announcing a Dec. 10th opening in the midst of these big dumps is not going over well. Just look at all of the comments their Facebook "fans" are leaving: http://www.facebook.com/TheCanyonsResort