Just Add Chocolate

I just stumbled across one of the greatest things I’ve heard all season. No, it’s not a miraculous powder dump on my favorite mountain. It’s not that winter will be extended into next season. These are spectacular thoughts, I admit, but it’s spring and closing day is just over two weeks away. With those facts in mind, what could possibly be one of the greatest things I’ve heard all season?

To get the answer, let me ask you one more thing: how can one possibly make skiing- heck, anything in life- even better? The answer: Just add chocolate. According to the resort bulletin I caught this morning, that’s precisely what Solitude is doing tomorrow.

Skiing + Chocolate = perfection. Both are sensual experiences, enveloping you in a state of focused concentration. Both skiing and chocolate entice intense cravings; both are worthy of addiction. Both release endorphins in your brain, giving you a euphoric rush. The very idea that I will be rewarded with one for participating in the other is close to causing sensory overload as I sit here in anticipation.

Not that there needs to be more incentives to devour this ancient treat, but Soli is giving away prizes for those who complete their chocolate passport. Surely, this implies that there will be more than one place to load up on chocolate. That’s right (ladies, do you hear me?)- the smooth, intoxicating cocoa bean concoction will be making its appearance all over the mountain. I’m so there.

Missing Home

Honeycomb Canyon, Solitude Mountain Resort

Today I changed my Facebook background picture for the first time this ski year. Since November, it had been a photo I snapped in Honeycomb Canyon last season. I’ve been proud to sport that photo and rep my home resort all this time. However, for the past week, I’ve been heli-skiing in Alaska and thought maybe I should go for a change- everyone else flying with me here had updated their profile pictures and I felt the need to follow suit.

It’s funny how a little thing like where you ski can be such a source of pride. As I changed my photo from my sweet Honeycomb shot to an impressive aerial view of the snowcapped islands dotting the Gulf of Alaska, I felt a twinge of guilt creep in. Was this being disloyal to my local mountain? Did this mean I didn’t love Soli as much as I believed I did? Would Honeycomb ever forgive me for enjoying the snowy pitches to the north?

And it’s not just pride that I discovered, but jealousy… even though I was in the wilds of backcountry Alaska, high in the most rugged peaks and pristine landscape I had ever witnessed, I still felt left out of the fun as I read news of the 40″ of snowstorm back home. Here I was, skiing fresh tracks all day, enjoying what others pay thousands of dollars to experience, and I kept thinking, “Man, my friends back home are having the time of their lives in our favorite secret stashes.”

How is it possible to feel both guilt and jealousy when I was in a situation others would give up their life savings for?

I figured it out- while being here in the Chugach mountain range is impressive and undoubtedly the experience of a lifetime, I have never had a day to complain about at Solitude, and many to rejoice over. I know my way around the mountain and can find the good stuff even on a day when the snow may be less than ideal. It’s close to home, so I can sleep in my own bed and be on hill within a half an hour. I don’t have to get geared up with avalanche equipment just to take turns. And days after a storm, I’m still slaying powder at Solitude- no helicopter necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I love this heli-skiing gig and am grateful for the every minute I’ve been here. But my local mountain- 3,000 miles away from the remote beauty of Alaska- has my heart. And if Honeycomb has a forgiving demeanor, you’ll know where to find me my first day back.

I Still Got Mine

Simply Stunning!

Alright folks, I have put this one off long enough. I am going to start off by saying that I am one of those girls who is ready to ski in October and ready for something else in March. Not saying that I am totally over skiing, but my brain starts thinking of other things when the tulips start peaking their little green tops out of the wet soil. The last couple of weeks it has been hard for me to get into a “ski” state of mind. It started with Isaac cracking his head open and getting staples which put a damper on things and then that sun, that warm shorts weather sun, came out and decided to blast Utah with some early spring heat. We have totally been duped by winter this year and so instead of embracing the news that a large, wet, pacific storm might actually renew the goods up in the mountains, I sort of brushed it off and put it out of my mind. Besides, it was probably going to rain…right?

Hello Snow!

Rain, it did not! Saturday at the Tude was slushy and icy, you know, knee ripper stuff and the weather was grey and damp. The DEVO team was sorely lacking in numbers (everyone stayed in bed) and by noon, I was ready to bail and so were the boys. Sunday is an off day for us but I started getting texts that the snow was falling and it was starting to get deep. Hmmm. The sky was overcast as I walked into church but, the temperatures were rather comfortable and I presumed that whatever was coming down up there was going to be cement so, I committed myself to the next three hours with a bit of unenthusiastic determination. Stepping out of the doors, several hours later, I was immediately knocked over by the cold. Temperatures had to have dropped at least twenty degrees and my springy skirt and blouse did nothing to block the icy wind which whipped through my thin clothes. Flakes were swirling and I knew that all the heathens who had turned away from the “light” were turning in some fresh light powder! Dangit, sometimes, Sundays can be a paralyzing moral dilemma when faced with the choice of deep pow or deep piousness. I lived by the rule that the mountains were my church for many years but now, now…well, you know the story. I wonder what the fate is for those who suffer from alpine apostasy?

Isaac (6) getting some leftovers

A roaring fire and some good food helped quell the loss of a great day and I soon realized, as the snow started accumulating outside, that Monday was going to be even better. The weather reports were calling for another foot onto the 12-15 that had already fallen and the Cottonwoods were finally getting their due justice. I walked into my office and looked at my calendar, it was full. My husband was out of town and couldn’t pick up the slack and I knew I was doomed. Why, Why, Why? Was I really going to have to miss the biggest day of the year? It looked that way and I begrudgingly tackled Monday with as much joy as a lifty stuck smacking the chairs with a broom. My friend, Jill freakin Adler, made a point of posting her every turn with the conniving skills of the world’s greatest ski wench while I sat at the elementary school and read with the kids (whom I adore). My phone kept vibrating in my pocket as post after post and picture after picture was popping up from every last ski friend I know. I think I smacked my head against a wall or a desk at least five times in self pity. Jill later said it best, when she called and left a message around 3:00… “Hi, it’s me (super sickly sweet voice), if you didn’t ski today you should HATE yourself…bye” You can insert the B-word here with an exclamation point. I am currently ignoring her phone calls.

Of course I don't hate myself! Ahhhh...

Who cares, right? Your probably wondering why I am even writing this, what does this have to do with anything? Who really cares that Rachael didn’t ski, that she wished she had, we know Jill doesn’t. Well, the thing is this. I moped around Tuesday morning, wallowing in misery when I realized that if I didn’t get up there and at least make one turn in the stuff then I really was a loser. How could I even consider myself anything other than a weekend warrior instead of the girl whose life (from Thanksgiving to Easter) depends on the white stuff? I looked outside at the bluebird sky and thought of that fantastic winter wonderland just minutes away and I rallied…I RALLIED! Isaac looked at me and caught that gleam in my eye (five minutes before he was to catch the bus for Kindergarten to be exact) and said “I want to go skiing!” I looked at him and his three friends (who were over for playgroup) and said, “Mommy does too…go get your stuff on, NOW!”  Five minutes, that’s all it took, to get his friend’s on the bus, all our gear loaded and out the door to see what was left of the storm’s fury. I couldn’t leave Noah so I snatched him off the playground (with permission of course) and off to Solitude we went.

Are these boys ever in school?

Noah hiking out Honeycomb

The canyon road was busy with people heading down and I knew that my timing couldn’t be better. Oddly enough, I love to hit Solitude in the afternoon, after a dump, when the crowds are gone and the mountain is peaceful and quiet. I don’t mind missing out on first tracks because I know that I am still going to get mine. I know this mountain, I know where she hides her best kept secrets. You think I am going to tell you…uh, no. It was better than I could have hoped and I am so glad that I got my sorry self up there! Tuesday may not have been the deepest and softest but it had to have been the most stunning! Jaw dropping beauty greeted us. Snow laden trees glistening in the sun and the silence of the canyon  enveloped us in absolute peace and serenity. No one, I mean no one was there. The weekend had taken its toll on the powder junkies and there I was, with my two favorite boys, basking in the glorious sunshine, taking in the gorgeous scenery, laughing with my kids, rolling around with them in deep powder and still making turns in fresh, sparkling snow that had lain untouched (I promise), just waiting for me to cut through it. I know that I missed the chest deep powder that so many of you blew through over the weekend and I am happy for each and every one of you (even you Jill…I really am) who felt the sweet joy of the return of winter. I know that I missed the thigh burning race for fresh tracks and face shots. I know…I know…that I missed the “best” day of the season but it’s fine, I still got mine.

Pure Joy!

Stopping to ENJOY the scenery

Solitude...being Solitude...shhhh

What’s Better Than a Powder Day?

What does pure exhaustion, sore thighs and utter contentment all have in common? They all mean that I have literally skied my heart out over the last seven days! Sleep has come easy this past week as I have crawled into bed each night worn out and happy. Although, the warm March sun is finally peeking it’s face out and melting the piles of snow that has fallen the last few days, I am grateful that the “best snow on earth” actually lived up to it’s reputation and gave us all the best week of the year!

YAY FOR SNOW!!!!

I know that I am not the only one who is ready for a “break” today (even though I know that Solitude is going to be quiet and peaceful this morning). It has been a mad dash for powder, not only for the snow starved locals but for tourists as well as even a Monopalooza convention that found its way to Solitude this week. If any of you noticed the odd amounts of mono skiers gracing the slopes of the Tude, now you know why. They literally told me that a “MONOPOCALYPSE” of skiers had taken over the mountain! I wouldn’t exactly say they “took over the mountain” but, there sure were a lot of them smiling, partying and having a grand old time.

Monoskiers posing for the camera

Okay, I am going to let you in on a little secret that I hope you won’t hold against me but, I feel that it is pertinent information. I love Alta! I have loved Alta since I was 19 and fresh out of my one semester of college in Colorado (probably TMI). I love to get over in Little Cottonwood Canyon and stomp on the home turf. So, why this, why now? Can’t I love to ski at more places than just Solitude? Well, I can and I do but, this is where I am going with my “I love Alta” nostalgia.  Please read on for explanation. Although, I can attest (as well as most of you reading this) that Big Cottonwood Canyon was busy this past week, it was nothing like the mad chaos that was LCC! I am not trying to create a stir here because yes, I really do lust after the LCC some days but, I have never been more grateful to have a pass at Utah’s sweetest little (big) mountain!

Traffic on Wasatch..Heading up Little...Turn Around, Turn Around...No, don't!

Was I ever appreciative when I drove past the standstill of traffic heading up Little, or talked to those of you said you couldn’t find fresh powder after 11:00 am. Even my frustrating thirty minutes of canyon sitting, while I waited for the U.S. Forest Service to do control work, was nothing like the hours that some of you spent in your car in LCC.

This is why we were stopped on the road in Big for 30 minutes on Thursday afternoon.

Now, I am not trying to throw Little Cottonwood under the bus here, because, like I said, I am one of her greatest fans but, Solitude was where the endless stashes were to be discovered and skied over and over!

Snowboarder, Shannon Farner, getting some freshies in Black Forest

Thursday morning, I actually rode up the lift with a boarder from Snowbird who complained that Solitude was just as tracked out and that he should have just waited in line for the Bird. I looked at him, dumbfounded, as I said “Okay, so you would rather be sitting on Wasatch right now, then sitting on the lift” Insanely, he answered yes and said there was nothing to ski at Solitude. My friend next to me gave me the evil eye and pinched my leg so, that I would keep my mouth zipped. She knew wicked words were about to fly. It was all I could do to not call him out on his idiocy but, I held it together and as we slid off Powderhorn, I politely replied that there was plenty of sick terrain and untracked goods if only he knew where they were…but, of course I wasn’t showing him!

Does this look tracked out to you?

Tuesday was probably my favorite day of the week as I let Noah skip school and there is no one I would rather shred the hill with then the phenom ski grom which I will take full credit for. His little brother is about there but, I am not waiting for him on an epic powder day…yet.

I Promise...Noah is in that Pile of Blowing Snow...

The big snows had just begun to pack a punch but, it was windy and cold and the middle of a school and work week. I think most knew the best was yet to come and stayed away. Skiing in these conditions is ALWAYS the best time to ski! With every run, fresh snow fills your tracks and at Solitude our turns remained untouched by other skiers. It was quiet and peaceful and many employees were out racking up the vertical before the bigger crowds showed up. In fact, Noah and I were riding up Powderhorn to hit Milkrun when we noticed a sole skier carving up gorgeous, fluffy turns below us, it was Amy Nelson (Solitude employee and long time Solitude local). I caught her smile and I was happy that she had a chance to shred the gnar! It’s why she’s at the mountain for goodness sake! Tuesday was plain sick!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and even Saturday were days that dreams are made from but, can I just say that the best run of the week was Thursday afternoon. Patrol got the Powderhorn gates open (Honeycomb side) and guess who was the first through? Untouched, pristine, deep, deep, deep, sparkling powder blew around me as I carved my way down through the open glades and trees that make up the north side of the canyon. Is there anything better? I think not!

Powder Junkie

So here I am, writing this blog, watching a short and tee shirt clad Isaac ride off down the street on his bicycle and wondering if it was all a dream but, the burn in my thighs after endless days of hiking out to Cathedral and all over Honeycomb, tell me otherwise. I couldn’t sum it up better than Nick Como (Solitude PR) who said on his Facebook page…”What is better than a powder day? A snow week!”

Thanks to Solitude and her quiet unassuming ways, her untouched stashes (that I know will be found long after the excitement of this week has passed) and to the quiet moments of epic freedom that were only broken from the whoops of happiness that often escaped through my lips. I was never more grateful to be shredding on her slopes than this week!