Avalanche unaware . . .

If you’ve read my biography on the Meet The Crew you know that I’m the rookie. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because all the old timers (I won’t name names) feel it necessary to show me the secret stashes, sweetest runs and the best apres ski watering holes. It’s bad because I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting myself into or the assumed risk that you take every time you click into your skis and head beyond resort boundaries.

Call me naive, but I’ve never worried about avalanches. Part of this may be due to growing up skiing in eastern Washington, which isn’t exactly a hotbed of avalanche activity. But I honestly think it’s because I was completely unaware of avalanches in general . . . until I moved to Utah.

People in Utah are serious about their avalanche safety. This fact is perfectly demonstrated by how quickly I got signed up for Back Tracks Avalanche Awareness Course. The conversation with my boss went something like this:

Boss – “Rookie, have you ever taken an avalanche course?”

Me – “Nope, do I need to?”

Boss – “Yes. And consider yourself signed up for the Avalanche Awareness Course tomorrow.”

And with that I was on my way to the Avalanche Awareness Course, not knowing what to expect and wondering how much there really is to learn about avalanches. Man, was I surprised. At no other time in my life have I gleaned more valuable information in a two-day span. Put on by Back Tracks, and taught by members of Solitude’s Professional Ski Patrol, the Avalanche Awareness Course was a great introduction to the identification of avalanche hazards and how to travel responsibly and safely outside resort boundaries.

Here are some of the more important and interesting factoids I took away from the course. Note: These may or may not be obvious to you, but I’m a rookie.

  • 75% of avalanche victims are experienced backcountry recreationists.
  • Most avalanches occur on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees.
  • Cross avalanche terrain one at a time, not in groups.
  • Snow pits and shear tests are the most reliable ways to analyze the safeness of the snowpack
  • An avalanche is broken down into three parts: starting zone, track and run out zone
  • There is more than one type of avalanche

Needless to say, I’m not naïve when it comes to avalanches anymore. And if I were to give one piece of advice to anyone thinking of venturing into the backcountry it would be to take the Avalanche Awareness Course.

Back Track’s

Winterfest is upon us!

What? It’s almost Christmas already? For once I’m not disappointed that time is flying. Why? First, the closer we are to Christmas, the closer we are to presents. Duh! Secondly, it means that we’re in the midst of Solitude’s 2nd Annual Winterfest!

For those of you who don’t know, Winterfest is two weeks of pure awesomeness for the whole family. Yes, I just made up that word, but it seemed fitting.

What classifies as awesomeness? Allow me to inform you. A pedestrian only village that is bustling with people, activity, fun and games. Ice skating parties complete with s’mores made over an open fire (the way they should be). History lessons. Movies. Astronomy presentations and star gazing tours. Solitude Ski Patrol rescue dog demonstrations. Snowshoeing tours. Holiday singers.

Wow, that is quite the list! And believe me it could, and does, go on. But I won’t share all the secrets of Winterfest, because the best part is discovering it for yourself!

Check out more details at: http://www.skisolitude.com/summer/clubsolitude.php

Welcome winter, glad to see you’re here to stay

Do you remember middle school dances? You know, the one’s where the guys were on one side and the girls on the other. Both wanted to dance with each other, but neither group knew how to make the first move . . . until the DJ played that special song that broke the ice.

Where am I going with this?Allow me to explain. Before this big storm, this winter had been like one of those dances. It was struggling. Skiers and boarders looked longingly at the mountains. Luckily, DJ Ullr spun that special song (aka the storm) bringing powder hounds together with the mountain for a memorable dance (aka powder turns). But this song wasn’t just one and done. It kept playing for 48 hours dumping 46” of snow on Solitude Mountain Resort!

Now, this may be just another dump of Utah’s finest for you, but this is EPIC to me (Note: if you see me frolicking about in the waist deep powder, just let me have a moment). You see, I’m not from around here. I grew up skiing the heavy-wet of the Pacific Northwest. Days like these past few are what set the Wasatch, and more specifically Solitude, apart from the rest of the field. Days like these past few have been the subject of my powder dreams for years. And days like these past few are what we can expect for the rest of the season.

So, I thank you DJ Ullr for breaking the ice and I look forward to making turns to your tunes for the rest of the season!

You may not know it, but I’m a pretty big deal

So, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that The ‘Tude has added three new lifts in two years.  Sure, those other lifts are cool:  Apex gives you sweet access from the Village at Solitude, and Moonbeam has a sweet name, which makes me wonder, what is a moonbeam anyways?  Does the moon shoot beams?  I digress.

Now, I’m not trying to be brash, but those lifts don’t hold a candle to me.  Oh, sorry, where did my manners go?  Please allow myself to introduce . . . myself (cue music).  I’m Powderhorn II, or PH II or the new PH.  Really, you can call me anything you want, the name isn’t important.  The important thing to remember is that I’m going to change the way you visit Solitude.  Again, I’m not being smug, I’m just being confident.  Believe me, there’s a difference.

I’m a pretty big deal for a couple of reasons.  First, I’m a quad.  A fixed grip quad if you must know.  No more of this two-at-a-time, trying to figure out who rides with who stuff.  I’m all about getting you, plus your family and friends, up the hill.  Secondly, I start mid-mountain.  No more long and reflective rides, as nostalgic as they will remain.  This means two things:  Shorter laps for experienced skiers on the upper-mountain and lower Honeycomb Canyon (more of the good stuff!), and even less traffic on the intermediate and beginner runs of the lower-mountain.  Really, I’m a win-win kind of lift. Your welcome.

For the skeptics . . . well, I can’t change your mind.  True, different areas on the mountain will get skied more than they did in the past.  But remember, this is Solitude, there’s never a shortage of sweet stashes to blow through!  You just need to know where to look! And when you find those stashes of the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” and believe me you will, just remember who got your butt up there (Hint:  Me!).

But seriously, there’s no need to thank me.  The powder yelps and smiles will be thanks enough.

See you out there,


Fresh snow and sun – Another blue bird day at Solitude!

There are few things in life that go better together than fresh snow and sun.  Luckily, I live in Salt Lake City where I get to experience this combination more often than not.  For those of you who don’t live in Salt Lake City, I apologize.

blue bird day!

Today up at Solitude was a prime example of this combination at its finest!  Overnight, eight inches of fresh pow blanketed Solitude’s slopes and by mid-morning the sun was out creating perfect early season conditions.  Needless to say I hit the slopes like it was my job!

Three lifts (Apex, Link, Moonbeam) were up and spinning, giving me access to three different runs.  And yes, I skied them all!  With the groomers out last night and this morning, the runs were in pristine condition making for some great turns.  And for those of you wondering, there were powder stashes to be found on the edges of the runs.  I would say they were early season teasers of the great pow days to come.

Insider tip:  Eagle Express opens tomorrow!  You know what that means right?  Time to hit Sunshine Bowl!