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Report from the West, 2020
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Updated 6 days ago
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JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

Six weeks ago (late Jan 2020) I began what is becoming an annual western winter migration for me.  Drove to Denver in two quiet days and skied in Colorado on Jan 28-31.  Good conditions with notably light late January crowds.   I think it snowed about 5” in parts of the high country the day before I arrived and it snowed about 5” the night before my last ski day.  In between was a mix of sun, clouds and some light snow.  It got a little busier on my last day in Colorado on Friday Jan 31 at Vail, but I missed any epic mob scenes.

I skied two days at Breckenridge, one day at Keystone, and one day at Vail.  

Breck:

I stayed for three nights at an upscale hostel in Breck called The Bivvi for about $80 per night.  This included a nice hot breakfast and easy access to a free bus to the slopes.  I had respectful room mates and slept well there during my stay.

At Keystone I got in a ton of high speed carving and met a friend who grilled a rib-eye for me while we soaked in the hot tub at the slopeside condo he was staying in.  The condos at Keystone are some of the more affordable slopeside lodging in this part of CO.

This is summit of dercum mtn.  Before the trip I purchased some new skis off steepandcheap for $149 (kastle lx 85) and i like them for frontside skiing, they worked good in a few inches of powder too.

The Outback Chair

Under the lights

Vail, Sun Up Bowl

Champagne Glades in Blue Sky Basin.

BSB again

Then I drove westward.  This is a scenic section of I70 near Green River, UT

My wife flew out for $54 to join me and some friends in Las Vegas for Super Bowl Sunday (74 degs).

We tired of Vegas after a few days and continued onto our long term destination in SLC.  We went to the International Ski World Cups at Deer Valley Resort under the lights on 2/8/20 and saw the finals of the head to head dual moguls competition.  Huge crowd in high octane party mode.  Saw some great rippers!!  Women’s winner Justine Dufour-Lapointe, Men’s winner Mikael Kingsbury, both Canadians!  

to be continued…

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

Since arriving at my winter destination in SLC on Feb 5, 2020 I’ve logged four days at Park City, nine days at Snowbird, two days at Jackson Hole, and one day at Grand Targhee.  It hasn’t been super snowy in that time, but I have experienced probably four or five powder days in the 6-12” range.

Random shots from recent days at Snowbird:

Middle Cirque

snowbird 4 March 2020 John and Detlef.jpg

Gelande Hill near Little Cloud lift

snowbird mar 2 instructor.jpg

snowbird mar 2 shireen copy.jpg

Dalton’s Draw

snowbird pow 1 mar 20.jpg

Near Bookends area:

snowbird 19 feb 2020.jpg

Thunder Bowl, far lookers right on frontside of mtn:

snowbird 19 feb 2020 thunder.jpg

 

A few from Park City, Feb 2020:

This is in the Red Pines Chutes section of 9990.

park city red pine chutes feb 20.jpg

A friend took this shot of me in the same area of 9990.

park city red pine chutes 9990 jim copy.jpg

Jupiter Bowl:

park city jupiter feb 20.jpg

9990 and Jupiter Peak have some of the most challenging skiing and best snow at PCMR and are rarely crowded.

In late Feb 2020 I went to WY for a few days of skiing at Jackson Hole and one really sweet day at Grand Targhee.  

Here some photos from Jackson Hole, late Feb 2020

Upper Hobacks

pug gang brad hobacks.jpg

Rendezvous Bowl

pug gang brad summit2.jpg

Again, one of my favorite recent photos:

pug gang brad summit.jpg

another friend in Rendezvous Bowl, Cody Peak in background.

pug gang justin 3.jpg

I like these because Corbets can be seen in background

pug gang scott 2.jpg

Long time DCSki friend JohnL

pug gang johnl 2.jpg

 

Offpiste in the Apres Vous area.

pug gang johnl.jpg

pug gang scott.jpg

 

Grand Targhee, I went here for the first time ever on Friday, Feb 28, 30 degs, super sunny, packed powder conditions, wonderful low-key vibe compared to the mega-resorts, ample free parking 100’ from the lodge, light trail traffic.  Awesome experience.  They tell me I was lucky to catch such clear, stellar conditions because it’s often foggy/snowy/low vis.  Not for me:-)

 

pug gang GT tetons.jpg

pug gang GT lodge.jpg

pug gang GT brad.jpg

I was told that the cliff in the lower center of this photo is where Jamie Pierre set a cliff hucking record of 255’ in 2006.

pug gang GT tetons2.jpg

 

662053938_puggangGTtricia.thumb.jpg.98c9c0e69e2b260fb590facd504599e3.jpg

pug gang GT phil edge.jpg

pug gang GT gary jim.jpg

This place gave me a fixation on large tetons🤓

pug gang GT justin best3.jpg

As great as Targhee is on a sunny day, I’m sure I’d lose my mind trying to track up all the open acreage on a powder day with light competition.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

Great pics as always!

You were indeed lucky to get good snow and fantastic views at GT.  I’ve managed to catch a powder storm once there with sunshine.  It’s wonderful!  I prefer GT over JH for both vibe and terrain.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

Go Jim go.  I love it.

2 months ago

Jim you da man .com!

awesome trip, I want to do the drive to Colorado also, this season I am locked into a Killington pass but looking forward next season for some local skiing and I would like to drive out west for couple weeks, I would like to ask you some questions about the drive etc.

 about 30 years ago after skiing some of the best powder ever at Grand Targhee my friend who was driving somehow got us on fresh corduroy when we thought we were leaving the parking lot we ended up on a damn slope, we had to get help from a snow cat to get us out

2 months ago

Vermont wrote:

Jim you da man .com!

awesome trip, I want to do the drive to Colorado also, this season I am locked into a Killington pass but looking forward next season for some local skiing and I would like to drive out west for couple weeks, I would like to ask you some questions about the drive etc.

 about 30 years ago after skiing some of the best powder ever at Grand Targhee my friend who was driving somehow got us on fresh corduroy when we thought we were leaving the parking lot we ended up on a damn slope, we had to get help from a snow cat to get us out

You need to be in one of these> https://www.roadandtrack.com/motorsports/videos/a27900/formula-1-f1-car-in-snow-ski-slope/

2 months ago

Great pics. Keep em coming

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

Vermont wrote:

Jim, I would like to ask you some questions about the drive etc.

So I am the madman that drives from Wash DC to the Rockies to ski almost yearly since 2000. Here is why.

I have fun doing it. I will always have great memories of mid-Atlantic skiing. But the mtns are comparatively small. VT can be great skiing if weather permits, but is one full day of driving from me. CO has almost always great ski conditions in midwinter and is just two full days of driving from DC. Over my 50+ years of skiing I’ve probably done more driving trips to New England, but over the last 20 years more to Rockies to ski.

I have done about ten-twelve drives from DC to CO for a week of skiing (drive two, ski five or six, drive two). I’ve done about five or six for destinations further than CO, but for longer than one week.  I have never driven west to ski for less than a 9 day trip (four driving, five skiing), and usually I’ve thrown in another day in the middle of the week for a rest day.

Unlike some folks, I love to do cross country drives. All my life my jobs kept me tied to a desk, but I also always had a decent amount of vacation time. The highway represents adventure. The traffic is generally light and I take southerly routes through MD, WV, KY, IL, MO, KS that are rarely messed up by snowy roads. The anticipation keeps me alert through the flat Midwest, the scenery keeps me alert in the Rockies and beyond. The return drive provides time to rest sore muscles, reflect over good times, and think about the next trip. Usually I’ve had driving partners and take turns driving, making it a breeze. In 1976 I drove solo on my college spring break to CO for the first time. Slept in my car multiple nights. This ski-road stuff is part of my personal ski history.

I am not particularly fond of flying, esp earlier in life. I flew from DC to UT about 8 times in last five years for one-week visits and it was fine, but not without hassles.  Many of my DC to Rockies ski road trips have included one or more family members who I would have financed for air fares if we’d flown, this makes ratio of gas costs for driving vs. airfare costs a little closer.  Some of these driving trips also happened around holiday times when my kids were out of school, but when air fares are the highest.

I am retired now, so when I drive out I stay for months, not days. I drove solo this Jan from DC to Denver in two days without thinking twice about it. Set me up for four nice ski days in CO, then I continued further west. Will return to DC in a few months. Wife will accompany on return trip, which we may break up by visiting friends along the way.

Having said above, I recognize that for most Easterners it makes complete sense timewise and moneywise to fly for ski trips of 3 to 7 days in duration that involve a destination further away than one day of driving. Caveat: in 2003 I took my family of six for a ten day trip to CO by minivan, there was considerable savings on that trip by driving and not paying for six airfares and one week minivan rental. But the long drive was not too fun with four kids between age 9-18.  http://www.dcski.com/articles/281

Probably my most ambitious ski-road trip in recent years was 2018 winter trip from DC to UT to WY to BC to DC, 7000 miles in three weeks. Too much driving, but all went well and included my first ever visits to Revy and Banff areas and was a very memorable trip.

PS:  I have rose colored glasses for anything to do with skiing and that has also impacted my willingness to endure long drives.  Also, DCSki member Denis has been an inspiration for some of my big drives as he’s done a lot of them too, including several solo.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

I’d like to add some thoughts for all adventure skiers, simply put, get out and do it now.  I did and am rewarded to see that Jim is doing it now.  None of us knows how long we have, by that I mean years when we will enjoy adventure skiing.  We are all aging and those years can be taken or compromised.  I am now in the process of losing part or all of 3 of the last four seasons to injury.  First came the right shoulder rotator cuff, the major tendon completely ruptured, 3 more partially torn, next, 2 total knee replacements, now a groin injury suffered 6 weeks ago that seems to be not healing at all; I can barely walk, let alone ski.  I’ll recover from this one too, but the need for recoveries is becoming more frequent and they take longer.  The mental resolve to do serious adventure descents is pretty much gone too.  I still love powder and would hate to become a corduroy only skier.  

I retired 11 years ago while still living in NoVA and went for it.  In the first years I’d get an eastern pass at Stowe or mad River and a western pass.  That would mean 2 each 3-5 week road trips.  It was great and I just couldn’t get enough skiing.  For several years I had my western pass at Alta.  Then I decided that there are too many “powder locusts” in Utah (John L’s term) and went to Montana focusing on less known places with cheap prices, no crowds and uncut powder that lasts for days.  That was in many ways the best road trip.  After that, when my wife decided to retire and we were pretty committed to CA, it became the Sierra and Kirkwood where competition for powder on weekdays is very light.  I did a little bit of solo backcountry in Carson pass but it is bigger and scarier than WV.  From now on it’s going to be pretty much sidecountry reached from lifts, and hidden, low angle, powder stashes the the big boys and girls neglect.  
 

This story is too long already.  The bottom line is, go out there and get it.  And post the stories for me and my cohort.
 

 

Denis - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

Of course caution in traveling must be considered until we have at least gotten past the acceleration phase of this virus.  By saying, go get it now I do not mean the immediate now. 

2 months ago

Awesome info, stories and pictures! really makes me want to road trip it next season to Colorado and beyond, it’s been a long time…. 

Scott - DCSki Editor
2 months ago

Denis, I appreciated your post — thank you for writing that.  I hope your recovery time hastens.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

Denis might be same species as Yoda.  He is wise and still a youngster in yoda-years.

2 months ago

I love the ski adventure stories and pictures. I made a few trips west several years ago while my son was stationed at Ft. Carson. I enjoyed driving and seeing the country beyond the east coast. I’m retiring in June after 32 years with the post office and plan to make a lot road trips! I’m thinking about getting the Ikon pass and hope to ski at as much as possible. No more not being able to follow the snow or take a snow day locally because I have to go to work!

2 months ago

JimK wrote:

Denis might be same species as Yoda.  He is wise and still a youngster in yoda-years.

Ah - but in Nevada ….

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

Encouraging news today.  Snowbird plans to continue ski operations through the spring.  Good thing, because I want to ski out here until May!

Brighton 12 March 20:

Solitude 13 Mar 20:

 

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

Wow, what a difference a couple days make.  As most of you know, almost all of North American skiing has shut down, at least for the next week, and many places for good.  Here in Utah it appears that the only larger resorts that are still open as of 3/15/20 are Powder Mtn, Sundance, and Beaver Mtn.  All three of those are smaller “mom and pop” type places for which I don’t have a pass, but if all the others stay closed and they remain open, I may get more familiar with them over the next couple of months.  

We shall see what the future brings.  I hope all of you remain safe and healthy, this is one of the weirder national emergencies I’ve experienced in my 66 years.   After googling national and state parks it looks like those are still open.  My plan B may be to take my wife on a scenic road trip to various parks out here for a few days?

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

JimK wrote:

Wow, what a difference a couple days make.  As most of you know, almost all of North American skiing has shut down, at least for the next week, and many places for good.  Here in Utah it appears that the only larger resorts that are still open as of 3/15/20 are Powder Mtn, Sundance, and Beaver Mtn.  All three of those are smaller “mom and pop” type places for which I don’t have a pass, but if all the others stay closed and they remain open, I may get more familiar with them over the next couple of months.  

We shall see what the future brings.  I hope all of you remain safe and healthy, this is one of the weirder national emergencies I’ve experienced in my 66 years.   After googling national and state parks it looks like those are still open.  My plan B may be to take my wife on a scenic road trip to various parks out here for a few days?

Hasn’t been a pandemic of this scale since 1918 when millions died worldwide.  The last flu epidemic that resulted in over 500,000 deaths was in the 1970s.  We are in unknown territory with the connections via planes and the Internet in 2020.  Close to 3000 have already died outside China.  Asian countries that beat back SARS are stablizing while Europe and other continents are just getting organized.

https://www.flattenthecurve.com

Take care!

2 months ago

Crazy times indeed. We are late-season skiers, and we had two trips to Snowshoe and one to Big Sky cancelled. I’m glad that we are all healthy right now, but I can’t help but be a little disappointed. 

Jim, I’m curious about what multi-resort passes and what individual lift tickets you bought. It looks like those resorts are a fun combination of Epic, Ikon and somewhat independent.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

I have a senior season pass to Snowbird and an EpicPass.  My Snowbird pass entitles me to half price tickets at all the Mtn Collective resorts including Jackson Hole.  I used Liftopia for my visit to Grand Targhee.

With all that, I think I am going to go snowshoeing today:-)

2 months ago

JimK wrote:

(snip)

With all that, I think I am going to go snowshoeing today:-)

Snowshoeing sounds like a good choice, JimK!  Enjoy and be safe.  

Woody

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

bousquet19 wrote:

JimK wrote:

(snip)

With all that, I think I am going to go snowshoeing today:-)

Snowshoeing sounds like a good choice, JimK!  Enjoy and be safe.  

Woody

Woody, hope you and all the other DCSkiers stay safe too!

Yesterday my wife and I did get out and snowshoed up in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  It was fairly quiet, but we did see a sprinkling of skiers going into the backcountry with skins.

practicing social distancing

Solitude Ski Resort was very quiet

THEN this morning we were woken at 710AM by a 5.7 earthquake here in SLC.  It caused no damage to the neighborhood, but was a darn good 10 second shake and rumble with numerous smaller aftershocks.  I was in Charlottesville, VA for the earthquake in 2011 and this was pretty similar.  Checking further reports there was some minor damage to buildings in downtown SLC including the famous Mormon Temple where the Angel Moroni statue lost its trumpet.  That news gave us a chuckle and we’re not sure what kind of SIGN that is, but we don’t need quakes on top of the virus.  

Denis - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

If you are looking for an outdoor day trip, I highly recommend American Fork Canyon a few miles south of little cottonwood.  It’s the most beautiful of the Wasatch canyons IMHO.  Backcountry skiers use it for access to Timpanogos.  There is a pretty little lake with good trout fishing.

antelope island to see the buffalo herd is another good day trip.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
2 months ago

Denis wrote:

If you are looking for an outdoor day trip, I highly recommend American Fork Canyon a few miles south of little cottonwood.  It’s the most beautiful of the Wasatch canyons IMHO.  Backcountry skiers use it for access to Timpanogos.  There is a pretty little lake with good trout fishing.

antelope island to see the buffalo herd is another good day trip.

 

  • On Mar 21, 2020 I hiked to a waterfall in Heughs Canyon near Holladay, UT:

heughs sl valley.jpg

WATERFALL heughs.jpg

Upbeat article about Utah hiking during the virus crisis:  https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/03/21/i-feel-like-hiking-is/

 

22 Mar 2020 my wife and I intended to visit Antelope Island State Park. It’s about 50 mins northwest of SLC and is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. Lots of great wildlife on view there as Denis mentioned.  But when we got about 5 miles from the island there was a big traffic jam. Tons of people had the same idea. It was a beautiful day for a drive, so we turned around and went to Great Salt Lake State Park. It’s about 15 miles west of SLC off I80. It was much less crowded and we had fun walking along the shoreline of the lake.

great salt lake 22 mar 20.jpg

Good place to practice some social distancing:

great salt lake geese.jpg

 

BTW, Antelope Island is in the background between us in this photo:

great salt lake kathy and jim.jpg

JimK - DCSki Columnist
one month ago

Hopefully these posts provide a little diversion during this difficult time.

utah snow again 25 mar 20.jpg

29 March 2020, Neighborhood stroll around Cottonwood Heights.  At this time of spring in the Salt Lake Valley many days reach high temps between 55-60 and it is quite nice for walking and yard work.  Because we are so close to the Wasatch Mountains, however, there is still a natural snow machine in effect and about once a week we will wake up to a inch or two of snow in the yard, only to watch it melt by mid-day.  The higher elevations in the mountains get much more.

The abandoned Old Mill.  A paper mill was first built here in 1883 and partially rebuilt in 1927.

big cottonwood old mil close.jpg

Nearby Old Mill Park.  The entrance to Big Cottonwood Canyon is in the left-center background.

big cottonwood canyon trail pond 29mar20.jpg

View of same area from near the mouth of BCC.  The old mill is the orange building to right.  Downtown SLC is in far background.

big cottonwood heights view.jpg

More soon…

3/30/20
Bonneville Shoreline Trail near Holladay, UT:

Pretty trail, involves a ~400 vertical foot climb, then the trail follows the contour of the front range of the Wasatch and is relatively level and easy hiking with great views of the Salt Lake Valley.

 

olympic cove hike 30mar2020 climbing up.jpg

olympic cove bonneville shoreline trail rocky.jpg

olympic cove view of great salt lake.jpg



3/31/20 Golden Spike National Historical Park, UT:
Promontory Summit where the first transcontinental railroad connection was made (and golden spike driven) is a somewhat desolate high ground near the north shore of the Great Salt Lake.

golden spike promontory summit.jpg


The beautiful Chinese Arch named after railroad workers.

golden spike arch.jpg


One of numerous rail bed cuts dating back to 1869.

golden spike cut.jpg


The Big Fill was an extremely laborious engineering project necessary to build the rail bed over a ravine not far east from the Golden Spike site.  This was a big deal in 1869 and took months for 500 men to fill.  It made me think of almost any drive through the state of West Virginia, where there are far larger fills every mile or so :-)

golden spike big fill.jpg


FYI, we made no stops driving to and from Golden Spike National Historical Park and our only time outside our car was for quiet hikes along the abandoned rail line. Our smart phones allowed us to get a nice audio tour while visiting the park.

golden spike last cut.jpg

 

2 APR 20:  Like probably all of you are doing as the virus crisis deepens, we are adapting to stay at home orders here in Utah.  Fortunately, 15 minutes from home is a good place to go skinning. My son the veteran skinner took me the rookie for a bit of skinning action this day in Little Cottonwood Canyon at Alta, UT.


I’ve done downhill skiing for over 50 years and dabbled in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for almost as long. But this was my first day of skinning in alpine touring equipment. I used my own downhill boots and an extra pair of downhill skis (Volkl Ones, 186cms length, 116mm width) with AT bindings that my son loaned me. He set me up with a pretty heavy rig, but we only did two climbs at Alta; 1) to the top of the Albion Double Chair liftline 867’ vertical, and 2) a shorter, but steeper climb ~350-400’ vertical from the Wildcat Base to Lower Rustler.


It was a beautiful day on the mountain with blue skies and about 4-5” of new overnight snow. It was 27 degs when we started at 1030AM, but felt like 47 with bright sun and no wind down near the base area.  There might have been a hundred cars in the Albion lot, but people were very dispersed and trail traffic was light. For our climb up the Albion liftline I saw about three skiers, two snowshoers, one hiker, and two tobogganers.


The veteran and the rookie.

skinning vet.jpg

skinning rookie.jpg


This is what it’s all about! And good motivation during our first climb.

 

skinning our goal.jpg


The veteran displays his climbing technique (note avi pack).

 

skinning climb.jpg


Devil’s Castle is still there. What a beautiful day!

 

skinning devil's castle.jpg


Albion liftline skiing.

 

skinning albion liftline descent.jpg


View from Wildcat Base. We climbed up the intermediate run to right a short way and then caught lower Rustler to left.

skinning wildcat base.jpg


This photo gives a sense of the number of cars in the parking lot beside the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge at about 1PM.

 

skinning our goal2.jpg


Traversing over to Lower Rustler.

 

skinning low rustler.jpg


Mission accomplished.

 

skinning goal accomplished.jpg


It was sad driving by a very lonely looking Snowbird resort.

 

skinning snowbird.jpg


My conclusion about skinning is that it’s a whole lot of shuffling for relatively little schussing. But skiing is skiing and it felt good to get out there 20 days after my last lift served day:yahoo:

Bonus shot my son took of me, a lot of calories were burned to get in position for this photo:-)

skinning jim action.jpg

This was a very mild and safe intro to skinning as all climbs were made on a packed surface and the runs did not stray far from the same.  True backcountry skinning requires knowledge of snow conditions, specific avi gear, experienced partners, and good planning to ensure your safety.  

one month ago

Quite surprised to see that Alta was still grooming some of the trails!!

JimK - DCSki Columnist
one month ago

Yes, I suppose it is to facilitate access to their lifts and restaurants for off-season repairs or other activities.  But it also has the side benefit of making uphill travel easier for newbie skinners like me.  Only a few runs are packed/groomed.  Here is their uphill policy at this time:

Alta Ski Area will allow uphill access within the ski area starting March 20th. Backcountry Conditions Exist. No access to Snowbird.

Please treat the ski area as backcountry terrain. Carry and know how to use avalanche gear. There is no ski patrol. You are responsible for your own rescue.

Restrooms in the Skiers Services building at the Wildcat Base and Albion Ticket Office at the Albion Base will be open for public use. These restrooms will be cleaned regularly between the hours of 8am-5pm.

Please note that the State of Utah issued a Public Heath Order and the Town of Alta has issued an Emergency Proclamation prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people. We encourage all visitors to the ski area to abide by the Emergency Proclamation and not gather in groups of 10 or more people in the parking lots and ski area.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
one month ago

Looks beautiful.  Thanks.  Wish I were there with you.

one month ago

Thanks for the pictures. It really lifted my spirits here back east as Kath and I rarely go outside. The rail trail behind our house is very crowded as is a nearby bird sanctuary but we found a spot that has remained crowd free so we hike there are often as weather allows.  Nice turns.

one month ago

I’m also enjoying these posts and really want to visit Utah some day now.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
one month ago

wfyurasko wrote:

I’m also enjoying these posts and really want to visit Utah some day now.

It is interesting to hang out with Utah locals.  They often talk about the “good old days” 20-40 years ago when the ski resorts were much less busy.  I skied Utah only once back then for a week in the late 80s and don’t have much to compare against my more frequent visits in the last 5-10 years.  I guess the big change is powder days.  All days now where there is more than about 6” new overnight snow, and especially more than 12”, are crazy busy with traffic jams and 10 minute or longer lift lines at most ski areas near SLC.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekday.


The local population, ~1.5 million in greater SLC, has grown over the years including many migrants who like to ski.  IKON has had a big impact too, bringing more locals (cheaper than a single resort season pass) and tourists onto the slopes.  Some of my favorite days out here are sunny spring days - no crowds, empty slopes and still very good snow conditions.  That’s made this spring’s closures tough, but we have to beat this covid thing.  


I think that air fares have become more affordable than ever in relative terms compared to average income, making frequent flying possible for many folks.  This combined with the close proximity (45-60 mins) of many Utah ski areas to the SLC airport is another factor changing the feel of Utah skiing and increasing traffic.  The airport here is located in the nearby desert and very rarely impacted by weather/snow.  If there are flight delays it’s usually due to problems somewhere else in the USA.


Despite this, Utah’s still a neat place for a skier and mountain lover, especially for a relative newcomer like me, where everything is still new and exciting.  Of course, I like all mountain areas East or West.  It’s all good:-)  My son’s residence out here is what has me focusing on Utah these days.

 

Snowbird January 2017:

1513865522_hxzxrcsdv.jpg

one month ago

How does “crowded” out west compare with crowded back east? My brother got spoiled for a few years when he’d visit his wife’s family in Colorado. When he skied with me at Camelback, all he could talk about was how crowded and “icy” it was.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
one month ago

To be honest, nothing I encounter these days, East or West, is as crowded as places used to be back in the 1970s.  I can remember one hour lift lines on many prime weekends at Blue Knob.  I find that many of the larger western resorts are big enough to find remote areas/lifts (usually high or wide) from the main bases where you can escape crowds even on busy days.  To some extent you can do the same at mid-Atlantic resorts, such as Main Street chair at Wisp or the quad chair serving Paradice trail at Massanutten.  However, if you tangle with key chairlifts at Vail, Snowbird, Breckenridge, etc. on big days, you can see crowds just as bad or worse as big days on the front side of Liberty, Camelback, or the HSQ at Whitetail.  Local knowledge about a ski area can help a lot with crowd avoidance.  Also, common sense goes a long way too, like avoiding holidays.  AND a good ski day is a good ski day wherever.

Timberline, WV, January 2016

 1475369595_kwrxhsigt.jpg

 

one month ago

Went snowshoeing today up in Big Cottonwood.  Still lots of snow once you get up near Donut Hole Falls area.  Solitude and Brighton still look pristine.   The snow was pretty crusty starting out but had softened up near the parking lot upon return.   Would post pictures, but I’m not quite sure how to do that on this forum.  

As to the crowded argument of longtime locals:  It is more crowded on powder days especially at major areas like PCMR, Alta and Snowbird.  That being said you can still find good snow at those resorts if you’re willing to go off the beaten patha bit.  Sometimes this means a traverse, short hike or dipping into the trees.   The BCC resorts will have good lines at open but generally thin out fairly quickly.  The one exception is Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude.  If patrol can’t get that thing open by 10 a good crowd will form and make the traverse feel like the skiing equivaliet of the Beltway at rush hour once the ropes drop.   I really wish more snowboarders would start to carry trekking poles on their back for use on traverses.  It would make their days more enjoyable and keep them from popping off their boards and trying to walk on  the traverse.   TAKE THE SKI BUS.  

Lastly, you can avoid the crowds and hit Powder Mountain.  Much more of throwback area with a handful of lifts serving huge acreage with zero snowmaking.  You can find great snow there days after a storm (just check the snow report as it’s storm-track is different than the Cottonwoods).  

 

JimK - DCSki Columnist
28 days ago

Good post Uinta Terp.  Good to hear from another with a DMV connection out here.

 

Some photos from my April activities in Utah:

Walking around the neighborhood 7APR20.

It’s not just Major League Baseball that’s been shut down.  All youth baseball across America is also impacted.  In spring this is normally a busy ball field in the Salt Lake City suburbs. 

7apr20 baseball.png

God bless America.  Stay strong!  Things are gonna get better soon.  Maybe one of the silver linings in this cloud is that we all learn to be nicer to each other in the future.

7apr20 flag.png

A few days later my wife and I took a walk on the Quail Hollow Trail.  It’s near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

LCC watershed Kathy.jpg

4/22/20 A father and son shooting hoops.  

basketball reopening.jpg

4/23/20, I dusted off my son’s mountain bike and took a one hour ride around the area today. It was fun and I’m interested in more biking to expand the range of exploration beyond my walks.

bike.jpg.f8b5dc9fefc5c7b6364278ed2febb698.jpg


I usually ride a hybrid at my home back East, so this fancy mtn bike took a little getting used to. I stuck pretty much to asphalt/paved surfaces today, but I might try some dirt trails as time goes on. This is a photo from a very upscale housing development above the gravel pit at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

748771708_biketavaci.thumb.jpg.1df3697d87b87c01d4178baef505e2ce.jpg



This project (Tavaci) was zoned for large single family homes, but I think the developer also has grander plans calling for a resort and commercial stuff. This spectacular structure looked too big to be a residence. I’m not sure if it currently serves as a sales office or maybe it’s supposed to become some kind of community center?

1037982242_tavicibikehouse.thumb.jpg.4998403c3a24211ce94e64ee3466da23.jpg

4/25/20 I took a two hour bike ride today down to the Jordan River Parkway Trail.

This is the mighty Jordan River near Midvale, UT. It starts at Utah Lake near Provo and flows north through the Salt Lake Valley to the Great Salt Lake. Four of Utah’s six largest cities border the river: Salt Lake City, West Valley City, West Jordan and Sandy. More that a million people live in the Jordan River watershed.

2044774215_jordanriverparkwaywestjordan.jpg.9676fa86a6fd7384dbfafae68a782eef.jpg
 

There is a nice network of paved trails in this area. The Jordan River Parkway is a north-south system of trails that parallel the Jordan River, connecting 45 miles through Salt Lake County. The trail further connects to neighboring counties, allowing for travel to Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake.

1788761257_jordanriverparkwaymidvale.jpg.ceecf05087403d3d33a33ada60948cd9.jpg


Weather for the next week here in the SLC area will be sunny with highs between 75 and 85 degs F. Hope the heat kills a few virus bugs!?!

jordan.thumb.jpg.eaa6230cc91ef1e605b3de6a2928fc11.jpg

 

28 days ago

Nice. Another good one is the Ogden River Parkway Trail.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
26 days ago

4/28/20:  I went back to the Jordan River Parkway Trail today and took about an 80 minute bike ride exclusively on the trail from West Jordan to Draper, UT and back.  The trail has numerous connectors and you can vary the return route so it’s not a complete repeat, but somewhat of a loop on either side of the river.  The sun was out and the temps were in the upper 60’s this morning and not too many people.

I passed by three different golf courses on this ride.  This one is River Oaks and was pretty near where I started my ride.  There were golfers on each course, but not very many.

 

JRT flagstick.jpg

 

This is the Jordan River looking south.  It flows from south to north into the Great Salt Lake where there is no outlet.

jtr river.jpg

This is River Bend Golf Course and is where I turned around and headed back north to my starting point.  This course had some great views to the east and west.  I am a golfer and have not golfed yet in Utah, but besides borrowing my son’s bike I might also borrow his clubs soon:-)

West view.

jtr south county golf.jpg

East view.

jtr jim.jpg

This shot is for Johnfmh.

jtr bird watching.jpg

That’s the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon as seen from the South Jordan area.  No wonder they have to do so much avalanche mitigation to keep the road open in winter - it’s a steep walled sucker.

jrt lcc.jpg

26 days ago

Jim,  Thirty some years ago I golfed a beautiful course in Park City.  Remember that at PC’s altitude the ball travels farther than at SLC.  It also means that slices move farther to the right off the fairway!!

MorganB aka The Colonel

25 days ago

Beautiful. Cycled around your N VA neighborhood a few days ago. Great cycling witth most cars off the roads. The new bicycle/ped  bridge at the intersection of 29 and 237 is coming along nicely.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
22 days ago

It was 85 degs in the Salt Lake Valley on 4/29/20 and we hiked around Dimple Dell County Park near Granite, UT:

 

dimple dell jim.jpg

dimple dell kathy.jpg

Also warm on 4/30: Purple mountains majesty!dimple bike purple.jpg

 

Today, 1 May 2020:  It was about 63 degs in the valley and my son and I went up to Alta this afternoon to do some skinning.  We only climbed about 1000 vertical feet from the Albion Base, past Alf’s Restaurant, and partially up the lower part of the Supreme lift.  Good exercise going up.  Coming down was pretty much green circle terrain. We only made one climb and run.  Cloudy day, about 48 degs.  Still plenty of snow.  The whole inbounds area would be skiable if lifts were still running.

alta may 1 start.jpg

My son is pointing out the Sugarloaf lift in the far center.

alta may 1 pointing to sugarloaf.jpg

Approaching Alf’s Restaurant, mid-mountain.

alta may 1 alf's.jpg

This photo is for IMP from Laurel Mountain, PA!

We stopped climbing at the small cluster of private homes about one-quarter way up the Supreme lift line. 

 

alta may 1 jim and imp.jpg

A sign on this vehicle said it needed a new clutch and would be fixed ASAP, but it had nice seat covers

alta may 1 inside imp.jpg

Heading back down we passed an area of downed trees near the base of the Supreme Lift.

alta may 1 stumps.jpg

This is my son on one of the few steeper pitches we skied.  This might be my last ski day of the season (day 28), not sure.  The snow should remain skiable for another month or more at Alta for those who want to earn some turns.

alta may 1 action.jpg

21 days ago

I may have missed this but did you move to SLC.   Great stuff!

JimK - DCSki Columnist
20 days ago

jn_freedman wrote:

I may have missed this but did you move to SLC.   Great stuff!

No, just went out for the winter to ski and more.  Will return East when covid situation eases.

 

3 May 2020:   No home improvement work today, all fun.

Took bike ride in AM around Hidden Valley Park in Sandy City, UT.  This was 90 minutes of mixed trails from wide asphalt, to narrow dirt, to everything in between.  They relaxed the stay at home order here on May 1 and you can now recreate beyond your own county.  In the PM I took about a 100 mile scenic car ride with my wife to Provo Canyon.

A lot of plants are blooming.  Temps were again above 70 degs today.  Hidden Valley Park:

hidden valley park hvp.jpg

Closer to the Hidden Valley watershed.

hvp watershed.jpg

I took a walk over this nearby bridge to take a peek at this segment of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

hvp little willow creek bride.jpg

Back on the bike near Hidden Valley Park.

hvp pink flowers and bike.jpg

The trail eventually widened and was better suited to my low skill level.

hvp wide trail.jpg

I eventually went into the Sandy City suburbs on my return trip.  I had ridden along that contour trail on the lower portion of the mountainside in this photo.

hvp mountainside.jpg

 

Later today I took a drive to beautiful Provo Canyon and US Route 189.

provo canyon us189.png

I knew that Bridal Veil Falls was along this route, but I didn’t know how super close it was to the highway.  What a treat!  This is the biggest waterfall I’ve seen in many years.

provo canyon tall bridal veil falls.png

provo canyon bridel veil close up.png

A beautiful section of the Provo River not far from the falls.

provo canyon river.jpg

We made a two mile side trip to Sundance Ski Area.  Very cool, I had never been there before.  It’s in a narrow canyon off US 189.  That’s a chairlift to the left in this photo.

sundance ski lift.jpg

A view of Mt. Timpanogos from Sundance Resort.

mt timpanogos at sundance.jpg

 

 

Denis - DCSki Supporter
19 days ago

Thinking that Jim could use some help keeping the forum going during this slack time, so here are a few reflections on skiing the Wasatch.

The dream of every Wasatch skier is to be at the mountain when inter lodge travel is restricted by avalanche danger.  Being caught outside at these times will incur a $1000 fine.  The road up from the valley will be closed.  The Little Cottonwood Canyon road to snowbird and Alta is the most avalanche prone in America with dozens of known slide paths that cross  the road.  It follows the old horse trail used to reach the mining camps a century ago; building a road there would never be approved today.  When the danger has moderated (it never goes to zero while there is still snow) it takes time for plows to clear the road and more time for the stampede of skiers to reach the resorts.  The few hundred lottery winners who are already there get a half day or more of powder paradise with virtually no competition.  I used to stay at a cheap motel in Midvale and take the bus daily.  A season pass at a resort gets you free passage on the bus.  One day at Alta it began to snow 2-3” per hour and skiing was fantastic.  I played a hunch that interlodge would be declared and got a bunk room for the night at the Snowpine lodge even though I had a paid room in the valley.  It played out as expected so I got endless powder the next day.

If riding the bus from the valley when the roads open after a big dump, a smart move is to take the bus to Big Cottonwood Canyon and ski Solitude or Brighton.  Buses to Little Cottonwood are often filled at the first stop and the drivers will not accept any passengers at subsequent stops.  Even if they do, the backups often extend all the way down to “the benches” in the valley.  There will be more buses, fewer passengers, and shorter backups going to Big Cottonwood.  
 

Riding the bus on most days I became acquainted with a big guy with an Austrian accent, the very image of a mountain man, and we would talk.  He had lived there for years and had great mountain wisdom as well as local knowledge.  He told me to watch for a warm wind from the south for 2 days; it meant that a big dump was coming .  It made instant sense.  Storms in the northern hemisphere have counterclockwise circulation and if coming straight from the west, winds on the advance edge will be from the south.  2 days of south wind meant a big one.  He was also an avid summer hiker.  He told of rounding a corner on a rock walled trail and surprising a big mountain lion resting in the sun.  They looked at each other for a moment and could read each other’s intentions, “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone”.  That guy was a loner and I never skied with him.  Didn’t seem appropriate to ask and he never asked me.
 

 

18 days ago

Thanks Denis

18 days ago

Thanks Denis

JimK - DCSki Columnist
17 days ago

Denis, they had an exceptional interlodge situation in Little Cottonwood Canyon this winter.  It was caused by a 15” storm on Feb 5/6 that was not especially deep, but very wet snow and it closed the access road and halted all lifts at Alta/Bird for two and a half days: Feb 6, 7 and until 11AM on the 8th!  I’ve never heard of a closure for avalanche mitigation for that many days in LCC, but I don’t have a long history in Utah.  That was one interlodge situation you didn’t want to get caught in because you couldn’t ski and you couldn’t leave to go down to the valley or to the airport.

 

More bike riding photos:

6 May 2020, took another ride on the Jordan River Trail from mile 17 (Draper) south to mile 10 (Bluffdale) and back.  This is an area that transitions from suburban to rural during the course of the ride to Bluffdale.  Bluffdale is about 25 miles south of downtown Salt Lake City.

This is around mile 16 on the JRT and not far from where I started riding.  The view is to the west at the Oquirrh Mountains. Oquirrh is a Shoshone Indian word for “wood sitting”.  

JRT bluffdale start.jpg

Nearby farm country.  A portion of the old Kennecott Copper Mine can be seen in the background.  It’s the largest manmade excavation in the world.

jrt bluffdale farm.jpg

Baby lambs beside the Jordan River Trail.

jrt bluffdale lambs.jpg

I’m not LDS, but I admire some aspects of this religious group.  They have an amazing network of churches here in Utah, usually one per mile, no exaggeration.  In this photo taken near Bluffdale, UT you can see three LDS church steeples, left, center, and far right.

jrt bluffdale LDS.jpg

UTA light rail extends more than 20 miles south of downtown SLC.  The Jordan River basin is a little more significant here than up north.

UTA light rail near Bluffdale JRT.jpg

As pretty as Utah is, the land has not gone unscarred by development.  Gravel pits and past or present mining operations dot the mountainsides every few miles.  I suppose these facilities fuel progress and supply many jobs, but they’re not so pretty.

jrt bluffdale gravel pit.jpg

The sign marks the Galena/Soónkahni Preserve, Draper, UT.  At 250 acres, it’s the largest Jordan River preserve in Salt Lake County. The site features the Jordan River with meanders, sand bars, and oxbows, riparian and wetland habitat, and drier upland habitat. The property includes an archaeological site with dwellings and artifacts ranking among the oldest known in Utah.  Native Americans including the Shoshone frequented this area in the past.

jrt bluffdale preserve.jpg

Denis - DCSki Supporter
17 days ago

Jim K>. As pretty as Utah is, the land has not gone unscarred by development.  Gravel pits and past or present mining operations dot the mountainsides every few miles.  I suppose these facilities fuel progress and supply many jobs, but they’re not so pretty.

A lot of silver was taken out of LCC.  It was the Wild West; about 300 men died in gunfights and another 300 in avalanches.  The mountainsides were stripped of trees to support mineshafts.  Pictures in various lodges taken in the late 1930s show far fewer trees than today.  One day I decided to skin up into Grizzly Gulch, starting from the very end of the road just past the Albion base.  The snow was overcooked, heavy and wet, so I didn’t go far before skiing down.  The next day I mentioned it in a chairlift conversation and was told, “you’re a lucky man, there are uncovered mine holes up there.”  There was a plan to do cat skiing up there, so the mine holes have probably been filled.  The Wasatch is so popular with backcountry skiers that I suspect there are few holes remaining today.  The Oqirrh range to the west of Salt Lake City is a different story.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oquirrh_Mountains  they are treeless and look like ideal ski slopes from a distance, but nobody goes there because of mine holes.  

17 days ago

Hi Dennis - 100% correct. When we lived in Park City basically the issue was and still is mine tailings in the local water supply. That is why we never, ever drank tap water; beauty and the beast?

E-

JimK - DCSki Columnist
14 days ago

5/9/20, I continued my exploration of the Jordan River Trail (JRT) today. I rode 15 miles from mile 11 to about mile 3.5 and back again. This is a very beautiful section of the JRT about 30 miles south of downtown Salt Lake City and about 15 miles north of Provo, UT.

This is a view looking to the east of Thanksgiving Point Golf Club near Lehi, UT.  The JRT crosses that bridge in center and goes to the right (south).

jrt thgvg pt golf club.png

 

There is still snow in the mountains all around the Salt Lake Valley.  This is the view to the west.  It was another beautiful 70-75 degree day in the area.

jrt thgvg pt west biker.png

JimK - DCSki Columnist
9 days ago

On May 7 Salt Lake County, UT moved to “Moderate Risk” with respect to public health orders.  For retired recreationalists like my wife and I that meant we were free to venture farther from home for sightseeing and such, while still practicing the 6’ social distancing rule.  At the same time many state and national parks in Utah are reopening. 

So yesterday, 13 May 2020, we decided to take a very scenic, but long day-trip to Goblin Valley State Park.  As the crow flies, it’s about 50 miles west of Moab in southeastern Utah.  The roundtrip for us was over 400 miles!  But it was a low stress and very rural route and the weather was great with a mix of sun and clouds.  The highest temps we experienced were in the state park where it was about 80 degrees.  Driving over Soldier Summit (elev 7477’) it was in the high 50’s.   

 

From our location near SLC this trip was a lot of driving, but when we got there I just about lost my mind with photo opportunities.  This place was one of the weirder geological oddities I’ve ever seen with thousands of sandstone goblins or hoodoos ranging from 5’ to 500’ in height.  It felt like you were in the middle of a giant sand castle that was going through a slow motion act of creation and erosion all at once.  It seemed so crazy-fragile, like only compacted dust was holding up giant, round sandstone boulders weighing thousands of pounds.  I couldn’t believe we tourists were allowed to scramble all over every inch of the place.   Parts of it would crumble underfoot or turn to dust when you scratched it with your fingernail.  This was the place where some boy scouts got into trouble back in 2014 for pushing one of the formations over:  https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ex-scouts-leaders-who-knocked-over-ancient-rock-get-probation-n56596

I can imagine that someday they will have to manage visitors and keep folks to designated paths through this park, but for now it’s the wild west.

Sorry for the humongous photo blast, but I can’t help posting a couple dozen pictures of one of the most geologically photogenic places I’ve ever been.  Goblin Valley State Park, UT is wild!

Prelude:

Driving from SLC to Goblin Valley SP includes about a 125 mile stretch of US 6 from Provo to Green River, UT.  This is desolate, but wide open country that I find relaxing to drive.

This is a train near Soldier Summit, notice the greenish dirt in the left hillside?  Does it have copper in it?

goblin valley train best 13 may.jpg

US 6 cuts through Price Canyon east of Provo.

goblin valley price canyon 13 may.jpg

The big rock in upper center is called Balance Rock.  This is on the outskirts of Helper, UT.

goblin valley balance rock helper 13 may.jpg

Entering Goblin Valley State Park.  By this point the weather turned beautiful.

goblin valley state park sign 13 may 2020.jpg

The first mind-blowing sight in the park is The Three Sisters formation.  I guess these are about 100’ tall.

goblin valley 3 sisters 13 may.jpg

Another angle.

goblin valley 3 sisters 13 may close up.jpg

This is a view of Goblin Valley from the observation point parking lot.  There is a couple square mile area to explore here.  Many of those “goblins” are the size of a large house.

goblin valley observation point 13 may.jpg

Looking north from the middle of the valley.

goblin valley north view 13 may.jpg

It’s a wild place to take a stroll and you probably wouldn’t want to be here in the middle of the summer - too hot and dry.

goblin valley south view 13 may.jpg

Three baby sisters?

goblin valley baby sisters 13 may.jpg

Precariously perched rock.  This place seemed so fragile, like you could topple that rock with a couple karate chops to the belt.

goblin valley precarious rock 13 may.jpg

This looked like some sort of time portal…

goblin valley time portico 13 may.jpg

and reminded me of an old Star Trek episode.

city on the edge of forever.jpg

This girl was super excited.  It was like the world’s largest playground/sandbox.

goblin valley girl on rocks 13 may.jpg

This cave piqued my curiosity.

goblin valley cave 13 may.jpg

View from the inside.

goblin valley cave interior 13 may.jpg

My wife was also captivated by Goblin Valley State Park.

goblin valley kathy red 13 may.jpg

Obligatory shameless tourist photo.

goblin valley jim rock 13 may.jpg

There were about 40 other people exploring the valley with us.  Social distancing was easy.  We brought our own food and only stopped once for gas on the trip.

goblin valley jim and kathy 13 may.jpg

goblin valley kathy hill 13 may.jpg

The land of giant mushrooms.

goblin valley mushrooms 13 may.jpg

This is in another part of the park near a campground.  I called this no-see-ums hill because some kind of insect bit me three times here.  It felt like a mild bee sting, but I couldn’t see what did it.  

goblin valley noseeums hill 13 may.jpg

These yurts are normally rentable for overnight stays, but they were not available due to covid.

goblin valley yurt 13 may.jpg

This is a panorama shot of part of Goblin Valley.  Very cool place.

goblin valley pano 13 may.jpg

Not sure if this video will work:  https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMJt9EH3Kwk6qT2k3sQBm5Uq5HZ_0VPGYZe4VkB

Scott - DCSki Editor
9 days ago

Wow Jim, I’m extremely jealous!  Those photos are beautiful.  Looks like you had a fantastic time and definitely no issues with the social distancing.  :)

JimK - DCSki Columnist
6 days ago

A couple photos from recent days:

Sunset over Salt Lake Valley

sunset.jpg

Three tractors in Granite, UT

three tractors Granite, UT.jpg

 

 

17 May 2020, Had an unusual double activity today, first time to do biking and snowshoeing on the same day.

Went bike riding on the Jordan River Trail in the AM from about mile 25 to 30 and back.  This was mostly through the town of Murray, UT.  Lots of tight turns in the trail with many Sunday strollers and a suburban/urban feel.  Not so great for riding, but still interesting. I took it slow on the mountain bike.

Scenic pond beside the trail in Murray.  It’s so weird to still see plenty of snow in the Wasatch, while it’s been over 70 degrees in the valley almost every day for the last month or more.

17 may jrt pond.jpg

Amphitheatre

17 may amphitheatre.jpg

Family of geese, there were three chicks hiding in the grass.

17 may geese.jpg

Believe this is a cormorant bird, stays under the water for 10-20 secs at a time looking for food.  It’s a medium large black bird.

17 may comorant.jpg

It’s been very warm and dry for over a month here.  This was a fresh, but small brush fire beside the trail.

17 may fire.jpg

 

Then around 4PM my wife and I went snowshoeing up at Guardsman Pass near Brighton ski area in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Temps went from 82 in the valley to 64 degs up on the pass.  The road over Guardsman Pass to Park City was still closed and when we came to the closure gate at about 9000’ there was a good 2-3’ of snow on the road.  It was a good place to snowshoe…in shorts😀

17 may selfie.jpg

Representing Washington DC sports teams.  

17 may shorts.jpg

This is a panoramic photo of the upper part of BCC.  Brighton ski area is to the left, Solitude is to the right.  Lots of snow cover still.

17 may bcc pano.jpg

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