Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yeti Five: Brian Head

Brain Head was always that far down south resort that was on a different storm path than the northern Wasatch Front resorts. In particular, El Nino years often brought more blessed snow to southern Utah than northern. Brain Head was also the resort where my southern California brother and his family would go for ski vacations with neighbors. Brain Head was always too far of a drive (2 1/2 hours from Springville) for me, especially with many good resorts much closer. Part of the draw of the Yeti pass was that it gave us an excuse to ski more of the far afield resorts.

After our day at Eagle Point we drove south to Cedar City where we enjoyed Panda Express for dinner followed by a swim in out hotel pool. Next morning we joined up with our neighbors the Hodsons--who were staying with grandparents in St. George.

Navajo Lodge was our base. On our first ride up Navajo lift, which runs slowly to accommodate all of the beginners loading and unloading, the lift stopped (someone probably fell while loading at the base) for a few minutes right next to one of the tallest lift towers. Will and I were riding together on a triple with no restraining bar. In recent years my aging body has become increasingly acrophobic--something I never felt as a child while sitting on the edge of chair lift chairs at Beaver Mt. It is usually easily remedied by pulling down the chair bar/ foot rest or by sitting on one of the ends of the chair (on triples and quads) so I have something to hold on to. It seems my acrophobia only happens in unrestrained heights. Today for some reason the tall tower, no bar, and Will's almost non-stop movement all combined to make me particularly nervous. I held on to the side bar, closed my eyes and told Will to sit still. Once we started to move I was OK.

The ride up the fast moving Giant Steps Express (a quad) was no problem at all. Here are the kids and Isaac at the top of Giant Steps.

From there we could look northward to the snowcapped Tushar range, including Mt Holly (top center right).

Looking westward to the base and Navajo Mt rising above it.

 A sunny morning on Sunburst.

Lunch break. One thing I appreciate at ski resorts are quality ways to dry hands. Ranking highest are the high powered, quick acting, water erasing driers like the Xlerator. Next up are paper towels. At the bottom of the list are the low powered old time hand driers that take several minutes, if lucky, to dry hands. I have little patience to use these through to completion. If given a choice I go for the quicker paper towels. Unfortunately towel dispensers (for reasons that I support and agree with) are quickly disappearing from ski resorts. In warmer weather I am OK with air drying hands, but that doesn't work well with putting on gloves and going out in the cold. Thanks Brain Head for installing these.

Clouds and cold rolled in in the afternoon. Here is a view of Brain Head Mt. from the top of Navajo lift.

Looking southwestward from the top of the Dunes lift to some of the red rock formations of magnificent Cedar Breaks.

Two of our last cold runs were on Roulette lift down Wild Ride and Hard Times. The runs were lined with hundreds of pine/fir saplings no more than two feet above the snow (perhaps the result of a forest fire a few years ago). I tried to take a photo, but by now my i-phone was too cold to start up. We all enjoyed going off piste in a few inches of powder to dodge the small trees. Will and Isaac are the two mostly likely to seek jumps, powder and adventure in between the runs. They are also the two most likely to crash.

We headed north on I-15 at 3:45. Between Beaver and Fillmore blowing wind and light flurries brought holiday traffic down from the 80 mph speed limit to a safer 20-40 mph. Several cars slid off the road and we passed one roll-over. It was pretty tense. Gratefully the Subaru did just fine (at appropriate for the weather speeds).  I offered to let Marie drive a spell. She happily turned me down. Finally at about Payson the storm let up. The drive was a good opportunity to teach the kids some winter driving techniques and etiquette: slow down on snowy roads; increase the distance between cars; instead of constant braking use lower gears when going down inclines so you do not have to break on and off so much; take your foot off of the accelerator as a method of slowing down; stay in the right hand lane so faster vehicles can pass; don't brake and slow down when passing accidents on the other side of the freeway; listen to good music. We safely arrived at home at 7:30, 45 minutes later than usual.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Yeti Four: Eagle Point

Bright and early (8:15) we headed south along 1-15 to Beaver Utah--a two hour drive. From there is was a 30 minute drive up beautiful Beaver Canyon (with amazing ice formations in the stream) to Eagle Point, formerly known as Elk Meadows formerly known as Mt. Holly. 

We lucked out with a newly opened parking place right next to the Skyline Lodge--with an adjacent green yurt for brown-baggers to use.

Marie's hang-out for the day.

Our first lift was the Monarch triple-chair--highest in elevation of all of the lifts. On the map it looked like a good bet--lots of blue runs. In reality it was a very slow moving lift, with blues masquerading as glorified greens. Happily they were all well groomed and the sun was shining.

 "Can you speed this up?"

 Great views from the lift of Mt Holly (12.001 feet).

 Lake Peak (11, 217) from the top of the Monarch lift.

We then gave Skyline double-chair a try.  Just as slow--but also with no lines so that is good. Its one blue run--Elk Meadows--was aptly named. No elk but with an incline of a slightly tipped meadow. Great for beginners.

Gourmet lunch in the yurt of brie and cranberry sandwiches on baguettes (something we discovered in England) for the three oldest and ham and cheese for the others. Plus Marie's famous zucchini bread for dessert.

We then headed down to the lower lifts via the valley run of Falling Water which required us to take off our skis and walk across UT 153. It's not often that skiers have to deal with Stop signs.

The view eastward from across the resort from Lookout Quad. The Tushar Mountains with Mt. Holly in the center.

When Elk Meadows closed the resort stood unused for 6 years until its rebirth in 2010 as Eagle Point. In the interim, the chair lift engine room of one of the three lifts in the lower section was flooded. The loss of that lift (whose towers still stand) meant that not all of the runs descending from the crest were accessible, without a hike. So now a trail on the back side of the mountain and a short poma lift ride get skiers to the western-most runs. It took Will three tries to finally get the small disk secured between his legs.

We gave Donner's Descent a try. It was a black. If groomed or covered in fresh powder it would be a nice run, but for us it was a mix of crusty old powder and some packed. We all made it down with only one fall.

We then took the trail back to the base for a few more runs on the more manageable Tushar and Wolverine runs followed by a quick run on the short (and slow) Canyonside Lift. We then caught a shuttle from the Canyonside Lodge back up for a few last runs on Monarch. All of the staff at Eagle Point were very friendly. Most of the lift attendants are from Beaver who spend their summers farming and winters loading chairs.

The last line in this framed article in the lodge caught our attention. "No Prada here--local farm kids ski in jeans and camo, . . ." We saw both.

We saw this man skiing under the Monarch lift several times. I had hoped to ask him where he got his camo snowsuit, but we were out of sync.

A few days before Christmas Joel texted me this photo of a recliner for sale at WalMart.  He thought I might like it as a Christmas gift. Just think, if I had the recliner and matching snow suit I could sit toasty warm and watch TV all day and no one would know I was there.

All in all it was a beautiful, fun, adventuresome, entertaining day.

Marie talked to a father from California in the lodge. He said that for the price of one lift ticket at Mammoth his family of five (one son has the Ski Utah fifth grade passport) can all ski at Eagle Point. If I were from California and if my kids were novice and beginner skiers, I think a ski vacation at cheap, scenic, good-enough Eagle Point would be a nice option.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Yeti Three: Powder Mountain

Powder Mountain delivered. Best powder day in years and the day that Sarah, Joel and Will came to discover that powder is the creme de la creme of skiing and that they can actually ski it.

Setting full moon with first rays of sun shine on the Oquirrh Mountains on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley.

We were on the road by 7:30 AM caravaning with the Hodsons 100 miles northward via I-15 to Ogden, then up winding, narrow Ogden canyon to the beautiful Ogden Valley (home of a unique-for-UtahTrappist monastery) through the small town of Eden and then up a steep grade to the 1971 established ski resort.

Neighbor Chris Hodson and his eight year old son stayed on the packed green and blue runs while son Isaac joined the Emmetts for a day of powder. We sailed down Rendezvous to Paradise lift, drawn to it by the trail map that showed lots of black diamond ungroomed runs. I skied at Powder Mountain once 30 years ago with dad and others, but have little memory of it other than the fact that dad hurt his leg and it was difficult to get back to the parking lot given the odd set up of the base lodge being at mid mountain and the need to always go up a lift to then descend to the parking lot.

With map in hand we set out. From the lift we decided that Snowchaser looked like a good option. It and Miller Time did not disappoint. It was a perfect beginner run for powder skiing. 1-2 feet of little tracked snow, wide open glades punctured with juniper, fir and aspen (reminiscent of the back side of Beaver Mountain), and bright sunny skies. I did a little coaching-- bend your knees, sit back, unweight and turn and then we were off.  My job was sweep--picking up those who face planted, double released, or just tumbled. They loved it, with each fall (and there were plenty) being a badge of honor. Two runs from top to bottom of Paradise made for a fun morning.

 Thanks for hanging with me Sarah.

 Well named Paradise Lift,

 Our tracks.

 Taking a breather. Skiing powder is hard work and hard on the quads.

 Joel getting up on his own after a fall.

 Timberline Lodge.

Founder of Powder Mountain. True Statement--if only it weren't a 1 hour and 45 minute drive.

After lunch we joined Chris and son for two runs on Timberline where most of us opted to ski the trees and powder on Powder Chamber. Next we skied Hidden Lake Express (we liked the express part, the other lifts are older and slower). The boys still had energy for skiing the powder/crud of Mainline, but Sarah and I were more ready for a John W. Emmett and the Posse memorial run down easy-on-the-legs, groomed White Pine and then Hidden Lake. For our final run before closing we took the Sunrise poma lift up and out to the delightful Picnic run--still with untracked spots of powder, not too steep and with widely placed trees to ski among.

 Timberline Lift.

 Snow sparkles (from frost on the aspens) flying everywhere. (Wish I had my Cannon, but it is too bulky to use--especially when skiing powder).

 Summit of Hidden Lake Peak looking northward into Cache Valley.

 Looking southwestward across Pineview Reservoir to Mt. Ogden and Snow Basin ski resort.

Cache Valley--my homeland. Powder Mt. straddles the boundary between Cache and Weber Counties.

In line for the Sunrise poma. It was getting cold and after this photo my i-phone refused to function in the cold.

After a stop at Maverick for gas and refreshment (hot chocolate, chocolate milk and Dr. Pepper) we headed south on 1-15 just as the sun was setting over the Great Salt Lake. Garrison Keeler and Lake Wobegon kept the driver amused. One of our best ski days ever.