Ridgelines: Snowfall just makes you feel good | ParkRecord.com

Ridgelines: Snowfall just makes you feel good

Tom Kelly, Ridgelines

Sliding off Sterling Express my eyes glanced over to the low hanging clouds wisping their way along the ridgeline from Empire Pass to Jupiter Peak and beyond. The overnight snowfall was hanging from the boughs with Ontario Bowl looking especially inviting. I tend to get transfixed on top-of-the-mountain scenery, so I forced myself to break my gaze and pointed my tips down Birdseye.

One of my traditional temptations is to cut away to skier’s left to duck into the trees. It was early season but why not give it a try. As I pushed my skis into the aspen glade, it quickly became clear that there was a lot of snow in there.

After 30-plus years skiing Deer Valley, you would think I would know that this particular tree pod is deceptively flat. So when you get your legs moving through two feet of snow on flat terrain, well, you don’t really go anywhere. I pushed my boards through the snow, whooshing by the aspens, glided over a few small evergreen starts and suddenly whoomped into four feet of drifted snow, snowflakes rising up to my goggles. Coming to a stop at a break in the trees, I could feel myself tipping over to the right as there was simply bottomless snow underneath my boots. I pushed a pole into the snow for support and it went straight down to the grip around my right hand.

Poof, went the snow as my body hit the powder. Laughter turned quickly to problem-solving as I tried to figure out how to get up. It was probably a fascinating scene from the chairlift as I struggled to kick off a ski, finally righting myself and picking the snow clods out of my jacket hood.

It was opening day at Deer Valley Resort. And, yes, it was a powder day!

My paradigm of a perfect DV ski day begins by taking the first lift to the top of Bald Mountain. You linger momentarily to watch the early morning light as the sun creeps up over the Uintas. I gaze out to the north to find my house under a distant ridgeline. Then I push off and set an edge on the perfect corduroy slopes, distinct shadows on the perfectly formed ridges from the low sun casting its rays in from the east. With each turn comes the sound of carving and the staccato ripples that emanate up through your entire body.

Well, that’s my paradigm. But that was not opening day this year.

Twelve hours earlier, I was poring over the grooming report as I watched huge snowflakes dumping outside my window. Another day, another snowstorm. All of my favorite groomers had been rolled first shift, meaning it was a wide open powder day on the mountain.

As Parkites, our own social media channels have been crackling with tall tales of our fortuitous snowfall these past few weeks. Each of us has had our own set of stories of the greatest early season we can remember.

Later on, my friend Molly and I were heading up Sterling when we spotted a posse of around 25 green-jacketed ski instructors at the top of Nabob. After a briefing from a supervisor, they let out a whoop and headed down Nabob, arcing gorgeous turns in 10 inches of fresh snow down the broad pitch of Bald Mountain.

It got me thinking about some of the realities of the first weekend of December. This past weekend there were 37 ski lifts spinning at Park City Mountain and Deer Valley Resort. Just think for a moment of what it took to get those lifts open. Tally up the hours and hours of snowmaking it took to build those big whales on Solid Muldoon, and the countless more hours of cat time to push it in place.

To me, and I hope to others, this should be a time of real gratitude.

After clicking out of my skis, I grabbed a hot chocolate and sat with my feet up in front of a crackling fire at Snow Park Lodge. Across the room, I spied a longtime Tahoe friend, Curtis. He was in town for the weekend Shred for Red, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual kickoff bash at Deer Valley.

We shared stories of skiing, biking and jeeping. And we did the traditional “my snow’s better than yours.” Most of all, we shared the camaraderie we all feel as skiers. And what could be better than the first week of December, endless powder days and a great season ahead.


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