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More Dogs on Main: It’s great to have winter again

Tom Clyde
  

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.
Tom Clyde mug

Jupiter Bowl is my favorite place to ski  Some days I feel like a Norse god, one with the mountain. Other days I get my butt kicked soundly. Either way, it feeds my soul to ski there. I haven’t had enough of it this year. Getting it opened has been unpredictable, which is frustrating because at 9 a.m., Empire Bowl at Deer Valley is not only reliably open but often already tracked out by people spending ten grand a night to stay at the Montage. I’ve missed Jupiter, and finally got a day up there.

The snow was a little past its prime. The view was spiritual as ever. Hiking Scotts, skiing down Portuguese Gap with my toes practically drilling through the sole of my boots, the High West traverse — it’s what skiing is all about. The entire vibe of Jupiter is different from the rest of the resort. It feels like a 1970s mom-and-pop operation instead of the corporate machine below. It’s a separate world: you, the mountain and the snow. Hiking out to the High West traverse, a crow popped up from below the ridgeline. It was doing tricks in the powerful wind, enjoying the avian equivalent of a powder day. How often do you get to look down on birds in fight?

It does a body good.



On the way up to Jupiter, we skied down to McConkeys, thinking about a run there, but decided to take Pioneer and head straight up. There was an enormous grouse in the McConkeys lift maze. It’s been there all season. It’s fat as a Norbest turkey and tame as a Central Park pigeon. It’s figured out that there was a pretty high probability of somebody slipping it a granola bar if it poses for a picture and pecks at their skis. Livin’ the dream.

Part of accessing Jupiter involved paying for parking. I’m fortunate that a $25 parking fee isn’t a big budget hit (and is offset by not eating lunch on the mountain). But it violates all kinds of principles. If the parking is a la carte, are paid toilets next? In my mind, parking is part of the lift ticket. But I swallowed my principles, and was able to slide right into the lot for a 10 a.m. starting time (thinking that traffic on S.R. 248 might have cleared — wrong). In one of those odd reversals, the parking lot “Hunger Games” have now moved to Deer Valley, where at 8:30, parking is often tight.



There are, of course, ways around it. If you are willing to invest a lot of time, there is the bus from Richardson Flat to the high school, and then another bus from the high school to the resort. There is the carpool lot that requires four people in the car. Without buying a roof rack, I can’t get four people in my car with all their gear. The group I ski with come from all different directions, making carpooling difficult.  I guess we could all meet up at Richardson Flat, rope whoever is late to the roof, and make the slow grind up 248 in clown car comfort.

The most creative approach I’ve seen is people pulling into the bus stop across from Fresh Market and picking up “slugs.” That’s a term a friend from back East explained. You could pick up a slug, or extra passenger, at the toll plaza so you have enough people to use the carpool lane. Here, they are picking up extras from the bus stop so they can park in the carpool lot for free. The people waiting for the bus are very happy to hitch a ride, and if you are driving a Suburban, you might as well fill it. Covid? What covid?

There are complaints about skiers parking all over town because we have provided no good options. The neighborhood streets pick up the overflow and people ride the direct bus from Park Meadows or Prospector without having to make the Richardson transfer. The spill isn’t all people trying to avoid the $25 fee, though I’m sure there is some of that. The paid parking lot fills, so it’s not being entirely boycotted. We actually have plenty of parking. We just have too many people. 

The snow this winter has been amazing. One day in Empire Bowl, I was able to push my pole into the snow all the way to the grip. It’s been interesting watching the snow removal action at the top of the Quincy chair. There are several monster homes under construction, each more sustainable than the other. They are clearing the driveways with track hoes. Those aren’t cheap — they could be hiring a gaggle of lawyers to shovel for about the same hourly rate. 

One place has had a crew there since before Christmas just shoveling snow. After eight hours of that, they might drive a couple of nails and call it a day. There’s no place to put any more snow, so they brought in a crane. The workers shoveled the snow on a tarp, and the crane hoisted it up and dumped it in a parade of dump trucks. It must be $10,000 a day with the shovelers, truck armada and the crane there. Suddenly a heated driveway doesn’t seem so ridiculous.

It’s great to have winter again.

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