Tom Clyde: Park City’s powder day goop
So this is what winter is like. It’s been long enough since we had a real winter that I’d kind of forgotten. There has been a lot of snow this week, and at least early on, the temperatures were at that magic point where the snow turned to ice as soon as somebody drove over it. The road crews from UDOT, the City and County have managed to stay on top of it, though Wednesday morning was a stark reminder that we are not in control of anything. Traffic flows around Park City don’t work under the best of conditions, and a few days of snow really make a mess of things despite the plowing. Add in cars with bald tires and a jackknifed truck here and there, and it all stops.
The resorts have struggled with it. The hurricane-force winds at the ridgetops have had the upper mountains closed. Lifts were on wind hold, and avalanche control work had to be a challenge. The cornices must build up as fast as they blast them. I kept thinking there had to be an incredible amount of powder up there waiting to be skied, but there is a chance that it all blew to Wyoming and the ridges are scoured down to bare ground. I suspect there is a bit of everything out there, depending on which way the wind was blowing at any given time.
On Tuesday, Park City Mountain had the upper mountain closed for wind. Even Crescent was on hold because of the gale at the ridge. The line at Payday was awful, and the parking lot was full by 8:30 a.m.
One of my friends looked at the line and went home. The rest of us decided to brave it and see how it was up higher. I’d spent a half-hour stuck on S.R. 248, and didn’t want to waste it. Once we got up, the crowd vanished. There weren’t many lifts open, but enough to spread people out, and we skied right into the chair on Motherlode and Silverlode. The parking lot problem apparently was World Cup-related rather than people skiing. It was great skiing.
The Crescent lift was on wind hold, but we discovered that the runs off Ski Team Ridge were all open. It took riding both Payday and Bonanza to get there, but it was well worth the effort. I did a few laps there, almost untracked. It was one of the best days in a couple of years.
The storm Wednesday was one of those Great Salt Lake events, where a foot of very localized snow comes out of nowhere. There was almost no snow at my house in Woodland. The forecast had called for several inches, so I got up early to plow out. There wasn’t enough to bother with. The resorts were reporting well over a foot, and that set off a blizzard of texts with friends about where and when to meet up.
As daylight came, I could check the cameras on the UDOT website, and it quickly became clear that it wasn’t happening. Getting there looked nearly impossible. Friends who live right in town were excited to get there for first chair. If I left home at daybreak, I’d be late for lunch. So Wednesday was a fine day to catch up on the laundry.
The weather isn’t the only ski news this week. A retired Salt Lake optometrist is suing Gwyneth Paltrow. The lawsuit alleges that Paltrow hit the plaintiff from behind on Deer Valley’s Bandana run in a hit and run collision. He claims to have been knocked out, suffered broken ribs and other injuries, but somehow determined the person who hit him was Paltrow. Apparently, it’s the sort of thing she would do. The Bandana run is probably the most dangerous skiing at Deer Valley. It’s a green run that is the access to Empire Canyon. So you have the mix of expert skiers going too fast to access the Empire lift, mixed in with beginners on their way to hot chocolate at Empire Lodge. They all stop abruptly in the middle of a narrow bridge.
So it’s not surprising that there was a collision. I’d guess there are more injuries on Bandana than there are in the Daly Chutes. What is surprising is that the incident was featured on Stephen Colbert’s show. He held up the trail map of Deer Valley, complimented the customer service, recommended the turkey chili, and (correctly) warned that the Jordanelle run is icy in the afternoon. The level of detail sounded like he was either a local, or his staff researched it thoroughly. I’m not sure what it had to do with anything, other than not even Colbert can pass up an opportunity to poke Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s on YouTube if you missed it.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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