Friday, November 27, 2015

4°F at Empire Lodge this morning

With an early start the sun didn't show up for a while and with a bit of a breeze you were not immediately overheating on the skin up! The Utah Avalanche center promised a wind-chill of -9°F and it sure felt like they were spot on. If anyone was still wondering whether winter has made it to Park City yet, those doubts were put to rest today. On top of it all we got new snow. Not a lot. Not as much as the forecast promised, but enough to make today's skiing more fun than without those added lower single digit inch values. Not to mention: Nothing like a dusting of snow on the spruces to give that special winter wonderland feel.

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

A few inches on top never hurt a tour

Looking up through the spruces towards the Daley Chutes

Matias is putting in the effort...

...and collecting on that reward.

Two buddies in lock step.

Winter wonderland I...

...and winter wonderland II

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The amazing Pro Tongue by Intuition

On December 7, 2013 I presented a few new liners I had received from INTUITION SPORTS. This is almost two years later and I have had ample try to test them “for the duration.” As I promised then to "I will do a more in depth analysis of these after a full season with them." So today I will share my experience with the Pro Tongue and show you what they look like after 100+ days in the back country. Yes that is what I have used this liner for, the back country. First a couple of words about me and not only because I love to talk about myself but mostly so you know how much or how little whatever I have to say may apply to you. 


I am 5 feet 10 and weigh in at 180 lbs. I like longer days which for me means 4,000’ – 5,000’ and the occasional “very big day” at 7,000’+. What I am NOT is a featherlight Skimo racer type. I still consider the downhill the main objective and the reward. Once going downhill I like to go after it and so appreciate a lot of control. This all translates into my equipment choices. I like it light but I don’t pick the absolutely lightest. My boots although light are 4-buckle (see below) and although I use Dynafit bindings I opt for the ST Vertical so there again a little bit more weight for a little bit more control. This is to give you a sense of from what perspective I judge my equipment. Another factor to take into consideration, I don't have any commercial interest in INTUITION SPORTS nor do I get any incentives on you or anyone else buying these products. This is just me blogging about my equipment so if it seems biased, it's only based on my appreciation for the equipment I love. There is a fair amount of things I've tried and don't like but I tend to not write about those as my mom taught me that "if you don't have anything nice to say..."


So back to these Pro Tongue by Intuition. The very pair I show below has seen 100+ days in the back country, mostly in the Wasatch, some in the Tetons and a week in Valdez. The Pro Tongue Liner is the stiffest tongue-style liner Intuition makes which means it’s not necessarily the most geared towards BC (for that they do have the Pro Tour, a softer “fluffier” model). However based on what I said above I enjoy the extra responsiveness the higher flex and stiffness this liner offers. It's made with Intuition's light and warm closed-cell EVA foam that I got heat molded for as precise a fit as possible. The liners come with removable 7mm shims that you can use for soles but I use my beloved custom fit footbeds that have my eternal loyalty.

As the title indicates, I do like these a lot: They fit my skiing style, they seem indestructible and as I said two years ago: Intuition liners are designed to improve on stock boot liners by:

Being lighter and warmer than stock liners
Being more durable than stock liners
Offering a better fit than stock liners

For the fit: I had my boots punched out for a small preassure point. I use custom footbeds, and the heat molded Pro Tongue. With that I get all the control I want plus the a level of comfort that gives me the feeling i am skiing in warm slippers...

After two seasons of use I can confirm that it all holds true. Here is what my pair looks like after two seasons (as you can see this is true amateur pics):
First a vue of how they fit in my Garmont (now Scot)
Cosmos shells. from the front..

...and from the side. Note that on all these pictures I
have left out the booster strap that will cover a good
portion of the visble parts of the liner...

...the other side and...

...from the back. This is exactly how much it sticks out
from the shell as the booster strap in the back falls
below it.

Now the "naked" version from the front. As you can see
they are holding up real well. I did not keep the laces
that they came with. In the BC I like to keep it as simple
as possible and will jetison any non critical parts.

From the sifde even the logo and text imprint are
still fully readable... 

From the back some minimal wear that
won't affect function...

Here again, only minor cosmetics
after 100+ days in the BC!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Return of The Empire!

Every snowfall counts these days as even the last “1 – 3 inches” made a difference at Empire. Because it was 11 degrees this morning I went up Ore Cart and Domingo which get sun earlier than Orion. Turns out that 1) that side had a better snow cover overall, and 2) the last little snowfall left a little powder on top. In other words what was meant as just another workout became a great uninterrupted ski from top to bottom. It was good enough to justify a couple of laps.

Here are the pictures:

Going up Ore Cart...

...and more Ore Cart

Upper Domingo: It may not be
first tracks but it's real turns.

10,420 - Guradsman Pass - Un-named 10,006

Jupiter is getting filled in

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jupiter from Empire Lodge

On this dark gray day Silver Lake base was closed to up traffic so I went to Empire Lodge knowing I would be facing a thin “pack”. So this tour is mostly geared towards a workout with a little skiing involved. Anything below the Empire Express south shoulder is skiable all the way to the parking lot. And reasonably OK skiing at that. Of course when you go to Jupiter that stretch represents no more than a quarter or so of the outing, but still… Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

Beginning of Orion just past the base of
the Empire Express lift

Further up Orion but before the mini "headwall"

From the "pass" separating Empire Express south shoulder
from the way up to Daly Shutes ridge line it's all skiable.

Empire Express south shoulder. That upper part is not
prime skiing just yet.

Practically all the sun there was today was shining on Jupiter...

The McConkey's traverse...

Snow making by the Summit Lodge...

...and more snow making further down Bonanza. Does this mean that
we'll open on Saturday with more than Payday?

Practicably skiable...

Clayton Peak (aka Majestic) from jupiter Peak...


Mt Wolverine, Tuscarora and Millicent

Mt Raymond, Scotts Hill and Pinecone in the foreground.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Alta Pre-Season: 1st good turns of the season

This was my 6th day of the 2015/2016 season which means I am ready to compromise quality a lot. However today was very good skiing and so I got my first excellent turns of the season. The snow, especially above 10,000, has settled a little and offer a bit more of a pack rather than dust with direct access to rocks… having said that even below you could get some good action, I got to ski Nina's Curve for the first time this season and only hit one little pebble in the whole couloir!

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):


Turns off of Wildcat

From under Sugarloaf looking towards Baldy

Mineral Basin and the Twin Peaks


Suicide is getting filled in...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

First ski of the season

Two posts ago was the "First skin of the season". That's because we then had to skin both up and down. There was a whopping 3 inches on the ground but only on really favored spots...
As you can see from the pictures below, today was a whole different story with over a foot in favored locations. Rather than talk just about it, let me show ya'll (click to enlarge):
First impressions are everything! This is what the Collins base parking
lot looked like this morning!

Alta in full prep mode making darn sure Thanksgiving opening
will be at rendez-vous and right on time.

Looking up Nina's Curve...

It's looking a lot like winter...

What a difference one week can make! I actually broke trail.

...this is the week skiing happened...

View of Mt Baldy...

...and a close up of Great Baldy Chute, Maybe after
next storm?

View of Patsy Marley, Wolverine, and Devil's Castle.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Recon Mission: Cascade Mountain

This is one mountain that it's hard to find good beta on, at least online. All I found online was vague when not outright incorrect info. Because this seems to be a good AT ski mountain, I went there to take a closer look. Reading up on it and checking out the maps as closely as possible I decided to try a start at the Big Spring trail head, from there go west to the ridgeline and then go north on a long ridge hike to the summit. Although very simple as a hike, this is a looong one! You end up doing a (un)fair amount of mileage.

Although this is an easy summer hike, parts of this trail is on terrain that in the winter is going to be obvious avalanche terrain with terrain traps and all, so some mitigation strategies are going to be called for.

Bunnells Fork offers a faster access to the peak. However, the exposure to avy terrain in a narrow gully on the way up probably rules this one out for me.

Conclusion on skiability

In and by itself this is fantastic ski terrain, not to say epic. Unfortunately, it looks like the beautiful bowls under the peaks (Cascade Mtn and its two or three "sisters") present an avalanche risk just as epic. The larger bowls are gigantic and they are #1 prime avalanche terrain with no anchors nor safe spots to talk about. It would take a lot of familiarization before I would want to ski those bad boys. Having said that there are more modest terrain alternatives up there that may serve as appropriate acclimatization to this range. And that's what I've learned under this recon: the summit will not be my day one objective. I'll have to build up to it and maybe even limit this to a spring skiing objective. The drawback with that may be that you wouldn't be able to skin from the trail-head as it starts at just 5,600'.

Below are some numbers for this hike:

Starting elevation: 5,600
Elevation at the ridge line: 9,500
Summit: 10,908
Additional elevation from yo-yoing to the summit: 600

Elevation delta: 4,900
Total elevation gain: ca. 5,500 (lots of ups and downs on the ridge line)
Total distance roundtrip: about 12 miles

Directions from Park City:

Get onto the US-40 E to Heber
US-40 becomes US-189 that you take south past Deer Creek reservoir and down Provo canyon
Keep going leaving the Sundance turn-off to your right
About 5 minutes past the Sundance turn-off you will see the signs for Vivian park.
Take a left through Vivian park onto South Fork Road drive about three miles up the road
Drive past a few cabins/houses and pass South Fork park
You will see signs for Big Spring park and the trail-head is at the very end of the highest parking lot.

Directions from Provo:

Go north on University Ave
Turn right onto US-189
Drive about 11 miles up Provo canyon
Take a right into and through Vivian park onto South Fork Road drive about three miles up the road
Drive past a few cabins/houses and pass South Fork park
You will see signs for Big Spring park and the trail-head is at the very end of the highest parking lot.

For good info on this Mountain: Wasatch Tours - Vol. 3 - The Southern Wasatch, pp. 198 - 207

...and here are some pictures (click to enlarge):

TH at the Big Springs parking lot ...

You are going to follow 059 "Big Springs Hollow tr."

About 30 min into the hike you'll pas the City of  Provo worksite at the springs.

After that you still have another 4.1 miles just to the ridge line...

...then you'll be doing this kind of really slow progression
(elvationwize) for a couple hours or so.

About 2 1/2 hrs after leaving the trail head things are looking up with
the Cascade Saddle in the distance...

...things start to feel a bit more mountainy

Finally on the ridge line!

Taking a quick look south of the saddle towards Provo Peak
(the "terrace cuts" are an avalanche prvention measure).

Still south of the saddle, a look into Shingle Mill that seem to offer some
potentially pleasant skiing.

Looking down Big Springs Hollow

Looking North towards Cascade Mtn.

Sub-ridge in Big Spring Hollows fork.

Looking West is Utah Lake with West Mountain (6,804) in the distance.

On the way to the peak, some cliffy spots...

...with potentially steep skiing...

Found a lot of this type of large open terrain...

...some of it pretty mellow nut still sizeable...

...and some steep enough to get you through the powder...

...and some steeper than that.

And here are the hugely respectable (as in make sure to show a ton of
respect!) lines in the cirques under the peak.