Friday, March 16, 2018

The Truth About Powder Skiing

"The best deep-powder skiing is not found in the lightest snow but rather in snow with enough 'body' to provide good flotation for the running ski."
- Ed LaChapelle, 1962

You can have your bottomless blower pow.  You can rave about pit deep 4%.  You can have it all.  The truth is, those deep, dry days don't provide the best powder skiing.  Give me some Cascade concrete and and put some cold smoke on top of it.  

And that's what we found on sheltered upper-elevation north aspects today. 

What we didn't find were people. We pulled into the White Pine lot at 8:15 and found only two cars in the lot.  Two!  While gearing up, I kept waiting for the yellow lights to start blinking and then the sound of incoming shells as there's no way that there can only be two cars in the lot on a powder day.  

Yet the dream was true.  

Then the day dawned clear, with a postcard view down Little Cottonwood on the climb up.  

After passing a snowshoer near the boundary for the Lone Peak Wilderness, we found no tracks.  None.  Just a hint of a skin track from a couple of souls from yesterday buried under the cold smoke to lead the way.   For hours we broke trail and did laps in perfect powder, not seeing a soul until about 2 PM.  It was like being on a hut trip in interior BC.  Nobody around.  Surfy hero snow with just the right body.  Zipping through well spaced trees as if there was no tomorrow.  Ed LaChapelle skiing. 

I need to get out more during the week.  So few people, so much enjoyment.  Add hero snow and my favorite touring partner, and you have a perfect day.


  1. Good on you guys for nailing it. More Saturday and Sunday!

  2. It was honestly strange Jim. I did some resort skiing today at Sundance and there was a few about 5” of new snow on top of some nice concrete. Made for great skiing. The best part about the whole thing was that not a soul was there. Me and a buddy were skiing untracked runs at 11:15am. I have never seen a resort so empty after a decent storm.

  3. South Side of Superior was were they all were. It was a glorious day The snow was Surfey to say the least. We saw a ton of people on the Flagstaff side. Once we went to the other side of the ridge the crowds thinned out. The clouds and slight wind were the true heroes of the day! Preserving the snow from the March sun all day long.

  4. Well, I was the "soul" Jim and his son saw about 2 PM yesterday. He jokingly told me that I had "ruined their day" because before our paths crossed they hadn't seen anyone else beyond the Maybird Bridge. But, boy was I glad I left later and they left early because they "made my day". I had planned to go exactly where they went and even printed a few maps at home to make sure I found the route. I expected to have to break trail maybe starting at the Maybird Bridge, and certainly along the top of the ridge going towards the Pfeifferhorn. But, Jim and his son set a beautiful skin track (not a typical "Wasatch Death Climb" skin track) all the way from the bridge to the top of the ridge above the "Church" (a.k.a. "Maybird Trees") runs and then further on up (South) along the ridge heading towards the basin below the Pfeifferhorn. They stopped at about 10,125' 3/4 of a mile NE of the Pfeifferhorn. I went a little beyond the end of their skin track to take photos of the peak, and then I spied a nice short, steep open slope below the Red Pine/Maybird ridge crest that I climbed and skied. After that I returned to their skin track and then followed their tracks back down hill. I agree with Jim's comments about a firm base with nice, light snow on top. It was creamy all the way down to Red Pine Creek!

    Here is a link to Acme Mapper with waypoints of the route we climbed and skied yesterday (you may have to copy and paste it into your browser).,-111.6917&z=14&marker0=40.575511111111,-111.68111944444,White%20Pine%20-%20parking%20lot;%207670%27&marker1=40.574805555556,-111.6808,White%20Pine%20-%20bridge%20over%20LCC%20Creek;%207630%27&marker2=40.566125,-111.68935555556,White%20Pine%20and%20Red%20Pine%20Trail%20jct.;%208040%27&marker3=40.553269444444,-111.69555833333,Red%20Pine%20Canyon%20-%20Maybird%20Bridge;%209010%27&marker4=40.550455555556,-111.70260277778,Maybird%20Trees%20-%20knob%20at%20top%20of%20runs;%209630%27&marker5=40.543205555556,-111.70027777778,Upper%20Maybird%20-%20top%20of%20Steenburghs%27%20skin%20track%203/16/18;%2010125%27&marker6=40.542416666667,-111.69879722222,Upper%20Maybird%20-%20top%20of%20ski%20run%203/16/18;%2010225%27&marker7=40.556783333333,-111.69848611111,Red%20Pine%20Trees%20-%20Red%20Pine%20Creek%20crossing%20on%20way%20back%20to%20Red%20Pine%20Trail;%208585%27

    1. We were trying to make up for the horrible skin track we put in in the Oquirrhs the previous weekend. Thankfully, nobody was around to see that one.


  5. Everyone was at Alta. Including most of those staying in Snowbird lodging. As an employee, I "had" to take Wildcat that morning to work (Watson). I had a most excellent 'commute'in perfect, pristine, untracked, silent-swishing conditions. That experience enabled me to work nonstop, serving seemingly thousands, during on of our busiest days of the year. Here's the view of Superior from Wildcat lift at 8:45am Friday.