Ski Mountaineering

Utah Interconnect
Feb 27, 1999

Don Ralphs

This tour has been run commercially for about fifteen years. The idea is to link up several of the major Utah ski resorts that are very close as the crow flies. Park City/Deer Valley share one drainage, Solitude/Brighten the next, and Alta/Snowbird the next, going in a southerly direction. The tour is run four days a week in the north/south direction and three in the reverse. The south to north direction begins and ends in Snowbird, doesn't hit Park City, and reaches only half of the terrain. Cost is $150. There are two guides for up to 12 clients. The price includes lift passes on the five resorts, lunch, and a van ride back to Park City from Snowbird. The tour runs throughout the season and books up well in advance, though cancellation availability is ready.

We met at a sports store at the base of the Park City ski resort. It was the end of February. We had a glorious blue sky day. There was a good base but there had only been six inches of new snow two days earlier. We had a mom and dad/2 teenager team from Jersey and two young couples from that incredible ski Mecca , Panama.

We were given ave beacons, but no instruction as to how to use them. Though we had extremely stable conditions, I was surprised to learn that this is the same procedure they would use after a big dump.

We rode the lifts to the top of Park City and then checked out with the ski patrol before skiing over the back side at about 10 AM. We descended some 1600 ft. down a south facing slope to the base of the Solitude lift. The snow was still a little hard and broken up by the snowmobilers who had been out causing a ruckus the previous day. We skied under some power lines and past a few summer homes. Not exactly wilderness here.

We rode the Solitude lift up the opposite north facing slope and then traversed to the adjacent Brighten area, took a run and descended back to the Solitude base lodge for lunch.. At the top of the Solitude lift, we hiked for only 20 minutes to the Solitude/ Brighton saddle, where we commenced our descent down the south facing slope to Alta. By now, the snow had softened and we hiked out into some steeper terrain and a few untracked pitches. Fine snow becoming pretty sloppy as we lost altitude

It was remarkable how many people there were in this backcountry. One is never out of sight of ten to twenty skiers or snowboarders at a time and the vast terrain is tracked in the most improbable areas even after a recent dusting. Helicopters were buzzing in regularly, people are out having picnics. This is truly their backyard.

We next took a lift up Alta and descended to the Snowbird area. A tram to the top of Snowbird led us to our final run of the day and our waiting van.

The guides were very easy going, good timiną guys. Our skiers looked really strong on the initial groomed run at Park City but had real difficulty in the early hard crust and later slush. With no screening for ability, competence of clients could be a real problem in more difficult conditions.

This is more of a ski resort tour than a backcountry experience. We had two approx 1600 Ś off resort descents and neither were memorable, though on a blue sky day like ours it was good fun. It would be very easy to do this tour w/o a guide, but there is a hefty fine for leaving the backside of Park City and the various lift tickets would be tres $$$.

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