Slackcountry: Backcountry Terrain Within Resort Boundaries
on February 13, 2010
A few weeks ago, when we had our last batch of major storms hit the Wasatch, I enrolled in a Level 1 Avalanche Certification class with the fine folks at Utah Mountain Adventures. The bad thing is I didn't get to ski much powder at my favorite resorts that weekend. The good thing is, we spent the time traipsing around the backcountry of Big Cottonwood Canyon, digging pits and studying what would become classic Wasatch slab avalanche conditions. Tons of new snow with a high moisture content on top of an old weak thin layer from early season. The recurring word I kept seeing on the avalanche forecasts from the Utah Avalanche Center was "persistent", meaning that weak layer wasn't healing, and even after the storms, human-triggered avalanches claimed at least one life, seriously injured a few more, and scared the Beejeezus out of a few backcountry skiers with many years of experience. Even though I was keen to get out there and practice some of the skills I learned in the Level 1 class, the dicey factor was keeping me in-bounds.
Last weekend, while skiing at Park City Mountain Resort, I decided to venture out to Pinecone Ridge and sample firsthand what some locals say is the best in-bounds backcountry skiing in the Park City area. You take the Jupiter chair up, hike up Scott's peak, skip right past the main bowl, scamper down the narrow ridge, and the gate to Pinecone is right in front of you. The hike is a steep bootpack that takes maybe 15 minutes. Once on top, you are treated to exceptional views all the way around. You can drop in to some southern facing wide open patches that take you back to Jupiter lift if you are doing laps. I did this once and had a funky sun crust to deal with. It wasn't horrible, but I knew there was better snow up there, so I did another roundtrip. At the Pinecone gate, I met up with two locals who knew where they were going, and followed them all the way out the ridge, past Full Moon, to the Homelight Bowl area.
Homelight Bowl was a no bueno place to ski on that particular day, because it had previously slid down to the dirt, most likely from all the extensive avalanche control work done by the PCMR snow safety folks. But just to skiers right, there was a long ridge of tight to medium spaced aspens with great untracked snow, opening up into what is marked as the Sam's Knob area. A few turns later, and we were on our way to the Motherlode lift. After two laps on Pinecone Ridge, I felt like there was still so much more terrain in there to get familiar with. Below are a few snaps from the iPhone.
Rock Cairn On Top Of Old Pinecone
The Long And Lonely Ridge
Clouds Hovering Over Full Moon Bowl