Alta Calling

By Kendall \ March 5 2008

This post is from visiting contributor Tim Cartwright who after moving to Seattle 5 years ago returns to Utah to ski his old haunts during this epic season.

Impatiently at the bottom of Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, I think back to my time spent ski bumming at Alta-Bird. It’s been a few years since I last graced this cozy hamlet- but it suddenly feels like another day from years past. Inch by inch the cars creep forward with anticipation. My head spins out of control with excitement as Highway Patrol releases the herd.

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Looking forward toward iconic Mount Superior, few sites elicit such euphoric feeling. A frenzied crowd lines up at the Collins lift – while secret discussions, whispers and hand signals indicate each group’s game plan. With so many old lines to revisit, it was difficult to determine which one deserved my first attention. When time came to choose, North Rustler took center stage.

Diving across the famous High T, I try to focus while quickly scouting lines below. I hesitate while passing Stone Crusher – but with three tracks in the gut I know there’s more untracked around the corner. Arriving at North Rustler, it remains untouched. I rely on instinct and drop in. Cotton smooth powder pillows dot the fall line. I aim my sticks for each pocket, ensuring that I rake each turn for all its worth. Before I know it, I have that Alta smile on my face, exhaling joyful shouts as the powder whisks effortlessly beneath my feet.

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The High Traverse officially sucked me in. I find myself wanting every line in sight. Round two beckons as I drool looking toward Lone Pine. “Definitely next,” I motion toward my chair mates. Darting into the upper reaches of the shot, I startle a few onlookers. When the snow is this deep, waiting is not an option. A few more laps and only then do I start to feel satisfaction. At Alta, it’s okay to feel greedy.

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My senses indicate a visit to Westward Ho was next on the menu. No matter how much action the ‘Ho sees, it always seems to deliver. In the line up for Wildcat, I bump into a Grant Gunderson and Re Wikstrom, photographers competing this week in the Ski Salt Lake Shootout. Lenses put aside, we pound lap after lap on the Cat. Protected ridges continued to shelter the cold and soft white Utah gold.

Powder continued to contain our hunger. Aided by white gold fueled adrenaline, we rocked until just before 3pm. Satisfied with today’s bounty, we retreated to the GMD for some much deserved chicken nachos and Wasatch brew. Staring at me intently, High Boy taunted. I sensed it wanted to know when I’d be back. Peeling back another nacho I assure myself it wouldn’t be long.

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