Alta Skiing Journal, Vol. 8: “A Tale of Two Castles”

Martin Kuprianowicz | | Conditions ReportConditions Report

Brought to you by Alta Ski Area

Report from Monday, January 24, 2022

One lift ride, two descents. This morning I skied Alta’s East Castle followed by the mighty Devil’s Castle in rapid succession. Up one Castle, down it, and then straight up the next without taking the chair back up.

It was sunny, quiet, and chilly at Alta this morning. People weren’t really skiing—the mountain felt deserted. It’s like the lack of snowfall over the past couple of weeks caused a mass exodus of skiers from the mountain, leaving the once buzzing ski area a ghost town. It was empty like Alta’s 19th-century silver mines. But really it was just Monday.

After taking up Supreme I jetted up to the East Castle gate and put my climbing skins on. With skins, it’s only a 20-minute walk to the top. There’s something about touring in the middle of a ski resort without the weight of a backcountry pack and its rescue content that just makes me feel good. It makes me feel light—both inside and out. That, and there being no people around me on the track to the top, almost had me feeling like I was out in the backcountry.

Coming down East Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

But this is Alta. I saw a smooth line with a cliff in it from the top of East Castle and went for it. The snow was soft—way softer than I expected. It was smooth, recrystallized powder that was fairly wind-affected on this east-facing aspect. But it skied well and allowed for as confident of turns as you wanted. I sent the cliff and then charged down the rest of the line, down and around the skier’s left corner, through some small chutes, to the entry to Devil’s Castle. I was fired up; East Castle is my favorite zone at Alta and it skied well. Now I was to pay a visit to her big, fat sister.

Skinning under the inconceivably large rock structure that is the Devil’s Castle makes you feel small. Puny. But that’s what makes it such a fun hike. I skinned away from East Castle and around the corner, following along the wall of Devil’s Castle. It was shaded and still. I saw literally no other skiers on the hike up. I was alone and happy.

30 minutes passed. I huffed and puffed and hiked to almost the top of the ski field. There I picked a nice, soft descent through giant, powder-covered boulders. The line looked as pretty as the mountain scenery around me and the quiet mountain air got me in the zone. I left port and sailed through the giant boulders, slashing even softer, smoother turns than those in East Castle. The snow was less wind-affected here and skied like soft, sugary powder.

Two-week-old powder in Devil’s Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

Once I got to the trees at the bottom of the ski field the snow got even better. The smooth, recrystallized, two-week-old snow was protected in those trees and relatively unaffected by the elements, meaning that this whole time it’s stayed pretty much the same—powder. I was shocked; this was the best snow I had skied in weeks.

I savored each turn, feeling each one a little more than the previous. I dashed through the trees and soft snow until I was suddenly back onto tracked-out snow. It was over. But I was delighted. And my ski plans for the next day had already made themselves because I knew exactly where I’d be skiing.

Snow Numbers

Screenshot courtesy of Alta Ski Area 1/24/22


Screenshot courtesy of NOAA 1/24/22


East Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
East Castle hike. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
View from the top of East Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
Avalanche control system on East Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
Devil’s Castle gate. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
Devil’s Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
Devil’s Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
Devil’s Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains
Looking back towards Alta from Devil’s Castle. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

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2 thoughts on “Alta Skiing Journal, Vol. 8: “A Tale of Two Castles”

  1. I was there yesterday. It was great but it wasn’t epic, there was a bit of crust on top & 4″ underneath it was a bit irregular-crust making for a bumpy ride.

  2. Awesome…I skied East Castle as a relatively new powder skier a few years ago and it was among my most memorable and enjoyable skiing. I understand it rarely opens. Was it only opened recently and do you think that’s why the snow was so preserved or do you think it was favorable windblown setting up like powder? Either way, it’s an area I always hope to be open when I ski Alta.

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