Alta, UT Report: 11,000′ Mt. Baldy Wind Spine in Powder Snow

Miles Clark | | Conditions ReportConditions Report

Report from April 29, 2022

Yesterday morning, I saw that Alta had gotten 6″ of snow and it was still stormin’.

The pattern of late has been stormy in the morning and clearing in the afternoon.

I left the house at about noon and when I had almost reached Alta, I realized I’d forgotten my freakin’ ski boots…

Up and up. image: snowbrains

I made a lot of mistakes yesterday:

  • Forgot my ski boots – costing me an extra 1.5hrs of driving
  • Forgot to bring water on the hike
  • Forgot to bring food on the hike
  • Didn’t have skin wax and skins were glopping up terribly on bottom half of mountain
LCC. image: snowbrains

By the time I finally got to hiking uphill at Alta, the sky was nearly clear, and it was 2:30pm.

I was tired…

I ground hard on the way up and just felt like I was breathing at 100% the whole hike.

Frosted up top. image: snowbrains

The views were breathtaking.

Spring might be the most beautiful time of year in the Wasatch.

There were a lot of people in front of me and I watched them all drop into Main Chute.

Grind. image: snowbrains

Main and Little Chutes were hammered but no one had skied The Taint, the far skier’s right zone (Parleys?), nor the beautiful wind spine just skier’s left of Main Chute.

The snow wasn’t very deep up top and in typical dust-on-crust fashion, it appeared that the steeper-the-worser.

The wind spine was starting to really look fluffy, loaded, and deep as I approached.

Wind waves. image: snowbrains

The wind was strong on top

It was damn cold, especially considering how hot it was in the parking lot.

It took me 2 hours to make the top.

This was my 14th time atop Mt. Baldy this season – 8 times from the parking lot, 6 times from the top of Sugarloaf chair.

Wildcat. image: snowbrains

After reaching the top, I quickly transitioned (no food nor water to slow me down) and dropped in.

I made a few scratchy turns above the wind spine on terrible snow before I got to the wind-loaded portion where the softness began.

I stopped, caught my breath and let ‘er rip.

Miles mid spine. image: snowbrains

I was tentative at first, then quickly realized the snow was deeper than anticipated, started playing with the spine, and smashing it as best I could.

The spine skied like a dream with even a faceshot or two!

Just below the spine, the snow continued soft for a few turns before the traverse to avoid the big cliff below.

Up. image: snowbrains

The traverse was icy.

All the skiing below the traverse was essentially dust on crust with an unpredictable base strew with frozen chicken heads from the last warming event.

This is an awkward zone that I’d never skied before because it all hangs above a very large cliff.

Snowbird and friends. image: snowbrains

If you get caught in a slide here, it would likely be fatal – so not the best zone to ski on the mountain.

I generally avoid terrain like this at all costs.

A legendary Alaska ski guide just perished after getting caught in a small avalanche in terrain like this.

The small avalanche took him over a large cliff.

Mt. Superior. image: snowbrains

The reasons I skied this hanging snowfield yesterday were:

  • I was confident in the zone not avalanching after some testing, ski cutting, and observations
  • I determined that if I popped off a small slab on the wind spine, it would be small and isolated and I’d be able to get out of it easily or not get caught in it at all
  • 2 people had skied the main gut of the hanging snowfield before me and I didn’t see any signs of instability resulting from their tracks
  • There wasn’t much new snow (6″ in past 24 hours)
  • There didn’t appear to be a large, connected wind slab
  • There were no layers below the new snow/old snow interface that were unstable
  • The old snow/new snow interface appeared to be well bonded in that zone
Grinding up. image: snowbrains

Regardless, I generally won’t ski zones like this – unsupported slopes with high penalties.

After coming down onto the apron, I skied the pow-on-groomers down to the bottom slowly.

It was sticky dust-on-crust and pretty weird, but easy enough to glide through.

SLC. image: snowbrains

Back at the car I was darned tired and very satisfied.

I got to ski a new line, I think that wind spine might have been the deepest snow on the mountain, it might have been my last powder day of the year, and I knew I was going to have a great Friday evening of stretching, rolling out, and relaxing.

Thanks, Alta.

Forecast

image: noaa, 4/30/22

Photos

Light and shadow. image: snowbrains
Skinner. image: snowbrains
Mt. Baldy. image: snowbrains
Sunnyside chair headed to Red Lodge Mountain, MT. image: snowbrains
Miles mid spine. image: snowbrains
Branch down. image: snowbrains
Mt. Baldy tracks. image: snowbrains

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