Brought to you by Alta Ski Area
Report from Tuesday, Oct. 26
Virgin October powder on Wildcat liftline.
Summer is over and it feels like we skipped Fall altogether. Alta reported 15-inches in the last 24 hours, making for a 66-inch season total as of Tuesday, October 26.
October has been good to me. To top it off the snowpack is still healthy—I’m surprised. I figured all this early-season snowfall would have already created weak layers in the snowpack. But I shouldn’t get my hopes up—there’s still plenty of time for that.
An atmospheric river just buried northern California and the tail end of it made its way to the Wasatch late last night. Alta clocked in 10-inches of new snow at 7 this morning, forecasting that it would continue snowing all day. I wasn’t in a rush to get out of bed.
I made it to Alta’s Wildcat Base around 1 pm today, which had just opened after being closed to uphill travel all morning. I was delighted that I wouldn’t have to tour up the Summer Road again and could start skinning from the bottom of Collins because Grizzly Gultch was packed and already looking tracked out.
I toured solo today—a lot of people did. An army of ski tourers who should’ve been working or were hurriedly fitting in a pow lap in the middle of their tumultuous schedules marched along the skin track up Corkscrew. It was dumping hard as near whiteout conditions gripped us all on various parts of the ascent.
The skin track was filling in fast with new snow—by the time I made it to the person’s position 100 yards above me on the skinner it was already filled in with a fresh layer of snow. At times I could hardly see—but I knew where I was going. My objective was to link turns down Westward Ho and cut over to the Wildcat liftline, which still looked untracked as I squinted at descent options through the raging snowstorm.
Approximately an hour-and-a-half later I was transitioned and at the top of my line, ready to shred. Being only my third day back on skis and touring solo, I felt a wave of fear before I dropped. Avalanches were possible today. There were heavy winds last night and lots of new snow to move around. Trees and rocks lay hidden under the current storm total. And I was alone. No room for mistakes today.
The thing about fear that fascinates me is its duality to both help and hinder. On the one side, fear keeps you alive—especially in regards to survival, which is a core aspect of backcountry skiing. Yet on the other, fear is the mind-killer. When you’re scared you don’t think clearly. You rush decisions in frantic haste to stay alive. Sometimes when pinned under the weight of fear logic doesn’t make sense. These are things I think about when I’m alone on the skin track.
On the top section of Westward Ho, I made out what appeared to be powder-covered rocks so I skied conservatively, paranoid of the sharks that wanted so desperately to devour my ACLs. My turns up here were slow and not confidence-inspiring until I made it past the rocky sections. From there it was on.
I found an untouched field of powder that went down into the trees. The snow was light and fluffy and skied like any winter-time powder I’ve ever known. There were no tracks in front of mine. After a little tree-skiing, I cut over to the Wildcat liftline.
The snow under the motionless chair was virgin—I saw zero tracks the whole way down. I ripped mellow, soul-satisfying powder turns all the way down to the base without stopping. There were no rocks or apparent hazards under the lift—just good turns.
When I got to the bottom I looked back and saw no other tracks besides my own in the zone I had just skied. I smiled to myself, thinking that these could have been the best turns I’ve ever made under Wildcat and that it was still only October. Light and happy, I got in my car and drove home. It was still snowing.