Wasatch Mts, UT Report: Mt. Superior’s Pinball Alley | Denial, Side-Stepping, Snowplow, French Fries

Miles Clark | BackcountryBackcountry | Conditions ReportConditions Report

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Report from January 19, 2021

Pinball Alley…

I’ve been staring at this line for a few years now and never had any inclination to ski it at all.

Then, we had this dry spell and I wanted to try some new lines and I decided to go for it today.

This was my 3rd trip up on Mt. Superior in the past 4 days (see previous reports below under “Recent Backcountry Reports”).

My line down Pinball Alley and Mt. Superior. image: snowbrains

Andrew McLean’s “Chuting Gallery,” says this about Pinball Alley:

  • 50º steep – “You’d be lucky to live through a fall”
  • 750′ long
  • “Straight & continually steep, but unless it’s very filled in, too narrow to really be fun (180cm-400cm) unless you feel like going straight.  Alternate between sideslipping and hop turning like a wounded rabbit.”

Despite all this, I wanted to give it a go.

I’d looked into Pinball Alley from Superior’s east ridge 2-days ago and it looked like it might go and that it might be fun.

I texted Andrew this morning asking if he thought it was a good idea to go for it or if I should just pass and he wrote me this:

“Go forth and conquer.”

Snowbird ski resort. image: snowbrains

I took that as an affirmative and started skinning up the south face of Mt. Superior.

Once it got steep, the skiing was a bit tough with an inch or so of new snow on top of hard snow/ice and I repeatedly slipped out.

I eventually got to Pinball Alley and took a look up.

It was tight…

Real tight.

“Well, I’m here,” I thought, and started booting up.

Mt. Superior. image: snowbrains

After a very short distance, it became clear that this was going to be more of a sideslip than a ski.

Then, I came to a narrow spot in the chute that was only about 3′ wide.

I was so close to the top…

I could see the sun hitting the ridge just above me.

I wanted to complete the climb, so I pressed on but I was spinning my wheels.

The old, rotten, faceted snow gave way with every step and I repeatedly sank down into holes in the rocks.

I called it right there.

Suicide Chute. image: snowbrains

I kicked in a platform, put my skis on, and definitely did not “go forth & conquer,” but I gave it a good shot.

I was about 2/3rds up the chute or so.

After clicking into my skis, I started side-slipping.

To be honest, it was more just side-stepping down the chute – for quite a ways.

Eventually, I got brave enough to just point it and blast out of the chute.

Pinball Alley. image: snowbrains

In reality, I ended up doing a snowplow for quite a ways because I was scared and the snow was funky.

I eventually got it back into french fries and came out of the chute with some real heat.

The snow was punchy but my speed check turns held and I came out onto the apron into better snow, lower angles, and bright sunshine.

I took a deep breath and enjoyed the ride.

Mt. Superior is a very special place.

It’s been a great 3 days up on Mt. Superior this week and as of now, I plan on heading back up there tomorrow for one more go while the sunshine still holds.

After Pinball Alley today I zipped over to Alta for a few laps and it was a very cool juxtaposition to cruise happy groomers and chalky Hi-Boy laps after the adventure in Pinball Alley.

I didn’t see any signs of avalanches nor instability today.

Looking down Pinball Alley. image: snowbrains

Recent Backcountry Reports:

Avalanche Forecast:

image: UAC, 1/19/21

Weather Forecast:

image: noaa, 1/19/21

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