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

  1. This became my favorite line on Superior in the 1990s, after doing it with a short self-belay at the crux in 1991, on an old school Winterstick Swallowtail. We called it the Invisible Chute in those days, because you can’t see the chute anywhere from the road, or from the summit of Superior. We would climb the SE ridge either from the Suicide notch, or from the right side of the “Dead Tree” chute which is the next one up from Suicide. Cheers!

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