Sun, Snow and Scary Chairlifts


Snowbird Resort, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Snowbird Resort, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

A couple weeks ago I had the fortune to return to one of my very favorite places: Little Cottonwood Canyon, just outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

Little Cottonwood is home to some of the best – and indeed, most plentiful – snow in the world, and a few close friends, along with me and my Dad, made the trip out for a week of skiing.

It had been 10 years, almost to the day, since I had last visited the Snowbird and Alta ski areas. Some things had changed, but largely, it was everything I had remembered it being: laid back, lots of snow, and lots of sun.

It was a great week, and we had some real excitement during the trip.

Thursday morning we awoke to the sound of gunfire, as avalanche cannon crews cleared dangerous spots on the mountains after a 12″ overnight snowfall (a regular occurrence in those parts).  The New York Times actually published a story yesterday about the dying art of the avalanche crews in the canyon.  Scary-sized ordinance aside, it is actually quite amazing what they do. The natives must be used to it, but there is nothing quite like the sliding glass doors of your hotel room wobbling and reverberating, distorting your view of the outdoors, as you sip your morning coffee.

But the real fun was the day before, when reported 70-90 mph winds were lashing the 11,000 foot summit of Snowbird.  The hurricane-force winds shut down the wonderful Snowbird tram that carries 125 people from base to summit in 8 minutes, which meant myself and 3 of my friends would have to take the regular chairlift up the slopes.  About three quarters of the way up, we made the evening news.  Apparently an empty chair had been blown 90 degrees sideways just before going through the unload station at the top and totally messed up the entire lift.  We were stuck, along with many other poor souls, hanging about 30-40 feet off the ground for about an hour before Ski Patrol teams could “evacuate” us from the lift.  If you’ve ever been rock-climbing or had the fortune to use an old-school Poma-lift when skiing, combine the two, and you can begin to get an idea of how they get you off the thing.

It was a great week, and I hope the ski season isn’t done yet.


1 Comment »

  1. Liz Swenton said

    There’s a picture of me on Facebook riding the magic carpet on Cranmore’s bunny slope, talk about scary!

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