Utah gets good snow on a consistent basis and this year has been no exception. Our storms come on strong, dousing the Wasatch with light, dry powder for days on end. Then, like clockwork, the clouds part and a brilliant blue sky bursts out. This is why filming in Utah can be so productive: You get lots of snow followed by lots of light.
During last week's storm, Alta and Snowbird got hammered. And I love skiing in storms: The mountain becomes dark. Feathery flakes pour down. And each run is slightly deeper than the last. It snowed so hard at times that the canyon road closed for avalanche control. People who were already trapped up there got to reap the benefits of a "country club" morning. This rare treat allows a limited few to have access to the mountain while others wait at the bottom of the canyon for hours. Suckers!
After a healthy dose of freeriding, the weather forecasted three days of sun. We decided to spend those days hitting a few of the local backcountry spots using our snowmobiles. Just as predicted, an early morning start revealed bluebird skies. As we arrived at the zone, my excitement began to grow. Pillow lines, corniced ridges, cliff bands and rollers were all blanketed in deep, fresh snow.Often when we go out filming it is efficient to have several athletes skiing, but on this day I was solo, which kept me motivated to keep hiking, and hitting lines. The day turned into a super fun, productive session that ended after hitting 12 lines, including a very large step down gap as the last rays of light flickered on the jump's lip.
Wiley Miller, another TGR athlete, joined us the following day as we prepared a large natural gap in a different sled zone. This gap jump is unique because it consists of a big knob of land in the middle of a north-facing bowl. The terrain creates a perfect in-run hill that leads right into a natural takeoff ramp, over a wind ridge, and onto a landing. After one "build day" we arrived on the scene early Saturday morning to start hitting it.
We weren't the only oneshoards of sledneckers eager to eat up some of the recent powder were pulling into the parking lot like it was a grateful dead concert. We headed up the trail, roped off our in-run and landing (to prevent collisions wouldn't occur) and started launching. The air was big and lofty, sending us 20-25 feet off the deck and about 80 feet to the gap's landing. We had several crashes each from launching too big but both of us got good tricks on film including a double back flip from Wiley, and I landed a nice cork seven-twenty.
SAGE'S POV, Wasatch Helmet Cam:
Riding out down the long trail paved in woop-dee-doo bumps of snow I reflected back on the week of shredding. Storm skiing sessions, turning into bluebird days, pillows, cliffs, and jumps... Perfect Utah good times!
Check back with ESPN in a few weeks for my next column and ride safe. Sage
Sage, one question before you go: How did the sledneckers take to your little slice of roped-off backcountry? "Once it was up, everyone respected the line. But just before we got it upusing caution tapesome sledders rolled in and began high-mark/side-hilling across our in-run. Once they realized what we were doing though, one of them came over with his shovel to help fill in the trench he cut. So the caution tape is valuable for sure."