It’s as if autumn had fallen asleep on the job and winter walked in, dragged him into an alley, and kicked the living daylights out of him. Climbers in Little Cottonwood Canyon were stuck with their ropes up, mountain bikers in Park City were only halfway home, and runners in Millcreek Canyon thought they still had weeks of yellow leaves. And while I may refuse to refer to a storm by its hashtag of a name, last weekend’s weather did not refuse to bury the mountains adjacent to Salt Lake City in multiple feet of early season snow over 48 white hours.
Ian Provo gets deep in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Jim Harris
Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Brody Leven
According to the Utah Avalanche Center, Little Cottonwood Canyon was blessed by 50” of Utah’s finest, making it the snowiest recipient of the storm. Likewise, according to the Utah Powderhound Center, Little Cottonwood was “Whheeewhhhoooop yip yip yip arrrr ddeeehhh doh wheeeee.” That mid-winter, blowing in your face, don’t-forget-to-tuck-your-base layer-into-your-snowpants sort of snow.
The author, Brody Leven, gets pitted in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Bekah Stevens
Without a developed base of snow, plenty of skiers and snowboarders found themselves skinning, snowshoeing, and post-holing up local resort runs in an effort to ride grassy slopes. Knowing that sharky rocks loomed, the general consensus was that they were, surprisingly, infrequently hit. Enough snow had fallen in one storm to prevent most base damage. “It was the deepest trail-breaking I’ve ever done,” claims photographer Jim Harris. And that says a lot about the Wasatch locals, because trails were being broken everywhere.
Ben Peters breaks trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Jim Harris
Until closing to uphill traffic for avalanche control work in preparation for opening day (with the exception of Brighton), Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude were the hotspots for finding grassy runs. People were booting up in parking lots, tracks were abundant, and Fall was but a fleeting memory.
Statistically, “grassy,” “powder,” and “friends” were the weekend’s most-used words. Photo: Jim Harris
Avalanche danger is far from mitigated, and plenty of slabs broke loose on a persistent weak layer created by scattered snow remaining from a late October storm. The informative and reputable Utah Avalanche Center advisories seem to have been closely observed, with much mid-mountain discussion revolving about current avalanche conditions. With the stoke level high and riders safely rambling about the Cottonwood Canyons, winter just sucker punched the Wasatch’s colorful leaves square in the face. Let’s hope its powder-punches ended autumn’s season for good.
Video: Matt Baydala
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