“I feel so good, I feel so numb yeah.” Pump up the Volume. We’re listening to some Rob Zombie, it’s May and we’re launching a full on air and powder assault at Snowbird. Flakes the size of Canadian loonies have been falling from the sky continuously for the past five days.
In the second week of May, the ‘Bird reports more snow than the entire month of January. While snaking through the initial tram pen, a few of us lucky enough to make the first ascent of the day raise our poles in celebration- taunting those who will have to wait 10 minutes for blue tram to arrive while we get first tracks.
“Okay everybody, quiet down. I’ve got something important to say,” shouts the tram op. “Now that I’ve got your attention- you have no idea how SICK it is up top. There is so much snow.” The receptive red tram erupts. Then a short burst of “Surfer Bird” to get everyone fired up blasts over the sound system. The crowd is now singing along to the tune of “The Bird is the word.” Welcome to Spring skiing at the ‘Bird.
An epic day like no other finds an endless prescription of May face-shots. While ski patrol attempts to open up the Tower 4 backcountry gate, 125 elated skiers and riders drop into the cloudy abyss toward Little Cloud. Gate access to ‘Old Ladies Slide’ allows some early morning deep powder turns. The Cirque eventually opens up to what can only be described as ‘controlled mayhem.’ The Upper Cirque and Silver Fox area were torched. It looked like the beginning of the Boston Marathon.
Dropping into Hanging Bowl, a well-guarded secret to locals for its extensive wind loading and lack of sunshine, a slough slide rips out from above. Next thing I know I’m sent tumbling over a set of cliffs that I was originally setting up for. Fortunately, the slough was big enough to keep me in motion and I skied out unharmed. A rush of adrenaline had hit me and I managed to tear off some of my most impressive, hard charging turns of the day. I felt lucky that I knew the terrain, but even luckier to be riding this sweet May powder.
Impressive enough for this day was the Tram itself. Normally, during spring time operations they depart every 15-20 minutes. Today, those boats were cranked to lock’n load. By 10:30 a.m. (and courtesy of a front page spread in the Salt Lake Tribune) word had gotten out. Something epic was happening in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Cars arrived by the hundreds and before any one could say “May Powder” the tram line was looped through the entire maze out across the plaza. Locals agreed that it could have quite possibly been the longest tram wait in 25 years. Even though the line appeared massive, skiers and riders gathered patiently to await their next run. It’s not often that you get a chance to ride powder this deep and late in the season.
For the past week, a regional delegation of Powder maggots were found staking their claim to Snowbird’s many stashes. Message postings on the chat board involved showing off the many technical lines that were conquered, all the while revealing the consistent winter conditions that were permeating.
Today, people with names like Powstash, Harpo, Powhore, and Butters joined me on a search to find some creamy winter pow along Restaurant Row- a collection of chutes above the Mid-Gad restaurant. Dropping in, we were greeted with thigh-deep powder among a few sparse trees. Visibility had been an issue throughout the day, but deep powder in tight places made this area an ideal choice. As we dove into a secret untouched stash of Utah’s finest, Powstash was chanting, “I love you, man” while choking in the white room the whole way down to the tram base. I just hope his wife doesn’t stay jealous. As I told my ex-girlfriend once on a powder day when she asked the unimaginable, “Who do you love more, Snowbird or me?” Well, let’s just my Rossi Bandit XXX’s are now my closest companion.
Unsung and untouched, the lower Gad Valley remained distant. With lifts closed and shuttle bus operations ceased for the season, this area was off the radar to most people. When we arrived at the pocket chute ‘Get Serious’ we discovered an untracked paradise. Large cliff hucks laid in wait with oodles of fresh powder.
Butters dropped in and iced a speedy straight line past the rock garden below. Powstash and I opted for a different line toward the left.’ I managed to control my excitement after spotting a huge ‘diving board. I yelled down to see if this jetting rock band was a possibility and with a resounding yes, I could sense the feeling from Powstash that he had missed something special
As my edges released their grip, I felt myself hurtling through the air. I felt butterflies leaping through my stomach as I spotted my landing pad. Suddenly, the feeling was over as I sunk to my waist in a creamy Northwest style helping of powder. Powstash wasn’t satisfied with his role as the spectator so we meandered back on our last run of the day so he could drop another, larger variation off that same cliff band. Of course, he stuck it like a pro.
We skied off into the distance like cowboys into the sunset from a timeless Western. Satisfied with the crop we had bagged today, we knew that we’d be talking about this day for years to come.
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