All last season on each dawn patrol I would crank Slightly Stupid from start to finish (just about how long it takes to drive from Park City to Little Cottonwood Canyon) so with the first day of the 2004-05 year just under way I find myself heading down Parleys with Slightly Stupid cranked and a beaming smile on my face. Stoke meter is rising and I’m flooded with memories of last season’s epic powder days where SS is playing in the brain as I’m skinning up and skiing down. It’s going to be a great day – the day before Halloween.
I meet up with Andy and Mike in the LCC parking lot and we’re off to Our Lady of the Snows across the street from Alta Wildcat base. With the Wildcat parking lot as full as a mid-week day in January, we look upward toward Toledo Bowl. “Toledo Chute looks nice” I comment and with a nod from Mike and Andy it’s decided. As we don boots, beacons, packs and head off to the skin track, Mike says to me, “Hey, do you have poles?”. Oh yea, better go back to the car and get my poles! It’s my first day out.
The weather was chill with overcast skies. Breeze? Not really. On the way up we could see Toledo was fresh, ripe for the taking. I figured we’d head towards Pole Line and then skin under the chute to dig around and check snowpack.This approach is out of the question on high avalanche days, but after making our way to the base of the chute and digging a pit we determined that it was good to go.
Looking up a chute from the base can be a very nervous undertaking, as well as one filled with anticipation. Spying ribs, rocks, rollers all the while making mental notes of the little tree or the bulging rock wall, etc where you’ll be certain to slash that perfect turn. We continued skiing up the main bowl to gain the ridge and then skin across the to the entrance to Toledo Chute.
Moments later while checking to see our target we realized that we were about to be robbed. “Early bird gets….” Yea, they got the worm, and first tracks. Where had they come from? We didn’t even see the twosome until it was too late. We watched as they entered the chute and put our heads down while we continued to skin upward.
A couple of switchbacks and a fun ridge traverse found us on the top of Toledo Chute. Since I had the camera I headed down first to “take the photos”. I relish carrying the camera sometimes. The snow was consolidated powder on a firm base, about boot high in the best spots. First turns of the season, what a great place to get things rolling for 2004-05. Some nice powder pillow turns while navigating a little rib I’m 200′ lower and perched on the skiers’ right edge of the main chute watching Mike and then Andy rip. Photos snapped and stoke on the rise. Finishing up the chute I venture right to a side chute where the line is clean. My thighs are feeling it but I manage to get into a rhythm of arcs.
While catching my breath at the bottom I realize that the coveted shots I just snapped with my camera are over-exposed. I knew we were in the white room, but the overexposed image was entirely white. After messing with the settings I snapped a “Been there, Done that” photo of the chute and my companions.
I’m pretty certain we were all thinking that Toledo Chute was good enough to call it a day, but none of us were ready to admit it to each other so when the inevitable question came up the reply all the way around was, “uh, yea, I suppose we could go up for another lap.”
As we found the ridge again we looked into Holy Toledo, off the backside. The higher, skinnier entrance was looking tasty, unreal for OCTOBER?!? Andy slipped in and claimed what could have been the first tracks of the season in Holy Toledo.
I skied halfway down and caught Mike in mid season form. The snow was awesome and not a single rock. It was completely mid-season conditions. We nailed the apron with Mike and Andy ripping huge arcs all the way down. As we readied our skis to skin up to Pole Line Pass, I pointed out to Andy that he had straight-lined the last 1/4 of it. “Nah, I…oh, yea, I guess I did” seeing his signature.
The skin back up to Pole Line pass about did us in. For my first day out of the season this was a lot of skinning. As we neared the top we were treated to an incredible view of Cardiac Ridge as the sun came out. It was hammered, at least as hammered as I had ever seen it. Probably 30-40 lines with an army of 5-6 headed up the skin track for more. The Wasatch was in full swing today, in October. Unbelievable.
Coming down Cardiff the conditions weren’t as sweet as we had been growing accustomed to as a thin breakable crust greeted us. We made the best of it and I snapped a couple of final pictures while making our way down the final 1500 ft. to the car.
I’m sure we were a sight as we dragged ourselves up the road to the car. Out of gas for sure, walking slowly up the road with our skis on our shoulders, but full of stoke and anticipation for another season in the white room.