Part of what makes backcountry skiing so interesting is you never know exactly what to expect. Snow and the weather that sculpts it are remarkably dynamic. Just when you think you have it figured out it will throw you for a loop. Weather forecasts, advice from friends, and personal experience can give you a faint idea of what you may encounter on your tour but ultimately you must commit and accept the unknown.
The first snowstorm of the season was forecasted to hit the Wasatch on September 30. The forecasters gave no estimate of how much would fall in the upper Cottonwood Canyons so we were left to watch the rain in the valley and guess if there would be enough snow at Alta on the morning of October 1. Why get up at 5 a.m. and drive to the mountain when you aren’t even sure it will be skiable? One reason is we learn the most when we take risks.
We arrived at Alta to find just under a foot of snow- not bad for an early season storm but the coverage seemed barely adequate. Would it be worth hiking to the upper mountain only to find it impossible to safely ride down? It was worth a shot. As it turned out, the snow was dense enough to keep our boards on top (mostly) and the riding was quite fun! Seeing the golden aspens mixed with snow added to a very satisfying morning.
Mark Hammond – Liberty Mountain Climbing Buyer Assistant