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I know the phrase “best day of the season” gets tossed around every time there’s a morning with knee deep powder, but how about “best day of my life?”. Oh yeah, it got that good at Sierra-At-Tahoe.
It didn’t start out that way. We arrived on a typical 28 inch morning (late of course). Nothing was open. Too much snow. When they got the first chair running, I broke my snowboard binding. So a couple of hiccups, but by the sixth or so run, we noticed a curious phenomenon.
Where was everyone?
Turns out about twenty minutes after we drove by, a twenty foot wide avalanche fell across US-50. The blockage lasted for four hours. Estimates of people on the hill hovered around 250 lucky bastards.
I’m calling it (and I hope I’m wrong) Best. Day. Of. The. Season.
You would think with a tagline like “The Rocky Mountain Way” that 101 Days of Winter would focus on, you know, the Rocky Mountains. Well, guess what? Lake Tahoe is freakin’ awesome.
I’m driving because it’s just easier and gives me the excuse to drop into a few ski areas along the way. I jumped off the highway to Powderhorn, a tiny hill outside of Grand Junction, CO. A typical sunny Centennial State afternoon coupled with surprisingly deep tree stashes led to an entertaining break in the long drive to Reno.
Speaking of taglines, Powderhorn has a sweet one: Your ingredient for adventure.
Two days ago, Powderhorn received eight inches of snow, and it still lay thick all over the hill. It was a repeat of an earlier day in the season at Sunlight. Untracked turns days after a storm make me giddy. Vail gets tore up in under two hours, so it’s startling to to see shin deep aspens at Powderhorn.
On my second long lift ride, basking in the sun and reveling in powder endorphins, I made the call that I’m going to ride every ski area in the American West.
More video from one of the biggest storms that this Snow Junkie has ever been a part of. I’m not even going to pretend that anybody is watching my poorly edited GoPro vids, but here is the blessedly short version.
So Vail got completely pounded with an epic forty inch storm. Yes. Four. Zero. Inches.
It might have been more. I don’t know. I just stopped counting. I did manage to catch the first chair (okay, it was the fifteenth chair) on a couple of the mornings. It’s a pretty rad feeling when you turn around at 8:30 and just see a swarm of people kicking themselves for taking the time to eat breakfast or sleep in.
I introduced Coco to “first tracks” on Deep Monday. At this point, about thirty inches had blanketed the mountain and I herded her straight to the Back Bowls. For me, it was thigh deep, but shortie Coco got in some waist high turns.
Check out the Day 1 video above.
Last winter at Powder Mountain, we met a dude named Iceberg who took us deep into the aspens because he heard a rumor that a school bus was buried in the woods. He also may, or may not have, shared with us a spliff the size of Coco’s forearm. The highlight though was that Iceberg proceeded to show us stashes of powder that hadn’t been touched in the last eight days.
So fast forward a year. We’re back in Utah. Snow has been scarce. So we decide to roll the dice again and see if the magic of Powder Mountain holds up.
Oh yeah. It sure as hell does.
If you had a rich, eccentric uncle who ripped on the mountain and decided to open his own ski area, it might just be Powder Mountain. This is an area for people who love to ride and don’t need to have their hand held. For instance, a good chunk of the mountain isn’t lift serviced. You just jump off wherever you want and ride powder until you hit a road where a shuttle picks you up. Bored of the aptly Powder Country? Oh, there’s snowcat that takes drives you up in style and an insane amount of inbounds hiking.