On this very chilly morning around 11, we were finally able to open the McConkey's area. Yes, it took us a little longer than we had hoped....we had planned to be open by 10. The weather over the last 48 hours had delayed our efforts a bit. With the current avalanche conditions, it was no surprise that our morning explosive work released a couple large potentially dangerous slides.
As has become our custom when we open an area for the first time each season, we parked ourselves at the top of the bowl in the sub-zero air and waited for the first chairs full of public to arrive. Most often you, our skiing-riding guests, greet us with joyous gratitude as you slide by and jump into snowy bliss. This morning though, the first person off the chair did not show gratitude or joy. He was a lone skier who just passed us by and said, "looks like you had all the nice turns" before jumping into the bowl (for a sweet uninterrupted line I might add). No thanks, no happiness, just an ungrateful attitude that revealed his ignorance.
Now here I have to say that our days of boot-packing, ski cutting, explosives, and avalanches left the bowl far from a pristine alpine powder run. And to the untrained eye attached to a person, such as this individual, who perhaps has never taken an avalanche awareness course, it may look like we had indeed kept the area "to ourselves" before opening it. I like to think that most of you know that is not what we do.
If this were mid-season after a foot or so of new snow to cover up the moguls, yes we could open with just a couple shots and ski cuts. And for the most part the area would be open looking fairly untracked. Early season is a far different animal, especially in the midst of an natural avalanche cycle like the Wasatch is experiencing right now. Many patrollers over the course of a week spent many hours, often out in full conditions, working to prepare the area for opening. We shoot, ski cut, dig pits, perform stability tests, and do it all over if new weather comes in (as was the case this week). Not to mention the ropes, signs and pads that need to get in place. Over that time period we put ourselves at risk to transform a backcounty area with backcountry hazards into "in-bounds" terrain that you can enjoy.
We work hard, we love our job, and we do the best that we can to ensure that you have an positive experience at our resort. As the next round of storms roll in over this upcoming week, we should be moving on to new areas. If you are one of the lucky ones to get first chair at Jupiter or the first to hike to the East Face gates as they open and you see one of us standing at the top or waiting in the run out, please take a moment to show your joy and gratitude as you slide by into powdery bliss.
Originally from the Pocono’s of Pennsylvania, Travis found his way to Park City three years ago and is now our grooming manager. When not in snowcat you can find him skiing or snowmobiling in the Utah backcountry or enjoying the skiing here at Park City Mountain Resort.