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Trip Report: Did you know that Utah gets a lot of snow? No... really! (National Gathering 2023) Sponsored by SkiUtah

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Looking up Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons while flying into Salt Lake City



I know, I know... when you think of snowy places, you never think of Utah, right? Why would you? Known for it's dry desert climate and clear skies, how could you possibly expect snow?

Kidding of course... but anytime you have a Gathering at 5 different resorts, and they all get more than 30" of snow during the week, it's still somewhat unexpected! And fantastic! Utah has been having a tremendous snow year, and it definitely continued through the Gathering. Here are the snow totals for the Gathering days at the 5 resorts:

Alta - 40"
Snowbird - 30"
Snowbasin - 33"
Brighton - 51"
Sundance - 41"

That makes for an amazing week, with tons of soft snow, and new snow at some point every day. Plus there were lots of attendees to ski with, including some new friends. And the resorts were wonderful, with a great variety of terrain, and lots of great runs. Sure, there was some whiteout, low vis, and a 4-5 hour ordeal getting out of Little Cottonwood Canyon one night... but I think it was worth it for the conditions we had. It was a great Gathering, and I think most (all?) attendees would agree!

So what's a Gathering, anyway?

If you're newer to SkiTalk, you might not be aware of the term "Gathering". Around here we use it to mean any time a group of SkiTalkers get together to ski. Depending on how many people are getting together, you might see/hear Mini-Gathering, Micro-Gathering, or Nano-Gathering too. :)

Each season, there is one National Gathering (in Utah this season, obviously), and typically a few others too. (Taos and New England have been the most common, but the Pacific NW, Mid-Atlantic, Banff, and Mid-West have also had Gatherings). These are arranged by users (me included), and the arranger is referred to as the "Gathermeister". For all SkiTalk Gatherings, anyone and everyone are welcome, and everyone is responsible for their own travel, lodging, and lift ticket arrangements. Just be there the right time/days, and plan to meet up and have a great time!

For more information on the recently held Utah Gathering, please see this thread: https://www.skitalk.com/threads/off...ering-in-utah-february-25-march-4-2023.28127/
For more information on the recently held 2023 Pacific NW Gathering, please see this thread: https://www.skitalk.com/threads/2023-pnw-mini-gathering-discussion.28281/
For more information on the upcoming 2023 New England Gathering, please see this thread: https://www.skitalk.com/threads/202...ssion-march-24-26-sugarloaf-saddleback.28375/

Now on to the details of the Utah Gathering!

Day 1, Snowbird

The first day started out a bit rough for me. Snowbird was busy on a Sunday, even without new snow. We arrived early (like 7:30) to beat the crowds and got decent parking, but some folks trying to come later were hitting traffic. So too much of the morning (for me) was spent in long lift lines just trying to get to various meetups and lunch. Per my tracker (and with @Dean joining me), I waited 15 minutes at Gadzoom, 35 minutes for the tram, and hit a 25 minute lift line at Mineral Basin. And that was after my one real run into Mineral Basin in very flat light. Dean and I did happen to meet @BmbrMcGnrly at the top, who was there with other friends - so that was great. Always good to put a face to a SkiTalk handle - especially that one. :P

After that Mineral Basin run, it was already time for lunch!

Ran into a couple of other guys with the same taste in hats when booting up in the morning (@Philpug, me, @Andy Mink)
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@David Chaus at the first morning meetup, perhaps praying for snow? With @Chickenmonkey, @theNitza, and @JudywV
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Lots more SkiTalkers at the meetup, including @Philpug on the far left looking surprised and confused to see me there for some reason (also includes @Jim Kenney, @Dean, @Andy Mink. @Kit G., @PisteOff, @KevinF, and @teejaywhy at least)
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@Johnny V., and @SKI-3PO ready to go (and an interesting one-sie in the background)
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The line at Gadzoom lift first thing in the morning
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It was a cold morning and snowing off and on - full face cover for the lifts!
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Finally got to the Tram, and got to watch it come in... we were able to board this one
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Getting into Mineral Basin from Path to Paradise...
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...and then noticing the lines at the lifts. Ugh!
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Back up to the top for lunch... and a view of the top of Peruvian
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After lunch, we set out to head back to the Gad side and avoid likely flat light in Mineral Basin. The ski down under Little Cloud lift through the soft snow was great, and the Gad2 area was really nice. It's one of my favorite areas with a mix of groomers, and bump runs, and easy trees - some good variety for me. I spent most of the rest of the day there, and we even got some sun, to make for a very good afternoon. We even found some nice soft powder bumps on the right side of Big Emma run when heading back to the Tram base, and finished with après in the Tram Club.

@TheArchitect, who'd already been in Utah for a few days
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Clearing skies looking up Gadzoom lift line
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Some bumps on, I think, Gadzooks run that were softer than they look
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@TheArchitect somewhere off Gad2
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View down to the valley
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Day 2, Alta

Alta reported 7" overnight, which for me is a great number, but for this season in Utah is hardly anything. Still, we wanted to make sure we got to Goldminer's Daughter (GMD) in time, and so we got to the canyon entrance a bit after 7:00.

And that 7" skied a lot deeper! Everything all over Alta was pretty amazing... cut up soft snow everywhere. I spent basically the whole day lapping Supreme lift - all of the little chutes and trees and groomers with pow were great. It took a little while to get used to it, as it's been a while since I skied deep snow, but it was fun getting my "powder legs" back, even though they aren't very good ones. :ogcool:

After lunch at Alfs, it was back up Supreme for three laps through Catherine's area. @Jim Kenney was a willing guide and took a group through a traverse to the gentler area of Catherine's a couple of times. And we also did the hike and higher traverse once. All three runs were just great. And all afternoon it was snowing, and really dumping at times... so we had some free refills too. :D

The only real downer of the week was after après at GMD - the heavy snow had caused issues with people getting down the canyon, which blocked the road for a couple of hours. (Mainly because of the windy road/hills getting through Snowbird.) And once that started to move, it took another 2:15 or so for us to get to our place in Sandy. Thankfully, my rental car was AWD and had good tires, and I didn't have too much issue myself.

Some fresh tracks being had as we rode up the Collins lift first thing
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Supreme lift area is more heavily treed, which helps with visibility - and look beautiful
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Riding Supreme lift
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Skiing down some soft snow in the Supreme area
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@dwlighting in the pow
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I've said it before, and will say it again - I love when I stop and I can't see my skis
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Part of the afternoon crew in the snow... Deena, @dwlighting, @Gary Stolt, @Phelmut, @teejaywhy, @Johnny V.
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Now a whole bunch of pics from the Catherine's runs...

Deena with @Phelmut following

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@Phelmut
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@dwlighting
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@Johnny V., @KevinF, @Jim Kenney, @Tony S, @Phelmut, @SKI-3PO
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Looking down the top part of Catherine's
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@Jim Kenney, left, taking pics of everyone else coming down
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@Jim Kenney with others looking on
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@Jim Kenney
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@John Webb
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@Tony S heading down a little chute with @KevinF set to go
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@KevinF following
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@Jim Kenney, Deena, and @John Webb waiting their turns
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@Phelmut next
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@John Webb
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Deena
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@Jim Kenney
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More beautiful trees in the heavy snow
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After we were "done" for the day, a bunch of us rode Sugarloaf lift to take the cat track back to the Collins side... turns out it was a whiteout going up that lift and the Collins return was closed. So we had to ski back down Sugarloaf, and then down Sunnyside to the Albion base, and take the tow rope back to GMD. Kind of miserable at the top, but the skiing was fun.

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Day 3, Snowbasin

Tuesday was officially another Alta day, but a lot of us took the option to go to Snowbasin (and thanks to @AmyPJ for the invite/gathermeisting!). We arrived at Snowbasin to a report of 12", after having reported 14" the day before! More soft/deep snow practice for me!

My group started with some great "groomer" runs covered in several inches, with somewhat deeper stuff off to the sides skiing down Wildcat area. We then took the gondola and skied Dan's run, which was a lot of fun. Then folks started to spread out and take on what they wanted to. The morning was taking it easy and working on turns for me... then we headed to lunch at the John Paul lodge.

After lunch I skied part of the John Paul area for the first time (mostly the Wildflower downhill course). After a couple more runs (thanks to @4ster for guiding!), including a bit of a slog down Centennial after leaving the group, I was feeling cooked. So I took a break - which was just what I needed. I headed back out with @Tony S and had some great runs to end the day. We skied The Diamond, Pork Barrel, a nice wind buff face down toward Middle Bowl chair, and some stuff off of Becker (which has great views of the resort). It was a fantastic end to the day, with @Tony S being a great guide to some good stuff.

Morning Snowbasin meetup... I think @David Chaus and @Dean really missed each other :P as @Phelmut, @theNitza, and @tromano look on
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The Needles Gondola line was long and opening was delayed, so some of us took a couple of other lifts to ski Wildcat
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Coming down Dan's run... @Sheena leading the way
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@Sheena
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@MaryG
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@jimmy
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@JudywV
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@AmyPJ
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@Wendy
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Wildcat lift/area
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Riding the Needles gondola, we got the Barbara Cochran car!
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Bullwinkle... that way <- ! with @AmyPJ
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@AmyPJ in the pow
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View of part of the John Paul area while heading to lunch
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Requisite sticker shot... I skied these SR95's all week... a lot of folks went wider - some a lot wider (like 115-120)
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The sun was starting to come out in the afternoon
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Valley view
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Wide view down to the base
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@Tony S pointing the way to get back from The Diamond
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View from Becker lift
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@Tony S slaying some choppy pow late in the day
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Day 4, Alta

Wednesday was another option day... this time many of the Gatherers headed to Sundance (and had a fantastic day - see this article: https://www.skitalk.com/ams/sundance-mountain-resort-a-study-in-contrasts.260/ ), but I wanted another day at Alta. Alta reported 4", but had gotten 21" the night/day before, and the canyon was closed in the morning for avy mitigation. @Dean and I waited until traffic started to clear, and hit the canyon just about the right time to avoid traffic issues - and we still got good parking at GMD at about 10:00!

Alta was great... low crowds and a little fresh snow. In the morning, I skied with @Dean, @Kit G., and @Chickenmonkey mostly off of Wildcat and some stuff off of Collins. It was very nice just about everywhere we went and turned into a great, though shorter, morning. We found wonderful wind buff and lightly touched snow under Wildcat and in a few spots screened by trees for short pitches off Collins. Then we had lunch in GMD with @PisteOff, @Pumba, and @luliski.

After lunch, it was snowing again (shocking!) and we headed back to Supreme for better visibility and skied everything around there again. This included a little very low angle luge track in the trees, that I tried too fast and launched myself off of into deep untouched snow in a low area, with a whumpf and a dead stop. Luckily there was another track not too far away below me, and I didn't have to climb/sidestep to get out! Then we took Sugarloaf to Collins return, as we'd tried to do the other Alta day. But this time it was open and we had a great run back to the base for some après.

Watching the Google maps traffic status and having breakfast beers while waiting to head up Little Cottonwood Canyon
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The conga line heading up the canyon... it moved well and we got up in under 30 mins
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Morning view going up Collins lift
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@Chickenmonkey
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@Dean
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@Kit G.
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@Dean in some steeper stuff under Wildcat
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@Dean again... I think he might be smiling... or maybe that's just snow :)
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Wildcat is an older double
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Lightly tracked stuff under Wildcat... this skied great and we did a few laps until it was a lot more tracked
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@Chickenmonkey in some lightly tracked stuff
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@Dean charging again
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Afternoon in Supreme with the snow dumping and @Pumba loving it!
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@Pumba and @Dean
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@Dean
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A view down Challenger area with less heavy snow coming down
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Day 5, Brighton

This was it... the one bluebird day we got all week. And we picked Brighton to spend it at. Which was a pretty good choice since they'd gotten 10" during the day before, though nothing reported overnight. We'd planned to go to Solitude too, to get a taste of both resorts, but the connector trail was closed. So we were "stuck" at Brighton, which was beautiful and a lot of fun. And thanks to @Jim Kenney for being the Gathermeister for this one! (This was another Alta day, for those that decided not to make the trip to BCC. I'm sure that was fun too, but I'm glad I went to Brighton!)

We spent a lot of the day off of Milly lift, which has some great terrain and a couple of good groomers. But we also made our way across the mountain and back a couple of times, to ski Great Western and Snake Creek areas mainly. Milly area was really filled in with the huge snow totals this season, and we skied some chutes and faces that were really pretty wide open with all that snow.

Riding up the Milly Express lift
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Mount Millicent, which some people hike to ski/ride from the top
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Some clouds rolling through over Scree Field, which I'd ski later in the sun
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A large group (i.e. "quiver") of Ski Talkers, heading for Crest Express lift
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The trees were just beautiful in the sun
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Nice view of some of the Great Western area
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Brighton has some really great views
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Beautiful panoramic view from the top of Great Western
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Looking down the slope just off the top of Great Western lift... the snow was great all day
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@Johnny V. about to tackle some bumps and pow
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@Phelmut at the top of the Endless Winter run
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And the rest of the group at the top of Endless Winter. (We even let Deena use her snowboard! It was Brighton after all.) @theNitza, @Dean hiding behind @SKI-3PO, @AlanR, and Deena
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After a nice lunch at the Milly restaurant, we skied a few more laps off of MIlly, then headed over to Crest and made a nice run down there over toward Great Western and Snake River.

Mount Millicent and the top of Scree Field in the sun
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Little Milly area
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@Philpug in Chute 2
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@Philpug ripping down Chute 2
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@Tricia and @MaryG waiting to ski Chute 2 - it wasn't too much of a chute with all that snow filling it in!
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@MaryG
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@Tricia hitting some nice crud lower down in Milly area
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The next few are near the top of Crest Express lift... @jimmy here
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@Andy Mink
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@Wendy
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Next we made our way over to Great Western to look for more pow and some easy trees... lots of little groves and some aspens in this area. Here's @Andy Mink in, I'm pretty sure, Aspen Glow run
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@jimmy getting some sunny pow
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@Wendy in the sun
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@Andy Mink looking exhausted (in a tribute to a pic he took of me a couple of seasons ago, actually being as tired as he's pretending to be)
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Some clouds rolling in
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The end of the day with @jimmy and me looking for easy trees
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Day 6, Snowbird

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end... include Gatherings. The 6th, and last day, was back to Snowbird, where it started. There was no new snow, but there was a prediction of 4-6" during the day, so it was likely to be a storm day.

And sure enough, there was some snow dumping through parts of the morning. The first thought for everyone was to check out Mineral Basin, since many of us hadn't really gotten to ski it the other Snowbird day, and the weather started out looking like it might be OK. But by the time we waited through the Peruvian line and took the tunnel, it was pretty socked in. Still, some of us decided to head out with @Jim Kenney as our guide and do some laps on Baldy chair. Jim has been skiing Utah a lot the last few years, and was a welcome guide to some nice cruise-y runs through the Baldy area in hard to see conditions. We stuck as much as you can to some treed areas, and found really nice snow - an untracked couple of inches in many places on the groomers.

After that a few of us actually downloaded the Gondola, as we were a bit sick of the low vis, and wanted to get back to the Gadzoom and Gad2 area. That was a fun ride, with Jim playing tour guide on the way down. After lunch at Mid-Gad restaurant, it was laps off Gad2 again, with a lot of great bumps on Gadzooks and other runs, and some easy trees off of Bananas. It was a very nice end to the Gathering, and included some more time during après in the Tram Club of course!

And being that it was the last day, of course my camera battery ran out, so my pics are limited...

Panorama of the entire tram plaza (note the same snowboard on the far left, and again on the right side)
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Morning line up at Peruvian... this was about a 20 minute line, but the rest of the day would be a lot better (especially for a Friday)
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The blue tram car... clearly slower than the red one
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Riding up Peruvian, heading for the tunnel... @AlanR, @Johnny V., @SKI-3PO, and @Tony S on the chair
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Going into the tunnel
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@KevinF in the tunnel
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The last pic I got on my camera... the mascot hanging out near Baldy lift
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@jimmy, @Johnny V., @JudywV in the Tram Club for après
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Snowbird logo over the fireplace in the Tram Club
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Chair pics!

I tend to take a bunch of pics on the chair... it's something to do, reminds me who I got to ski with, and is fun to review... so I thought I'd group them all together here...

Me and @Johnny V. riding up Supreme at Alta after we "accidentally" lost our group when they missed the turn and went to Sugarloaf
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@Unpiste, @dwlighting, @SkiDB, and me in the pelting snow at Alta
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@Pumba and me at Alta
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Me and @SKI-3PO on Sugarloaf at Alta heading up into a whiteout
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Me, @theNitza, @Dean, and @Unpiste on Wildcat at Snowbasin
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@Tony S loving the end of the day runs at Snowbasin
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@Chickenmonkey, @Kit G., @Dean, and me on Collins at Alta
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@Pumba, @luliski, @Dean, and me on Supreme at Alta in more heavy snow
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Me, @Phelmut, @AlanR, and Deena on Milly at Brighton
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@SKI-3PO, @Sheena, and me on, I think, Crest at Brighton
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Me and @JudywV on Crest at Brighton
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@Jim Kenney, @Johnny V., @JudywV, and me at Brighton
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@Philpug and me on Milly Express at Brighton
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@Philpug, me, @Wendy, and @Tricia on Milly Express at Brighton
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Flights

I flew from DC through Dallas to Salt Lake City on American (which I almost always fly even though they don't go direct). But Utah is one of the easier Gatherings to get to, with a lot of direct flights from many cities. I also checked my boots :geek: but everything came through fine. The Salt Lake airport is very nice and has had some recent renovation - and still has some construction going on making for a long walk from the B gates. But once everything's complete that should be nice too. Plus the airport isn't too far from the mountains, and from lodging.

Lodging

Speaking of lodging, we stayed in a VRBO in Sandy, Utah, about 2 minutes from the mouth of the canyon. Given all the different places we went or could have gone, it was a good choice. If we'd stayed up in LCC, I doubt I'd have done the Snowbasin day, and maybe wouldn't have done the Brighton day. Staying in Sandy is still relatively affordable, making for a cheaper (compared to many major resorts these days) but still great ski trip, if you're willing to deal with the driving.

Canyon traffic

Speaking of driving, this is the one annoyance I have with skiing the canyons in Utah. They back up easily enough that we left the house at about 7:00 each day to avoid traffic and be on time. That usually meant we were really early to boot up, which was OK, but added some stress to a vacation. And we did have the one night with the multi-hour ordeal getting down the canyon. Thank goodness I wasn't one of those folks that rented a two wheel car with bad tires and tried to go skiing with it.

Rental car

Speaking of rental cars, I typically use a corporate account, which gets me a mid-sized SUV from Avis anywhere for under $500 a week. I'm lucky to have that deal. In this case I wound up with a Ford Edge, and checked to make sure it had good tires. It really came in handy for getting down the canyon (which involved getting up the hill through Snowbird) the snowy night. It handled everything well.

Thanks... and next year!

Speaking of handling things well... I want to thank @Philpug and @Tricia for continuing to be the force behind the site and the Gathering. And a big thank you to everyone that came out, and especially those I skied with! (And @Dean for being a great roommate!) And if I didn't get to ski with you this year, well I guess I'll just be one year older when I do get to ski with you.

For next year, the normal rotation would have us at Big Sky. There will be some discussion and consideration given to alternate options as well, and the location should be set by May, to allow folks to begin planning. I hope to see everyone, and more, at the next Gathering!!


One of my favorite views/pics I saw... View of Middle Bowl lift from Becker Lift on a mixed clouds/sun late afternoon
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About author
dbostedo
Always trying to get more days...

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Love how Phil captured the shot of me with @Spooky when I was flipping @Philpug the Bird because he was missing a powder day at Alta.
Video 3:14
:roflmao:
 
Great Report - BCC and LCC always have reliable snow in Late March and April. This year will most likely hit 1000 inches of snow fall. A shame Alta will close with a base depth of over 200 inches on April 23.
 
Great write up, thanks for taking the time and posting the pictures !

I can’t tell y’all how much fun I had at this gathering, which I really wasn’t expecting to attend when I arrived. Everyone was welcoming and I enjoyed skiing with new friends !

Bummed my ski season has come to a close, but look forward to next year’s national gathering.
 
That was AMAZING!!!! When is this year's trip planned for? I think I'd like to go if possible, especially if it's at Big Sky, which I've never skied.

Bill
 
That was AMAZING!!!! When is this year's trip planned for? I think I'd like to go if possible, especially if it's at Big Sky, which I've never skied.

Bill
Tahoe.
 

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