Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The sheep pen

Today’s post is an attempt to rewrite what was lost by my stupid PC, adjusted slightly to include a bit about this morning’s tour. I hope it comes out OK and doesn’t end up being a rotting, nasty, Pet Sematary-esque likeness of what I meant to write.

So you remember in The Music Man* during the train scene at the beginning when all the other salesman are predicting Harold Hill will fail because he doesn’t know the territory? Well Wasatch backcountry users can be kind of like that, too. At best we likely know just part of the territory, but that part is typically the part nearest our doorstep.

*Yes, I’m quite familiar with The Music Man and still know the lyrics to most of the songs in it because it was one of the musicals we did when I was in high school**. I’m not too proud to admit that I like show tunes. One of the finest evenings of my life was sitting on the sixth row, smack in the middle, of a West End production of Phantom of the Opera when I was 18. I did not fall asleep.

**What? You weren’t in drama in high school? If you weren’t, this should have been a no-brainer as far as meeting women was concerned. Sure, cheerleaders are supposed to be the domain of the football team, but when there’s 100 of you and 10 of them, the odds pretty much suck. For people like my brother Steve, who played quarterback, dating and eventually marrying a cheerleader is a possibility. But for some reason head cheerleader Kim wasn’t all that interested in dating an undersized left guard, so I had to look elsewhere. Besides, unlike the football team, drama practices are coed, and kissing someone of the opposite sex may very well be one of the drills. Frankly, the only things I did in high school that rivaled drama were being on the stage crew for the dance company (best-kept secret for meeting women pretty much ever—you move a box or a light stand every ten minutes and spend the rest of the time hanging out with scantily-clad dancers—cha-ching!) and being a cheerleader (one of the stunts involved holding an attractive girl over my head by her butt while staring up her skirt to make sure she was properly balanced).

For instance, I’m quite familiar with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail between the Zoo and City Creek, because I can ride this from my office. I’m similarly familiar with Corner Canyon, which is rideable from my house. As wonderful as the trails are in American Fork and Millcreek canyons, I know quite a bit less of them because they require actually driving to the trailhead.

On our way up Little Cottonwood Canyon last week, Jon S. was picking my brain about Scotties Bowl, a line I ski all the time that also happens to be closer to my house than pretty much anything else. But Jon lives in East Millcreek and works downtown, so it’s out of his way. Conversely, however, when Jon took me up Mill D, it was only the second time in my life I’d skied anything on the north side of Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Some might chalk this up to laziness, but the reality is it’s more due to the embarrassment of riches we have here in the Wasatch. I’ve heard many people refer to the tri-canyons area as the “Sheep Pen” because there are so many backcountry users in such close proximity to one another. And yet, when there’s powder to be had, I haven’t struggled to find it. And that’s not because we’re all doing such a good job spooning our tracks, either. There’s just that much good terrain that close to home.

From time to time, however, it’s worth getting out of my comfort zone and exploring new places. It was with this in mind that Alex and I ventured out on Saturday for a point-to-point bi-canyon tour starting in BCC and finishing in Millcreek.

I wish I had time to do tours like this every week, because in addition to enjoying quality snow, largely ignored terrain that’s as good as anything I’ve ever skied, and great company, the sense of discovery and joy of just going somewhere new would have made the day worth it by itself. Of the five tours that most stand out as enjoyable days on skis, four of them were memorable because I went somewhere new and really cool. In fact, for two of those, the snow was crappy and I didn’t care because the destination was so great.

Other days the tour is memorable not so much for the destination, but for the company. Like this morning. I got out with some usual partners, Dug, Rick, and Tyler, as well as some new ones, Daren and Bart.

It was a great time, if starting a tour with 20 minutes at threshold followed by an hour and forty minutes at whatever pace you can muster with what’s left is your thing. I made sure Daren knew afterwards that going like that is NOT normal. Bart is simply super-human, an uber. Rick did his best to keep the pace. The rest of us were chewed up and spit out the back.

A couple hours after we got back, the following email exchange took place:

Rick: New rule. Bart G is banned from the group. I’m sitting here with dried salt all over my face and a blank stare at my computer screen.

Dug: Luckily he had little impact on me because I couldn't even see him for most of the day. But when I went into the big handicapped stall to change, my base layer was still soaking wet. Ick.

Me: My legs are cooked and I've had the shakes all morning from the effort.

Rick: Totally kidding about the Bart rule.

Tyler: I thought it was a good rule. 

Bart, we love you mang, but next time you’re short ropin’ our sorry butts to the top.


  1. Im taking some heat here. I normaly just hike with the group but for the last 20 minutes or so I wanted to get some effort in to warm up before the DH, I was dressed a little skimpy for that wind.

    Wait until Jared and AG come along and start throwing down the attacks on the skin track grand tour style. That's the hurt locker.

    Thanks again for the muffins, it helped me save my packed lunch until 10:30am...

  2. so what are your top five most memorable tours?

  3. Since I've now done 4 tours in total, this morning was clearly in the top 5. I also made it until 11:00 before starvation hit and I broke out lunch. Thanks to all for a good time.

  4. at 6am, is was deep in the pain cave of trying to teach some people in Jordan (the country) who claim to be XML experts, how to validate XML. For the 8th week in a row. I have fed my face all day since it was followed by a 5 hour kick off meeting for a global RFP led by some guy in India with a bad connection.


  5. Bart, to be clear, the only thing any of us feels towards you is envy. There's no resentment, no animosity. We just wish we were as fast as you. If you're content slumming it with a bunch of slow guys, you were great company.

    Dug, I don't really rank them, but if I think of last year and which tours come to mind first, top five were Lone Peak (crappy snow), Superior 1, Days Fork when you and I risked our livelihood to do three laps, Box Elder (crappy now), and Superior 2.

    Daren, I made it til noon before eating my lunch. The third muffin was the key. I gave the rest to UTRider so I wouldn't have a fourth and fifth.

    Bob, sounds like a lousy time, but it still beats unemployment.