Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yellow column test

Have you ever experienced something and thought “that’s as good as it gets” (or at least as good as it’s been all year) only to have something else outdo it shortly thereafter? Well that’s been the last week for me on skis.

Friday morning, Mike and I skied Scotties, and it was one continuous face shot top to bottom. At one point I crashed because I couldn’t see for all the snow flying up into my face.

Saturday, Mike, Jon S., Brian, and I did four laps in Days—starting with first tracks—with similar conditions as Friday but the added bonus of bluebird skies. It was the best day of the year to date.

Yesterday, I got an IM from Dug asking if I was interested in hitting Suicide Chute in the morning.


Suicide Chute is a consistent 40ish degree pitch off of Mt. Superior. If you’re coming down the canyon from Alta, it stares you in the face and taunts.

Suicide Chute

It’s about 2000 feet of climbing from the road. We did the first 1700 or so in an hour. Then we switched from skinning to booting, and the last 300 or so took another hour. Thankfully we had Rick on the front doing all the work, with an occasional spell from Rob.

Looking down from where this photo was taken, it was kinda steep. In fact, I had already done one yellow column test because whenever the pitch is over 35 degrees I involuntarily feel the urge to wet [myself]. It’s sort of like having a built in inclinometer. I suddenly had to go again looking down at this pitch at 40+.

As we hiked, I commented on what song would be playing if Apple figured out how to base genius on neural networks such that it played a song based on what I was thinking. After we heard a rather loud explosion from Alta, and I very nearly did more than just wet myself, that song would have been More than a Feeling.

From the top looking over the other side of the ridge, the view of the canyon floor was nice.

Rick, having done most of the work, got to do the honors.

After pausing for a look, he opened it up.

And didn’t stop until the apron. I followed, then Dug.

And Rob.

The snow was so deep and soft and nice that the chute skied smooth and easy. I’ve never skied a line that steep with so little effort and absolutely no fear. Then we got onto the apron and just let it ride to the road.

From the road we had to walk all of 200 yards to where we were parked. Best line I’ve skied all year. And that is why I will never move. Where else can you climb and ski a line like that and be done before 9:00 a.m.? The Colorado plates I saw in the parking lot suggest it can’t be done there.

I feel compelled to write a love sonnet to Utah.


  1. This morning ranks pretty high on my list of best days. I don't know how many kick turns we put in on that skin track but it had to be a record.

    Thanks for the first tracks!

  2. Looks like some fine skiing.

    For the chute song, how about some Oingo Boingo: "No One Lives Forever" and "Nothing Bad Ever Happens [to me]".

  3. Please post the sonnet when it's completed. I can't wait to see it!

  4. I knew I was right to feel torn in half while enjoying the red dirt and sunshine in StG. As I rode I kept thinking about the great powder shots I was missing out on.

    But then, with my recent track record (I blame the splitboarders really), even the low angle slopes are causing yellow column tests. Perhaps its a good thing i was not with you.

  5. After reading the title, I thought you were going to introduce a new stability test:
    1) Isolate a 30x30cm column
    2) Start peeing on the base of said column
    a) if column fails within first 10 seconds of peeing, the snow is extremely unstable
    b) if column fails within 10-20 seconds, the snow is moderately stable
    c) if column fails within 20-30 seconds, the snow is stable
    d) if column fails after 30 seconds, you need to cut back on the number of beers you are drinking before a ski tour. But feel free to center punch.

    So jealous.

  6. Aaron: I think you're onto something. However, with regard to item d, I never drink beer before a tour.

  7. We could see your tracks in the chute on our way down the canyon this morning. What an amazing line.

  8. Just found this blog and I am psyched about it - great photos and write ups! Looking forward to following you!