Interconnect Tour: The Combo Platter
Four Ski Resorts in One Day – Backcountry Style
As I think over the Ski Utah Interconnect Tour, the thing that keeps popping into my head is that if I wouldn’t have been on the tour yesterday I wouldn’t have been out in that gorgeous, light, skiable snow. Coupled with that blue-bird sky, the sun solid above sending light to sparkle off the crystals surrounding the mountain world, and the perfect guides to carefully and expertly guide our group through the backcountry, it was epic. If I hadn’t been there I would have missed the sweet lines and interconnecting routes between the four resorts: Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird. Now that might seem like a statement of the obvious, but it’s one of those ah ha’s, like: if I’d driven down a particular street I would have been caught in that terrible auto accident, or, if I hadn’t been in a certain place at a certain time I wouldn’t have met a particular person who became important and influential in my life. If I wouldn’t have been on the Interconnect Tour yesterday I would have missed one of the best, most original ski experiences of the year. It’s a “Thank God” moment.
8:15 a.m. and 12 skiers trickle into the Activity Center at Snowbird. The cracker-box room is filled with ski boots, bodies, messy morning hair, transceivers, sunglasses, stray backpacks and energy. I grab one last handful of fuel in a ham and cheese croissant after the guide’s final instruction of “Meet with skis in hand in 10 minutes.” I try to juggle my skis, poles, croissant, cup of water and napkin which results in dropping the napkin, bending down to get the napkin, then dropping my skis, crumbs from the croissant all over my face, and the guide teasing me that this will all be on video. I make promises to everyone around to pull things together quickly. I mean, we are supposed to be looking cool here. It’s a group of advanced skiers, there are reputations to maintain, and dropping your skis before you even load the tram isn’t really the impression I’d hoped to make. It’s all good though – especially the croissant.
The Interconnect journey, organized by Ski Utah, begins at the Snowbird Activity Center at Snowbird Entrance 2 (the 6 resort tour begins at Deer Valley), and proceeds via lift, backcountry traverses and ski climbing to weave a ski route from the Tram at Snowbird to Mineral Basin, Baldy Chair, through the gate between Snowbird and Alta to Sugarloaf, to Supreme, across into Brighton backcountry, with a stint at Rocky Point looking over Lake Mary and Lake Catherine into Big Cottonwood Canyon for starters. Really, this tour is all about showcasing Utah ski resorts. There is no other place in the nation where you can connect 4-6 ski resorts in a day. It’s like having the one spot in the world where you can see the Northern Lights or see a particular life form, and it’s right here…. We live in that spot!
I’m sitting at the top of Brighton Backcountry: the sun is hot, especially after traversing and side-stepping up the slope, exerting energy to find the best lines. The snow is baby powder soft, the deep evergreens stand outlined against the stark blue sky and the scenic, dramatic mountains, covered in white. Since we’re in the backcountry we are completely surrounded by this scene. I plop down on my butt, powder billowing, and try to grab the moment, to meditate and relax while the others – a conglomeration of helmets, poles, and ski parkas– eat snacks and stare across the canyon entertaining their own thoughts of awe before we descend the next powder stash, carving our S’s one after the other on our way down to Lake Catherine. I just keep wondering how I got here. How are there places this beautiful and amazing?
Once we slide into Big Cottonwood Canyon we cruise the Brighton backcountry, cross over into Solitude Ski Resort, fill up on a ski-grill lunch at the lodge. In my case I eat two sweet pork tacos smothered in guacamole and corn salsa, carrot cake and some energy drink that tastes like medicine, and then we hike the Highway to Heaven, take in a few powder lines back into Little Cottonwood Canyon and Alta where we then cross that line back to Snowbird for the final 3000’ of down-hill vertical to the Activity Center in the Snowbird Plaza. (That was a long sentence.) Much hooting and hollering echos around us. There is just nothing quite like a group of happy skiers in powder.When I ask a skier from New Jersey what his favorite part of the tour is, he looks longingly back at the line we just carved and says “Coming down that chute”. These are my type of peeps.
The last run includes a nice line of moguls for a final burn on my legs. It turns out that the power of this tour comes in the Combo Platter: Powder – the renewable resource, a day of superb weather, varied skiing with some near perfect lines, a good cardio workout, camaraderie, and guides to take you where you didn’t know you wanted to go. But, to get here you had to get out of bed on a cold winter morning, wait for the car to warm up, pack up the gear, brave the winter roads, and haul your gear to the Snowbird Center where it all started a few short hours ago. And if I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t even have known what I was missing. I wonder what else I’ve missed? I wonder what stories are not a part of my life because I didn’t show up? You simply must be present to win.