Lodging Deal for Powderhounds

DSC02306You’ve just checked the Wasatch Snow Forecast or Utah Ski Weather blogs (which are great and should be bookmarked on your mobile devices), and they’re geeking out over the GFS and the EC and a bunch of other things that we mere mortals will never understand, but their summaries all say “powder day,” which is like cooking bacon next to a Catholic on Good Friday at 11:55pm.  Bring It On!  What do you do? What do you do?

Hopefully, you bought a White Room at Snowbird before the Jan 1st deadline, which allows you to stay at the Bird for $99 (reserve up to 48 hours in advance; great for locals), get up the next morning, beat the crowds that are probably waiting for Avalanche Control to open the road after the monster storm, and make those first tracks down Regulator or the Bookends in what we know as “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”  This “buy now, use later” is a steal of a deal and can be used throughout the winter season and into summer.  Check the Snowbird website for details and restrictions (there aren’t many), and take advantage of this deal before it expires.

I Can’t Find the Plug!

IMG_1322If Skimums preaches anything (and it doesn’t; well, not often), it’s to remember to recharge your batteries so you can give more to others.  This Wednesday is your chance to do just that before the last holiday push!  Snowbird is hosting a SkiTreat, a morning lesson by the Mountain School from 9-noon, lunch, spa tour and half-price access. The cost is only $40. #cheeperthantherapy (and a lot more fun).  RSVP to the Mountain School today at (801)947-8222.  This event will get you plugged in, charged up and ready to handle the holidays and the New Year.

Where Are My Pants!

By Skimum Paula

Is there anything worse than getting to the mountain and realizing that your ski pants are still hanging in your closet?  No, as I discovered on a recent powder day at the Bird.  Most Skimums know that keeping your family members’ ski gear in individual bags is a great way to stay organized, but over the season, things go in, things go out, things get washed, things get lost… You know the drill.

So, after ending up pantless on a powder day, I decided to get organized and crafty designing the Skimums SkiTag, a simple laminated list attached to each family member’s ski bag to check off before heading out the door.  Feel free to download.  I’d hate to see you pantless on Peruvian.

SkiTag

Snowbird Offers Early Treat to Wasatch Women

DSC02112Snowbird invites Skimums and all Wasatch Women to take a break from the December madness at its first-ever Holiday SkiTreat on Wednesday, December 10th.  Work on your turns during a half-day group lesson with the Mountain School (9-noon).  Then, enjoy lunch, laughter and a chair massage in The Atrium at Cliff Lodge (noon-1). Cliff Sports will introduce you to the most-innovative and stylish gear for women (take pictures for your letter to Santa), and the Cliff Spa will give you a tour of its jaw-stopping rooftop facilities and let you stay for half-price (fyi — it rarely does this).

DSC02284This is a great day to catch up with old ski friends, meet new ones and, as always, enjoy the beauty of the mountain in your own back yard.  For Park City, Provo and Ogden friends, this is a terrific opportunity to come explore Snowbird with Skimums and other gal pals.  The cost is only $40, an absolute deal for lesson, lunch and other goodies.  Reserve with the Mountain School at 801-947-8222.

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It’s Time!

DSC01948By Skimum Paula

Snowbird Skimums will hit the slopes every Wednesday starting January 7th. If that seems like a long time, well, there were reasons. Primarily, because most of us live here and are not on vacation (no, I’m not bitter, not too bitter), the demands of the holiday season were not accommodating to our little ski rendezvous.

Same Time – Same Place. We’ll meet at the Gadzoom lift at 9:30am and ski until we have to go back to work or school or home to let the dog out. If the wind is blowing over 20 mph or the visibility is terrible (Julie says I can’t write “sucks” anymore), then we’ll pass. After all, we live here.

If you’re new, Skimums is a free weekly meetup group (more like a glorified play date) to encourage Wasatch Women to explore the Bird, make new friends and, hopefully, laugh like crazy. Women just show up and collectively decide where to ski. Yes, only women could do it this way and make it work.

Skimums March, 2014

Skimums March, 2014

Last season, Skimums ranged in age from 25-65. They came from all over the Wasatch Front, Back, and occasionally Texas. They were married, unmarried, divorced, widowed, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends. They were doctors, lawyers, nurses, bankers, entrepreneurs, homemakers, community leaders, students and, of course, ski bums. Yes, the curious husband and boyfriend occasionally showed up, but satisfied that we weren’t plotting rebellion or spending money, they skied off by themselves.

Skimums is intended for intermediate-advanced skiers. However, because of high demand (yep, the word got out, and all of our friends wanted to come), Snowbird’s Mountain School is working on a “Returner’s Permit” for former skiers who want to get back on the mountain. We’ll pass along information as soon as we get it. If you want a regular gig with an instructor, then register for the Women’s Wednesday Getaway (snowbird.com/winter/mountainschool), a four-week program designed to give you lots of attention and get you to the next level.

Yes, yes, yes, the Mountain School will again provide Skimums Four (4) FREE group lessons. They are scheduled for Jan. 21, 28, Feb. 4, 11. These have been very popular, and we’re working on an RSVP system to make sure we have even more instructors this year when necessary (they really, really like the Mums). Typically, the conditions dictate what we work on. Yes, these are really FREE lessons, but a $10-$15 gratuity is suggested.

We’re trying to put more Snowbird and Wasatch Front deals on the blog and Instagram (@skisnowbird) this season. Skimums like good deals and good gear, and there are a lot of folks in town that want to help the Mums with both (they’ve recognized the power of the purse). Support the Bird and local businesses. #utahfirst

See you on the slopes!

The Mountain of Youth

Skiing into your 50’s, 60’s and…

By Skimum Beckie

Snowbird Road to Provo Skimums Women Skiers 50'sSkimum Paula recently asked if I would write a blog post about skiing tips for women over 60. I politely refused, because, as I informed her, I am not yet 60 for a few months…So, what would I know? As she quickly extracted the ski boot out of her mouth and mumbled something about 50+ women, I laughed, relented and agreed so she could save face and we could get on the slopes.

This is my first season back on the mountain after a 7-year hiatus. Skiing was always what I was going to do when I had time, or when there was great snow, or when my house was clean, or when there were no lines, or when I had more money, … sunny day, bills paid, etc. It took until I retired from 34 years of counseling hormone enraged tweenagers in local schools and found a great group of skiing women for me to remember what I was missing.

OK, confessions of a skier over 50… When I met up with the Skimums for the first time in January I admit I was a bit anxious not knowing whether my body was going to meet expectations. I wasn’t the oldest on the mountain, but I knew many of these women and wanted to keep up with them — and I did. Like riding a bike (or my Italian scooter; yes, I ride a scooter off the mountain), my body remembered the flex, the balance, the movement required to glide down the slopes. It also occurred to me that in skiing (unlike sunbathing), gravity is your friend, and good skiers of any age take advantage of it. So, I didn’t try to do too much at first, because while skiing isn’t any different at 50 (or 40 or 30 or 20 – physics is physics), it woke parts of my body that have been hibernating for some time. So, I was a bit tired and knew when to stop, but I had a great time and was hooked. Each week, I’ve skied longer and better. Aside from the social aspects (these Skimums are very, very funny – must be the adrenaline), I felt stronger and more accomplished each time. In case you’re wondering whether I’m a triathlete, GOODNESS NO, but I do work out twice a week with a trainer and keep active with the typical Salt Lake pursuits, e.g., hiking, biking, meeting friends, things I know keep me happy and healthy.

The biggest difference between skiing when I was younger to skiing now is the equipment. I skied in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s…. I was the girl that skied in Levi’s and a matching jacket to look cool. I was cool – actually, freezing cold! Helmets were unheard of, and only geeks or racers wore goggles. Times have changed, fashions have changed, and technology has made it easier and more comfortable for people of any age to ski Snowbird. Today’s skis, for example, make flying down Path to Paradise or carving through Black Forest or floating through the powder in the Rasta Chutes much, much easier. Yes, I can do all of those things today, things I’m not sure I could do as well when I was in my 20s! My “old” skis (circa 2005) were straight, long and heavy, and the only “rocker” I knew of sat on my porch with the cats. So, while I considered myself a good strong skier in the past, the newer, wider parabolic skis have me widening my stance a bit, giving me more stability and, actually, more comfort, control and confidence. Yes, I needed to create new muscle memory, but the newer skis make it much easier to ski various terrain and are definitely on my wish list for next season.

The other big gear issue was that my old boots killed my feet. During one of Skimums’ lessons, our Mountain School “coach” said something incredibly profound, “It’s hard to ski, especially ski well, when you can’t see and your feet hurt!” Well, this may seem like a “duh” statement to most, but the only “duh” was why was I waiting to do something about it. Some Skimums introduced me to Chris at Incline Foot Science where he custom fit my ski boots, which may seem ridiculous for a non-competitive 50+ skier, but I’m exactly the person who benefits the most from a fitted boot (or liner or insole) in terms of comfort, warmth and performance – things that will keep me skiing into my 80s and beyond. After a few days on the mountain, they started to feel pretty good, and my skiing started to look even better.

Snowbird Women Ski Lessons SkimumsWhy is skiing so important to me at this time in my life? For three decades, I’ve been working with teens, and now hospice patients, and their families trying to help them find their power and positive paths during life and their dignity at the end. For me, living in a town where I can get on the slopes within 30 minutes, get to the summit in another 12 and just stop, breathe and sail to the bottom with friends, many of whose children I watched grow, fills me with a sense of peace and wonder. It’s like being a kid again. Skiing has brought this to my life. This is the Mountain of Youth.

3 Quick Tips on Keeping Toes Warm

By Skimum Paula

“What’s that on your boot,” asked a fellow Skimum while getting off the lift.  “Duct tape,” I said.  Yes, I have duct tape on the toes of my new-ish custom-fitted Lange ski boots.  No, I didn’t break them.  As many Snowbird instructors, patrollers and skiers will tell you, it’s one the secrets to keeping your feet warm.

Ski_Boot_Duct_TapeEvery boot has a hard moulded shell, which is impervious to water, but at the seams under the toe buckle, snow and water can stick and collect or, worse yet, melt and seep in leaving you with cold feet.  By putting some duct tape across the toe seam, you can make this gap more water resistant, and because it is stretchable, you can still get your boots on without tearing the tape.  With duct tape coming in so many cool colors and patterns, local skiers (and not just the munchkins) are opting more and more for the crazier ones.

Another way to keep your toes warm is to go all out and get boot heatersThis is a bit more expensive than duct tape.  Running north of $200, this might seem a bit extreme, but cold feet is one of the principal complaints among skiers no matter how often or how well they ski.  Yes, you can shove the disposable adhesive warmers into your boots, but local boot fitters will tell you that you shouldn’t have that much room in your boots!  Snug boots not only affect your ability to control your skis (if they’re too loose, forget about skiing powder or steeps well), but they also keep your feet warmer!  If more air is getting in there, your feet will get cold.  The other consideration is that as we get older, circulation issues develop making it harder to keep your feet (especially your toes) warm while skiing.  So, if cold toes are nagging you or, worse yet, keeping you off the slopes, think about investing in some boot heaters.

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Finally, one of the other boot tricks locals will share is to unbuckle your boots when you’re on the lifts.  No, they’re not going to fall off.  If they do, then your boots are too doggone big!  The reason is circulation.  Here’s a very simplified explanation — Circulation is best when you’re standing sending lots of blood from your heart to your extremities.  It decreases while sitting.  Tightened boots inhibits it further.  If your boots are tightened while sitting on a lift, then circulation is impeded even more causing your toes to scream and swell and, because fresh warm blood isn’t getting down there very well, get cold.  So, pop those boot buckles as you get on the lifts, let the toes wiggle for a few minutes, and then lock them down before heading down.  You’ll stay warmer and stay out longer.

Slow Cooker Recipes for Ski Days

(Or, How to Ski All Day Instead of Cooking All Night)

By Skimum Heidi, Creator of FoodieCrush.com

“What are we going to have for dinner?”  As a food blogger, this is pretty much the first thing out of my mouth each and every morning. Or at least the first thing right after, “Where’s my coffee?”

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna Soup foodiecrush.com

I love plotting and planning dinner. But I like getting on the mountain even more. And when fresh snow flakes start falling, dinnertime planning, shopping, and prepping eat into my day—and my real craving—for more ski time.

So what’s a Skimum to do?

Take it low and take it slow with everyone’s favorite appliance circa 1974, the slow cooker, with recipes like my Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna Soup.

So that when your rosy red cheeks break through the front door, you’re greeted with smells that say, “Dinner, is served.” Yeah, Pavlov was right.  It’s really that easy.

The slow cooker we all got for a wedding gift is the Skimums’ best friend when it comes to guilt-free skiing—ahem, playing hooky—with nobody the wiser about the fact you snuck away for a few hours of slope time.

The glory of slow cooking is not just that it sits in the pot all day caramelizing, tenderizing and tantalizing everyone around.  It does so typically with ingredients you usually have on hand and, even if you don’t, with substitutions that work just as well if not better.  In other words, slow cooking is hard to screw up. 

For those who have trouble roasting a chicken, slow cooking will have you channeling your inner Julia Child.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna Soup foodiecrush.com

Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna Soup 

Submitted By Skimum Heidi

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves

For the ricotta cheese topping

  1. 1 8 ounce container ricotta cheese
  2. 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  3. 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  4. 1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
  5. generous pinch of kosher salt

Directions:
Add the onion, brown mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, bay leaves, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and black pepper to the liner of a 6 quart slow cooker. Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 7 hours or on high and cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Once the cooking time is done, cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions, drain and rinse and add to the soup. Cut them into smaller pieces if you’d like. Add the spinach and warm until wilted then ladle into soup bowls and top with a dollop of the ricotta cheese topping.

For the ricotta cheese topping
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

serves 8-10

At my blog, FoodieCrush, I have a few more slow cooker recipes that you must add to your Wednesday rotation, like:

Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken foodiecrush.com

Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken (recipe here)

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup foodiecrush.com

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup (recipe here)

Slow Cooker Pork Posole Soup foodiecrush.com

Crockpot Pork Posole Stew (recipe here)

On the chairlift one recent, snow packed morning, a gaggle of us Skimums had an all-out confessional about how the slow cooker is our secret weapon for carving out another hour or two on the mountain each week.

We compared notes in between runs and dished about our favorite recipes that we’re sharing below. So start your quick prep, toss it in, turn it on and start making your turns on the mountain.

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Colosimo’s Slow Cooker Chili

Submitted By Skimum Liz

Recipe by Colosimo’s Sausage, recipe here

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds mild or hot Italian sausage, crumbled (Colosimo’s brand recommended)
  • 1 (12-ounce) can black beans, undrained
  • 1 (12-ounce) can plain chili beans, undrained
  • 1 (12-ounce) can kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce (Colosimo’s brand recommended)
  • 1 (12-ounce) can crushed tomatoes or 3 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped, optional
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, optional
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • Grated cheese, for garnish

Directions:

In a large frying pan, brown the sausage until cooked through. Place in a slow cooker. Stir in all the beans and their liquid, the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, onions, green peppers, green chilies (if using) chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat up to 8 hours or on high heat for 4 hours. (This also can be cooked on the stove-top for several hours at a low simmer.) Ladle into bowls and top with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Make 4 to 6 servings

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Dark Beer and Pepper Short Ribs

Submitted by Skimum Sharon
Recipe by Fabio Viviani

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless beef short ribs
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 ea. onions, sliced
  • 5 ea. garlic cloves, smashed with a knife
  • 6 fl. oz (about ½ of one bottle or can) stout beer
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Directions:

Reduce the quart of beef stock to one cup in a shallow sauce pan or deep sauté pan and set aside. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour until well coated. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the dredged ribs until browned on each side, about 5 minutes per side.

When browned on both sides, remove the ribs from the skillet and set aside. Reserve pan drippings for later. To a slow cooker, add the onion as a bed, then add seared short ribs. Add as well any juice or drippings reserved from the pan. Cover the ribs with smashed garlic cloves, fresh herbs, butter, salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Add the stout beer and reduced beef stock. Place the lid on the slow cooker and set to high. Cook for approximately 6 hours or until tender. Top short ribs with sauce made from cooking them.

Yields 3-4 servings

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Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

By Skimum Julie

Brisket_1

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Pork tenderloin
  • 1 teaspoon Ground sage
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 clove Garlic; crushed
  • ½ cup Water
  • ½ cup Brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
  • ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 tablespoons Soy sauce

Directions:

Mix together the seasonings: sage, salt, pepper and garlic.  Rub over tenderloin. Place ½ cup water in slow cooker; place tenderloin in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

1 hour before the roast is finished, mix together the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan: brown sugar, cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, water, soy sauce.  Heat over medium and stir until mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.  Brush roast with glaze 2 or 3 times during the last hour of cooking. (For a more caramelized crust: remove from crockpot and place on aluminum lined sheet pan, glaze, and set under broiler for 1-2 minutes until bubbly and caramelized. Repeat 2 to 3 more times until desired crust is achieved.)  Serve with remaining glaze on the side.

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Deb’s Famous Chicken

By Skimum Denice

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs               Chicken tenders (I use frozen)
  • 4 Tbls             Melted butter
  • 1 pkg              Good Season’s dry Italian dressing mix
  • 2 can              Cream of chicken soup
  • 16 oz.             Cream cheese

Directions:

Put chicken and butter and Italian dressing in crockpot.  Cook on low for 3 – 4 hours (I put chicken in frozen so might take a little longer).  When chicken is done, heat and mix soup and cream cheese.  Add to chicken and mix.  (The chicken should shred up when mixing)

Serve over rice.

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Crocko Taco

By Skimum Bettina

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb                  Ground turkey, chicken or beef
  • 1 (8oz) can      Rotel (I use cilantro flavored)
  • 1/2 cup            Salsa
  • 1 packet          Taco seasoning

Directions:

Add diced peppers and onions (if you have time!).  Throw everything into crock-pot.  Cook on low for six or more hours.

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Crock-pot Pork Loin

By Skimums Kathy and Jamailia

(Classic Recipe with No Real Measurements)

Ingredients:

  • 1-Pork loin
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Minced garlic (to taste)
  • 1/2-cup water

Directions:

Place ingredients into crock-pot. Cook on low for 12 hours. Shred the pork. Serve with favorite BBQ sauce.

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Crock-pot Brisket, Baby!

By Skimum Paula
adapted from My Recipes

Brisket_1Our family’s favorite crock-pot recipe comes from Southern Living magazine.  It’s a Texas-Style Barbecued Beef Brisket that is ridiculously easy and guaranteed to please any picky palate.

Ingredients:

  • Brisket_Ingredients1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon jarred beef soup base
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hickory liquid smoke
  • 1 (2- to 3-lb.) beef brisket flat, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • 3 tablespoons bottled chili sauce


Directions:

  1. Lightly grease a 6-qt. crock-pot; add onion and garlic. Stir together chili powder and next 5 ingredients. Rub over brisket; place brisket over onion mixture in slow cooker.
  2. Whisk together beer and chili sauce. Slowly pour mixture around brisket (to avoid removing spices from brisket).
  3. Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 4 to 5 hours) or until fork-tender. Uncover and let stand in slow cooker 20 minutes.
  4. Remove brisket from crock-pot; cut brisket across the grain into thin slices. Return brisket to crock-pot, and spoon pan juices over meat.

Do you have a favorite slow cooker recipe? Share it with us in the comments below, we’re always on the lookout for new, delicious food to share.

Stay in touch and follow Skimums on Instagram and Twitter.

Special Women’s Ski Camp Offer

Skimums Deal from the Snowbird Mountain School

From Mountain School (and Skimums Fan) Maggie

Ski_SchoolHello Skimums!

Hope you are all having a terrific time with Mountain School Instructors Suzi and Janell. Seems like your group is growing and growing!  We just wanted to make you all aware of the awesome opportunity and Skimums deal coming up in early March.

Our Spring Women’s Camp features Mermer Blakeslee as our guest coach.  Mermer is a nationally known ski coach, author and  ‘fear clinician’ based in Windham, New York.  Her book, In the Yikes Zone, really helps people conquer fear in skiing.  She helps women, in particular, figure out how to challenge themselves without over-doing it so they hate the experience.  We have been working with Mermer for quite a few years now, and she is an extremely entertaining presenter as well as a talented teacher.

The Women’s Camp runs from March 2-6 (Sunday evening through Thursday) and features a welcome reception, dinner, and massage from the Cliff Spa.  We have great coaches for this session, and Mermer gets out with each group as well.  You’ve schlepped the kids to classes all winter.  Now, consider a gift of four days of skiing for you!  We want to offer Skimums a great discount – the retail price is $735, but Skimums can attend the entire camp for $670!  That’s less than $170 per day and includes food and the spa!  You can’t beat this deal.  Space is limited, so book soon… Call the Mountain School office at 801-947-8222 for details, and identify yourself as a Skimum to get the special rate.

Again, thanks for being Skimums! We look forward to serving you and seeing you on the mountain!

All the best,

Maggie
Maggie Loring
Snowbird Mountain School Director

The Divine Cat Ski

By Skimum Paula

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Skimum Paula making cat skiing look easy!

Can you take the kids to school tomorrow morning?  I’m going Cat Skiing.  Really?  Thanks, sweetie. [click]  About 4 seconds later, it hit me that I was going to cat ski the next morning at Snowbird.  I freaked.

I am not an expert skier.  I’m a 40-something mom who learned to ski as an adult and, until moving to Utah 3 years ago from Hades, I mean, Houston had clocked less than two dozen days on a mountain.  What in the world made me think I could jump into a snowcat and ski deep virgin powder in Snowbird’s side and backcountry?  The same thing that’s probably going through your head now – because I really wanted to believe that I could. 

They yearn for what they fear for.  Quoting The Inferno is rarely a good sign in any endeavor.  For the next few hours before bed, I battled with my imaginary demons debating whether I could pull this off.  I went as far as calling another Skimum, Nicole, to take my place.  “I really have a lot to do.  You’d be doing me a favor if you could go.”  Seeing right through this ruse, she shrugged me off, “It’s not heli-skiing!  This is much easier…  You’ll be on gentle terrain… You’ll be fine…You’ll have a blast.”  This put my mind at enough ease to drift to sleep.  Only as I was driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon the next morning did I recall that this is the same woman who convinced me to mountain bike the Wasatch Crest Trail, and when I later asked why she failed to disclose that it was 23 miles long, Nicole innocently replied, “Oh, because I knew you wouldn’t do it if I told you.”

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Arriving at the Forklift Restaurant at 7:30am, I was greeted by Snowbird Snowcat for Nature guide and ski patroller Spence, who offered me a seat, handed me a breakfast menu, a waiver and a beaconAbandon all hope ye who enter here, I mused to Skimum Julie, who was sitting beside me chatting away with the 10 other guests about whether to rent some powder skis for the day (she did).  I’m not sure whether it was the breakfast, which was delicious, the caffeine and adrenaline coursing through my veins or just the there’s-nothing-I-can-do-about-it-now feeling you get when they pull down the body restraint on Space Mountain, but I was surprisingly calm for the rest of the day … and had an incredible time.

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Cat ski guide Spence, demonstrating the proper way to wear your avalanche beacon.

You felt from the start that Spence and his partner, Rex, knew exactly what they were doing, and what you would be doing.  They told you the plan, that they had already scoped out the terrain and that they would let you know of any concerns or contingencies that arose.  I could just kick back, enjoy the ride and ski “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”  This was probably the biggest revelation of the day – that I was responsible for my skiing and nothing else.  This was a well-choreographed day by professionals that understood the mountain, its conditions and its risks.  That did not mean that there weren’t any dangers.  No, no, no, this was not Disneyland!  It reminded me of a guided safari my spouse and I took in an open Land Rover in South Africa several years ago.  The goal of the guides was not to prevent the lion from jumping into your lap but to place you in the best position for you to appreciate the spectacular environment around you.  The snowcat experience allows you to feel the thrill of skiing three feet of fresh powder not easily accessible (and without all the hiking and skinning) with the aid of experienced Snowbird guides who, like my African trackers that could locate The Big 5 from twigs and guano, knew how to sight the lines and where to find some of the best ski terrain in the world.

W_DSC6731Skimum Nicole was right about the terrain.  It wasn’t as difficult or steep as I fearfully dreamt.  The toughest run was one of the first ones we took in Mineral Basin past Alter Bowl.  It’s officially Double Black in that area, but it was wide with few trees, and felt like any other Bookends run.  Not having a lot of powder experience, I took bigger turns than most but stayed upright giving a respectable performance to my co-adventurers below.  From the bottom, we jumped into the snowcat and headed toward the opposite side of the circular basin to ski the areas Spence identified as Sinner’s Pass and Pagan’s Basin.  With Dante still humming through my brain from breakfast, I found great humor in this while starting to wonder if there was more to this journey than I originally thought.

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From there we came outside and saw the stars, would have been a more appropriate verse at that moment.  There were no stars.  In fact, the sun was completely obscured by clouds that day, but the absolute quiet of the old growth Wasatch forest spared from mining or development on this winter day cast a cathedral-like awe among my fellow snowcatters.  As we snapped into our skis, we were simultaneously overcome by the stillness and fullness wrapped around us.  Trees, snow, and sky, the immensity of which was profound and humbling, encapsulated us.  We had become an infinitesimal part of our surroundings with no more meaning than any single flake at our feet.  We were entering Paradise.

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Dude!  Cat ski guide Andy shredding some back country pow!

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Skimum Julie riding some “fatties” for the first time.

Floating down each run was exhilarating.  With no one around you, no trails marked, no end in view, there was a feeling of freedom rarely felt in everyday life.  You didn’t have to be an expert skier to enjoy it – you simply needed to be present to appreciate it.  That said, I wish I were a better powder skier insomuch that I was exhausted by the final run at about 1pm.  I suspect, however, that I would have been spent regardless.  Whether it’s a once in a lifetime experience or an annual pilgrimage, to cat ski is to leave your everyday behind and to embrace something bigger and more extraordinary, to leave everything on the mountain and go home refreshed and renewed.