Alta/Snowbird, Utah, by Abigail Barronian
The lucky few who live up Little Cottonwood Canyon had their pick of chairs on mornings like this. At Alta's Collins lift, locals kept the code: As long as someone has an eye on your skis, they can rightfully hold your place in line. If you work at the Goldminer's Daughter, you get dibs on the Wildcat lift, affectionately known as "Kitty."
Down the canyon, a red snake of brake lights slithered onward. Nearly 600 inches of snow fell over the season, including a 100-inch week in January. By February, anything less than a foot went unnoticed.
I was working at the GMD, so I ended up with the Kitty crew. Everyone with the morning off stood in line. A few had Hawaiian shirts buttoned over their Gore-Tex jackets and Sierra Nevadas in hand. It was 8 a.m. A cheer erupted as lifties bumped the first chair. The old "no friends on a powder day" adage doesn't hold up on a two-seater with all your roommates, coworkers, and ski buddies in line with you. Ten of us traversed to the first pitch under the chair where cold, light snow flew over our shoulders with every turn.
Rather than standing in line to rip big, open faces and steep chutes on the upper mountain, we hit natural wind lips and pinned it through narrow chutes under the lift. We made jib laps, piled up above our favorite hits, and relished the soft landings.
On the way up for our next lap, patrol opened a stash that feeds into Snowbird. We raced up the bootpack and met another huge group of locals with ice-laden beards and rimed grins. We funneled into the few chutes that connect the wide meadows and open trees. Yips, hollers, and laughter echoed over the slopes. I cut first tracks through the trees as sluff raced below me, and my buddies hucked themselves off a 10-footer.
Once the crowds made their way to Sugarloaf, we hit the Collins lift line and skied steep, deep trees in Eagle's Nest, narrow drops in Garbage Chutes, and wide-open powder fields off Backside. You have to be strategic on an Alta powder day. The good stuff down low gets skied out fast. Unless you get out early and squeeze in as many laps as possible before your 2 p.m. shift.
This story originally appeared in the September 2017 (46.1) issue of POWDER. To have award winning stories delivered right to your door, in print, subscribe here.