WORDS: Gabe Schroder
This story originally ran in the December 2014 issue of POWDER (43.4). PHOTO: Re Wikstrom
The morning of March 29, 2005, started out pretty pedestrian. The storm that was supposed to arrive didn't quite materialize, and with some old college buddies in town, we had plenty of catching up to do the night before. After finally waking from our stupor, we slowly made our way to the grocery store to stock up on ingredients for a killer feast. Upon exiting the supermarket, I looked up to see the Wasatch getting attacked by a giant jellyfish. This ominous, swirling blob of cloud cover was taking over the highest peaks.
Around noon, getting antsy, we piled in and pointed it to the Bird, curious what the blob delivered. The first thing I noticed as we neared the Bypass Road was the steady stream of cars driving down the canyon. We parked, booted up, and skated over to the tram. With eight inches on the bridge, all we could do was laugh. Yet when we saw a completely empty plaza, confusion set in. Talking to the one person our group could find, we learned that a heavy squall came in, dumped a ton of snow in a few hours, then unleashed a barrage of lightning strikes on the mountain. The tram and everything else shut down, sending the majority of the morning crew home or down to the Tram Club for an early start on après.
Ninety seconds later, we were floating in disbelief, knowing that we had scored one of the ultimate prizes as a skier--untouched blower right under the lift with no one home.
Undeterred, we entered the maze and, to our delight, got scanned and walked right on the Blue Tram. Apparently, the lightning delay ended, and we were in the sweet spot. As a few more tram regulars joined us, the operator finally closed the doors, with barely a half-full tram, eventually buzzing us above a deep, untracked but roped off Silver Fox. This northeast-facing run, easily seen from the tram, is riddled with cliffs and chutes and its direct fall line puts you in the sweet spots without any traversing. As we drifted toward the tram dock, we noticed ski patrol making their way toward the closure gate. And that's when we knew we hit the jackpot.
Ninety seconds later, we were floating in disbelief, knowing that we had scored one of the ultimate prizes as a skier--untouched blower right under the lift with no one home. Hitting every air and blasting through every blown-in pocket our radar detected, we raced the Blue Tram down and won, pulling onto the bridge 3,000 feet later with our magical sky box just a ways back.
Another serene scene greeted us on the plaza. The picnic tables resembled mushrooms, the tram plaza looking like a skating rink with about 10 inches of fresh without tracks, confirming we were just about the only ones at this legendary mountain. As the frozen doors shut and we ascended into the clouds, I was convinced I had stepped into a time machine, taking me back to the days the crusty old timers like to tell you about--when the snow was deep and the crowds sparse.
Another cocktail tram ride to the top and we could see our tracks, allowing us the rare inbounds opportunity to admire the traces of our deepest dreams. Stepping out of the Blue Tram time machine was now a much more civilized activity, each of us reveling in the calm and relaxed atmosphere. As we skied toward Silver Fox for a second time, adrenaline took over and we blasted though the open gate, greeted by our previous tracks and no others. Speeding through knee-deep duff that consistently billowed into my lap, I wondered what it might have been like to ski here in the '70s, just you and your bros taking over the mountain in perfect conditions. Then I veered toward a deep pocket that walloped my chest and white-roomed my line of vision, and realized I was getting it right here, right now, and nothing else mattered.
Gabe "Super G" Schroder always finds himself in the right place at the right time, which typically includes lots of untouched powder, even when he's hungover.