AAAWWW, fond memories they are! So here’s a story for you:
It seems like just yesterday. The snow so deep and fluffy you could scoop up a foot of it and blow it all away with a single breath. As they say, it’s the greatest snow on earth.
The year was 1984 and storm after storm had been pounding the Wasatch front. All I could focus on was when my next few hours of free time came (outside of work or sleep) I could charge up Little Cottonwood Canyon and go right to Alta. (I was banned from Snowbird at the time)
It didn’t matter if already late in the day; I would still make the trip just for that last half hour of the day. I would even hit the bunny hill or rope tow just to squeeze in every turn I could. December was epic as I had just gotten some new P-tex wood under foot that for the first time – I was in heaven! While tearing up high rustler and corkscrew on a foot plus powder day, I hit a rock and broke my newest and best equipment right in half. Bummer! So, I butt slid the rest of the way down with wood in hand and headed right back to the store I bought it from. They replaced it with a new foam core deck that had real bindings. Things were looking up.
It was Christmas break and I was hitting Alta every day as reset storm after reset storm kept coming. On Christmas Day 1984 I strutted into the ticket office and plopped down twelve hard earned dollars to get a pass for the day. But as I left the ticket office there was a big sign posted on the backside of the door stating “as of today snowboarders are no longer allowed on the lifts in Alta.” What a fine Christmas present that was. I didn’t give the sign a second thought and headed to the lifts regardless – I mean after all I was just riding the lift yesterday with the same equipment.
That didn’t work out so well. There I was promptly harassed by the lifties being told Alta was now a skiers-only resort. I went back to the ticket office to plead my case or get my money back. I was told “no” on both fronts. Clearly, I was less than pleased and felt it was only fair to at least refund my twelve bucks. With a little persuasion, I was able to get a full refund. I went back to the parking lot to decide what to do with my day. After all, snowboarders were only allowed at Alta at the time; not another single resort in the state allowed the “knuckle draggers.”
Surprisingly, I spotted some guys walking across the street carrying Winterstick boards and started hiking up hill in the knee-deep snow. I quickly decided that was my plan and fell in behind them as their boots packed a trail. I caught up with them and made intros and instant friends. We made it to the top of flagstaff bowl and despite not having any avalanche awareness other than they could be devastating, we all dropped in at the same time hooting and hollering to each other all the way down. The ride felt so free but also too short, so it was time to do it again.
We spent the next few hours doing laps and having a good time. The clouds broke and a bluebird day exposed itself. Then, after taking in a late lunch and a short break, a rumble was felt under foot and an avalanche had spilled over the road not too far from where we were riding. This massive power of the avalanche immediately gave me a better understanding and love for the mountains, which ultimately lead me to get more involved in mountain awareness.
Snowboarding had already changed my life for the better but the long term affects of the highs and lows of that day still seem to guide me today. I have had the most incredible days in the snow up Little Cottonwood Canyon and out of all the places I have visited around the world, I have never found another place I would rather call home. Enjoy it.