Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Utah: snowy, a bit rainy, kinda creepy... "this is the place!" - Brigham Young

The noble Bigfoot used to roam the streets of Seattle with impunity, occasionally stealing a kid's lunch to keep himself going, not causing much trouble otherwise. But then, the warning signs went up:

Beware, Seattle!

This left the Bigfoot ill at ease - soon enough he had turned into a fugitive and had been forced to leave the easy-living streets of our emerald city and look for quieter places to roam (and to scare kids for lunch). After long and lonely months of prowling the plains he came upon a vision right out of Bigfoot heaven - a modern city (with inexplicably wide streets), surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all sides. "This is the place!" Bigfoot roared - little did he know that he was eerily mimicking the words uttered by a fever-stricken Brigham Young on the very same spot a hundred and sixty years ago. Soon enough, the Bigfoot learned all about his new Mormon neighbors, who inhabited this gorgeous place, and while he wasn't in any way excited about joining their religious cult, he did do some research and reasoning: the members of the Church were supposed to donate twenty percent of their annual income to the Church. This seemed like a significant downside... But the Bigfoot did not actually have an income, so twenty percent of zero didn't seem all that burdensome. And the Mormons did enjoy having rather large families, so there would never be a shortage of little kids to scare up in the mountains, then steal lunches from. This felt like an upside... even though the Bigfoot reasoned he might have to donate twenty percent of the stolen lunches to the Church. He stayed - this was the place!

In fact, he soon evolved into sort of a local celebrity on the slopes around the Great Salt Lake!

The Bigfoot wanted his buddies to come visit, so he started leaving these ice crop circles as reference markers

The place would really never be the same once the Devastator Ram showed up...

And that's the story of the Bigfoot of Utah... Look it up - it's bound to be on wikipedia by now! And following in Bigfoot's footsteps, Erica, Mara, Mark, and I headed for the scenic mountains and spectacular powder of Utah this past weekend.

View of the mountains encircling the city from the plane

The fog lifting leaves the mountains crystal clear everywhere in the city. I may not be a bed-ridden Mormon leader, but this is definitely the place!

Erica, myself, Mara, and Mark in Salt Lake City

Erica and I landed in Utah early Saturday afternoon and headed straight for Park City - the home of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Grabbing lunch at a Utah brewery was a not-to-be-missed cultural experience (Utah has finally given up on its ludicrous alcohol laws, which had previously mandated all beer brewed in the state to contain no more than 3.2% of alcohol by volume...), so we stopped for lunch at Squatters in Park City, then made it over to the slopes by about two in the afternoon. Two o'clock is normally an unacceptably late hour to start your day of snowboarding, but the Park City resorts will give you a free lift ticket if you show up bearing a boarding pass from the same day, so it was was still easily worth it. The resort is vast, featuring a maze of runs and chairlifts, and giving us an early glimpse of the Utah powder - unfortunately the advertised closing hour of 9PM failed to mention that only a single run had been equipped with lights for night skiing, so we left around six, not quite having explored the entire resort, but having witnessed a stunningly spectacular sunset over the mountain:

The skies lighting up a bright red over the peaks of Park City

Now, Utah is famous for the amazing, light, fluffy powder, covering the slopes of its mountains, and the following morning, I was excited to be introduced to a full day of said powder! Unfortunately, the weather fates intervened, and we got introduced to the Pineapple Express phenomenon instead - it rained!

Undaunted, we headed for Brighton, having picked up a tip from a local ski shop that Brighton was the highest altitude mountain in the area - fortunately staying in Salt Lake City puts you within a 45 minute drive of a dozen different ski resorts, so you are never short on options (This is the place!). The Pineapple Express bathed the road with sheets of rain on the way up (damn you, Seth Rogan!), but Brighton did prove to be just high enough, as the rain finally turned to snow right as we were entering the parking lot - hooray!

The Sun even peaked through in the middle of the day!

Eventually though, the rains caught up... We stuck with it for a while, locating some of the famed Utah powder in the higher reaches of the mountain - this was almost enough to make me forget about the wet slush down at the bottom, but by 4 o'clock, we were ready to cut our losses and get back to town (and dry off).

Monday arrived - our last day in Utah... the rains had ceased, and the overnight forecast had claimed 5-9 inches of fresh snow - we were all psyched up to get to the mountains. Mark and Mara chose Alta (a fancy-shmancy skiers only establishment), while Erica and I had our sites set on Snowbird - meeting up with Vidas, a fellow hockey player from back in Seattle, and setting off to experience what promised to be one of the best resorts around Salt Lake City. A quick study of the trail map left me feeling downright giddy - the trails were varied and plentiful, including a thorough selection of diamonds, with a nice variety of easier stuff mixed in. Most exciting of all, the mountain had a 'back-side,' and you got to ride on a magic carpet, through a long tunnel to get there! Unfortunately, the fates were back at it ... we got into the nearest lift line (an exceedingly long one at that) ... and soon discovered that this would essentially be the only lift open on this day. The winds at the top were gusting up to 60 mph, so none of the upper mountain lifts would be opening - the tunnel and the magic carpet remained firmly out of reach... On those slopes we could reach, the wind had blown any and all new snow away (the forecasted 5-9 inches had actually resulted in a slightly less awesome 2-3), leaving the trails hard and icy. No shortage of great views though:

Erica, carving up the icy slopes

Afternoon shot of the mountain, when we had located some better, less icy, snow

Sunset over Salt Lake City on the way back home

In the end, the astounding, spectacular Utah powder didn't really materialize over this weekend, which was a little disappointing. I got enough glimpses, that a return trip is easily warranted, but Park City on the first day probably had the best snow. Snowbird, I got to see enough of, that I'm certain, on a nice sunny powder day it shall be absolutely spectacular!

Back to our title - Utah had certainly proven itself to be very snowy and a bit rainy. As for a kinda creepy - Sunday morning we went to see the imposing Salt Lake Mormon Temple, holding a prominent position in the very heart of the city

Tell me the reflecting pool doesn't make it just a little extra creepy! Especially on a somewhat gloomy, gray day like this...

Ok, how about the statue of the kids prancing about on the lawn?

At the top of the Temple, sits the Golden Statue of the Angel Moroni, who had apparently visited Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith, on numerous occasions...

I hope that if there are any Mormons reading this, they know I only kid! But if you take the intersection of the Venn Diagram of the words 'Mormon' and 'Moroni,' you get 'Moron'... I'm just sayin'! The temple definitely creeps you out a little, as well as the imposing, gigantic, very somber LDS office building next door. And we won't even get into the stories of the nearby caves that supposedly contain detailed genealogy records for most of Americans... But, hey, the mountains are beautiful - Brigham Young and Bigfoot were right - this is the place!

After three days I needed a break from the cold and the snow though, so I headed South, arriving on the sunny beaches of San Diego to meet my parents just a few hours after Mark, Mara, and Erica had landed back home in Seattle

San Diego forecast: 81 and sunny - this is also the place!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I don't have very much to say - just really wanted to get this picture up to the interweb and be reminded of the sunny beautiful day at Crystal last Thursday... Picture perfect clear view of Mt. Rainier from the top of the hike to Kings out on the high ridge at Crystal mountain... with sun streaming and 3 feet of powder awaiting for the entire ride down the mountain! I think that may very well have been the best powder I've ever ridden on (through?). Utah next weekend - let's hope it can come close! That'll be a trip again, so it may even earn itself a real blog post.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tell them about...

... that bus ride across India... that party on the beach in Thailand... that girl you met in the Greek Isles... the steak and red wine asado in Mendoza... scaling Kilimajaro! Tell them about your trip, your adventure!

It's a little catchy, right? Let's hope so - I'd decided that since the website had undergone a semi-professional looking face-lift recently, it might be nice to come up with a slightly more professional, catchy even, maybe, URL, so, voila, we now have: (in addition to the old address). For now both URLs will continue to work, and give you the exact same site to play with, but, eventually, I plan to deprecate the safety3rdblog site and just redirect all the traffic to the new site.