SLC (Smog Lake City)

Back from Smog Lake City, where the air is worse than I’ve ever seen. They have had a horrible inversion for the past weeks, keeping the temperatures below freezing all day. It continued for our entire trip.

Fortunately we made numerous journey’s to the mountains, above the fog. Driving up Parley’s canyon was a surreal experience, variable fogginess and strange dark blue air. Then, suddenly, you break free into blue skies and 40 degree temperatures.

Monday and Tuesday we spent in Christmas Meadows at the Bear River Lodge. This place is snow-mobile central. The whole area seems designed around motorized recreation. It is ATV central during the summer. Still, there were not too many people blasting away with motors, so I was able to get a few quiet snow-shoe walk/runs in waist deep powder in. We were there for a family gathering that was bearable for most of the day. But the cabin was too small, and things too loud. The violations of personal space proved too much for me. Getting 1.5 hours of sleep did not help much either. Tuesday’s romp through the powder on snowshoes with Hottie was not enough to cure me, but it made the rest of the trip reasonable.

Wednesday my father, brother and I went skiing at Park City. We had three free tickets from ages of old (1996) that we received for a day of skiing when the whole resort shut down due to extreme wind. The ticket person had never seen our vouchers before (“we haven’t used those in 8 years”), but they accepted them.

The last time I went skiing was in 1999. To say that it felt strange was an understatement. The first few runs for us were quite timid. It’s all about sliding, and the speed is incredible compared to cycling. 20 mph is nothing. And the steepness! Scary were my first turns on steep slopes, or glading in the trees.

The views were huge. The day was beautiful, weather perfect. We sat atop the ridge above McKonkey’s lift, looking into the Heber valley and at Guardsman pass. The view was nice, but I was struck with how meaningless it felt. If we had attained this view under our own power, with sweat on our brow, things would be different. It’s interesting, because it is the same view, regardless of how you got there. The beauty and sense of awe should be the same, no? But it is not. All around us, skiiers buzzed by, not pausing a minute to stare and wonder. Strange.

As the day continued I grew into the style. I could pop moguls again, and jump for turns in the steep trees. We hit our old haunts — the secret areas off Jupiter, Scott’s Pass, the rocket launcher and 007 games in Thaynes canyon. Seeing the mountains under snow again was like reversing time. I’ve only been up there in the summer for years.

One thing is for sure: skiing is the ultimate in unearned downhill. Shuttle city. But it still can be tough work–my legs were sore in a few weird spots the next day.

We descended back into the smog valley, then flew out towards sunny Tucson.

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