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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Utah Day 2 - Skiing Alta

There's something special about Alta that is often hard to describe to those who have not skied her slopes. That something special goes a little like this.

Alta is untouched by the fussiness of skiing. Alta is simply all about skiing. The mountain is the priority and everything else is sort of some standard-essential.  In an age where we are starting to realize less is more, there's something simply perfect about this "focus on the skiing" philosophy.  

Those who ski Alta do not need the fancy amenities that come with some of our world-class skiing destinations. If you love to ski Alta, you don't need a seafood buffet (hello Deer Valley) or warm cookies delivered by chefs in white coats (I'm looking at you, Beaver Creek). No big fancy trams (Hey Snowbird), not even a gondola in sight (virtually any larger scale mountain here in the U.S.) The lifts are your standard 2 to four-person ski lifts and the lifts on wildcat don't even have safety bars. You don't need to avoid the ski bunnies in high heels on their way to their spa appointment swarming the lodge. Heck, snowboarders aren't even allowed. You get on the lift, ski this amazing terrain and world-famous snow, and head to the Gold Miner's daughter after for a beer by the fire. 

Prior to this trip, I had only spent one day at Alta back in 2015.  Dating a snowboarder while living in Utah means you generally avoid all the skier only mountains.  Utah has so many amazing ski mountains so I spent my two years there trying to experience as many as possible but truth be told, a part of me is sad for missing two winters at Alta while living in the state.  

Sidenotes aside, I was back in Alta with a skier and excited to spend another powdery winter day on the slopes.  It was our second day in Utah and we were jumping right into skiing. We were up early (excitement and eastern time zones), out the door, and up Little Cottonwood Canyon before the first lift started spinning.  We geared up at the car with fresh snow continuing to coat the ground and got in the short Wednesday lift line with the other first track fiends.  There is something magical about waiting in a lift line on a snowy weekday morning with a group of like-minded skiers who are all excited about first tracks on the snow-covered trails.

This was Adam's first time skiing out west and he instantly got a taste of just how much snow Utah can have and just how different powder out here is.  Adam clipped out of his skis for a quick stretch and had a hard time getting them back on, to a point where he was convinced his bindings were broken.  It was just that Utah powder packed into his boots and all that snow meant he couldn't properly clip-in.  Note to powder newbies - you have to aggressively clean all the snow out of every nook and cranny of your boots before you try to clip in.

Skiing the day with Adam was a special experience.  I remember my first day skiing out west, enjoying the amazing mountain of Jackson Hole in fresh foreign floaty powder  - to be able to experience it again through Adam's eyes was fun.  He was amazed by the size of the mountain but more importantly, stupidly happy to be out skiing again after a four-year break due to life changes and an ankle injury.  It took some time to get used to skiing in the areas of deep ungroomed powder that was past our shins at some places.  

It is an insanely amazing experience to ski fresh powder on a big mountain, but it's also an exhausting one and I tried to give Adam some tips (staying way, way back with a good bend in your knees to compensate for any unknowing changes in terrain in the low light conditions). 

We skied until about 1 pm before heading to the base lodge for lunch.  We brought sandwiches I made back at the condo and ordered a bowl of soup to go with it.  Hours of powder skiing followed by cold sandwiches dipped in hot tomato soup with hot cocoa and cold beer and I was immediately in my skiing bliss.  

After lunch we headed back out for a few hours, spending some time on Wildcat (one of my favorites) before our tired legs took us back to the car.  Thanks to the all-day snow while we skied, for the first time to date I could actually sky right to my car with a big old smile on my face.  We changed into comfy boots and headed into the famous low-key ski bar the Goldminers Daughter for an apres-ski drink by the fire.

After our first big day of skiing, we made the drive down the canyon road, back to our Airbnb in Salt Lake City.  Back at the apartment, we relaxed on the couch for a bit and enjoyed a post-ski cheese plate and hot showers.  

When dinner time came, I knew exactly what we were going to do.  We continued on the Salt Lake City food tour, stop two being one of my favorites, the "killer Mexican food" at Red Iguana.  Red Iguana is one of those well-known places that got really popular and is completely worth the wait and all the hype.

The restaurant is nothing fancy inside or out, but the food is consistently awesome.  It's authentic large portions of fairly priced amazing Mexican food.  They are known for their mole sauces and it is here behind this yellow brick where you can samples over 12 different mole sauces before deciding.  Sure, there are your standard entrees like burritos and tacos but the Mole dishes are where life gets really really good.  

I conned Adam into ordering a mole dish and we both dove into our huge plates of mole, both unable to finish (it made for a heavy but delicious pre-ski breakfast, trust me).  After two awesome meals here in Utah, Adam looked at me like I was a Jedi master and I soaked in the glory of knowing exactly where to eat here in the city.  

Alta will always be a little special in the sense it was that first moment we skied, the first taste of Utah powder for Adam.  It set the bar high and for Day 3 I was throwing something completely different at him, a day at Deer Valley. 

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