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pcreveling Author

Bindings—A Ski for all Reasons

How do you pick the right pair of bindings for your skis? There are so many variations of bindings available that it’s difficult to find the right pair just for you. You can listen to vendors describe the intricate details of why their bindings are better than their competitors, but it all boils down to one simple concept –— bindings are used to attach your skis to your boots. With this in mind, there are three categories of ski bindings: alpine, alpine touring, and telemark bindings. With these bindings, it is important to know what type of ski boot you are using, because there is no ski boot that fits all three.

The first step to choosing a new pair of bindings is determining what type of skier you are. If you prefer to ski exclusively in resorts and on groomed trails, then alpine bindings are the right choice for you. These bindings are designed for skiers who are learning how to get down the mountain to Olympic skiers who race down mountains at freeway speeds. These bindings have a release setting based on your skill level and weight. This setting is known as the DIN of your bindings. Generally, the higher the DIN setting, the better or heavier a skier you are.

If you are a more experienced skier who is looking to transition from waiting in long lift lines to making the first tracks down the mountain after a recent storm, then alpine touring (AT) bindings will fit your needs. These bindings are designed to release from the heel and pivot to about the toe to mimic the motion of cross country skis. Alpine touring bindings are used for scaling mountain sides with the ability to transform back into a downhill ski. There are two main types of alpine touring bindings: frame AT and tech AT bindings. Frame AT bindings will work with your normal alpine boots, whereas tech AT bindings need special boots that only work with tech bindings. The main difference between these two types of bindings are the weight savings, tech bindings being much lighter than frame ones. If you are a veteran backcountry skier, the tech boots and bindings are the best way to go. If you are just getting into backcountry skiing and are looking to save a penny or two (or a couple hundred dollars), then frame AT bindings are the best option. Both types of bindings will get you to some of the best, untouched powder available.

If you are the type of person who’s looking for a challenge and wants to look good while doing it, then telemark bindings are the best choice. These bindings allow for a novel type of skiing that mixes downhill and cross country skiing. The toe is connected to the ski, but the heel is free the whole time. This is unlike AT bindings, where the heel is free for the ascent, but then clips in for the descent. You have to change your style of skiing because you are essentially making a lunge motion down the mountain. While elegant to watch, just know that telemark skiers love to work their legs to exhaustion in an already tiring sport. Only telemark boots will work with telemark bindings. The range of motion allowed by the combination of the boot and the binding allows you to make these dynamic maneuvers.

In summary, think about what type of skier you want to be this season before purchasing a new pair of bindings. Look at your boot inventory and decide which bindings will be compatible with them. Once you have made all of these decisions, mount your bindings to your skis. Have a professional set your DIN release setting, then get on the mountain and ski.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Post-Trail Utah Eateries

Picture this: You have just finished backpacking for five days in the Wasatch Mountains. You are exhausted from hiking an average 10 miles a day, plus a little extra on the fourth day because you took a wrong turn. You have had nothing to eat besides cheese, crackers, filtered water, trail mix, and your assorted favorites of freeze-dried foods. On your way out, you can think of nothing else but your favorite eatery. Literally nothing else besides the next bite of food that you will be consuming. But where do you go? Here is a short list of my absolute favorite places to satisfy the overwhelming need to gorge myself.

Moab Brewery

If you find yourself venturing out in Moab, Utah exploring the vast amounts of red rock and national parks, but you are staying near or in town, you’ll find plenty of locations to indulge yourself with food. Over the many years that I have traveled to the area and explored the landscape, there is one place that I keep coming back to in order to ease my way back into society: That place is Moab Brewery (686 S. Main St, Moab, UT 84532). Whether you consume alcohol or not, this is the place for you. Some of my best memories of eating come from sitting at their tables. Their food is worth it, I guarantee it. My personal favorite is the Jack Daniels Burger. If you have had it before, you know what I’m talking about. If not, what are you waiting for?!

Porcupine Pub & Grille

Another great location is the Porcupine Grille located at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon (3698 Fort Union Blvd, Salt Lake City, UT 84121). To this day, this pub and grill has the best nachos known to humankind. After ski days, camping trips, rock climbing, excursions or mountain biking adventures, I always make a stop here. The best part about their nachos is the portions: this appetizer is perfect for an entire family, or a group of three ravished climbers. Porcupine Grill’s convenient location and delicious food makes this place perfect for anyone to stop by after a day in the Wasatch.

Lone Star Taqueria

The other restaurant in my top three is Lone Star Taqueria located in Cottonwood Heights (2265 Fort Union Blvd, Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121). This place has some of the best authentic Mexican food in town for a reasonable price. They are especially known for their fish tacos and large portions, and I have to agree wholeheartedly that they deliver on both. Even though Lone Star Taqueria is a smaller restaurant, the atmosphere is perfect. Be sure to sit on their outdoor patio and enjoy the scenery up against the mountains while you reminisce in the memories you have just made.

These are only a few places to stop by in order to curb your hunger after a great adventure in the outdoors­–there are many hidden gems located throughout Utah so have some fun finding new haunts on your own. Ask people in the area where the best places are to stop by. My recommendation? Always find the place where the line is out the door. You won’t be steered in the wrong direction.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Firsthand Encounter of the Solar Eclipse

As has become common knowledge by now, a total solar eclipse is when the moon passes in between Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow upon the Earth and momentarily blocking the Sun. Due to the elliptical orbit of the moon, total solar eclipses occur once every 18 months, or about two times every three years. Prior to the August eclipse, the last eclipse to take place close to Utah was on Monday Feb. 26, 1979 — 38 years ago. This meant that the August eclipse, at least for us Utahns, was a big deal.

We looked at different maps of Wyoming as we planned our trip to view the full eclipse. We decided to venture up to Lake of the Woods on the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming, a remote destination approximately 40 miles due east of Jackson. We traveled north with a group of nine on a Sunday afternoon in preparation for the total solar eclipse the following day, Monday, Aug. 21. This was going to be the first total solar eclipse any of us had ever seen before, so we had no expectations, predictions, or emotions for what was coming our way. During our drive up, the excitement kept building as we saw more and more people from all over the United States traveling to witness totality.

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

Building Excitement

As the sun set that first night, the air turned colder and colder. The temperature dropped even more once the sky turned black and the stars appeared. We could hear other eclipse chasers enjoying themselves with music, laughs, and the company they came with. A group of us walked down to the water’s edge to see one of the other party’s telescopes they had set up earlier. When we approached the other group, we found out that they had traveled from Colorado to view the eclipse. They invited us to look through their telescope to view various features within the night sky. You could visualize meteors burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, and constellations were as clear as glass. The Milky Way Galaxy was visible because it was a new moon. Polaris, the North Star, was shining brilliantly in the constellation Ursa Minor. The best, by far, was being able to see Saturn — we could actually make out the individual rings orbiting the planet. There was so much excitement in the air it was difficult to sleep knowing what would happen in less than 12 hours. We all fell asleep at some point anyway, gazing at the heavens above.

The next morning, we made breakfast and began setting up our chairs and cameras to view the solar eclipse. We had a few of our group members continually checking the sun’s status using eclipse glasses to let us know when the moon was beginning to make its pass in front of the sun.

Then they yelled, “It’s happening!”

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

The Path of Totality

We all rushed to prepare for what we knew was coming next, quickly putting on our eclipse glasses. As parts of the sun began to disappear, the camping group next to us set off a few gun shots to notify everyone in the area. Suddenly, the intensity of the sun’s light began to decrease. The penumbra (partial shadow cast from the moon) was upon us. As the penumbra continued to pass overhead, and the moon was obscuring more and more of the sun, the thermometer we brought showed the temperature of the air was indeed dropping, just as our bodies told us it was. Every 10 minutes or so, we had one of our group members yell out the temperature.

The moon kept moving over the face of the sun, and more and more light was disappearing right before us. It got darker as we were nearing the umbra (the full shadow cast from the moon). The shadows became visibly sharper as the sun took on a crescent moon shape. We looked at the shadows around us as they, too, took the same crescent shape. We found ourselves struggling to believe our eyes at this amazing view.

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

The moon’s course didn’t slow, and the sky and space around us continued to darken. For a few seconds, the Diamond Ring effect was visible, and then what are called Bailey’s Beads appeared as the light from the sun passed through the valleys of the moon’s surface. The umbra was overhead, and since we were in the path of totality, we were able to remove our glasses, looking with our naked eye at the eclipsed sun.

We cheered during this moment of complete totality. The corona, or the outer surface of the sun’s atmosphere, was the only light visible along with a small reddish layer that is the inner layer of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the chromosphere, shining intermittently around the perimeter of the moon.

Around us was a 360 degree sunset. The orange glow layered the horizon, transitioning from blue to a deep black near the sun. Stars became visible. The closest star visible to the naked eye was Regulus, which is seen in the night sky of the northern astronomical hemisphere during the winter time. Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun in our solar system, was visible along with Jupiter, Venus, and Mars. The eclipse created the darkest black we had ever seen. A small Cessna airplane flew right in front of our view, perfectly silhouetted by the corona.

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

After exactly 2 minutes and 30 seconds of this miracle, sunlight began to peek over the moon through Bailey’s Beads, and then the diamond ring appeared vibrantly again before we were blinded by the light from the sun.

An Unforgettable Experience

From that point until the eclipse ended, our eclipse glasses never again left our faces. Just like that, totality — where daytime transitioned to nighttime in the middle of the day — was over. Even so, the shadows on the ground remained extremely sharp, and crescent moon shapes lay underneath the trees.The only difference now from before totality was that the temperature was increasing.

This was an experience of a lifetime. We are already marking our calendars for the next astronomical spectacle that will occur in the United States in 2024, starting in Texas and moving towards Maine.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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BikingFeatureGearHow to

Learning Proper Bicycle Maintenance

Maintaining a bike is similar to the practice of warming your body up for a big race with a proper cool down afterwards, or preparing for an important exam by regularly studying; and it all comes down to proper, regular inspection.

A bike gets a quick checkup. Photo by Peter Creveling.

There are four things to check before every ride you make, regardless of if you are a frequent visitor to your bike seat or someone who just decided to brush off the cobwebs of your grandparent’s Schwinn.

First: Check the air in your tires. Make sure the tire pressure is optimal as suggested by the manufacturer, and be sure to check that all release levers, tire caps, or thru axles are properly tightened. Be sure nothing is loose before you start to ride.

Second: Inspect your brakes. Squeeze both the front and rear brakes to ensure the pads engage your rims properly and evenly. Good breaks are essential, they can make the difference between having the ride of your life — and the last ride of your life.

Third: Clean your drivetrain. This is essentially the transmission of your bike, so a clean and well lubricated drivetrain will make your ride easier and extend the life of your bike. Take a dry, or damp, rag and run along the chain to clean up any dirt accumulated between the linkages. For very dirty chains, I highly recommend using a chain cleaner that allows for a deep clean between the linkages. These are very easy to use devices that latch onto the chain and are simple enough to use by holding the device in place while you peddle.

A bike gets a quick checkup. Photo by Peter Creveling.

Fourth: Keep all of the parts well lubricated. A well lubricated bike is the equivalent to doing a warm-up lap around the track and stretching before you run the 100 meter dash. Running cold turkey is asking for something to be torn, and the same thing goes for any bicycle! But remember, too much lubrication can lead to a decrease in bike performance, and even damages. This is because lubrication can attract abrasive material that can get in-between parts and decrease their integrity. Give lubrication ample time to soak in, and simply wipe away any excess, before going on that bike ride. Key areas to focus on for lubrication include: breaks, derailleurs, cassettes, chain rings and, of course, the chain. For the breaks and derailleurs, this includes any levers, cables, and their entire assembly.

These are only the basics towards bike maintenance. Supplies you will need include: clean rags, brushes, soap, water, lubricant, degreaser, and a bike stand.

The most important element is to take your time; don’t rush your way through this process. Take care of your bike and it will take care of you. Also, don’t underestimate the advantage of taking your bike into the shop. These tips will help you keep your bike on the road or on the trail more often, but it’s important to get your bike a full checkup every once in a while in addition to these regular efforts.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Keeping Little Cottonwood Clean for Future Generations

Rock climbing is one of those sports where you often get a lot of ridicule and backlash from surrounding communities and local politicians. Rock climbers are often seen as those who have no concern for the surrounding environment as we scale walls. The truth is quite opposite, however. With my many years of rock climbing experience under my belt, I have seen nothing but people who are the most conscious about the preservation of the environment, and more specifically, rock climbing itself. In Salt Lake City, you are bound to find these types of people everywhere you go. It is a blessing when the city of Salt Lake and its inhabitants find a way to give back to the rock climbing community. Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has formalized a relationship with the climbing community to secure almost 600 climbing routes and almost 150 boulder problems in Little Cottonwood Canyon, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Previously, the area now secured for rock climbers was privately owned by the Church with no access to climbing for almost 60 years when routes were first ascended. The area that has been recently opened is in the Gate Buttress, one of the most popular climbing areas in the canyon, and one of the most popular climbing areas in the state.

Personally, Gate Buttress is one of my favorite crags to climb due to its plethora of crack climbing routes with a wide range of route difficulty. Climbing routes range from anywhere between a rating of 5.7 all the way up to the 5.12 range. There are enough routes to cater to all climbing abilities, from the climber having their first outside experience to the seasoned veteran who knows all the climbs better than the back of their hand.

The best part about this relationship is the security of the area is open to the public for years to come. Future generations will be able to climb these walls just as those did before them for over a half century earlier.

In my years of going to Little Cottonwood, I have seen nothing but respect for the canyon by my fellow climbers. For example, I have seen several groups who have finished a long day of climbing hiking back down with backpacks full of trash to help clean up the area. I know of groups forming together online to meet up on weekends to perform trail maintenance. Keep in mind that this is all purely volunteer work and out of the kindness of their hearts to help see the preservation of the area and the sport. This being said, now that we as a climbing community have been granted the security of this world class climbing from those higher up, it is now our duty to help grant that security for the future.

In my honest opinion, I am not concerned. The climbing community has shown their support for the area, not only in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but also in all areas throughout the state for many decades. I am confident that this support will continue on the road ahead.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Climbing Close to Home

As Utah finally decides to change its mind, and the weather begins to warm up, there begins a whole new season of rock climbing. This is the climbing Utah is known for: multiple pitch routes with unforgettable vantage points, boulder problems that will haunt you and also reward you, or class sport routes with a crux that include just about everything you can think of. Want to know the best part? The majority of these locations are within a half-hour driving distance. You can commonly find a group of climbers leaving after work at 5 p.m. who are still getting some laps in before sundown.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

One commonly sought out place to climb is up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The majority of these climbs are trad, or traditional, routes. If you are up for some world class crack climbing, this is the place for you. The difficulty of the routes will cater to the first timer, and it can also cater to the most advanced veteran dirt bagger. There are hundreds of routes to choose from up and down the canyon that will help fulfill your heart’s desire. The rock type is almost all white granite with a couple of areas that are limestone. My personal favorite area to climb is up Gate Buttress, which is about one mile and a half up the canyon. These climbs go from 5.6c at Schoolroom to 5.12c of Bloodline for the more classic routes in the area.

Getting there: Get off I-215 at 6200 South. Then, follow signs for the ski resorts. After that, follow Wasatch Boulevard for a few miles, and the road will directly lead up the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.6c to 5.12c

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood Canyon contains another popular upward climb. Similar to its neighbor, Big Cottonwood also has hundreds of routes up and down the canyon catering to every skill level. This is the first place I ever went rock climbing outdoors. Ever since that first time, I’ve known there was no leaving this sport. The rock type is quartzite, which makes the rock more slippery and more difficult to climb, therefore it is mostly used for sport climbing. There are also a wide variety of trad routes as well. But don’t be fooled, this rock has many holes and holds in a wide variety of shapes and sizes which make this canyon an epic location to climb. My favorite locations are up near the slips or along Challenge Buttress. These areas are home to several multi-pitch trad routes or various sport climbs.

Getting there: Take I-215 to the 6200 South exit, then follow the ski resort signs for Big Cottonwood Canyon. You will reach the base of the canyon within a few minutes from exiting the freeway.

Climb difficulty: Varying

American Fork Canyon

The other main canyon to climb in northern Utah is through American Fork Canyon. American Fork is better known for its intermediate to advanced sport climbing. It is also home to some of the most difficult routes in the state with ratings of 5.14c. There are many 5.9c routes for those who are looking to explore the canyon for the first time. This canyon is also a great location during the hot summer months as most of the crags are shaded with plenty of trees, or they are hidden deep within the canyon. This will keep your belayer nice and cool while you conquer the crux of the project you have been working on for weeks. Keep this one on your list of classic climbs to scale this upcoming summer.

Getting there: I-15 to the Pleasant Grove exit. Then, follow along Highway 92 straight into the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.9c-5.14c

These are a few of the most popular areas to climb during the summer months in northern Utah. There are many other places to consider, too; but these three canyons should definitely be on your list. After all, there are enough routes within them all to keep you busy for a lifetime.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Moab: the Mountain Biker’s Mecca

Moab is home to some of the highest quality mountain biking trails in the country. About four hours southeast of Salt Lake City, over 100 miles of trails sit, begging to be explored. From short tracks just over a mile to overnight rides taking you deep into the desert landscape, you will likely leave addicted to the red rock landscape. Break out that dusty bike of yours, give it a shine and tune up, and dirty it up with some red mud.

If you are new to mountain biking but are looking for a little bit of a challenge, ride the 20 miles of Klonzo trails just north of Moab. Drive two to three miles along Willow Springs Road toward Arches National Park to find the seven Klonzo trails. They range in difficulty, but they are geared toward intermediate riders. Ride along petrified sand dunes with a stunning backdrop of the La Sal Mountain Range.

For the skilled and technical riders, the Porcupine Rim Trail needs to be on your Moab itinerary. It includes everything you love about mountain biking: tight edges along cliff sides, stunning scenery of red rock in a vast desert landscape, and fast single-track drops coupled with ledge drops. Most importantly, there is only 1,000 feet of elevation gain over the entire ride. The 15 miles of exhilarating terrain will take you about four to six hours to complete, depending on how many stops you take for photos. Or, start in Moab for a 34 mile out-and-back.

The Whole Enchilada, located at Burrow Pass Trailhead along the La Sal Loop Road east of Moab, is one for the record books. Originally designed to be an entire loop, the trail now boasts about 25 miles, and it helps to have a shuttle car. This is no walk in the park. Anyone who has been to Moab before knows that the hill climbs and the descents are not to be taken lightly. If you find yourself walking some of the technical portions of the ride or to cross a couple streams, don’t feel too bad. Tricky spots shut down some of the best riders. Nonetheless, weaving between sandstones and lush forests keeps riders coming back hungry for more.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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Old School Navigation

Learning to survive in the wilderness is a skill many outdoorsmen and women brush under the rug. We think we’ll never get lost, our equipment will never fail, and if we   ever injure ourselves, it won’t be more than a scratch.

Navigation is essential in wilderness preparedness, especially since Google Maps doesn’t work when you are 15 miles away from the nearest trailhead in the middle of the San Raphael Swell. This spring break, learn how to find your way with these three tips.

FOLLOW THE STARS

If you are hiking with the stars in the northern hemisphere, the best tip for navigation is to look for the North Star, aka Polaris. Locate the Big Dipper, one of the more recognizable constellations. If you look at the opposite side of the handle on the Big Dipper and draw a straight line using those two stars, you’ll find the North Star. It is the brightest star on this line and is about three fist sizes away. Find south using Orion, following his belt straight down to the horizon when it’s vertical in the sky.

READ A COMPASS

While compasses all point North based off of the magnetic pole in the northern hemisphere, they can also be used to accurately point you in any direction. Using a combination of the compass needle, the compass housing, and the orienting arrow, any direction is possible. For a magnetic compass, this is done by rotating your compass housing until the direction you are looking for is lined up with the direction of travel arrow. Keeping these all fixed, rotate yourself until the compass needle lines up in the direction of north within the compass housing. With both of these aligned, you will have the correct direction of travel.

INTERPRET A TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP

Topos give you an accurate three-dimensional representation of the lay of the land in two dimensions, so keep these tips in mind when reading one. Every point on the same contour (wavy) line has the same elevation. One side of a contour line is uphill and the other is downhill, based on the distance between those lines. Contour lines close to form a circle or they run off of the map. The area inside the circle is almost always higher than the contour line. This helps gauge the elevation gain or loss on a mountain pass trail. It lets you know how much work it will be to go one mile in direction X compared to direction Y. Now that you can read contour lines, try to correlate them to physical features around you, such as peaks, valleys, or waterways.

Once you have these skills, you are set to navigate almost any terrain. The best part? No batteries or charging required.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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How to: sharpen your knives

It’s always good to have a sharp knife. The better condition your knife is in, the easier it is to work with. Maintenance of your knife is important to keep you safe and preserve the life of your knife. Here are the three main stages of sharpening a knife.

The first stage is for heavy sharpening: when your blade is very dull or has damaged edges. This is when you use a coarse grit sharpener. Keeping the blade between 13 and 16 degrees, stroke the knife blade first across the grit. Repeat this process on both sides of the blade until the shape becomes a sharp “V.” When your blade gets too thick after repeated wear and sharpening, you know it’s time to retire that one. A thin blade is better than a thick blade.

The second stage is medium to final sharpening. This is for touching up dull blades. The sharpeners used in this stage can be a diamond sharpener or a natural sharpening stone, either of which can be used wet or dry. The steps to sharpen your knife in this stage are the same as stage one.

The final stage is fine sharpening a shaving edge. Sharpening fluid is a must in this stage. Use light strokes on both sides of the blade to remove any burrs left behind from the previous stages. The knife should be razor sharp after this stage. A razor sharp blade is necessary for the most efficient cutting with a minimum applied force. Remember that a sharp knife is a safe knife. Applying additional force to a dull blade is when injuries can occur.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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Back to Basics

Back-coun-try ski-ing: (adjective) A. the kind of skiing where you don’t have to keep behind ropes or bounds of the resort; B. the kind of skiing where you don’t have to wait in line for a chair to get up the mountain; C. the kind of skiing where you can get some of the longest powder runs of your life, repeatedly. Most importantly, backcountry skiing is defined by high risk for a high reward. The avalanche control work that keeps resort skiing safe isn’t repeated to the same extent in the backcountry, meaning you need to go in prepared for worst case scenario.

The best way to familiarize yourself with backcountry skiing is to take a class. You’ll learn how to read terrain, understand the basics of snow mechanics, and recognize the warning signs nature gives you. Snow is complex — but it does have characteristic patterns. These classes teach you how to recognize these patterns and know when a given snowpack is stable or not. The Utah Avalanche Center and the University of Utah both offer classes, and workshops take place frequently around the valley.

For gear, renting is your best option when breaking into the sport. There is no need to get top-of-the-line skis with the lightest boot combined with the thinnest touring pants possible: yet. You can find cheap gear online, but the most essential equipment is (hopefully) not for purchase: a touring partner. Although they may cost you a burger or drink to convince them to go with a noob, it’s worth it if they save your life, or vice versa. Other essentials include a beacon, shovel, and a probe. In the event of an avalanche these are your first line of defense for survival. If you get caught in an avalanche, you will appreciate your touring partner being equipped to dig you out. Avalanche airbag backpacks are also becoming a common part of the avalanche safety set. These packs deploy when you pull a lever, helping to keep you toward the surface of the snow.

With the instruction and the gear, you’ll need a place to go. Step one is always to check the avalanche report on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website to see current danger ratings, recent avalanche activity, and what kind of terrain to look out for based on weather patterns. For your first couple times out in the backcountry, seek low angle terrain in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, such as Grizzly Gulch or Mill D. Once you get there, it never hurts to dig a pit to evaluate the snow. It’s a lot of work, but carving your own line down powder no one has touched all season is worth every step of preparation and uphill skiing.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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