Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another view of our weather

For those of you who have visited Park City or live in the area, you may know that one of the main TV stations is an NBC affiliate, KSL.  Their weather guys have a long tradition of changing from their normal suit jackets to a solid white jacket whenever a big snow storm is coming.  How bad is our snow this year?  He traded in his suit jacket for a Hawaiian shirt.  That's just mean!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Time for golf or tennis?

Just how bad is the snow this year?  This is what our house should look like.
This is our house as of this morning.
This is Jasper at the street corner in a reasonably normal winter.
Same street corner.
Pretty dramatic difference, huh?  The only good news is that our temperatures have been cold enough that the resorts can make snow.  As a result, most have about half their slopes open, although it is almost all beginner and intermediate terrain.  The expert slopes are just to steep to keep sufficient snow on.  An easy to read summary of the Utah resorts' snow conditions can be found here.

Colorado seems to be as bad as Utah and the east coast is no better.  I guess all we can say is "thank God we aren't California!"  In addition to the lack of nature's help, they have had temperatures that are so warm they can't make much snow.   Squaw, a huge resort at Lake Tahoe, only has 5 of their 177 runs open.  Wow!

Some local snow fall numbers...  Alta, which is one of the snowiest resorts in our area, has had 92" of snow this year.  That may seem like a lot but 76" of that was before December, and the early snows tend to compact and melt.  A normal year would have Alta at about 200" and last year they had 264" at this point. 

If you are wondering, yes, the 14.5 feet of variation between the two years does seem to make a difference in skiable terrain.  Tonight they are calling for 1-3 inches, followed by 7 days of sunshine. 

Finding your movies

My mom sent me a NY Times article about some technology successes from 2011.  Most I was very familiar with, but I discovered one new one I wanted to share.

When you know you want to see a particular movie, how do you find it?  It is currently showing somewhere close?  Is it available through your cable company's On-Demand service?  What about Netflix DVDs or streaming?  Amazon? Redbox?  It could be quite a pain to hunt through all those options?

The solution?   Watch It at  When you first set up your free account, you tell it what services you care about.  For instance, we get Netflix streaming, but not the DVDs in the mail.  Then you just enter a movie's name and it comes back and tells you what all your options are.  If it isn't where you want it to be, you can set up an alert, like "tell me when this movie is available through Redbox."

Pretty cool.  The Internet continues to be getting more and more useful.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Outdoor Photographer Magazine

This is probably only good for a day or two, but it is my favorite photography magazine, and I get a bunch of them.  Quite the deal.

Outdoor Photographer Magazine Subscription $3.75 per year (up to 3 yrs)
$3.75 per year with code PHOTO


Discount Mags
Outdoor Photographer Magazine
$3.99/year (up to 3 years) with code 4101

Monday, December 26, 2011

A wonderful Christmas and 50 years behind me

You get to celebrate Christmas every year, but you only get these major milestones for birthdays every decade.  I was born on Christmas day (about 9:30 that night) and yesterday I managed to hit my 50th birthday.  I am healthy and active enough that the number is really something positive, an accomplishment of sorts.

As so many of the Park City locals do, Julie and I start every Christmas morning with a trip to the ski slopes.  The snow still sucks (more on that another day) but it was as sunny as it ever gets. This year we opted for Deer Valley and by going out early, there are almost no crowds.
We started skiing with our friends Greg and Miriam, with the idea of catching up with others as the morning went on.
We found our next door neighbors, Monty, Sally and Hannah.  This was our first chance to ski with Hannah, who is six years old.  Too bad there aren't any black diamond slopes open.  She was bombing down the blue slopes in complete control! 

I was happy to see Julie get back up from this pose.
Here we have Julie, Hannah, and I. Please note my lovely attire.  It is a combination of some new, hideous blue plaid pants and a 20+ year old Patagonia jacket. It's almost time to retire the jacket, but I figured on a day that I was celebrating a birthday that gets me an AARP card, I should wear something that has survived remarkably well and longer than anyone would expect.  A good omen!  The pants were chosen because they are great for finding me anywhere on the slopes.
We came back to the house after lunch, opened presents, and started prepping for our dinner party. It was quite the busy afternoon. Julie gave me an iPad 2.  She loves hers and decided it was wrong for a gadget-person like me not to have a tablet.

To start the party, I am enjoying some wine in the glass my cousin Sara sent me for Christmas.  In honor of my North Carolina roots, it is a Mason Jar with a sturdy stem.  Nothing quite like a bit of red neck wine.
While she couldn't stay up late enough to join us for dessert, Hannah came over to visit and wish me a happy birthday.  She's explaining a drawing she made to Julie and Sally.
We were dressed a bit festively, but somehow we got completely outclassed by Hannah, who decided that her new gown was appropriate for the visit next door.

For dinner, we were joined by Greg and Miriam, Rob and Theresa, and Jim and Kathy.  Julie put on quite the fest!  We had roasted red pepper soup, beef tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, green beans with onions and mushrooms, and a salad.
This is one of the three desserts we had, a carrot cake.  We also had a raspberry cream pie and a flourless chocolate torte.  I am pretty sure they were all low calorie.  NOT!  Isn't Julie beautiful?

Joining us for dessert was the Benson clan.  Bill and Loris had their son and daughter in town, with a fiance' and a son-in-law to make a total of six.  Loris and Julie did a great job of coordinating dinners and the timing was perfect for them to drive up the hill and join us.
It was a wonderful day!  You just can't beat the holidays or a birthday spent with close friends.  The weather was nice.  The food was excellent.  The gathering was fun and festive.  

Then there is the cleanup.  I snapped a quick shot before I started filling the recycle bin. Oops.
On to decade number 6!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fancy beer

We went out to dinner last night with our friends Miriam and Greg, before going to opening night for the new Mission Impossible movie.  Always one to try new things, I was curious about Unitah Brewing's Detour Double India Pale Ale. 

It arrived in a large (almost wine sized) bottle with a champagne styled cork.  It was quite tasty but in large servings and at 9.5% alcohol, it isn't something you want to drink too many of.    Definitely recommended and you can find more of these at the Crooked Line web page.

As for the Mission Impossible movie, it was pretty good although you definitely need to leave all logic at the theater door.  The excitement was so nonstop, I was tired at the end. It was worth seeing if you like that James Bond-esque genre of movies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas lights

Jasper and I went out last night to try and take pictures of Christmas lights. Mostly it was a bust.  It turns out that trying to capture their beauty was very hard. I need to go search the Internet for some photography techniques, but the vast differences between the bright lights and the pitch black gave me too many pictures like this one. Just not very interesting.
I think these two deer felt sorry for us so they wandered into the picture. Their buddy was across the street watching me the entire time. It's odd  how all these animals are wandering so close at night, and yet we rarely know they are there.
Then we drove down to Main Street. I was hoping the Christmas decorations and lights would look better with all the other street lighting. No such luck. While the idea was a good one, the Christmas lights on Main Street look crappy.  Must be the recession.

But thankfully there was the Wahso restaurant. They had taken their Asian style and mixed with with some Christmas lighting.
Jasper stayed in the car while I went up to find some pictures.  Each light ball had lots of character.
But when you started looking through all of them you could imagine the stars and the planets.
For this one I was laying on my back on a set of stairs from the street.  The tourists walking by must have thought this was a bit unusual, but Park City is known for being quirky.
This one was my favorite.  The reflections in the glass make it seem to go on forever.  What you can't really see is that there are people behind the glass eating.  I wonder if they thought I was taking pictures of them?
Thanks to Wahso for making our evening's photography adventure a little bit of a success.  If Wednesday night's little snow storm comes as predicted, then I should be able to find some new Christmas shots.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Welcome to the crustaceans

I received my new pair of gloves  mittens hand warmth devices. What exactly do you call these?  The thumb and pointer fingers are separate, giving you dexterity, but the other three fingers are together mitten style, for warmth. The most common name seems to be Lobster Claws.  This is the first pair I have had of these, so it should make for an interesting test on the mountains.
These gloves are made by Hefstra and if you take good care of them, they last a very long time. Other than a quality glove, what do you get with your purchase? A free carabiner! However, apparently it isn't high quality because they warn you not to use it for rock climbing.
OK, maybe it isn't just the quality, but perhaps the size. That's my pinkie as a reference point.
Do they really have a lot of problems with people using a cheap, tiny carabiner to go climbing? I'm not even sure a climbing rope would fit in there.  Shouldn't we just let Darwin's principles work their magic?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Norm and Ginny come to town, sort of

If you have read this blog for long, or just know me well enough, you know that every few years we pack up and head to France for some skiing and touring around Paris.  The two people who have coordinated every one of these trips are Norman and Ginny Andrews. They are out in Utah this week for some early skiing.

The snow pack is pretty crappy so far, but we had a nice day of skiing yesterday at Park City Mountain Resort and today over at Alta.  They have skied their other days at Snowbird and Alta, and head home tomorrow.
It was great getting to see them, even though it was a short visit.

As we left Alta to head back to Park City, we got a wonderful view of the pollution we know as Salt Lake City.  Yes, that is Salt Lake down there.
As we get down near the mouth of the canyon, we get a better view of the wall of brown air.  Who wants to breath that crap?
From here you normally look out over 10-15 miles of city with a mountain range across the way.  Today, not so much.  I wonder why Salt Lake City has such high asthma rates.
You never see these pictures in the chamber of commerce brochures.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Commercial shot in Park City

This Traveler's commercial was filmed on Main Street here in Park City. I didn't see them do the shoot, but I read about it in the paper a few weeks ago. As with most of these Youtube videos, they are much easier to watch in full screen. A heartwarming doggy tale...

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I was asked to shoot Christmas card pictures for our next door neighbors (and wonderful friends). I am not terribly experienced with doing great portraits, but Hannah makes it easy.
She pretty, precocious, and a wonderful model.
At some point I am going to have to commit to learning the art of good people pictures.

Until then, thanks Hannah!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Full Lunar Eclipse

They say this morning's full lunar eclipse was better looking from Australia and Asia, but it was certainly one of the nicest views I have ever had.  It started around 5:45 Mountain time.  I set my alarm for 5:30, but the human body is strange and I popped awake at 5:25.
10 degrees and pitch black isn't the most comfortable way to take pictures.  Beyond getting some good shots, my goals were to avoid freezing and to dodge the newspaper delivery guy who probably wasn't expecting someone to be shooting pictures in the driveway at night.
It took a bit over an hour to go from start to total eclipse.  Slow motion, but you could certainly see the changes as the minutes ticked by.
Almost gone....
As it was heading towards the total eclipse, a lot of things were going on at once.  In Park City, with all our mountains and hills, the moon was just about to set.  Also, the first morning rays of the sun were starting to light things up.

The reason you can see so much moon in this picture is because I changed my exposure from 1/500th of a second for the first picture, to 1.6 seconds for this one.  Light from the sun is passing through the earth's ionosphere, bending a bit and taking on a reddish tint, and then hitting the moon.  With only this indirect light hitting it, the moon was darker than it appears in this shot.
I can see why being further west would make this nicer.  The moon wouldn't be setting yet and the sun wouldn't be up at all.  This would have been really cool to shoot from the beach in San Diego, partly because it would look cool over the ocean, and partly because it wouldn't have been 10 degrees out.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A bit of skiing

Julie and I wandered over to Canyons for a few hours of skiing this morning.  We are still short on early snow, but the runs that are open are quite nice.

Don't adjust your TV set.  This is really what it looks like when you are riding an Express Quad known as "the Orange Bubble".  Each chair has a drop-down shield to protect you from the wind and snow.  I'm not sure who decided on the orange color, but the lift is nice.

Julie, coming down Doc's Run.  She's been working out and lifting a lot over the past year and it shows with her skiing.  She's strong and comfortable.

Off she goes, but notice the brown hill behind her.  Anything facing south, like that hill is, is holding very little snow.
I'm actually enjoying the slower start as an opportunity to break in the ski boots I bought this summer.  Summer sales equals 50% off!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Now this is a different problem

We have noticed that several of Jasper's toys have gone missing from the back yard.  Given the angle of our hill, it is easy for some of them to just roll off.  We thought that our big neighboring Golden was taking the rest.

I just bought Jasper two nice new toys and they are both already gone.  Today, with the fresh snow and some tracks, I was able to figure out that it is one of the local fox that is mooching them.  He came right through the back yard, saw the toy, went straight for it, and then left the yard.  The toy that was there last night when we hottubbed was gone early this morning.

I tracked him for a bit and found two of Jasper's older toys, but neither of the new ones.  Tomorrow we go on a more ambitious hunt!  I guess this is just one of those things you learn to deal with...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Let the skiing begin! Well, sort of....

Julie and I went to the Canyons today for our first day of skiing.  This year's early snow sucks, so it feels a bit too much like skiing in North Carolina.  Most of what we were on was man made, although there was light snow coming down as we skied.

The good news is that we both felt pretty strong and we quickly remembered how to point downhill and stay upright.  Even with limited runs open and no powder to be found, it was fun getting out again.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The snow is piling up

Ok, so we are off to a very slow start for our snow year.  Thank God all the resorts have good snow making equipment. 

Last year, right before Thanksgiving, we got nailed with a big, heavy snow storm.  The heavy snow isn't as nice for skiing, but puts down a great base.  There's nothing much in the next week, but at least the temperatures are getting back around 10 at night to allow for some better snow making.

This time of year I hate high pressure systems.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cosette for Xmas

Cosette decided that our Christmas tree was pretty but it seemed to be lacking presents.
We thought it would be nicer with her brother Jasper, but he was a very reluctant participant.
We will see if they return on Christmas day to offer some pet love.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving with the moms

I haven't been blogging much this past week because we have had company. Julie's mom (left) and my mom (right) both flew in last Monday and we have been pretty busy ever since.
Of course the biggest activity was Thanksgiving.  Julie put on a great meal with help from the mom's.  It is always a multi-day event in the kitchen and I just steer clear unless instructed to do otherwise.  Here was the 21 pound guest for the evening.  He was accompanied by tons of stuffing cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie, Deer Valley carrot cake and more.  I think I ate my body weight in food.
For last year's Thanksgiving, Julie and I were going on a trip down to warm, sunny southern Utah.  We had to cancel it because of two heavy snowstorms.  With no Thanksgiving dinner planned, Loris Benson came to our rescue and had us over to join their festivities.

This year we were able to host the dinner.  On the left hand side you see Seth, Loris and Bill Benson.  Seth is their son and he recently left a big job in NYC to live the calmer, more outdoorsy life in Denver.  Thanks to Loris for a wonderful soup and veggie, filling out the menu.
Last night we trekked into Salt Lake to hit the Costco for some more Christmas lights and then to Temple Square to see what you can do with a big church, 50 bajillion lights, and three months of prep.  It was pretty spectacular.
Our timing was such that we missed the numerous choirs they had singing, but the visuals alone were worth it.  I guess I am going to have to step up my game for Christmas lights.  Are we allowed to say that any more?  Do they have to be Seasonally Adjusted Lighting?
Another day, another trip. My mom is a very avid bird watcher and has traveled the world in search of winged species.  Oddly enough, I kept seeing one right here in Salt Lake that she had never seen, the Chukar.  I've only seen it out on Antelope Island, out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake.  So, we went in search of...

Finally, right before the sunset, we found a collection of the little guys.  The picture stinks, but a Chukar is a Chukar.  Add one more to moms list.
A more interesting sight along the way was the ever present Bison.  This one wandered out right in front of our car.  One year I am going to have to go photograph the annual fall Bison roundup.  They do this to keep the population from overtaking the island.
Another mammalian find was a fat, waddling little porcupine.  We got close enough to get good pictures, but not so close as to piss him/her off.  How do you tell whether a porcupine is a male or female?  I wasn't going to check.

Jasper (my dog) wanted to chase the "furry" little animal, but we left him sitting in the car.  No need for an avoidable trip to the vet.
The most interesting sighting of the day was a very long ways off, so the photos are marginal.  (I need a 500mm lens for Christmas).  We saw an animal standing out in the shallow water, stalking some ducks and geese.  It was a coyote, and we eventually saw a second one a few hundred yards away from the first. I'm not sure how they planned to sneak up on the waterfowl with nothing to hide behind, but then again, I am not a coyote.

Then we heard coyotes howling from the hillside behind us.  The ones in the water started tilting their heads and howling back in response.  Back and forth they went.  Now I am pretty sure that any duck that might have been unaware, had a good idea of who was there.
We have had lots of other adventures during the week.  Shopping on Park City's Main Street.  Dinner out at Mustang to celebrate Julie's birthday.  Hot tubbing. Long walks around town. Tonight we plan to grab a drink up at the Montage Hotel.

The only downside of the week has been the lack of snow.  Sunny is OK to a point, but let's start dumping the white stuff!