Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ski Utah's Interconnect

Yesterday Julie and I did something very different, and something I don't think you can do anywhere else in the U.S..  We joined a group of friends to do something called the Interconnect Adventure Tour.  Normally, you aren't allowed to duck the rope and go from one ski area to another.  On this tour, our two guides led us from Deer Valley to Park City to Solitude to Alta and finally to Snowbird.  Normally we would have added Brighton to the list, but the weather and snow prevented it.
Our friend Bill Benson put together a group of friends, maxing out the 12 people who can do the tour on any given day.  This worked out great for me. I had already purchased a Interconnect gift pass at KPCW's (local radio station) fundraiser auction.

It is pretty easy to get from resort to resort, as long as you stay in the same canyon.  Getting from canyon to canyon can be a lot more work.  To get from Park City to Solitude, you hike up to the top of Scott's and then ski down the back side through the trees. This is the same area that we hiked last fall.
The weather was superb.   It was sunny and warm, but only 2 days after a fairly large storm over in the Cottonwood canyons. Here we have Julie, Deb, one of our two guides, and Bill who put the trip together.
The most interesting trek from canyon to canyon was the Highway to Heaven, which goes from the top of Solitude over into Little Cottonwood canyon, for a quick ski down into Alta. It wasn't that much hiking up. It was mostly just an awkward traverse.  You had to sidestep on a little path for about a quarter mile. Julie seems happy enough doing it.
But here we can see the two definite downsides to the Highway.  First we have Stan on the left.  Because of the bright sunshine and warm day, he has stripped down to a shirt.  Almost everyone was a sweaty mess by the end of the traverse.  Much worse is Tom, the little orange-clad figure on the right.  Coming around the corner, Tom wasn't sure where he was going and skied down below the path. This was not a minor mistake.
This is the view of our two guides who have gone back to help Tom try and get back up to the traverse.  Tom is in good shape but after 30 minutes of trying on his own, he hadn't made much progress. If you double-click on the picture, you can get a better view of the path Tom took.  Climbing in steep, deep, heavy snow is impossible for most of us. I have no idea who the fourth skier is, coming up behind them.  After exerting a tremendous amount of energy, I was amazed at how well Tom did in Alta and Snowbird to finish the day.
After our last run from the top of Snowbird, we took a one hour shuttle ride back around to Deer Valley.

I think the Interconnect is all about the journey, and not about the destinations or the skiing.  You spend a lot of time getting from place to place, and the scenery along the way is gorgeous.  If you had a group of people more determined (and able) to do serious hiking, you could probably get more backcountry powder, but that just wasn't us.  If you aren't in strong shape and an expert skier, I wouldn't consider trying this.  You'll be miserable.  But if you are capable, it's a great trip and the guides are fantastic!

Other tidbits:

  • No snowboarders.  They aren't allowed in Alta or Deer Valley.
  • No kids under 16
  • Hope you get a nice day.  I can't imagine doing this in a storm or when it gets icy. 
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