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21 January 2011

Utah Skiing, Day 4

This is Day 4 of my January 2011 Utah Ski Trip.  For previous days, see below:
Day 4: Snowbasin
Unlike the other days on this trip, where we decided where to go the night before or the morning of, this day was planned out in extreme detail between Phil and me.  Several years ago I heard about a tradition of skiing 40,000 feet of vertical on one's 40th birthday.  I turned 40 in November, which meant doing it on my birthday wasn't feasible; so instead I committed to myself that I would accomplish the same feat sometime during this trip.  When I mentioned the idea to Phil, he thought it was crazy and immediately signed up to accompany me on it and keep me motivated.  Phil preferred to ski on fresh legs, and I preferred to have a few days to warm up, which worked out great, since Phil's first day was my fourth day.

Before the trip, I looked at the maps of all the ski resorts that we frequent, trying to determine which resort and which lift would be the most conducive to the attempt.  Snowbasin's Strawberry Gondola was a clear winner:
  1. Snowbasin was one of the few resorts that gave enough information to determine the exact vertical drop of its runs.  Strawberry is a very respectable 2472 feet high.
  2. Strawberry is a gondola, and thus travels at least as fast as a high-speed chair, minimizing time spent climbing the hill.
  3. Snowbasin on a Wednesday is generally pretty empty, so we could move pretty fast on the way down.
  4. There is a very direct blue (intermediate) groomed run called Main Street that nearly follows the gondola the whole way down.  This is perfect for high-speed vertical-consuming ski runs.
  5. Strawberry is tucked away on the far left side of Snowbasin, and thus is less likely to have a line at the bottom waiting to get on the lift.
  6. There is a snack bar and restroom at the gondola house at the bottom, giving us easy access for pit stops.
Phil and I got up early and arrived at Snowbasin at about 7:00 am.  First lift is at 9:00 am, which gave us time to relax, get a nice big breakfast, plan our attack, and load up on provisions for the day.  These consisted of two Cliff Bars for protein, three Granola bars for quick energy, a bottle of water, and a banana for quick energy and to ward off cramps.  We split these up throughout the day, stopping for a Power-Ade (for Phil) and another Cliff Bar (for me) after about 13 runs.

At 2472 feet, we had to ski Strawberry 16 times, and then find another 498 feet of vertical somewhere else.  This was easily accomplished on the way over, since to get to Strawberry you have to ride Needles Express and then ski down 90% of its 2300 feet or so and over to Strawberry.  Since lifts only operate from 9:00am to 3:30pm, it was important to track the round-trip time on each lap to make sure our projected completion time was prior to 3:30pm.  Riding the gondola seemed to take forever, and I was feeling very pessimistic about it until I checked the round-trip time after the first full lap: 18 minutes.  If we round-away the extra 500 feet (last lift ride starts at 3:30, so this is a reasonable simplification), 9:00am to 3:30pm is 6.5 hours, or 390 minutes.  To get 16 runs done within 390 minutes, we must complete each lap in an average of 24 minutes or less, including any pitstops for bathroom, water refill, or food.  When I saw 18 minutes on that first lap, I knew our lap times were about 2/3 of their max allowable, which gave us lots of slack if we kept up that pace.

First thing in the morning the light was very flat, and we were also unfamiliar with the hill - this made us ski a bit more carefully (i.e. slower).  The sun came out after an hour or so, and I saw our lap times decrease to 16 minutes for a while, until more people arrived on the hill and the light waned again.  After about 13 runs, we knew we were going to make it, and stopped to grab some food and relax for a few minutes; we also started skiing more interesting terrain, since time was no longer our primary concern.

We rode the Strawberry lift for the 16th time, skied all the way down to the village at the base of Needles Express, and then rode Needles one final time to meet up with John, Jerry, and Craig for a final fun-run for the day.  I reckon we put in somewhere between 43,000 and 45,000 feet all told.

At the end of that fun-run, I was feeling pretty pleased and maybe a little punch-drunk.  I pulled off my helmet and babbled inanities into the camera for a minute as I skied the last few hundred yards.

Raw Video for Day 4

1: Run 8 of 16 on Strawberry
2: Final Fun-Run (too big for Google Docs, broken into 4 parts)
    part 1
    part 2
    part 3
    part 4

(7/24/2011: I have removed the raw video from Google Document storage.  If you would like a copy of a specific video, let me know.)

Next: Day 5

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