Quest for 116 – East Castle

Finally skied East Castle at Alta Ski Area. This was run number 112 in my quest to ski all 116 marked runs at Alta this ski season.

East Castle is big, steep run which takes a long sidestep hike to get to.  The run is not often open due to the avalanche terrain it occupies.

East Castle - Alta Ski Area
Make sure you have your sidestepping chops!

After a pretty strenuous sidestepping hike up, the skier is greeted with a 50 degree angle slope at the top.  Rather than sidestepping the hike, I brought my backcountry skis and skins, and skinned up.  That was a much better plan and I was dusting people that were sidestepping.

The near the top I couldn’t help notice the incredible view.  There was a strong wind coming from the opposite side of the peak and the sun was backlighting the snow as it blew off. It created a surreal photo opportunity. See below:

In this spot the sidestepping trail narrowed and the slope became more severe.  I could no longer skin at that point.  So I took the skins off and boot-packed the rest of the way.

Challenges

I was fighting a few battles, so my skiing wasn’t great and I had to rest often.  The first challenge was the hike up.  Second was the snow conditions. The snow was quite thick and chunky with patches of better powder in the shade.  The third challenge was my backcountry boots hurts my feet and make my feet go numb. I need to do some tweaking to improve that.  It’s hard to ski well with numb feet. I had to keep adjusting boot pressure and resting them.

Despite the issues with fatigue and my boots I was thrilled to bag this one.  I’ve admired East Castle for decades and always wanted to do it.

East Castle 360 Degree Video

Below is a YouTube video of the ski down. The views and angles are amazing. The skiing, well, I got down in one piece which is my primary goal.

Quest for 116 – Century Mark at Alta Ski Area

Though I’ve posted quite a bit about backcountry skiing, I’m an off-piste resort skier mostly at this point.  I grew up skiing Alta Ski Area here in northern Utah.  I even took lessons from, and skied many times with, Alf Engen.  That explains my incredibly beautiful form (yeah, right).

This winter (2019-2020) I’m in much better physical shape and have been skiing more than any year in my entire life. It has been fantastic.  I made a goal this ski season to ski every marked run Alta. There are 116 of them, 55% of them black diamond rating for advanced skiers.

After knocking off about 5 more runs yesterday, I reached the century mark!  I’ve skied 100 of the 116 as of Feb 10, 2020.  Below is a resort map with pink highlights for each run I’ve done this season.

When I get home after each ski day, I sit down at my desk with my pink highlighter and mark the runs I did that day.

I’ve got about 16 more to go, but some of these may be difficult to cross off the list.  A couple of areas are not open that often, like the Baldy Chutes and East Castle. I’ve not seen East Castle open yet this season. That one will take skinning, side stepping, or boot packing to get to the top.

I’ll be back at it this weekend, tying to bust out a few more of the marked runs.  I’ve captured video for many of the runs and will post here and on my YouTube channel.

Stay tuned and see you on the slopes.

First Look: Osprey Kamber 32 Men’s Backcountry Riding Backpack

Now that’ I’m getting more serious about backcountry skiing and in general, being better prepared on or of piste, I needed a better and bigger pack.  After a lot of research I settled on the Osprey Kamber 32.  This pack is designed for backcountry enthusiasts and holds 32 liters of gear, snacks, drinks.

32 liters is a good fit for slightly longer day tours or even overnights. This pack came in very handy for me during my 4-day Level 1 avalanche training course.  I was able to store all my needed avalanche gear, roughly 60 ounces of beverages (hot and cold), as well as all the snacks, cameras, and other gear I needed in all-day sessions.  Here’s the Kamber 32 in action:

I’ve had the Kamber on the mountain a few times now.  I have a hydraulics reservoir on the way and will be implementing that as well. Stay tuned for me review soon.

Picked Up Some Blizzard Zero G Skis

I’m upping my ski game. I just picked up a pair of Blizzard Zero G’s with Marker bindings which work for downhill or backcountry.

This rig is a little heavy for backcountry, but looking forward to testing them out this coming season.

First Look: Smith Vantage Men’s Snow Helmet

After about 50 years of skiing, it’s time I got a helmet. I have to many years of knowledge crammed into my cranium to risk a blow to the head now. For the job I’ve got a new Smith Vantage ski helmet.

I’ll be putting this helmet to good use backcountry skiing and downhill skiing this spring and next fall/winter, then posting my full review then.

Stay tuned.

First Look: Armada ARV JJ Powder Skis

This winter has been epic. Massive amounts of powder have given me the itch to pick up new gear, and super-wide powder skis have been on my shopping list for awhile. I’m now the proud owner of a set of Armada ARV JJ skis with Armada bindings.


I was able to try these wide boards out once in spring conditions, not powder. Not optimal but I had to try them before the snow melted. I’ll be putting these into play as soon as the powder hits for the 2019-2020 season, and posting a review soon.

Stay tuned, so to speak.