I’ve been eyeballing Little Apron at Alta Ski Area for many years. Little Apron is a small coulior in the Devil’s Castle area. It is located next to Castle Apron which is much larger.
The hike up would usually be about 10 minutes, but it was easily 20+ because the snow was not cooperating. The top layer was a breakable crust and underneath was powder. Once my foot would break through too far, I would sink. Each step took three steps to complete. By the time I got to the top I was drenched in sweat.
I picked up these Atomic Bent Chetler 100’s last spring when we thought the COVID lockdown would be two weeks. TWO WEEKS.
Designed by legendary skier Chris Benchettler, the Bent Chetler 100 is a versatile, all-around ski suitable for a wide variety of ski conditions.
Length tested: 172. Other lengths available are 164, 180, 188.
The dual rocker technology is distributed as follows: Front rocker 20%, camber 70%, and tail rocker 10%.
The ski features HRZN Tech in the tip and tail for increased surface area and float. The Light Woodcore, directional shape, and Powder Rocker make carving, slashing, and even sliding (when necessary) a breeze.
The turning radius of the 172’s is 18, while the 164’s are at 16.4. The 180’s 19.5 and the 188’s 21.
I only had a couple of chances to ski the 100’s last spring before the resorts shut down due to COVID. The resorts are back open now for the 2020-2021 season and I’ve been riding the Bent Chetler 100’s exclusively.
When I first tried the 100’s, I was not used to them at all. I was coming from the perspective of much wider and much longer skis. Now I’ve got the feel for the 100’s and I’m really digging them. I’ve managed to experience quite a variance of conditions from light powder to groomers to ice. The skis are playful and easy to ski, but strong enough to take on more aggressive skiing and terrain.
In powder they float well for being relatively narrow. I’m typically on 108’s and 116’s underfoot. Here’s a little pow video.
While they don’t necessarily ride on top of super light pow, they have enough float to get the job done.
Some of the most fun I’ve had skiing the Bent’s is making quick, short turns in tight places:
The Bent Chetler 100’s are a great one-ski-fits-all solution, or a great all-mountain addition to a skier’s quiver. The ski is reasonably priced at around $600 (without bindings).
When Alta shut down because of covid last season, I still skinned up to the top of many runs like Devil’s Castle, to get powder runs. I made a few friends and many runs with snowboarders, who jumped at the chance to board Alta. It was interesting. It takes a worldwide pandemic for snowboarders to be allowed to board at Alta. May never happen again. Someone made an actual short film about snowboarders at Alta, and you can see many of the runs I skied last year in my quest for 116, skiing every run there in one season. Fun to watch. That chute they hit above East Greeley looks awesome.
During the 2018-2019 ski season I started tracking the runs I was skiing at Alta Ski Area by tracing them in a yellow highlighter on the Alta trail map. After marking a few runs the idea hit me to see if I could ski all of the marked runs at Alta in one ski season. Unfortunately that goal was cut short when I had shoulder surgery on my right shoulder on February 14th, 2019.
When the 2019-2020 ski season started I once again set the goal to ski 116. This time I marked the map with a pink highlighter.
I went at it hard and fast, skiing Alta 30 times, not including backcountry skiing there during the offseason. After each ski day I carefully highlighted each run and many of them are all-timers. There were several big pow days in Devil’s Castle, and another big pow day on Wildcat. Then I finally skied the elusive East Castle, which is not open very often. What a thrill and pretty steep at the top. Other very memorable runs included big pow in Castle Apron and Catherine’s Area. Can’t do a greatest hits without mentioning East Greeley. That’s a tricky entrance. It was all great preparation for 116.
Run 116 – Main Chute, Mt. Baldy
This run has been some 30 years in the making. The last and only time I “went down” the Baldy Chutes was with my cousin Phil in 1990. Upon entering the main chute I hit a rock which stopped my ski, throwing me off balance. The chute was so steep I fell over onto a mogul and instantly dislocated my shoulder. From that point I slid, tumbled, cartwheeled, fell hundreds of feet, all the way to the bottom of the chute. During the fall I was calm. Everything was moving very slowly. I was puzzled that I couldn’t stop falling, but when on a slope that steep gravity wins. At one point during the fall I was sliding and managed to get my feet below me. “I’ll just dig my boot heels in and stop now,” I thought. When I dug my heels in I flipped. I remember watching the rocks on each side go by in slow motion.
At the bottom of the chute a ski patrolman was there and asked if I was ok. I told him I had dislocated my shoulder. He said, “no, you’d be screaming in pain if you did.” Well he was wrong. I was so full of adrenaline I couldn’t feel any pain. From the bottom of the chute I skied down with my poles in my right hand all the way to the parking lot. I would end up in the Snowbird Medical Clinic where I did eventually go into shock before they put my shoulder back in the socket.
A week or later my dad was up there talking to someone at Alta in the Watson Shelter and mentioned my crash. I’d become some kind of legend up there for falling all the way down Main Chute, surviving, and just skiing away. Since then I’ve re-dislocated my shoulder two additional times, one last summer hiking at…. Alta.
Each season as I ski Alta I’ve been eyeballing Main Chute hoping to make up for that bad day. Could I do it? Would I crash again? Why even try it? Often times I would ski by and take a picture from below from Ballroom. I always made it a point to say hello and thank the chute for spitting me out alive.
This season at Alta I’ve been skiing my butt off. I’m skiing the best I ever have. I once again set a goal to ski all 116 of the marked runs on the Alta trail map this season and found some incredible, scenic, and difficult terrain I’d never skied before. I was killing it; sure to get in all 116 with several weeks to spare. Or so I thought.
Alta shut down for the season early due to the Covid-19. At that point I had skied 115 of the 116 runs. The final run was the Baldy Chutes. It looked like my goal would not be reached this season, which was a punch in the gut.
I’d been working out for over a year, eating better, and doing backcountry skiing since last spring. I lost some 45 pounds. I’ve built up some very good cardio, strength, and endurance. So this past Sunday I gave it a shot; I skinned all the way from the lower parking lot to the top of Mt. Baldy, 11,068 feet.
It was almost three miles from the parking lot to the top, about 2,600 vertical feet. At the top of Mineral Basin near the top of the Sugarloaf lift, I had to take my skis off and “boot pack” up the side of Baldy with my skis on my backpack. The snow kept giving way straight down so it was hard treading. I almost turned around because it was too difficult to boot pack. But I found some better snow and was able to get better traction. Once up a small ridge it flattened out and I could put my skis, with skins on, back on. From there I was to the top in probably 20 minutes.
That’s where the video below BEGINS.
After all the vertical, sweating, leg fatigue, skinning and hiking up, now I had to ski down with rubber legs. At first glance I was stunned at how steep Main Chute was. Look closely when I meet the other skier at the top of the chute in the video. You can see straight down. I’ve skied some shorter patches of terrain that steep, but this is a sustained steepness with rocks on both sides. It is truly stunning and terrifying, especially for someone who has had 30 years to think about falling down it. I skied conservatively, and stopped often to catch my breath and composure. There are no style points here. Just get down in one piece.
2 for 1
I got down in one piece and completed the 116th run on what would have been Alta’s final day of operation for the 2020 season, and also exercised a ski demon that had been weighing on me for three decades. I have a spring in my step now. I’ll have until next ski season to ponder….
The Coronavirus pandemic has shut down nearly the entire planet. Sadly this includes ski resorts. In the couple of weeks prior to the closing of the ski resorts I had checked off the 115th of my quest to ski all 116 marked runs at Alta Ski Area. See the map below.
The remaining run is one of the toughest of them all, the Baldy Chutes. Since hitting 115 I watched the run status anxiously, waiting for the fine Alta Ski Patrol to open Mount Baldy up. There had been several storms during this period, and then winds. Fresh snow and wind-loaded snow means avalanche danger and thus closure.
You don’t want to be in a slide when in a chute that’s narrow, 45-50 degrees steep, and has rocks on both sides. Trust me. I know.
Will It Happen This Season?
Alta is now closed. The only way I could get this marked off would be to skin up from the lower parking lot. Totally doable. There are a couple of factors I will have to consider and/or arrange. First off, I have some knee issues at the moment and walking around the block is not easy. I have to rest my knee. Second, I need a partner to do this with me. A spotter at the least. I fell down the entire Main Chute decades ago. I survived (which I’m told was a feat for someone who fell the whole way) and only left with a dislocated shoulder. I have that in the back of my head.
Bagging the Main Chute would mean the closure of two different stories for me:
1: Taking back that big fall I had decades ago.
2: Checking off the last and final of the 116 marked runs this season.
There’s plenty of time left in the season. If anyone wants to join me on this run, hit me up.
I started out today with the sole intention of skiing the Baldy Chutes, the one remaining run in my quest to ski all 116 marked runs at Alta Ski Area. Mt. Baldy was closed today unfortunately. Probably due to wind.
I decided to take on a line I’d never completely done before as an alternate. The very highest line one can take in Devil’s Castle.
I knew there would be some hiking involved, and since I missed my workout at the gym yesterday this would be a great opportunity to get some cardio in!
Somehow I missed the fork in the traverse in the Castle, and ended up on the wrong/lower traverse. I took off my skis and boot packed straight up. It was easily a 45-50 degree angle, though the photo above doesn’t show it. That got the cardio going. But just getting to the higher traverse was only probably 1/3 of the hike. The rest was sidestepping on a 45 degree angle and winding under the rock ridge at the top of the castle.
Conditions were not optimal. Lighting was overcast and gray, making seeing undulations in the snow almost impossible. The temps have been high as well, which caused melting on the top layer. That melted layer then freezes at night. The result is an ice crust on top of very heavy snow. Very hard to turn in or have any control.
The ski down from the top of the Castle was fun. The snow quality was not bad. Not as much crusting up that high (probably 10,800 feet).