Lady in a hat skiing in the mountains of Utah
Since we had a late snowfall here last year in May, I hope I can still tell you about my recent ski trip to Utah.
Utah is steeped in mining history, and when I arrived at our hotel, I saw that it thoughtfully incorporated design elements to evoke old western mine shafts. As the elevators ascended and descended, I thought of the people who had descended into those shafts to work in the perilous depths. Why hadn’t someone written a TV series about it, with the underground staff wielding axes while the mine owners lived off the plots above? The thought made me realize how important to us on vacation those who are employed to serve us.
To get to the cross-country trails, I took a van every day and listened intently to the van drivers talking. In simple strokes, they expressed the awe of the vastness that is Utah. Many of the gentlemen, who seemed mostly retired, had come from elsewhere to live out their years in sight of the mountains, valleys, ravines, ridges, aspens, mule deer and rock faces of Deer Valley. How they took to heart their love of this bare and peaceful land!
I had planned my trip to Utah because Massachusetts received less snow. However, despite Deer Valley’s mid-mountain elevation of 8,100 feet, where I thought winter would forever reign like a snow queen, change had come, which the van drivers commented.
“Winter starts later. We used to have snow in October. Now it’s late December or January,” Dave lamented.
“The season ends earlier now in the spring,” Mike said, looking at the highs, the loss and the love in his eyes.
“There’s this drought,” George said. “Our aspens are in danger.” He shrugged, as if acknowledging his inability to do anything about it.
When I hit the cross-country trails with my daughter and her husband, the 42-degree temperature reinforced what the van drivers were saying. We threw on our gloves and enjoyed the still snowy scene as we passed McPolin Farm and its silos, which made no comment on the warm breeze.
The next day, I skied alone, while my daughter and her husband tackled the descents. The snow was magnificent. It was captivating. The austere mountain peaks eclipsed me. How paltry my life seemed, how puny my daily work compared to that vast white desert, the pines on the mountains, the towering slabs of exposed bare rock!
On day three, let’s just say the cross country training was intense. With snow melt then freeze, then melt then freeze, the underski mix was about as hard to push as a max-resistance exercise bike. It was like pulling an ox sled with the six oxen sitting on it. I collapsed on the bed, exhausted.
On the fourth day, rain threatened the entire ski area, so we traveled to Alta, where a micro-climate promised better snow. Along the way, we passed through Cottonwood Heights, where rapper Post Malone moved in 2019. People of all types are drawn to the splendor of Utah. The road to Little Cottonwood Canyon was steep and rugged. In a few places the rock had been shaped by the wind to give it an unctuous smoothness. Other rocky masses advanced black, formidable and brutal.
Alta is known for its very steep slopes and the skiers looked young, international and determined. On the cross-country ski trails, I meandered between spruces and pines. My moments in the snowy desert seemed fragile. I recoiled in terror from the surrounding rock faces, one of which was a menacing giant that leaned over us as if closing in on us below.
The next morning snow had fallen in Deer Valley, so I took the opportunity to try out the snowshoe trails, where the sun was glistening. On my last day of cross-country skiing, I crossed a noisy, noisy stream, where ducks were splashing around. Not knowing a duck’s mind, I couldn’t tell if he knew the creek had probably melted early. It seemed like a balm that the ducks wouldn’t live long enough to experience the full impact.
Two hours before departure for the plane, the temperature on the ski slope dropped, making the last 10 kilometers difficult. A mini-blizzard roared across my face. I could barely see ahead! The snow came on me with a strong wind. Even the skate-skiers, who usually smile with delight as they sprint past the slower folks doing classic cross-country, grimaced. I got back to the hotel just in time.
Our trip to the airport was delayed when driver after driver canceled. When we finally left in our carpool, the driver told us that all the taxis had been diverted to a mining conference in Salt Lake City. As my plane rose into the sky, I said goodbye to the white ridges below, which we quickly left behind.
From west to east, winter retreats. Fly into the future!