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TR - Deer Valley, deep soft snow in the glade

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Too busy skiing DURING the winter to bother writing up trip reports. I'll try to catch up on a few of the more memorable trips.

In late February to early March, I had 2 weeks to "tour" the many excellent "iconic" Utah/Montana mountains. Deer Valley while not the top priority was nonetheless on the list.

Deer Valley is best known for its well-manicured grooming of their ego boosting pistes. Though to be honest, of the few times I've visited in the past, I've not been too impressed with their groomed runs. They're typically flat'ish, somewhat hard packed, almost to the point of icy. That's due partly to its relatively low elevation. And this year, with the Ikon crowd, those same groomers got really trashed by the herd that descended there.

However, in my past visit, I had stumbled upon some lovely woods with deep soft snow that no one seem to bother to disturb. And I also keep hearing rumors Deer Valley really has a large amount of glades with well-spaced trees and, tons of undisturbed powder! I had been eyeing an opportunity to find them!

This has been a phenomenal year in terms of snow fall. Only a week prior, FEET of snow had fallen in the Utah mountains. Deer Valley got its share too. That, set up a decent base to work with. And more snow were in the forecast. No major storms but just strings of minor ones which was expected to drop a few inches here and half a foot there...


Day 1 (2/28 ): A taster course of Deer Valley glades.

It's mid-week. I expect not much of a crowd. So imagine my dismay of the almost full parking lot. For all the glitz of DV, the parking lot shuttle is a open air cattle train! The biting wind was less than pleasant in the morning (I'm more accustomed to the real bus in Copper). Still, it's efficient.

The same ("orderly") can't be said inside the locker room. Mass of people squeezing as best as they could onto the few benches. All the lockers were full too. Mind you, this is mid-week...

Fortunately, the masses seemed to be camping inside the locker room. The lift lines were not too bad.

Deer Valley, like most US "destination resorts" (mountain that caters more to travelling skiers from far away than local skiers), offers FREE mountain tours. Volunteer Ski Host(s) lead guests to zip around the mountain showing off the lay of the land and often times tips on where the best snow is for the day and where best to avoid crowds or line, plus the best place for lunch. (Deer Valley is sort of "known" for its on mountain food offering). But unlike other mountains which typically only offer the tour at the intermediate level going over groomed pistes, Deer Valley offers an "Expert level tour" which explicitly goes to "Chutes and Glades"!

Since glades were what I'm here for, naturally the "expert tour" was my aim. Except, I missed the morning tour by about 20 minutes. So I had to go exploring on my own for a couple hours till the afternoon tour time.

A quick chat with a ski host standing in front of a giant map, I was directed to the Triangle Woods, a grove of mixed aspen and pines. There's good soft snow in there, but also refrozen coral reef in the mix. Not impressed, I moved on. But not without stopping to help a hapless woman who couldn't quite get back into her binding on a steep icy groomer. Again, I was reminded why I didn't exactly "get" Deer Valley's reputation as a well-groomed mountain. A couple more laps of various groomers, it's time for a quick lunch before it's time for the afternoon session of the Expert level free mountain tour I came for.

To differentiate the "expert" from the riff-raff, the ski host asked the troop to follow him into a stretch of good size moguls! Toofy Grin That promptly led to 2 guests dropping out of the tour voluntarily. Laughing

Then, it's a high speed chase around the mountain towards the Empire chair. Turns out, the woods we were aiming for was something called the "Boundary woods", which wasn't label on the map. The host knew the mountain well. The snow was deep and soft in the glade. The tree spacing was non-threatening. It was over all too quickly though.

The next objective of the group was ... the Triangle woods! That's the one I did in the morning (and less than impressed). It's on the other end of the sprawling Deer Valley domain. So I could anticipate another string of high speed chase on the groomer, only to ski the same mixed snow I just did in the morning (to be fair, with the slightly warmer temperature in the afternoon, it might have been more enjoyable than early morning). But since I've been there before, I didn't feel the need to follow the tour again. I elected to stay and lap the Boundary Woods a few times. Enjoying the deep soft snow thoroughly. The last time I went up the lift, I shared the chair with a ski patrol. I suspect he's there to close the woods and sweep. But I decided not to ask about that specifically. Sure enough, he went slowly (sweeping side to side) in the same general direction as I. So at the entrance of the woods, I paused and asked if he's there to close the run. He answered yes, but I need not hurry. He would wait till the last people on the Empire chair had unloaded before actually escorting people out of the domain.

Empire closes earlier than the rest of the mountain. So as I worked my way back to the main part (Flagstaff & Bold Mountain), I stopped at the giant map again and asked what would be the most FUN way to finish my day. I was given a very detailed description of landmark which led me to some delicious soft snow in the glades again. (Being so late in the day, I asked again "would I get lost in the woods?" "No, just go down and you'll hit the cat track". Indeed!) Quite a nice finish to a lovely day of powder tasters in the glades of Deer Valley. I planned to be back!


Day 2 (3/10) The full course powder harvesting in the glades!

A friend joined me in the 2nd half of my 2 week tour. In the mean time, more snow had fallen the day before, in fact, a good 6-8" of it depending on elevation!

It being Sunday, we opted to go to Deer Valley, in the hope its "ticket cap" would help limit crowding. Moreover, we heard much about the under-skied trees of DV. And we had some beta as to where to go from my earlier visit...

It's was foggy. And the peaks are all in the clouds. So none of the "chutes" would be worth the trouble.

Again, the locker room were an unruly chaos of bags and people not able to find places to sit to boot up. Thankfully, the small crowd seemed to have evaporated once they got off the chair. Though to be honest, the cloud and light snow might have something to do with our not able to see anyone else on the slopes. For we had trouble enough to see our way from the chair to the woods. I actually fell down twice due to vertigo.

We didn't stay on the groomers. Only use them to get to the trees. Partly because we could see much better in the trees than in the open runs.

We found deep soft snow all over the mountain: Empire, Flagstaff, Lady Morgan. And a bunch of random cutoff between groomers. Some of the glades were pretty big and we .

How did we find the best trees? We stopped at the top of a couple of chairs and asked the ski host standing in front of the map. Each and every time, the host pointed us the right way. Exactly how to get to the trees, landmark to enter, bear left or right within the glade.

First, we went to Empire, as my friend hadn't been to that particular sector. On our way there, we dropped into random cut off paths between pistes, getting little taster of the 6-8" fresh snow from the day before. On top of Empire, X File was recommended. But as we had so much trouble just getting to the closest woods (Boundary woods), we weren't too keep to go exploring aimlessly. We lapped Boundary a few times. The snow was just beautifully soft and enjoyable.

That was followed by a patch of unnamed woods under the Ruby Express chair. The snow were deep and soft. Though not untouched, it skies like it was.







When we had our fill of a particular patch of glades, we even ask them where else to go, and repeat the same process in the new chair!

Triangle Woods was next on the list. It's so vast and so quiet, we didn't see a soul in sight once we were in there. It's almost like skiing in an out of bound forest. My friend actually commented "do you have your whistle with you?". No, I did not. Embarassed Well, we'd better stay close then.

Too bad the days came to an end when we were still having fun. But before we call it a day, I had to show off that particular patch of woods I did the previous week at the suggestion of the ski host at the end of that day. I called it "the finish woods". Cool Wide open pine groves fill with deep soft snow!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Excellent report -- tks
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Good report.
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Sounds lovely
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