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by garth schwellenbach
3 a.m.: I stumbled into my apartment, thinking about sleep after a night of band practice. When band practice lasts until 3 a.m., not a person is sober. As I staggered through my front door I saw on the counter in front of me a Tupperware container full of "Rocky Road Ice Cream Topping," a brainchild of my roommate, and a small note: "Call Tommy when you get in, he wants you to go on the Interconnect Tour tomorrow." To this I chuckled, and decided 3 a.m. was not the best time to call Tommy, and early was not the best time for me to wake up in the morning. I told myself that if for some reason he calls in the morning, and for some even stranger reason I wake up when I hear the phone, there might be a wee possibility I get up and think about going.
7:30 a.m.: I woke to the phone. The answering machine plays, "When you get up and figure out what your doing today, call me if you want to go on the Interconnect Tour." If I was in any shape to laugh at this point I would have, but instead I had that feeling you get when you drank far too many 3.2 beers the night before. I was weak and shaky, I needed to piss, I needed some water, I needed more sleep. After making water, and drinking water, I climbed back in bed and tried to sleep. I couldn't do it, it was gone; I started to have those thoughts that maybe some nice snow is out there, and once that thought gets started sleep is no more. I got out of bed and to the phone to make the call. I found I had a half-hour to get my shit together, and be at the resort center Jans. I proceeded to tear through my room desperately trying to remember what it was I needed to go skiing. There are lots of things to remember.
I somehow got out of the house and in the car with enough time to stop at the King for a tasty sausage egg biscuit (the grease was needed) and got to Jans with time to spare. I was feeling good, and maybe even looking good; the lack of sleep and abundance of alcohol in my system had not yet kicked in. The guides showed up a few minutes later, and we proceeded with the usual form filling and introductions. It was a small group: me, one other journalist (I'm not really a journalist, but I can pretend), and three guides. Not a bad ratio. Two of the guides, Steve Schueler and Rodd Keller skied with us, and the other, John Hughes, drove the shuttle and got a few runs in on his own.
The Interconnect Tour, which is run by Ski Utah, has been around for eighteen years, so it isn't some unorganized, run out of the trunk of a car kind of deal. They know what's going on, and how to do what they do. The guides have broad backgrounds in skiing and snow safety, which is a serious issue in the Wasatch. They even look professional in their red Fila jackets with "Ski Utah" on the back, and all donning K2 skis(with pins of course).
After strapping on our avalanche beacons and getting the safety talk we headed up the Payday lift at PCMR, the first of five mountains that we would ski that day. We worked our way to Jupiter, and out of bounds at the patrol shack. Dropping into Big Cotton Wood canyon wasn't the best snow in the world, no thanks to the scouring winds that had blown in the few days prior.
After a quick ski we ended up at our second resort, Solitude. From Solitude we went straight to number three, Brighton where our ever-knowledgeable guides found us some creamy snow in the trees. The fog in my head was finally lifting, and we headed back to Solitude for lunch. After a juicy cheeseburger we headed back up the lift, on our way to Little Cottonwood Canyon.
I've skied a lot in the Wasatch, both at resorts and touring, but I was still amazed at the proximity of the resorts. I knew they were all close, but I figured we would have to use skins and do a little hiking. There were some run outs and traverses where we did a little pushing and skating, but no actual hiking was necessary. That said, if the whole group wants to hike it is an option. Being a small group, we opted for one quick hike to better our turns, and I was still trying to clean out my system from the night before.
On our way to Alta we found some decent turns in the Grizzly Gulch area, thanks to the terrain knowledge of our guides. From Alta we made it over to the fifth and final resort of the day, Snowbird where we took the last tram up, and got in some surprisingly good turns as the sun finally came out to end the day. John was waiting for us with the van and we piled in for the return trip to Park City.
It is now 6:30 p.m., and I'm tired; it was an unexpectedly long day, but it was all very well worth it. The Interconnect Tour is a great way to get out and away from the resorts and see some terrain and views that most people don't get. When I left in the morning I didn't know what to expect, hard-core touring, easy resort skiing, both? It ended up being resort skiing with some backcountry turns, without the work. This was a good thing for the state my mind and body was in, and would be a good thing for a flatlander. Although maybe not the most challenging day for a seasoned ski tourer, the Interconnect Tour is a great day for a skier without much backcountry experience, looking for more adventure than a resort can offer.
The Tour offers views and turns that are unreachable at any resort, as well as the bragging rights of skiing five resorts in the same day without driving. Now I have to go to another band practice, it sometimes hurts, but it's always a good hurt.