Trade Show Circuit

Published 2010-02-25

We work the winter trade shows in Salt Lake City and Denver, setting up early, talking shop late, and cram in as many days of skiing as humanly possible, because that’s what we do. With OR finished, we rushed directly towards the Wasatch Mountains. It’d been dumping while we’d slung packs in the SLC convention center, and plowed to a near-standstill, like a boat dragging anchor, in two hours of 8am Sunday stop and go traffic threading its slow way toward LCC. Clearly we weren’t locals, and neither was anybody else in line. As we reached the closed mouth of the avy-controlled canyon, we turned around, like everyone else, and drove to BCC with hundreds, hopefully not thousands, of rippers several steps ahead of us, already parked on the road near Solitude and hiking to the ticket window. A solid three hour approach for out of towners to get some skiing showed us how far 20 or so miles can sometimes be, when one’s trying to flee the city for the mountains. 11 am came early: but our ratpack of 5 worked its way to the summit lift, was in line just after opening, and found that light, blower, luscious Utah powder that clings in your brain. The extreme avalanche danger kept ski patrol from opening the Solitude slack country, but somehow the crowds were light, and we swallowed lift-served pow all day.

James Binkley weaving through Aspens

James looking for a safe, speedy path through an Aspen grove

The sun found its way out Monday morning, but 4 feet of snow lurked on top of a terrible weak layer. This combination resulted in 23 reported avalanches in the Salt Lake region over the weekend. Short on cash for a second day at the resort, we took to low angle backcountry skiing. Big Cottonwood Canyon is lathered with moderate angle, aspen infested pitches fresh for our choosing. We found some lines.

Taking a turn on an untouched shoulder in front of Solitude

The stability tests we performed on the snowpack aligned with the forecast, consistently terrible, so we packed the camper that afternoon and motored for Colorado to prep for the SIA (Ski Industry Association) tradeshow in Denver.

Of course, on the way to Denver is the little town of Crested Butte, with more snow and bluebird skies, but again unsettling conditions lurked in the snowpack, the new snow/old snow interface weak, the avalanche danger high. Did I mention we trailered sleds the whole trip? We stayed prudent though, confined ourselves to skiing only the base of the highest peaks, drooling over the possibilities in the higher lines. We used the snowmobiles to lap short lines and small cliffs void of avalanche danger, then packed again, not ready to test our luck further in another unfamiliar snowpack, fired up the camper, and drove to the biggest skiing party in Colorado.

The X-Games. Aspen. Two days, a Friday night. We did absolutely no skiing. Instead, a hearty effort was put into supporting the athletes who have trained hard to compete professionally, and figured the best way to do this was to take advantage of the sponsor companies throwing the parties. In Belly Up we were greeted with an open bar and catered lunch. We used several hours of this as motivation to make our way 5 miles to the events at Buttermilk. Do five matching backpacks makes us look like professional media? We stood just down from the packed bus stop, and in mere seconds a van pulled out of traffic to the side of the road asking if we were with ESPN and offered us a ride. The hesitation in our response and no credentials foiled this plan, but the second vehicle fell for our plot and gave us a ride. Two hours of witnessing ridiculous tricks sent us right back to the bars in Aspen. A few ridiculously caffeinated cocktails played a small, but key, role in closing down the bars. 9am meetings in Denver would be something. And on we went.