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Snowbird: Only Utah Ski Resort Still Open

Published: 05/19/2010
Anyone thinking snow season is finished should check out Snowbird's parking lot. Though only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a few more weeks, enough snow riders pack the lot that it's full. Some even have to park up on the main road.

But is it worth it? Should you go? The answer is yes. To add a bit of country: hell, yes!

It doesn't matter that the shuttle's done and you have to walk from the lot all the way to the plaza to get a ticket and board the tram. It doesn't matter that the lifts only run from 8 in the morning until 2 p.m. When you're standing at the top of Little Cloud chair, wondering whether to take Regulator or hit Mineral Basin or Road to Provo, you have to remind yourself that it's late May. All of this snow, and it's the end of May!

The snow coverage is epic. But aside from record conditions, there's another reason to hit the slopes during these final weeks. Right now is the time for technique breakthroughs, the time to learn how to carve like an expert. The snow itself will be your teacher.

It's one thing to take a lesson and be told what to do. It's another to read about technique and try to learn from words or pictures. But the most efficient way to become a god of skiing or snowboarding is to hit the snow and learn how to handle whatever comes. That's why you want to be on the 'Bird's slopes in the afternoon, when the snow is at its worst. Even beginners will quickly learn to carve. Here's why: If you try to ride on a flat base, you'll have a hard time getting any speed. The snow will also grab at your skis or snowboard. The only way to get down the hill without the herky-jerkies of spring is to get on your edge. The board or ski's edge will slice through spring snow like magic. You'll be forced to learn how to get on your edges; the physics of making a turn in spring snow will teach you.

Here are some tips, again, for both skiers and boarders: If you're going down a steep run and the front of your gear is bouncing over loose clumps of snow, that means you're not carving. Clench your toes, while pressing down. If you're pressing down on the front of your board or skis, it helps get you on edge. Being on your edge when you start the turn makes it easy to stay on that edge, thus "carving" the turn. When you carve, the snow becomes easy and doesn't grab. When you start sliding instead of carving, the wet snow sucks your base to a stop. Keep your legs bent to the athletic "ready" position, which will make it easier to carve.

A big help in gliding on spring snow is a rub-on Teflon product called "Zardoz Not Wax." With a quick rub of the hockey-puck-size applicator, your bases will flow over snow as if it were January. Ski and snowboard shops that stay open all year may have some; a supply that will last several seasons will cost you $13.

As far as conditions, it's been so cold, and the 'Bird has had so much snow, coverage is excellent. Last Sunday, there wasn't a bare spot anywhere, including that "dodge-'em" spot on the narrow Road to Provo, the first spot to melt to bare rock on that side of the mountain. There was even full snow coverage on Dick Bass Highway and on the bridge all the way to the Plaza.

It certainly won't be as good when the 'Bird reopens this weekend. But the main runs will still be well covered, and right now is the time to use those runs for an instant carving lesson that will pay off big when the lifts start running again in the fall.