Tag Archives: Utah

Family Adventure: Zion & Capitol Reef National Park

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We made a trip south this Fall to Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks.  This completes our tour of the five national parks in Utah.

We camped in both parks.  Anytime we grab a camping spot in a national park, I feel privileged as that can be hard to find, especially in popular parks like Zion.

Here was our trip itinerary.

Day 1: Drove to Zion

Our first day was all about getting down to Zion.  It is about four and half hours for us, mostly down Interstate 15.

We did stop off at the park entrance on the northeast side, the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, for about half an hour.

And then drove a short bit to the main entrance, near the town of Springdale, and to the South Campground.

Day 2: Zion Hiking

The main area of Zion is not that large.  During the main season, you have to take the trolley, which was easy and convenient, especially already staying in the park.  There are nine shuttle stops.  We did two stops – the Temple of Sinawava and the Grotto.

At the Temple of Sinawava, we hiked out the Riverside Walk to the start of the Narrows.  The ranger told us the flow rate was pretty high, to the point of not being fun, so we opted out of doing the Narrows.

At the Grotto, we hiked up to the Upper and Middle Emerald Pools, and then down the Sand Bench trail to the Court of the Patriarchs.  I might opt out of the last part, the Sand Bench trail.  It was a fine hike and all, but probably the least interesting.

Day 3:  More Zion Hiking

Sort of the same programming as Day 2.  We took the trolley up to the Grotto and hiked up to Scout Lookout via the West Rim trail.  We did not fight the people and the permitting process to do Angel’s Landing. 

 But we did see California Condors – which I consider a bigger win.

And after regrouping at camp for a bit, we hiked the Watchman trail – which was accessible and had some nice views.  And we saw Big Horn Sheep.

Day 5:  Driving Over To Capitol Reef

Not too much exciting here; about a four hour drive over to Capitol Reef.  We did drive out the east side of Zion on Route 9 – the Zion Mount Carmel highway and that was worth it.  We likely would not have ventured over to this part of the park otherwise.

Campsites at Capitol Reef were pretty domesticated.

Day 6:  Capitol Reef

We were fairly low key at Capitol Reef.  We caught a ranger session, did the Cohab Canyon hike to the lookouts, and ate pie.

Capitol Reef is not a super popular park, partly due to its location away from most other major sights.

Day 7:  Home

And then we drove home, which was about four hours from Fruita.

All in all, both parks were great. Glad we saw them. We covered a lot of ground in Zion and got the main feeling for Capitol Reef. I certainly would go back to either, but if we didn’t, would feel like we saw the main highlights of both.

Park City Weather & Snow Resources

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Here are the resources you need to monitor Park City weather & snow.

NOAA – Park City

NOAA – Salt Lake City Area Snow Reporting – snow reports for all Wasatch resorts

Utah Avalanche Center – informative even if staying inbounds

Keep in mind, this is mountain weather. The weather can be very location specific. What happened at 7,000′ is not necessarily what happened at 9,000′.

Pro tip: wind speed and wind direction are super important to monitor.

Ski Gear Thought Experiment

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So, I put this together to send to the Blister team, since they will give you gear recommendations if you are a member.  They’re great; I highly recommend their reviews as well as a membership.

However, I decided what I really needed was more reps, not more gear.  So as of now, I have not made any new purchases, but am considering another guided backcountry trip.

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I have been building out my ski gear lineup over the last few seasons; making an investment or two each season.  Where would you recommend investing for this season?

Here is my current gear lineup, built over the past five seasons or so, while living mostly in Ohio but skiing Colorado quite a bit.  We’re currently in Park City, Utah.

Skis (In Order of Acquisition):

  1. Dynastar Slicer (175) – I bought this ski back in 2016 and really love it.  It is my daily driver and I generally have to look for reasons not to ski this ski.  It inspires confidence.  It’s my baseline for the rest of the skis below.
  1. Dynastar Distorter (179) – I bought this setup off season in 2016 at a price that made it sort of impossible not to purchase.  I use it as a “beater” ski, when coverage is less than ideal.  We will occasionally cruise through the park, but that’s not where I spend significant time.  So generally this ski doesn’t do anything better than my other skis.
  1. Head Supershade iTitan (163) – Purchased this ski in 2018 and have learned to enjoy it early season and days I want to work on short turns / carving.  The ski has helped me progress.  It is obviously a short length and a carving ski, but I have found it to be way more versatile than I expected.  Matched to the right conditions and objectives, I always enjoy this ski.
  1. Line Sick Day 104 (179) + Atomic Shift Binding – Bought this at the end of the season in 2020 based on Blister reviews and as a 50 / 50 ski as I have started touring a bit.  Touring was all we could do at the end of 2020.  I also use the ski on softer inbounds days.  I find it seems to require a bit more attention than the Slicer and that I need to “drive it” a tad more to inspire the same level of confidence.  But that could also be conditions or my own shortcomings as a skier.

Boots (In Order of Acquisition):

  1. Nordica GPX 110 – Call this my first real ski boots that fit properly.  I have a narrow heel and my prior boots would fall more into the comfort category.  After a bunch of work, this boot and I get along just fine.
  1. Atomic Hawk 120 XTD – purchased with my Lines at the end of 2020 season for my touring setup.  I have been impressed with the boots and the fact that I’ve actually not had them worked on at all and they feel pretty good (only 2mm BSL difference between my boots).  I could use a punch or two.  I mix and match them a bit with my other skis depending on my mood.  They ski significantly better when you remember to take them out of walk mode.

Personal Details & Ability:

I am 46 years old, 5’ 11”, 160 lbs and am reasonably athletic (D1 track and field).  I’m not a super aggressive skier, and maybe take a little bit more playful approach.  I am a late to life skier, having grown up in Florida, but can ski 85% of the Canyons comfortably.  Steep bumps and deep powder are areas I need to work on in particular.  I spend most my time trying to keep up with my nine year old daughter, who is a natural skier (this will be her sixth season).  She skis the Atomic Bent Chetler in 133 because Santa likes her more than he likes me.  My ski lengths are probably conservative.

We skied ~85 days last season.  Mostly inbounds at the Canyons, or early season at PCMR, and ~5 days night skinning PCMR, and ~5 backcountry days.  Backcountry was a touch scary around here last season, but hope to do a bit more this upcoming season and did my AIARE level 1 in March at Snowbird.

2021 / 2022 Season:

My goal would be to continue to progress as an all-around skier and would prioritize any investment along those lines.

Here’s what I have been considering:

  1. Powder Ski: I lean toward something like the Moment Wildcat, Blizzard Rustler 11 (length?)
  2. Dedicated Touring Setup: Raven (length?) + ATK Raider? My spirit animal is the Raven, what is yours?  I am really just looking for an excuse to buy this setup.
  3. Updated Daily Driver: Something a bit firmer (Masterblaster, QST 99?). I honestly would consider getting the Dynaster Menace 98 in longer length before you can no longer find it.
  4. Invest elsewhere – Newer boots, other, etc.  For boots, I would probably be looking at the Nordica Pro Machine in 120.

What would you recommend?  And I welcome any other reactions to anything I wrote above.

The Mountain West: Not All Sunshine & Lollipops

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We have really enjoyed being out here in Park City, Utah for an extended period of time.

I have written about the path that got us here.  In short, we were here when the pandemic started and decided to shelter here for a little while. A little while turned into a while longer.  

Last year, we missed most of fire season.  There were a few days where you could tell there was something going on with particulates in the air.  Mostly eerie sunsets.

This year has been a different story.  We have seen a lot of these kinds of forecasts.

We have learned about PurpleAir.  There have been consecutive days where it has been legitimately smokey – with smoke coming over from California (i.e., the Dixie Fire).  

And we had our own fire recently.  There were evacuations and disruptions. And a lot of smoke.

VLAT Operating Over Parley’s Canyon Fire near Park City, Utah

Recent events have made us appreciate the clear days even more.  Even the locals are distressed with the situation this year.  

Fire season is something to understand if you are considering the Mountain West.