Hiking Skiing

Skiing in August

Skiing a sliver of snow during the dog days of summer

ALTA, Utah — My friend Steve plans to ski in every calendar month this year. With that goal in mind, and a sliver of snow still left on Gunsight at Alta Ski Area, he invited me to join him for another summer ski day.

The hike to Gunsight this time would be much easier than last July because the summer road up to the campground in Albion Basin was open. By the time we arrived at Alta, however, the parking lot at the campground was already full, so we were relegated to riding the shuttle bus.

We compiled all our gear at the car and walked over to the bus stop. We were met with odd glances by the less “adventurous” patrons waiting to ride up into Albion Basin to catch a glimpse of the wildflowers.

There was certainly no way to hide the fact that we were going to attempt to ski. My pack looked like a big letter A with my skis lashed to each side and rubber-banded together at the top. To make matters worse, the bus was full, so we had to jam our packs in an odd place on the bus for them to fit. I liked the reason for the attention, but I also hated the attention.

I derive some satisfaction from the absurdity of skiing a patch of snow on a 100-degree day in August. Nearly everyone who passed us on the trails asked us a question or made a comment. The ones who didn’t just looked at us funny and then looked around for a patch of snow, only to find endless acres of wildflowers and a few unreachable patches of snow high on the cliffs of Devil’s Castle. Their confused looks delighted me.

If only they knew how simple it is:

  1. Put ski boots in pack
  2. Lash skis to side of pack
  3. Drop camera, snack, and bottle of water in pack
  4. Drive as close to the snow as possible
  5. Hike less than a mile to the base of the snow
  6. Walk up the snow
  7. Swap hiking boots for ski boots, and put hiking boots in pack
  8. Ski
  9. Swap ski boots for hiking boots, and put ski boots back in pack
  10. Hike down
  11. High-five
  12. Drive home

For many, that’s a lot of effort for a couple hundred vertical feet of skiing on bad snow, but it’s the novelty and the absurdity that makes it worth it every time.

We were at least the third group to ski Gunsight that day. Those who came before us, in fact, cleaned up the run with their turns, so the skiing was actually pretty good.

An August ski day is in the books. Only September and October are left for me to have skied in every calendar month (although not consecutively).