White Powder and Red Rock
Brian Head Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
I was sitting around my buddy Erik Wilhelmâs house, pondering on the lack of storm activity that had plagued Tahoe for the past month, when the Weather Channel scrolled more stats across the screen at me about weather elsewhere. Not that lack of snow was bothering those pros who were off in Alaska or BC or wherever had been deemed the Shangri-La of the moment. No, they couldnât give a damn about those of left at home. Of course, I was just bitter because the closest I had been was a phone call from pro snowboarder Adam Hostetter asking if I wanted to join a Teton Gravity Research crew in Alaska at the last minute. Problem was, I wasnât home when he called. When I called him back, a stranger picked up the phone and said heâd just found this cell phone lying around in San Francisco airport.
My head jerked up, though, when the Weather Channel announced 16â of fresh snow in Brian Head, Utah. Now most Wasatch locals donât even know where Brian Head is, even though itâs in their own state. I had had an interest in the place for awhile, so I knew something about it. Rumor had it that there was a cheap snowcat operation there, and some great out-of-bounds terrain. The Brian Head web site " Internet savvy powder hound that I am " told me that the storm had dumped a total of 28â on the resort.
A day of phone calls got me hooked up at the resort end. Theyâd love to see a crew come out there and shoot, they say. I tell them I expect two hundred pounds of M&Mâs to be waiting in our room, and if there are any brown ones weâre driving straight back to Tahoe.
So off we went, rallying across The Loneliest Road in America for hundreds of miles through Nevada.
Jason is a DJ himself, who goes by DJ MIA.
We rolled into Brian Head about one in the morning, walked into the condo that was awaiting us, and thought that we had been styled pretty damn well.
We warmed up on some groomed runs "and though I rarely enthuse about corduroy, it was some of the finest Iâve come across" and then hit some powder stashes in the trees. At noon we were booked for our first cat ride to Brian Head Peak, and we were itching to get up there. The peak looms four hundred feet above the top of the lifts, which while it isnât that much, looks pretty impressive when itâs all cliff terrain. The head of ski patrol joined us, and we piled on the snowcat for the ride up. The snowcat was another surprise, a bad-ass black Ford pickup with tracks mounted on the axles. Each operator during our stay seemed bent on setting a new record to the top, which made for some exciting rides.
âWeâre the only ones who ride this,â explained Tommy. âThe kind of people who come here to ski think itâs too burly, and not many of the people who work here are interested.â
Jason wasted no time in selecting a steep chute line and charged high up the left bank, only to slash back into the choke at the last second.
âDoes he realize thereâs a 60 foot cliff the other side of where he was?â We assured him Jason did. The patroller sighed. âWell, I could have come up here and NOT seen that and my day would have been just fine.â
Jody laid over a huge toe side fan on the crusty upper bowl, and stomped a nice air without slowing down. Tommy worked his way into a cliff called Homewrecker, a scary funnel takeoff with a big pre-ollie and a windlip to clear below.
Erik, never to be outdone by anyone if he can help it, sized up a big cliff.
This factor weighed strongly in favor of us attending the weekly patrol party that night at Club Edge, a venerable old bar that had been in existence as long as the resort. Much to our dismay, all the talent stayed away and the bar was mostly filled with a 30âs-ish crowd of ski patrollers when we arrived. We slowly made a few new friends, and after a couple of pitchers were soon getting to know the whole crew. One or another of us would constantly be fielding the question âare you the guy that went 40 (50, 60âŠ) feet off the peak today?â
Erik played it cool like it was something everyone did every day at Squaw Valley and it was really no big deal, but I could tell he was eating up the attention. Everything was copacetic until we heard a flurry of commotion and turned to see a gal pummeling fists into an old fellow and driving him out the swinging doors backwards. Seemed the crusty old patroller, Ed, had drunkenly insulted a female patroller and paid for it. Ed was the same guy who said to a patroller who was showing us unbelievable backcountry shots of Cedar Breaks âah, you ainât ski-ed shit!â When weak promises of late-arriving girls failed to materialize, Erik and I bailed while Jason stayed with that pathetic desperation only a Kiwi can muster. A couple of girls played a âwhich one of us isnât going to take you homeâ game before both left him standing. He kept drinking until they shut off the lights and kicked him out the door. Sad.
The next day was full of more of the same snow and terrain, though it was setting up a bit heavier and monster airs were not the call. We discovered there was yet another hot snowboard patroller we hadnât met, and Jason glommed onto her like a remora onto a shark. As with the others, though, she had a boyfriend and he was denied. Frank took us out that night for Mexican food, and showed us around his tiny hometown of Parowan at the base of the valley. He lapsed into this amazing mellifluous tour guide voice without being the least self-conscious about it, and gave us a flawless history of everything we passed. âAnd there are the handrails of the high school, which I used to skate during lunch breakâŠâ The Mexican place was run by classic southern Utah white folk, who seemed incapable of getting any order completely right. The food was good, though, and Timmy didnât kill anyone. Erik was a bit cynical about small town life, and went around humming to the tune of Heroin, âPar-o-wan, itâll be the death of meâ.
The morning of our departure saw us in the Mountain View CafĂ© having breakfast, where the cook turned out to be one of our pals from the ski patrol night. We were trading stories of the events that night, and Jason was excited that heâd gotten the fight aftermath on video. The cook nodded toward the table next to us as Jason was babbling away, and there was Melissa, queen of the Fight Club herself. One thing you learn quick about Brian Head, is that itâs too damn small to talk about someone without them hearing. Melissa appeared sheepish about the event, which was going to be a source of patrol gossip for the next few weeks. Soon we were gone, though, with all of the strange little dramas that run through the Head of Brian behind us, and nothing but rabbits ahead. Hell of a place, though.