Night Skiing at Nordic Valley
The dancing shadows and billowing wind make it hard to properly discern the size of Nordic Valley ski area, especially late at night, when the lights of the Ogden Valley twinkle beneath the onus of an oncoming storm, and a much different sort of late-night ski crowd rides the hill's two lifts, congregates in groups of friends, and hangs out in the area's throwback base lodge.
Out in the parking lot, on this weird, warm night which turns out to be a precursor to a major winter storm, kids group around a pickup truck or overflowing car, joking and stealing smokes. Up on the mountain, it's all about aerial maneuvers, jumps, and hide and seek in the shadows. The two chairlifts hum; night hunkers around the hill.
Nordic Valley, about 20 miles from downtown Ogden and close to two other ski areas - Powder Mountain and Snowbasin - is the sort of place you think of when you think of skiing the way it used to be. Resort development? You must be kidding. Slick brochures? The trail map is in black and white on an 8x11 sheet of paper.
Family owned and family oriented, Nordic Valley is also the king of night skiing in Utah - all 19 runs and 1,000 vertical feet are lit up at night (some more lit than others, truth be told) and both double chairlifts run until 10 p.m. most nights. Just to the side of the main mountain, a rope tow ferries tubers to an exciting run.
In fact, it is not uncommon here to find more people skiing at night than during the day, and those skiers range from Europeans in slick jump suits to local ranchers in Carrharts. Anyway, at night, shadows rule the mountain, not pretenses. The skiers become sort of equalized.
Nordic Valley sits on the lower eastern slopes of Ben Lomond, the mighty mountain that rises from Ogden. The area's low elevation - the base is at just 5,400 feet, making it the lowest in Utah and one of the lowest in the Intermountain West - should not be an indication of the amount of snow it gets, however. How much? Try 300 inches - the same as Deer Valley and just shy of what falls at Sundance. Fifty of the area's 85 acres are covered by snowmaking.
Laura and I had hoped to make it up to Nordic Valley early, when it was still light and we could poke around and take some pictures. But we didn't - and the hill remained a sort of dark netherworld, like a maze in the dark. At night, in fact, is the only way I've ever seen Nordic Valley.
So we just skied, really, and stuck mostly to the main lift, the Viking lift, they call it, and alternated zooming narrow runs with wide open cruisers that we carved huge turns on. At the bottom of the hill we'd swoop back over to the Viking lift, and wait in a short line behind teens that liked to chat and kid each other as much as they like to board and ski. Back at the top, we took tight, half-lit runs through close trees then joined the lights again in the main run under the lift. Towards 10 p.m., when we finally called it quits, huge gusts of wind were rocking the top lift towers, and waves of snow were blowing across the open slopes. We drove down the canyon and had a near-midnight breakfast, and fell asleep exhausted.
The next day it snowed a foot.
Lifts: 2 double chairs, one rope tow
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Prices: Apparently just changed, but seems to be $20 for 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, $10 during the week.
For more information: No web sites here - call (801) 392-0900.
An Olympic Day
Eighteen-year old Kelly Clark, in a flash of bright smiles and sick air this afternoon, brought home America's first gold medal of the 2002 Olympics. Clark, competing in the women's snowboarding half pipe at Park City, flew higher and nailed more maneuvers than any woman ever before in the halfpipe, and brought a capacity crowd of 16,500 to their feet on the final run of the competition.
The half-day event marked a nexus for the infant sport, which was introduced at the Olympics just in 1998, and even then to much controversy. Indeed, Sunday at Park City was more X-Games than traditional Olympics, with boarders ripping as their favorites tunes blared over the P.A. system (Clark's was 'Welcome to the Jungle' by Guns n' Roses). During the break between the qualifying event, rockers Lit played a set that prompted an on-snow mosh pit at the foot of the stadium.
Clark easily beat Doriane Vidal of France and Fabienne Reuteler of Switzerland. Her best moves were a 'McTwist,' a 540-degree inverted spin, and a 720-degree spin that left me breathless.
Sunday, like the day before it, was a spectacular day in the Wasatch. A light breeze, cloudless blue skies and crisp cold temperatures. Laura and I arrived up at the mountain early. With general admission seats, we moved from the upper pavilion to the mid section to the mosh pit for Lit (Laura sat that out while I jumped in and elbowed a bunch of 16-year olds) to near the runout zone, where we had a great view of the halfpipe and could congratulate the boarders as they came by.
Those few hours were a highlight of the winter for me - a great crowd, a great band, and a great group of athletes. Unfortunately, the next three hours - waiting in line to get a bus back to the park and ride lot - were one of the low spots of the winter. One could hope the Olympic transportation committee is just working out a few early kinks; on Sunday, however, things simply appeared to be poorly planned, poorly managed, and poorly executed. Throw in a tassle of rude or indifferent volunteer workers, and it came close to offsetting the greatness of the first half of the day. But hey, we've still got two weeks to get better!
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