The snowriding season isn't really over until Alta Ski Area closes down.
Now it's over. That photo is perhaps the only one you'll see showing the last chair on Collins Lift, which carried its final skiers up to the top at about 5:00 pm. It was a notable season; Alta Resort's 70th anniversary. The resort has been operating for nearly three quarters of a century, and the snow is still incredible.
Everyone knew it would be icy in the morning, but by 10:00 am, the whole parking lot was full, not a space to be found. The road up to Albion was lined with cars. But the icy snow soon softened to delicious corn, and stayed good all day. Freeskiers quickly found natural jumps, and on-snow crowds gathered to watch amazing tricks.
Closing day costumes have become a bigger part of the tradition each year, and this year they were better than ever (check the photo of one of the many Elvis's who shook it up down the slopes). In truth, the guy's costumes were the most creative.
The area at the top of Collins lift slowly filled as people waited to cheer the last chair. When it finally arrived, the requisite shout went up, and everyone slowly dispersed.
Meanwhile, two small avalanches, about 30 feet wide and four feet high, had let loose about 3:45 pm, about a mile below Snowbird and caused the closure of Little Cottonwood Canyon until 5:30 (Newspapers wonder why they're folding? Perhaps because they get so many of their facts wrong. One big local paper said the Canyon was closed until 7:00---wrong! The only media up on the snow was Adventure Sports Weekly).
It was a gourmet year at the tailgate party. One man prepared his incredibly tasty invention, a breast of chicken wrapped around a mixture of onions and cheddar cheese, with the whole thing wrapped in bacon strips. He handed out dozens to perfect strangers, and made many instant friends.
Closing day at Alta is full of friendship. Everyone is smiling, everyone seems happy. One delighted skier said, "It's like there's magic in the air."
There were fewer people at the tailgate party, perhaps because of the Canyon closure, but a curious thing was noticed by everyone. When the canyon opened, cars would wait in line with their motors running, even though they weren't moving. It took a long while for parking lot traffic to begin inching forward. Finally, one woman was questioned about why she had been running the motor of her SUV for 25 minutes, while going nowhere. "They're moving up there," she replied, pointing to the road several hundred feet above her. "But no one's moving in front of you," growled one man, disgusted that the wasted gas the woman was burning was polluting the air the partiers had to breathe.
It was strange that hundreds of people in cars preferred to wait in a line without moving an inch, motors running and slowly emptying the gas tank that they had paid to fill; rather than figure out they weren't getting anywhere, so they might as well shut off the engine and join the party until traffic began moving again.
But people at the tailgate party weren't bummed out by the fumes. They were celebrating, wishing Alta a happy 70th. May we all be in such stellar shape when we're 70.