The snow that hit around mid-day was welcome, but the single-digit temperatures and winds were not. Actually, the snow was a problem too. And to be fair to Alta, I strongly suspect the skiing anywhere along the Wasatch Front wasn't good.
Mark and I had planned to Ski Free After 3 at Alta. I left work at 2:15 with the wind blowing and the temperature at 27 degrees. The sign at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon warned that chains or 4-wheel-drive were required, but I ignored it and drove on. Near Snowbird the roads got snowy, but below that they were clear. I saw Mark's car in the parking lot. The temperature at Alta was 7 degrees! I parked, got my ski clothes on and skied to the lift at 3:02. I tried to call Mark, but no answer - no surprise - he latter confirmed my suspicion: there was no way he was taking off his glove to answer his phone. I met him at the lift after my first run so no worries.
It's nice that Alta has this Ski Free After 3 program, but they aren't fools. You're limited to one lift (Sunnyside) and the terrain there is not very exciting. I was surprised that the Sunnyside lift is a high-speed triple, but this is just so they can get paying customers back to the Sugarloaf and Supreme lifts, and better terrain. Still, it's hard to argue with free, but I'll try.
The first thing that got our attention was the cold. After the first run I went back to the car and put on my balaclava and another pair of thin gloves to go under my fleece ones. I should have put on my ski mask, but I (stupidly) toughed it out.
The next inescapable feature was the wind. It wasn't bad when at our backs going up the lift, but having it in our face on the way down was cold and slowed us down - way down. The runs down from Sunnyside are not steep to begin with, then add the wind and you could easily stop dead on the near-flats. Here's the data:
Month Base Base Base Base Hour SinceWind 8-12 mph average with gusts to 29 & 22. And temperatures of 8.5 and 7.7 degrees - my car said 5 degrees when we left. The wind chill was -10. I humbly recommend higher temperatures and less wind for skiing.
/ Day Hour Temp Dir Spd Gust h2o 0400
1 15 1500 8.5 13.6 12.2 29.0 0.01 0.06
1 15 1600 7.7 12.4 8.0 22.1 0.00 0.06
Lastly, the snow. Skiers like fresh snow, right? Usually. But when it's drifted and blowing in your face, it's not so nice. Many times I'd be skiing down a run scraping the edges through an icy patch only to lurch forward as I hit a drift and nearly go over the front. One time a drift caught my right leg and wouldn't let go, spinning me in a circle and forcing (yes, the snow made me do it) me to fall down.
So it wasn't the day of skiing I'd hoped for. Still, we got to make a few turns for free and, from the initial reports, no one had any frostbite.
It was too cold to take pictures, but I snapped this one from inside the car:
So that was our 1.5 hours of free skiing. Here's Mark's report. I'd be willing to try it again and see if the experience improves with better weather.