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Skiing Alta {format} {format} 5:41 Scott Carrier

Sticking to the safer, sanctioned slopes.

Broadcast: Jan 20 2005 on NPR Day to Day Subjects: Sports, Environment

Profile: Skiers at the Alta Ski Resort in Utah

January 20, 2005 from Day to Day

ALEX CHADWICK, host: This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Enough politics. We're going outdoors to have fun--carefully. The snowy slopes of Utah have been dangerous this winter. Avalanches there have killed at least seven people, including one last week who skied past warning signs to an out-of-bounds area. But most skiers stay inbounds, and with all the snow this year, they find spectacular conditions. Scott Carrier has been riding the lifts at Utah's Alta Ski Area.

SCOTT CARRIER reporting:

It takes only 35 minutes to drive from downtown Salt Lake City to Alta Ski Resort. There are some stoplights, then you're on the freeway, then you're driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon, then you're there, riding up the lifts, looking back down the half-pipe-shaped canyon to the city in the valley below. I went up on a weekday, and the place was nearly empty: open slopes, fast skiing, just a few tourists and some ski bums. Everybody was from out of town.

Mr. JEFF SHUSKIS(ph) (West Hartford, Connecticut): My name's Jeff Shuskis. I'm from West Hartford, Connecticut. I've been coming out here many years. It's an amazing place. The light's flat today; it means there's a little bit of sun, but there's more gray sky. And when the light's flat, you lose contrast and your depth perception. So I think it's like you're skiing with your feet.

(Soundbite of cannon)

Mr. SHUSKIS: Avalanche.

CARRIER: So what was that?

Mr. SHUSKIS: That was their avalanche work. They have a cannon. I think that's like a 105mm shell. And they fire these charges, and then it detonates. And what they hope to do is trigger a slide.

(Soundbite of cannon)

CARRIER: What's your name?

Mr. NORM BLANCHARD (Philadelphia): Norm Blanchard from Philadelphia.

CARRIER: How old are you?

Mr. BLANCHARD: Seventy-four. I'll be 75 this year.


Mr. BLANCHARD: Been skiing ever since I was four years old. I grew up with some Olympic skiers in New England, skied all the big resorts in Europe for 16 years--Val d'Isere, Zermatt, Grindelwald. I've skied Australia also because, of course, down there, you ski in June.

CARRIER: Well, you know, on our license plates, it says, `Greatest Snow on Earth.' It's...

Mr. BLANCHARD: Yeah, it is.

CARRIER: You've had some experience with the...

Mr. BLANCHARD: No, yeah, it is, because you don't find the powder conditions anywhere in the world the way you do on the eastern slopes of the Wasatch Range.

Ms. TASHA HATTEN(ph) (Northern California): Tasha Hatten. I currently live in San Francisco area, Northern California.

CARRIER: So your boots don't--they're not attached in the back. They come up off the ski in the back.

Ms. HATTEN: Yes, I...

CARRIER: Like it's a cross--what is that?

Ms. HATTEN: It's a toe-mark ski.

CARRIER: All right.

Ms. HATTEN: Yeah, you've gotta balance your--center your weight, and when you make a turn, you sort of genuflect on your back knee.

CARRIER: It's a holy motion.

Ms. HATTEN: It's a holy motion. It is a holy motion on this holy mountain up here at Alta.

(Soundbite of cannon)

CALVIN: My name's Calvin.

CARRIER: And what's a thing that you like to do up here, a place you like to go?

CALVIN: Places I like to go?

CARRIER: Yeah. One place.

CALVIN: I love to hike. Last thing I did that made me really excited was I hiked up the top of Superior about two weeks ago, just before the snowpack got unstable.

CARRIER: So for people who don't--have never seen Superior, describe Superior. What is it?

CALVIN: Ah, it's just a giant face. You can see it right over here, that giant peak. Ski down the face, and there's a couple aprons, couple chutes. And--but, you know, when you're on top, there's no worry in the world.

CARRIER: So it was, like, an excellent run?

CALVIN: It was my moment of bliss, and I'm still off that high right now. (Chuckles)

CARRIER: I started out skiing here when I was seven, 40 years ago. I don't get out much anymore, but when I was younger, this was a happenin' place, and I knew a lot of people who lived and worked here, hiding out from the real world. Inside a restaurant at midmountain, I met the son of some of these old friends, Eli King(ph). He's 19 now, graduated from high school, carrying on the family tradition.

Well, so how's it going, working up here? Are you still able to construct full sentences?

Mr. ELI KING: (Laughs) I'd say that working up at Alta is probably the most rocking job on the planet. I mean, everybody I work with is just always continuously partying so hard, not just in terms of their skiing abilities but also in terms of their, you know, serious commitment to having a huge amount of fun and playing like a wild animal.

CARRIER: That sounds pretty--but you're not worried about getting back to, like, the...

Mr. KING: Life?

CARRIER: Yes, back to...

Mr. KING: Real humanity?

CARRIER: Yes. Do you...

Mr. KING: I don't know. I'm more worried about real humanity than I am about getting back to it, to tell you the truth on that. It's like the only way that I can come to some place in myself where I can interact with our society today is by going to the mountains, getting away. All of my family has worked up here with the exception of two aunts and uncles--everybody. I was conceived up here at Alta. This is a sacred place on the planet.

CARRIER: So you feel good here?

Mr. KING: I do. And it dumps here all the time. We get so much snow, it's sort of obscene.

CARRIER: From Alta, Utah, this is Scott Carrier.

CHADWICK: Scott Carrier is an independent writer and radio producer. He comes to us with support from the independent radio group Hearing Voices.