Our search for new and/or random peaks to summit and consume hops and grain in liquid form recently brought us to the “other” mountain range of the Salt Lake Valley – the Oquirrh Mountains. After years of looking at these peaks every day and wondering what it would be like to ski them, Adam and I decided to stop the wondering and bring along a bottle of Alta 75th Anniversary Ale.
We started our ski tour from the tiny town of Ophir, a former mining community that is now a sleepy burg surrounded by cliffs and the white-capped peaks of the southern Oquirrhs. We drove through the main street, amused by signs admonishing us that quiet time starts at 10pm, along with seemingly thousands of no-trespassing signs nailed to every wall, tree and fence post in sight.
The road ended on the other side of town where it became unplowed. A few miles of 4×4 driving in deep snow brought us near the mouth of Serviceberry Canyon, a small drainage that allows access to Bald Mountain East, also known locally as Sharp Mountain. It is among the easier mountains to climb in the area, and we heard that the skiing is good here in early winter.
The route began at a green metal gate with a posted sign that said, “No Motorized Vehicles.” Beyond the gate, an ancient tractor lay rotting in the bushes and snow. We skinned up a summer road that switchbacked from sagebrush flats to oak groves, to aspen and pine trees and eventually the high alpine. Once the trail broke the treeline, Sharp Mountain came into view.
The road grade ended at Chandler Pass, where we decided to climb the east ridge of Bald Mountain. The wind was howling, dropping the already bitter 9 degrees to an unthinkable wind-chill affected number. With hoods on and frozen fingers, we slowly skinned up the ridge and topped out in thick fog that shrouded the peak in milky white.
It was unfortunate that fog dominated, because the view would have been awesome behind the sparkling bottle of Alta 75th Anniversary Ale that I pulled from my pack. Even though it was but-ass cold, we drank up in celebration of another summit… summited.
Wasatch Alta 75th Anniversary Ale
This beer is pretty much your typical American-style pale ale – which I think is the ideal beer for post-skiing or mountain climbing shenanigans. This special version released especially for Alta’s 75th anniversary tastes a bit more hoppy than most, with a thin mouthfeel and malt base which makes the brew dangerously sessionable.
It’s an easy-drinking ale that’s balanced and hits all the right citrus hop notes. The only unfortunate thing is that it’s a special edition and won’t be around long after Alta’s 75th anniversary season is over. Hopefully the brewers will re-release it under a new name in the future.
After the Summit Brew was completed atop Sharp Mountain, we followed the mountain’s south ridge until an excellent fall-line with no rocks or brush appeared below us. Just before dropping in, the fog lifted and sunlight illuminated our descent. Adam went first, carving tracks 1,500 vertical feet all the way back to canyon bottom near Chandler Pass. I followed, whooping in surprise when every turn in creamy powder made me realize how long the run was. It just kept going and going and going….
For more from the Wasatch/Squatters Breweries, visit www.utahbeers.com