When winter-closed roads melt out and open, and the snow starts to disappear under the warm May sun, there is a short window to farm corn on those mountains that can only be skied in the spring. So it was that I made the trip to Bountiful Peak with my backcountry skiing buddies and a cold can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in my pack.
Bountiful Peak is a 9,259-foot mountain located in the Northern Wasatch above the cities of Farmington and Bountiful. Around the peak is a skiing zone that I’ve had my eye on all year, so when Skyline Drive in Farmington Canyon finally opened up, we headed north to farm corn high above Davis County.
Farmington Canyon used to be a year-round backcountry ski destination as the road was plowed for FAA workers who needed to get to the radar tower atop Francis Peak. But a huge landslide a few years ago took out the road, shutting off the entire area to public access. Well, repairs were finished last summer, but the city decided to keep the road closed in the winter, figuring it would be less expensive to helicopter workers to the radar than it would be to plow the road. As a result, what was once a fun backcountry ski area became the exclusive domain of snowmobiles since you’d need one to travel the miles of winding road to the Wasatch Divide.
First, Mike D and I headed right for Bountiful Peak. It was the most obvious choice when scanning the horizon for skiable zones, especially since small chutes cut between the mountain’s protected cliff top. Eager to ski, we left Skyline Drive and cut through the Bountiful Peak Campground. The snow-buried camp sites soon gave way to summer cabins as we gained elevation and the mountain’s cliffs grew larger in our vision. In a few hours we were standing at the top after traversing across the main apron to gain the ridge. A short bootpack up an icy section got us above the first chute.
Our first line was a corn-filled, dog leg chute on skier’s left. Mike dropped in first, sweeping turns on the edge before sliding into the chute’s gut. Wet sluff came spilling down like a river behind him, so he stopped and watched as it hit a rock outcropping like a wave against the shore. When the river of snow passed, Mike continued, gaining speed in the perfectly, corned-up apron.
After Mike flushed the chute of any wet snow, I was able to make easy turns from top to bottom. It was so fun to whip the tails of my Voile Chargers from side to side, spreading corn snow like a butter knife spreading peanut butter on soft bread. The apron was even better as I sped up and carved, making wide turns around small trees like GS gates.
Excited about this mini gnar zone, we headed back up for more. The main, central chute was obviously our next objective, despite the fact that it hadn’t seen any sun all morning. So we hiked back up, this time bagging the true summit, then down-climbed to our skis above the shaded couloir. This time I went first. A ski cut across the top didn’t move anything, so I jumped in, making short turns into the middle choke. There the shadows lay in wait. As soon as I hit the shade, my skis chattered on ice in the more narrow and steep section of the run. Carefully sidestepping, I made it through until I could make turns again, then whooped it up on the apron where soft snow awaited.
Next on the agenda was the Mud and Rice Bowls that spill from a point just north of Bountiful Peak. With Dave Thieme and Eric Ghanem, we skinned up Skyline Drive, then cut right to Farmington Lakes. A short switchback up the face to the ridge gave us easy access to Point 8735 – the top of both Mud and Rice Bowls.
The skiing was fantastic. We skied Rice Bowl first as it had more of a west-facing aspect and didn’t get as much sun. It was a wise choice as it was the best corn skiing of the year. Unfortunately it didn’t last long as the snow turned to sticky mush as soon as we entered the Rice Creek drainage. Rather than wallow in muck, we traversed south the the ridge between Rice and Mud Creeks, and skinned back up to the top.
With both summits of Bountiful Peak tagged and skied, it was time to mark the occasion. Out came my can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on the windy, Wasatch Divide.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
It is the original. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the first micro-brewed beers in this whole wave of craft beer that is sweeping the world. As a result, since I came to enjoy craft beer as soon as I was old enough to imbibe, Sierra Nevada was one of my go-to beers along with New Belgium’s Fat Tire and Sam Adams Boston Lager.
With so many new beers being introduced all the time, Sierra Nevada dropped off my radar for years. But ever since they started canning, a resurgence of this classic is afoot as cans are better for taking outdoors. This development has also reintroduced me to the splendors of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and has proven to me that it still remains among the best.
The key aspect of what makes Sierra Nevada Pale Ale so damn good is its balance. The level of malty backbone to hops ratio is perfect. Not too sweet, not too bitter, this is among the most approachable pale ales out there and is an ideal into to hoppy beers.
The taste has the typical citrus aromas and flavors you’d expect from an American-style pale, which comes from the Cascade hops used. That said, it’s not too hoppy and leaves a slight bitterness that lingers. On the malt side, there’s a slight grain and caramel flavor underneath, but it’s not too heavy. Overall, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a good session beer for hop-heads and even tastes great right out of the can.