Articles regarding THE SKI STREAK

Deseret News Archives,
Thursday, July 30, 1998

Skiing Olympus in Hot July - "This is the life!"

Editor's note: Mount Olympus, a craggy peak towering over the Salt Lake Valley, has long beckoned Ron Cram, a self-described ''experience collector'' and summertime skier. This year's snowfields and chutes, he writes, proved unbearably enticing.

By Ron Cram

It was 1985, the year I started skiing, that I found a fascination for Mount Olympus, with its familiar diagonal fault splitting twin cliffs.
As my passion for skiing grew, so did my interest in skiing Mount Olympus, and I wondered if anyone had ever skied this or that particular slope.
So I noted with great interest this spring's cool, drawn-out thaw. I got more excited about the prospect of skiing the mountain toward the end of June. In the late afternoon sun, I could see large fields of snow just waiting to be skied on both the west cleft and one of the north chutes of Olympus. After two years of not missing a week and an additional four years of not missing a month on snow, I've skied and snowboarded plenty of odd places.
On the weekend of July Fourth, I set out to ski Olympus. With a top-heavy pack, unyielding sun, pesky hikers and even peskier flying critters trying to suck my blood, I broke off the trail and started up the stream.
After four hours and a 3,000-vertical-foot climb, I reached my objective - the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, the grail had turned to rust. When I had scoped the area with binoculars two days before there was enough snow to ski. Now I could see that a couple of days' melt left the snow just wide enough to sideslip, certainly not enough to link turns. Plan B. I had one more chance, and a window of mere days, to ski Olympus. The big north chute had defied the snowmelt. I planned a much shorter hike with a topo map and prepared to ski Mt. Oly's North Chute.
On July 11 I broke through the jungle to the gully that led to the snow. This was definitely wilderness area. When I reached snow, I was excited because there was so much left. The snow was hard. As I climbed, I was overwhelmed by the moment: the challenge, the solitude, the scenery, just the good fortune of living around here.
As I climbed, I heard water running several feet beneath me and avoided the slushy, clearer snow where I might drop through. At about midpoint in the snowfield, I reached a break in the snow. The lower half had broken and separated from the upper. Cautiously I inched to the edge to see if I could jump the break. Just when I realized I could, everything dropped out from under me. It happened so fast that I couldn't react. The entire section I had been standing on broke off and wedged into the crevasse. Fortunately, the drop was for just a couple of feet and the landing was soft. I cautiously moved on.
With every foot forward I was keenly aware that a misstep could be deadly. There were 10- to 15-foot drops on either side of the snow where it had melted away from the cliffs. If the fall didn't kill, there were other problems to worry about. Even if hurt and still conscious, how would I get down?
I removed my crampons and strapped on my skis. A few more minutes of side-stepping and I was at the top of the run. I relaxed, took some pictures - and skied. My altimeter watch told me each run was 400 vertical feet of careful turns. That's as much vertical as some resort trails.
Skiing in July on Mount Olympus was rewarding. As one of my sons said to me many years ago, "This is the life!" I couldn't agree more.

Editor's Note--Author Ron Cram was just featured in the May issue of SKI MAGAZINE

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