The Wasatch is kind of unusual in that aside from the mountains themselves, there is little to no central gathering spots for skiers or climbers. I’d be hard pressed to name a single bar where you had a chance of meeting other backcountry skiers on a consistent basis. Maybe the Sitzmark in the Alta Lodge or the Porcupine down at the base of Big Cottonwood, but more than likely, if you are going to run into other backcountry skiers, you will most likely do it in the mountains.
If you’ve been skiing around for a while, or are just unlucky, you will sooner or later meet Bob Athey. People either love or hate Bob, and I’m psyched to say I’m in the first category – I love seeing him and always have a good time catching up. He is by far and away the most avid backcountry skier I’ve ever met and I remember at one point he said it was easier for him to count the days he didn’t go into the backcountry, rather than those when he did. Because the Wasatch is so small, this means that Bob knows every single little shot, variation of shots and connect-the-dot routes between them. I don’t think he ever skis anything but deep powder, mainly because he always knows where to find it.
“So, uhm, what was the problem with them Bob?”
“That stupid little trim tool gets completely gummed up and you can only trim-out one pair of skins with it.”
“Oh, but, how about the skins themselves?”
“The skins? Oh those are fine. But that trim tool sucks.”
That’s Bob for you.
I also had a chance to work with Bob when I was at the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center and he was a full-time observer. Various skiers would send in observations from the day before, but if you showed up at 4:00am to go to work and saw there was a “Bob Ob” you were golden. A big part of this for me was that I think we shared the same evaluation criteria, but beyond that, Bob always had some killer little insight that everyone else seemed to miss. Plus he’s incredibly passionate about snow. Whenever I’d make a mistake, he be sure and send me an email with a picture of someone’s ass and a note saying “Huh?”
Bob is one of those guys you probably shouldn’t follow in the backcountry, although he is my wife’s favorite partner. He’ll center-punch one slope, but somehow knows to stay off of the one right next to it, which is not to imply he has never been caught in an avalanche.
A few years ago an article was written about him where the author called him “The Wizard of the Wasatch” which has not only stuck, but become appropriately shortened to WOW. The article went on to note how he “ricocheted off the canyon walls while chuffing down an unfiltered Camel” which is always fun to remind him of.
Bob has an ongoing website with some of the best up-to-date snow and skiing (and boarding – he does it all) conditions from the Wasatch. He picked up a new camera two years ago and has been putting it to excellent use. If you get a chance, check out http://www.wowasatch.com/index.htm, or better yet, send a PayPal contribution to him so he can upgrade his software.
I look forward to seeing you out there Bob!
Help support StraightChuter.com and get some great skins (with a sucky trim tool), the Black Diamond Ascension CliFix from Backcountry.com! Click on the photo below…