This month we were lucky to sit down with Goldminer’s Daughter guest Yuri Somov. Yuri has skied all over the world and he chooses to spend dozens of days every ski season in Alta. Yuri passionately articulates the appeal of the Alta experience, and we suspect many of our devoted skiers appreciate Alta in a similar way.
Chris: Where are you from ? How do you get so many days in Alta every year?
Yuri: I come to Alta from Washington, D.C.. I am from Russia, but I am based in D.C. as an interpreter. I used to ski 65-70 days here every season. I heard from some younger lodge employees that it takes them about three weeks to get acclimated early in the ski season. And so I used to have a rule for myself where once I spent enough time at altitude to get my red blood cell count up, I wouldn’t spend more than three weeks away from Alta.
Chris: How’d you learn to ski?
Yuri: I first skied when I was 18, at a government owned ski area outside of Moscow. There was a series of hills with rope tows that only operated on weekends. We also had skiing in the city, at little tows in ravines along the major highway. Back then downhill skiing was culturally exotic; I remember people gawking at our skis on the city metro cars. It felt like a sports underground, a subculture. I remember my first run, which ended in a crash, as thousands of others.
Chris: How long have you been coming to Alta, and how did you learn about the place?
Yuri: In 1996 I was moving to New York from Russia and I thought I would take a ski vacation before settling into the city. As I perused the “ski resort rankings” in one of these magazines, of course I was drawn to the overall rankings, and while I noticed Alta and Snowbird were not in the top ten resorts back then, something in the descriptions of Alta and Snowbird really stuck with me, and I booked a two week trip to Alta in January of 1997.
I’ve skied on four continents. I do think there are a few other ski areas like Alta in the world. There are bigger, fancier resorts, but Alta is the right size and scale for me. I can keep my ski gear here at the Goldminer’s Daughter, which saves time and expense over the course of several trips a year. The airport is so close I can call the dining room from the shuttle if I’m going to be late.
Chris: Do you take advantage of Goldminer’s “Stormchaser” program?
Yuri: I’m not officially a “storm chaser.” There are some folks who stay at the GMD who have been tracking storms and getting to the lodge just in time for those big days. I envy them and the storm chaser program seems like a great opportunity.
At the end of the day I’m not really a storm chaser, I’m just a diehard skier. In Russia, I skied on icy snow most of the time. There wasn’t usually grooming; if there was a snowcat on the mountain, it would mostly be used to drive to the liquor store. I have skied for hours at little hills outside of D.C. in Maryland or Virginia with a garbage bag over my clothing on rainy days. As long as I can feel the physics of the turn, that’s what is important. It provides a rare sort of high.
Chris: Is that “high” condition dependent, or is it the other factors that combine to make a great ski turn or ski day?
Yuri: Well yeah, I think it’s all the factors. There are the mechanical factors like how your legs feel from yesterday, or what the snow is like. But then there’s something more internal. Skiing requires focus and the ability to accept happiness. Sometimes you are having a bad day because you had a bad experience at work or in your private life, and that gets in the way of being able to feel that skiing high.
Of course I think a big part of why I come to Alta is because this is the easiest place to experience that high. There are very few distractions from the feeling of skiing. But here in Alta, we are here to ski and to focus on that; it is so elemental to Alta that it is a part of the marketing strategy, and they don’t really have to sell much else. That focus is so important; like in yoga or meditation, the first thing you do is create a singular focus on something–it almost doesn’t matter what that thing is. For me, skiing at Alta is the best way to achieve that focus.
Chris: What’s your favorite run at Alta?
Yuri: It’s Thirds (a local’s name for “High Greely” or “Greely Bowl”). Not real Thirds, but “Cheaters’ Thirds.” I really like the complete experience of bombing out the High Traverse, hitting the High Greeley gate with speed and coasting to Cheater’s Thirds, and then traversing to Greeley Hill after skiing the upper pitch. Some days, even if I’ve done ten Thirds laps in a row, I will linger on the High Greeley Ridge for an extra five or ten minutes to focus on things I didn’t have time to check out during the day. And then after the last turns on Greeley Hill, skiing back across the transfer tow to the lodge as you face the setting sun behind Mount Superior.
Chris: How much is it going to snow in Alta this year?
Yuri: I think it’s going to snow 470 inches. I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment by saying it’s going to snow 800 inches or something. And as we both know, it’s not necessarily about how much it snows in total; it’s about how all the weather conditions align to affect the ski conditions day-to-day. Sometimes I am amazed by how good the ski conditions can be here even when we are not having a snowy winter, or even after it hasn’t snowed in over a week. Of course, right now, all we’re thinking about is how much it’s going to snow this weekend!
The weekend after this interview was conducted, Alta was graced with over 20” of fresh, new snow.