Conquering Pinecone

I started hearing about Pinecone Ridge the moment I accepted my position here at Park City Mountain Resort. I remember reading a blog post by veteran mountain patroller Mark Sauer on the long-awaited opening of Pinecone last season. While he didn't go into much detail about where or what Pinecone actually was, it was apparent that a lot of hard work and long hours from patrol were necessary to open this area. That being said, I decided Pinecone wasn't for me.

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The view of Pinecone from Jupiter Lift.

You see, I come from Southern California, where, besides Mammoth, our idea of powder is under 6 inches that quickly melts into corn snow. I grew up knowing only groomers (and boxes and jibs) and the idea of hiking up to a field of endless Powder was frightening. While Pinecone is a controlled area, its location makes it a sidecountry experience, meaning it is not patrolled or swept on a daily basis. Pinecone is on lookers right of Scott's Bowl, up Jupiter lift. Unexperienced skiers and riders should not venture into this area. The main rule of thumb when entering any terrain off Jupiter Lift is - Use backcountry protocol and don't ski alone. On Pinecone, you should take this seriously.

Now with nearly a season of living and working in Park City, I decided I was up for the challenge. Some said the Pinecone hike was only a mellow incline, but would take about 20 minutes. Others said the hike was comparable to doing a stairmaster on high for 30 minutes. Some even said, it's a ten minute hike that I take my students up all the time.  While their descriptions of the hike may have varied greatly, one thing was the same. No matter who I spoke with, the description of the hike was always followed with, "But, it's so worth it!"

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Meisha and I all smiles before the big hike.

With last week's storm total adding up to over two feet, I knew it was time. Our Marketing & Communications Manager Meisha Lawson and I were determined to hike and ride Pinecone for the first time. We met up at Summit House and altogether had a group of ten of us. Half our group had hiked Pinecone earlier that morning and were headed out for their second trip. We embarked towards Jupiter Lift with smiles on our faces and butterflies in our bellies.

As we reached the Pinecone gates, the morning group instructed us to take our gloves and helmets off to avoid overheating on the hike. (Great) Not even a quarter of the way into my hike, I began cursing every person who suggested I make this trek. I am in decent shape, but by no means am I running a marathon anytime in the near future. I would recommend bringing water and having someone with you who has already done Pinecone. The hike appears to be never ending when it's your first time, so having someone there to encourage you and let you know you're almost to the top is a must! Take your time and don't worry about stopping to catch your breath, even if it is every 20 steps like me.

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The crew at the top of Pinceone!

By the time I reached the top, I was sweating like crazy, breathing hard, but pumped on life. I had done it! Now I just had to ride down. Not only was I greeted at the top by my crew, but also that ski instructor I mentioned earlier who said it only takes ten minutes. He was up there with a 7 year old from Florida. Yep, a 7 year old from Florida had  hiked to the top of Pinecone no problem.

Now for the fun part! We traversed over and dropped into Constellation. Even this late in the day, there were plenty of fresh lines for everyone in our crew. Screaming, cheering and laughing the whole way down, I realized everyone was right. It's so worth it. I may not have conquered Pinecone, but I did it!

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Stopping to hug a tree on the way down.

Now I just can't wait to get out there after our next storm and pick a new line off Pinecone! This time I'll be cursing myself as I hike, but then be thanking myself when I'm done.