The hell of Utah’s interlodge when it’s heavenly outside |

The hell of Utah’s interlodge when it’s heavenly outside

Steve Benson

Powerful booms rattle dark windows as you’re corralled like cattle into a dank basement that doubles as a ski locker room. Once there, you’re trapped like a prisoner. Stinky strangers are stacked against you like in a New York City subway at rush hour. But this isn’t a short cross-town ride, this is interlodge.

A common occurrence in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon ” home to Alta and Snowbird, where more than 500 inches of snow fall in an average year ” interlodge is born when big storms create treacherous avalanche conditions in the narrow, steep-walled canyon.

The bad thing about the practice is that you’re forced to remain inside ” by law. Usually it’s just for a few hours in the morning as crews blast the resorts and the hanging faces of the canyon. Occasionally, it can last for days. When it’s really bad, you’re stuffed into the penalty box of a basement for a few hours as slides cruise by like bullet trains.

The good thing is that you know it’s dumping outside and a disgusting amount of deep powder is lying in wait.

The Aspen Times’ own Jeanne McGovern got her first taste of interlodge in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Monday and Tuesday, after local authorities shut down the ski hills and the roads, temporarily cutting everyone off from the rest of the world. The same storm that’s pumped moisture into Aspen for the past 10 days dumped 4 feet on Alta and Snowbird in four days.

McGovern couldn’t be reached for comment.

While somewhat of a headache for guests like McGovern who need to get back home to their kids, it’s business as usual for longtime locals.

“It’s a pretty significant storm,” said Alta’s general manager, Onno Wieringa. “But you look around the globe and you don’t want to say anything. It’s just blowing and snowing like it does in Little Cottonwood.”

But this storm’s a little different.

“Guys in California have been sending it our way and they’re pouring water on it,” he joked.

Wieringa said the wet snow in the canyon hasn’t slid too much throughout the storm, which is one of the reasons it’s shut down.

“There really are not too many [slides] across the road … yet,” he said. “That’s what has us concerned.”

In the late ’90s, a similar-sized storm prompted interlodge for two days after a massive slide slammed into the road and deposited several cars onto the cement roof of a local lodge. Amazingly nobody was killed.

While law prohibits people from going outside ” the fine for being caught is a hefty $300 ” some can’t resist the urge. Years ago, in the midst of a multi-day interlodge, three employees from a local hotel made a daring escape in the midst of a whiteout. As the story goes, they had run out of booze and were on a journey to a neighboring lodge located directly across the base area’s parking lot. Apparently that lodge possessed what they were looking for.

Wrapping themselves in white sheets so as to blend in with the environment, they made it halfway across the parking lot when a window opened in the storm. Town marshals, who had emerged in the lull to assist in control work, spotted what appeared to be patches of snow crawling across the parking lot. Shortly before the whiskey-hungry escapees made it to their destination, they were apprehended and fined.

Steve Benson’s e-mail is

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