Helen and I flew into Salt Lake City. Yukio's condo was on a small road named "dead man's pass" between Alta and Snowbird and had a spectacular view of the mountains. On day one Yukio helped us rent equipment and instructed us in basic mountain survival skills, like "always carry a credit card". This was essentially our first time on skis so we decided to take lessons in the morning and ski by ourselves in the afternoons. The lift tickets were half the price of Snowbird and the instructors were excellent.
On day one Yukio's advice paid off when Helen took a spill and jammed her right thumb. Off to the hospital she went (with her trusty credit card) and gamely returned a few hours later with a wrist cast, determined not to let it stop her.
We got into the mood quickly and had a fantastic time. The views from the mountaintop were spectacular, the snow was perfect and even an occasional wrong turn onto an advanced run didn't slow us down.
On day five Yukio gave us a ride up the lift area from the condo. I looked over and commented that the gas gauge was on empty. Yukio replied "yes, I'll have to go down the mountain and fill up sometime today".
Skiing was great, we made many runs all day long. Each time we got to the top of the mountain there was another inch of fresh power and the runs down were beautiful and exhilarating. By late afternoon we were exhausted but wanting it to go on forever. We decided to practice our technique (i.e.: mess around) on the bunny hill for the rest of the day. It was a short run down, then we would take the rope tow back up to the top which was located at the entrance to the equipment rental shop.
It was just starting to look like dusk when we ran into Yukio at the entrance to the ski shop. He offered us a ride back to the condo which we gladly accepted since it was a fair hike, hilly and we would have to hike it in our ski boots. After strapping our skis to the car top rack we pulled out for the ride home.
I glanced over and the gas gauge on the Subaru was solidly on empty. When I mentioned it Yukio said "Oh my, I forgot. I don't think I have enough gas to drop you off so we'd better go straight down to the gas station at the base of the mountain". The traffic was heavy with the departure of the day skiers.
About a third of the way down we were stopped in traffic when there was a loud thud and the world went black. We couldn't see anything an any direction except white snow on all the windows. Yukio calmly noted "well it looks like you get to see a real avalanche". I grew up in the midwest so am used to lots of snow but have never seen this much of it from underneath.
From the back seat I carefully rolled down the window and pushed the handle of my ski pole into the white wall. After a couple of feet the resistance stopped and I knew we were close to the edge. We dug out a little and found that the left side was barely covered so we could push and dig our way free fairly easily.
Soon the front end loaders and trucks arrived to dig everybody out and get traffic moving again. Through it all the car kept running. Until (of course) it coughed and died, we had run out of gas. I hiked up and down the line of cars (in my ski boots) looking for someone with a gas can. No such luck. Eventually I located a five gallon bucket and short length of garden hose. After much pleading the UPS driver up the road turned his back while I stuck the hose into the truck's gas tank and using the old mouth to hose technique sucked hard enough until I got some gas flowing into the open bucket. You don't want to do this before dinner, it leaves a horrible aftertaste. The reverse procedure to get it out of the bucket and into the Subaru was just as unpleasant. However it worked and by that time the road was cleared and we started down the mountain again.
At the gas station we filled the tank, picked some some things that could loosely qualify as food and headed immediately back to the mountain. At the base of the mountain we were stopped by the police. There had been more avalanches and they had decide to make the road one way until they could get people down off the mountain but the officer expected that there would probably be one trip up later before they shut the road for the night.
About two hours later we saw the policeman running between vehicles. He was yelling "four wheelers only, let's go, let's go". Yukio shifted into four wheel drive, glided into line and we were off. It didn't take long driving behind the smaller car in front of us to tell that he was a two wheeler and was going to have trouble. Yukio didn't like the looks of it at all. Suddenly he said "hang on" and pulled out to the left between the two wheeler and the rock cliff and gunned it to pass on the inside. I looked back to see the guy muddling along behind us trying to keep moving. By now it was snowing heavily again and we lost track of him quickly.
When we reached the entrance to Snowbird, the Avalanche control folks stopped us and said "end of the line". If it hadn't been snowing we could have seen the condo from there. I looked back and the road was empty. No sign of the two wheeler. We heard later that he got hit by another avalanche just about where we passed him which we guessed hit about 15-30 seconds behind us. Everything above us was closed so our only option was to pull into the Snowbird parking lot and find a place to stay.
The front desk informed us that because many people couldn't get out they were "full". Yukio of course is a resourceful guy and called one of his friends in the security department. Some time later they found an open room in another building. We then hiked over to the other building and retreated to our room. Traveling with credit card card made it possible to book the room. The hitch was that the restaurant was in the main building. The only time you could go between buildings was when they lifted "inter lodge" for a short time. Otherwise you faced a $200 fine and possible jail time. Helen and I had on only our ski clothes and ski boots, which were not designed for walking much less hiking. We spent the whole next day at Snowbird.
On the morning of day seven we got word that the roads would be open at noon. We also got word the slopes were open at 9:00 am with "no lift tickets required". So we skied for a few hours, hustled down to the condo as soon as the roads opened, threw our clothes in our suitcases and bolted for the airport and the long flight home to Chicago.