It didn’t take long, after we moved into Tollgate Canyon, for our neighbors to consistently ask if we were prepared for winter. “How bad could it really be?!” I remember thinking to ourselves. Well, very quickly, we found out how real winter gets up here. I mean, we got a foot of snow in October, and the snow machine really didn’t turn off until the dry-spell we hit in January. See, the neighborhood sits at around 8,000ft, which is the equivalent elevation of the Mid-Mountain weather reports for our local Park City Ski Resort. With that being said, the town’s weather reports don’t exactly predict how much, or even when, we get snow at our house, which turned out to be a whole lot!
As I mentioned before, the snow came early and often, which meant one thing, a lot of snow removal. We were very fortunate and our closest neighbor offered to sell us her big snow-thrower since she was moving out of Tollgate. This got us a leg up to start, because an average snowfall is way too much for just shovels. A snow-thrower, which is slightly different than a snowblower in that it’s able to throw the snow over 12ft high to clear snow banks that we’d inevitably build over the winter months. And this snow-thrower desperately got us through our first winter! Our driveway is about 150ft long, and after even a common snowfall of 6″, it would take an 1 to 1.5hours to clear. For a while, this was every single morning of winter. And this led to snow-banks over 6 feet tall.
I’ve written extensively, here, about what Tollgate Canyon driving conditions are like, being that it’s almost 100% snow-covered roads throughout winter. With the roads perpetually cover in snow, this is perfect winter recreation! From our doorstep, we can head out with cross-country skis, touring skis, or snowshoes. It’s an absolute blast, if you like snow that is. We are able to head out for miles, or short laps around the house, with as much vertical climbing you can handle. But realistically, some of the best days were on our snowmobile! The previous owner left two snowmobiles with the cabin when we bought it, and we were able to get the 2004 Polaris RMK 900 running and it was pure fun. Ripping around the neighborhood after big snowstorms, learning how to ride in powder, getting it stuck, getting it unstuck, and flat out going fast. It is such a great time.
On the flip side of the purely fun-things, comes the stuff that needs to get done whether we like it or not. A major concern of ours was keeping the house warm during those cold winter days and nights! Our shockingly well-constructed cabin was built in 1976, but wood is wood, and it’s not the best insulator. Not to mention, the windows in the house are original, single-pane glass. This means our wood-burning stove is running all the time, and we are constantly feeding it the wood we spent so much of our summer collecting, chainsawing, and splitting. We are going through a cord of wood every 2-3 weeks to maintain an inside temperature between 66-70 degrees, depending on the outside temperatures and how much time we spend in the cabin. Additionally, our basement is heated by a pellet stove, which consumes a 40lb bag of pellets every 3-4 days, just to keep the basement at 50 degrees.
Overall, the rest of our life hasn’t changed much in winter. We still make it into work every day, go grocery shopping when we need to, and go to town or ski at the resort when we want. With that being said, I had to come to grips that the work needs to get done before the fun can begin. Waking up early on a deep pow day to go skiing isn’t really a possibility anymore, simply because that means we have to clear the snow first. To make it to the ski resort by 8AM for a first chair, I’d have to wake up at 5AM to spend two hours clearing snow, then hope that the neighborhood plow comes by too to clear the road, and then I’d be able to make it out of Tollgate to head skiing. All of this to say, priorities need to shift, because the constant, Groundhog Day-like, cycle of snow removal, work, sleep, repeat can get beyond frustrating and exhausting. But that is all apart of the experience of living up here. You are responsible for yourself and you need to plan for everything, including the fun you want to have.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.