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Park City - How It Compares to East Coast
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Updated 2 months ago
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3 months ago

My husband and I are going to Park City next week. It’s my first time. I can ski blues here at Snowshoe and Whitetail just fine, but wonder how they compare to out West? I constantly hear how it’s night and day different.  Our friends want to go to Alta or Snowbird, but I’ve heard it’s more for the expert skiers. Anyone have any feedback on the best places to ski in Park City with my skill set?

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
3 months ago

cbyrne0609 wrote:

My husband and I are going to Park City next week. It’s my first time. I can ski blues here at Snowshoe and Whitetail just fine, but wonder how they compare to out West? I constantly hear how it’s night and day different.  Our friends want to go to Alta or Snowbird, but I’ve heard it’s more for the expert skiers. Anyone have any feedback on the best places to ski in Park City with my skill set?

Do you mean your first time at any big mountain out west?

Alta is NOT just for experts.  I started skiing Alta as an intermediate, as has a friend who learned as an adult in the last six years when her children started skiing at Massanutten.  My daughter loved Alta blues at age 7 after learning to ski at Massanutten ages 4-6.  The biggest difference is that runs are much LONGER out west.  Suppose it takes 5 min to finish a blue at Whitetail.  Going the same pace, with stops for a breather because of the higher altitude, could take 15 min to finish a blue off the Sugarloaf or Supreme lift at Alta.  Note that Alta is for skiers only if there happen to be boarders in your travel group.

For more than you need to know about Alta:

https://www.snowpak.com/utah/salt-lake-city/alta/ski-and-terrain#for_intermediate

Midweek, taking a group lesson for intermediates at Alta can be a great way to learn about Alta terrain and pick up some technique tips.  The instructors at Alta are very experienced, including those who teach group lessons.

As for Snowbird, better to leave that for the next trip.  Unless you find the blues at Park City a bit tame after you get warmed up.

Scott - DCSki Editor
3 months ago

I think you’ll be fine.  Terrain is “bigger” in Utah, but the snow conditions are usually very good, so even if a blue out there is steeper than you’re familiar with, with better snow quality you might find it’s perfectly manageable.

I’d recommend taking a look at Deer Valley.  It has lots of great intermediate terrain, is known for its impeccable grooming, and if you can ski blues at Whitetail and Snowshoe, you’ll have no problem finding tons of terrain there to enjoy.  Whitetail was originally inspired by many elements of Deer Valley.

Here’s a story I wrote about a trip to Deer Valley a year ago.  Unfortunately, I had the flu, and I recommend not having the flu while skiing.  :)

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
3 months ago

A few trip reports for Alta from a woman who travels solo from Boston:

https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/alta-april-1-3.20732/https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/alta-march-31-apr-2.21738/

My trip report from April 2017.  That was the first trip to Alta for my friend and kids (also from NC).  She was only skiing the easiest blue at Massanutten that season and only on snow during holiday weekends when her kids had time.

https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/tr-alta-in-april-2017.21799/

 

3 months ago

In Utah, weather patterns make a huge difference. During high pressure periods, most resorts groom all greens, blues and many single blacks as well. Visibility is excellent and the warm desert sun makes outdoor temperatures very pleasant, even on cold days. Warm temps, however, can create mushy conditions after lunch, but higher elevation trails tend to hold the groom throught the day. Stay high for the best snow and conditions.

Storm periods are a different story. Given local appetites for powder skiing, resorts tend to groom only greens and major blue thoroughfares in an attempt to leave as much of the mountain ungroomed as possible. If you are uncomfortable skiing ungroomed snow and don’t have the right skis, these periods can be tough. On my last visit to Utah, I rented skis right on the mountain and swapped out skis depending on conditions. Stormy days tend to have poor visibility, especially in areas without trees. Also, no groom will hold when it is snowing.  It’s amazing how much snow can fall in the Wasatch in just a few hours. Storm days can be even rougher if you are unfamiliar with the mountain. In short, if it’s dumping on your first day, you might take a day off and do something else or maybe hire an instructor for a morning or take a mountain host tour. Otherwise, you should be fine.

Last thought: Solitude and Powder Mountain are very good for lower intermediates. Snowbasin less so.

3 months ago

There definitely can be a big difference between blue runs at our mid-Atlantic resorts and blue runs out West (same with Greens and Blacks).    I would consider myself an advanced intermediate in the East, can do all blues comfortably and blacks fine when the conditions are good, but will stay off of blacks if it’s at all icy or the snow is too chopped up (to make sure I can drive home safely after tearing an achilles tendon playing soccer and not being able to drive for three months I do play it safer on the slopes now).   I’ve skied a lot of blues out West at places like Vail, Keystone, Lake Louise, Sunshine, etc. and there are definitely some that are comparable to blues out here, but there are also some that are more the black level (or even beyond) from back East.   The one thing though out West is the snow is usually in such great condition that you have much more confidence in general when skiing a tougher trail, unless as one commentor mentioned it’s snow heavily and they aren’t as well groomed.    The nice thing about out West is many of the green runs are just like lower level intermediates here so they can be great long cruising runs that are still enjoyable for people of different levels, there are steeper sections, but they flatten out more quickly.    We also look for resorts with a variety of green and blue runs out West (some can be as long as 3 miles) so we can all ski together more often.    The things you do have to look out for are definitely the weather conditions (can change in a second and be totally different in different sections of the mountain), always make sure you are skiing with someone else and have a trail map with you (signage is often not that great and you can take the wrong trail very easily when it’s snowing and visibility is low), work your way up from easier to more difficult trails (mainly to acclimate to the conditions and the altitude) and make sure to stop often while going down the slopes to take in the views!   

3 months ago

First ever post here on DCSki.  I have skied Alta, Deer Valley and Brighton.  Based on what you’ve posted about your own skill level, any of those resorts would be fine for you.  I have not skied Park City but I think it would also be OK for you from what I’ve heard.  I agree with other posters that you might save Snowbird for later.

I would just pick the resort that seems to have the best conditions when you go, as they are all no more than ~35-45 minutes from SLC, with the exception of (I think) Powder Mountain.  When we went, we stayed in a neighborhood called Sugarhouse, and it was equidistant from Park City and the Cottonwoods (where Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude are located).

Dunno if it matters to you but Deer Valley is more expensive than most of the other resorts.  It’s definitely fancier FWIW.

3 months ago

It is my first time out West.  I just picked up skiing a year ago.  Thanks for your response, this is very helpful.  The concierge told me Snowbird was better than Alta for an intermediate skiier, so I’m glad to hear your feedback.

3 months ago

Alta and Snowbird are right next to each other (and connected) and so are Brighton and Solitude.  So you can just drive by and see how steep they are if you want.  One thing to remember is that all those resorts are much much bigger than any here in the mid-Atlantic.  Snowshoe is the biggest around here with about 250 skiable acres.  Deer Valley, Brighton and Solitude are all in the ~1,000 acre range, Alta and Snowbird about 2,500 each and Park City 7,300.  The scale is just different out west.

3 months ago

Here are a few thoughts. Up front, I’ll note that I snowboard, so I’ve never been to Alta and Deer Valley.

1) Reputations: Snowbird and Alta are known for steep and challenging terrain. Park City/Canyons is known for being enormous and having something for everyone - good groomers but also steep and challenging spots for the experts. Deer Valley is known for being very fancy and catering to those that appreciate the finer things. Brighton and Solitude are known as smaller resorts that attract more locals (rather than travelers) compared to the other, bigger places. If your trip coincides with a day you expect the slopes to be crowded (e.g., a powder day or a Saturday), you might consider Solitude/Brighton as they are probably going to be less crowded than the other places.

2) Snow: Utah is known generally for having light, powdery snowfall. Often the same storm system that hits the Sierras (i.e., Tahoe) will hit Utah a few days later. Even if Tahoe gets more snow in the same system, the conventional wisdom is that the snow is better in Utah, and conditions several days after the storm are likely to be better in Utah compared to Tahoe. Within Utah, however, there are some meaningful differences: the resorts in the Cottonwoods - Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton - get a lot more snow than Park City. Snowbird has 434” YTD compared to 254” at Partk City. It’s obviously not this simple, but if 10” falls at Snowbird, on average, you’d expect to see less than 6” at Park City. That’s a meaningful difference.

3) I’ve been to PC and three of the four resorts in the Cottonwoods. I’ve had spectuacular times at all of them. They are all much bigger and better than our resorts in the mid-atlantic. It’s hard to overstate the difference in quality, both in terms of terrain and snow quality. You really can’t go wrong at any of these places. My advice is to go to a bunch of different places if you are able rather than camping out at one.

4) Having said that - the places are so good you can’t go wrong - each place has its strengths and weaknesses. Parking is a problem at Solitude/Brighton. Park City is very expensive. Snowbird has groomers, but I don’t go to Snowbird to ride groomers so I don’t have much to say about them. I assume they’re substantially better than the groomers on east coast, but when I’m at Snowbird I’m riding in the trees or doing laps on the Cirque or Mineral Basin. Solitude has a few runs I absolutely adore, but it’s a pain to get from one part of the mountain from another. Park City is so enormous that there is a tradeoff between getting a feel for the whole place and actually getting to know areas of the mountain well; it’s hard to do both things on the same trip.

5) The blues will be steeper than you are used to. You’ll also be surprised by how the steepness on a groomed trail matters less than you think because the snow quality is so good and consistent. Not Utah, but I think there are blue groomers at Jackson Hole that are steeper than Lower Shay’s at Snowshoe (not to mention steeper for much longer stretches), but are in fact easier than Lower Shay’s because the snow is consistently better. 

6) I think, after spending some time to acclimate yourself to the terrain, you should be open to challenge yourself and going off piste, especially if the snow is good. Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude is, I think, a great introduction to off-piste skiing: you don’t *have* to traverse a long way, the drop in is not very steep, and the terrain funnels you to the bottom of a canyon that’s not challenging despite being ungroomed. Mineral Basin at Snowbird, although not similar to Honeycomb, is wide open and not super steep compared to say, the Cirque. I suspect - but do not know - that you can find similar areas at Alta and Park City.  

7) Pay attention to road conditions if going to the cottonwoods and a storm is expected. The roads can close, and traffic can be horrible. Park City traffic isn’t great, but the road to PC doesn’t typically close during a storm, which is an advantage to be sure. 

3 months ago

I love Utah, especially Alta, Deer Valley and Park City.  I am an elder skier, with my 78th birthday coming up in a couple of weeks.  If you feel apprehensive skiing any of the areas, then take a private lesson even if expensive, and especially if you hit the conditions jackpot and are there during a major powder dump.  And don’t let anyone in your group talk you into going on trails that are far above your comfort level.  After acclimation to both terrain and altitude, do push yourself a little bit.  You are a newcomer to this fabulous sport with plenty of time to grow into full love with skiing.  If you have a great experience out west, do not worry about how you will react when back on our Mid-A slopes; you will still enjoy skiing them.  And if this western trip is not as great as hoped, don’t fret, go back next year and give it another shot.  Most importantly, have fun, both on and off the slopes!  And if staying in Salt Lake City (or even in Park City) be sure to check out the Thursday evening practice of the awesome Mormon Tabernacle Chior!  And please give feedback upon your return!   MorganB… aka The Colonel

PS:  And never forget the unique advantage that skiing offers, especially those less experienced in the sport:  mentally an expert slope is as difficult to an intermediate skier as a green slope is to a beginner; it is all relative.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
3 months ago

cbyrne0609 wrote:

It is my first time out West.  I just picked up skiing a year ago.  Thanks for your response, this is very helpful.  The concierge told me Snowbird was better than Alta for an intermediate skiier, so I’m glad to hear your feedback.

The concierge at Park City?  Having skied both as an intermediate and having taken a friend to Snowbird last April who learned as an adult at Massanutten in recent years, the idea that Snowbird is better than Alta for an intermediate makes no sense to me.  My friend can ski all the blues at Alta.  She managed to get down the easiest trail in Mineral Basin but only after a full week of skiing at Alta, including some lessons.  It was a good day to experience the Peruvian Tunnel.  I didn’t even try to have her ski the long blue at Snowbird down to the base.  We (her, her kids, and a couple other friends) had ridden the tram up for lunch and the view.  She rode the tram down, together with me and her daughter.

3 months ago

Heh - I remember what my aunt said about Deer Valley: they don’t just groom their slopes, they iron them. :)

2 months ago

If this is your first year skiing, don’t bother going to Snowbird, and probably not even Alta, Solitude, or Brighton. I would steer you toward either of the Park City Resorts: Deer Valley or Park City. They have much more beginner/low intermediate/high intermediate options. My wife sounds similar to you, and has skied all of those resorts and would pick Deer Valley as her clear #1 choice in Utah.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

eggraid wrote:

If this is your first year skiing, don’t bother going to Snowbird, and probably not even Alta, Solitude, or Brighton. I would steer you toward either of the Park City Resorts: Deer Valley or Park City. They have much more beginner/low intermediate/high intermediate options. My wife sounds similar to you, and has skied all of those resorts and would pick Deer Valley as her clear #1 choice in Utah.

I was an advanced beginner at Alta years ago.  As were a few friends (older women) in recent years.  It’s a good place for adult beginners.  Especially if they are interested in very good group lessons.

Agree that Snowbird is not a good choice given the other options in the SLC area.

2 months ago

I would not hesitate to go to Alta, especially if the conditions there are better than those at Deer Valley.  There are plenty of easy runs there suitable for less agressive skiers.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
2 months ago

Keith_Moon wrote:

I would not hesitate to go to Alta, especially if the conditions there are better than those at Deer Valley.  There are plenty of easy runs there suitable for less agressive skiers.

The OP is in Utah this week, so conditions are great everywhere.  My ski buddy is skiing Powder Mountain today before driving home to NM.  I’m flying out from SLC today … little matter of family plans for next week or I’d be extending my ski trip. ;-)

For anyone reading who is thinking about a late season trip to SLC, Deer Valley closes on April 7.  Alta’s last day will be April 21 because Easter is late in 2019.  Alta hasn’t decided on which April Saturday to hold the annual Demo Day but is leaning towards April 6.  Snowbird is likely to be open well into May.

2 months ago

OP here. Flying back from SLC today- maybe we are on the same flight KeithMoon! We never went to Alta/Snowbird after hearing Park City and Deer Valley we’re better options. Both were great for an intermediate like me! Thanks to all who recommended just staying in PC and DV.  I did a full day lesson in PC, so I didn’t explore as much as I wanted, but all the greens and blues we did there were so nice and wide, it was very easy to practice turns. (Doug Miller is an incredible instructor for anyone headed to PC)  My friend met us the day after my lesson and thought I was night and day better than our last ski trip. The runs were so long too!

Deer Valley was great. There were a ton of blues I was comfortable with. The greatest part was that it seemed every section had a nice selection of green/blue/black runs so if my husband wanted to do something harder, he’d split off and go down a black, but we could still meet at the bottom and ride the lift up and stay together for the day. 

Thanks to all for your feedback!

2 months ago

cbyrne0609 wrote:

OP here. Flying back from SLC today- maybe we are on the same flight KeithMoon! We never went to Alta/Snowbird after hearing Park City and Deer Valley we’re better options. Both were great for an intermediate like me! Thanks to all who recommended just staying in PC and DV.  I did a full day lesson in PC, so I didn’t explore as much as I wanted, but all the greens and blues we did there were so nice and wide, it was very easy to practice turns. (Doug Miller is an incredible instructor for anyone headed to PC)  My friend met us the day after my lesson and thought I was night and day better than our last ski trip. The runs were so long too!

Deer Valley was great. There were a ton of blues I was comfortable with. The greatest part was that it seemed every section had a nice selection of green/blue/black runs so if my husband wanted to do something harder, he’d split off and go down a black, but we could still meet at the bottom and ride the lift up and stay together for the day. 

Thanks to all for your feedback!

So good to hear that you had a great time! The Park City area is so vast that you’re right, there isn’t a need to go wandering off to other parts of SLC. I’m glad you had good conditions for your trip, that makes such a big difference.

2 months ago

Glad to hear you had a good time, cbyrne.  I fly out to SLC on Monday, where I will be skiing Alta/Snowbird.  Looking forward to it, and will post my own TR when I return.

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