Many DCSki readers know Tim Romano and his wife Madeline. They’re regular attendees at DCSki slope-side gatherings. Tim learned to ski in this region, quickly advancing to become an outstanding and fearless tree skier. In July of this year, Tim pulled up stakes and moved to Utah to pursue his dreams of big vertical and endless powder fields. Many of us yearn to do the same but family, jobs, and other local commitments keep us tethered to the region. DCSki Columnist John Sherwood tracked Tim down in Logan, Utah, and interviewed him about the ups and downs of leaving our fair hills for the greatest powder on earth.
DCSki: Where did you learn to ski?
Tim Romano: I first went skiing at Wisp in 1991.
DCSki: What are your favorite Mid-Atlantic mountains and why?
Tim Romano: I really love Blue Knob. It has some great terrain, many glades, and plenty of challenging steep, narrow slopes. Timberline is also great because of the big late season storms they seem to get every year. Seven Springs was my home mountain for the last 3 seasons. They have the most consistent conditions, huge acreage, good ownership, and all the amenities, making it a great year-round resort. Also the local Pittsburgh vibe up at Seven Springs is pretty outstanding. It was great to see the same local people up there tearing it up in the bumps and the trees every weekend.
DCSki: Why did you choose to move to Logan, Utah? What is your day job?
Tim Romano: I am a DC local. I have lived in the DC area for 28 years. My wife’s whole family recently moved to DC. Leaving wasn’t easy. Each of us as kids had dreamed of moving to the mountains. In May of my last year of graduate school, I knew that this would probably be my last best chance to make the dream a reality. When I got the offer from the Forest Service to come to Logan and manage databases for a long-term research project, I didn’t know where Logan, Utah was. After learning more about the job and the city, we decided to take a chance. Logan is a college town 20 minutes from Idaho, it’s the kind of place where everyone is an outdoorsman. Rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, hunting, and skiing are all very big here.
DCSki: As you know, the cost of living in DC far exceeds average salaries here. Does Utah offer better parity between salaries and the cost of living?
Tim Romano: Definitely! My wife and I are renting a 2 bedroom town home for less than half what we were paying for a 1 bedroom apartment in DC. Gas is more expensive (than it was) but we fill up our car a quarter as often since we both commute only a mile to work (it’s a small city) and we are much closer to the mountains for recreation. Food and other necessities are cheaper than DC too.
DCSki: Where do you ski the most in Utah?
Tim Romano: Logan’s local ski hill is called Beaver Mountain. I just picked up my season pass today. With only 1,800 feet of vertical and 700 acres, Beaver is small by Utah standards, but is reputed to have great tree skiing and back country access. It opens in a couple weeks and I am looking forward to skiing it first-hand. There are plenty of other back country ski areas in the Bear River Range which averages 500-plus inches of snow per year. They also receive far less skier traffic than the resorts in the Salt Lake City area.
DCSki: What are your favorite mountains in Utah and why?
Tim Romano: There are still many places in Utah I haven’t skied yet. So far my favorites are Snowbird and Solitude. Snowbird is such a huge steep resort with 3,000 feet of vertical off the tram. It has great snow and thousands of acres of terrain. I really like Mineral Basin on a nice bluebird day and then when it’s stormy I like spending time on the Gad-2 which is a slow double that services 1,500 feet of 45 degree trees.
Solitude has a really weird layout that I like especially when skiing with my wife. The front is really mellow but with enough challenge to keep me and Madeline busy. The rest of the resort is full of all these hidden out of the way areas that range from mellow to more extreme than I can handle. When you get back in there sometimes you won’t see another person for hours.
DCSki: How does Utah skiing compare to the Mid-Atlantic?
Tim Romano: Utah has steeper slopes, different snow conditions, a lot more soft snow, and powder days. The Mid-Atlantic areas all have better snowmaking. In Utah, snowmaking is much more limited. This season the Mid-Atlantic areas have had a great early season while Utah has been in the midst of its driest and warmest Novembers in many years. Another difference is the amount of backcountry skiing and sledding. People here go on yurt trips and other backcountry adventures all the time. Sledding is a major winter sport and many of the best backcountry areas require sled access.
DCSki: Is there anything whatsoever that you miss about Mid-Atlantic skiing?
Tim Romano: Definitely. I miss skiing with friends and family. I miss the Foggy Goggle and the whole local vibe up at Seven Springs. And I will miss being that crazy skier guy at the office.
DCSki: I know that you previously lived in Adams Morgan. Do you miss the excitement of the big city? What do you do when there is no snow?
Tim Romano: There is so much more variety in terms of good quality and diverse ethnic food, and entertainment options in DC. And there are so many other unique things like the museums and public spaces, not to mention local culture and a variety of sports teams. I definitely miss those sorts of things.
During the warm weather months I mountain biked four days a week. Logan has some great cross country bike trails. Now that the biking season has ended I have been waiting for the snow, doing a few road trips for skiing, and just biding my time for the resorts to open up. I will probably be down in Salt Lake this weekend skiing.
DCSki: Utah gets a bad rap for being very culturally conservative. Do you find this characterization to be true? What are the locals like in Utah? Do you miss your DC friends?
Tim Romano: Working at a federal government job I am somewhat insulated from the average Logan residents. Most of my colleagues are from out of state. My wife is working at the Utah State University in Logan and is similarly insulated. Much of the local Utah culture seems to revolve around the Church of Latter-day Saints, and I am not involved with that aspect of the community. I just don’t like the fact that you can hardly even order a pizza on Sunday in this town.
So far I have had great experiences with my neighbors and other local people. Everyone I have met waking down the street or sharing a trail seems to be very nice and friendly. I am still learning the local politics, and I have not yet registered to vote in Logan. I certainly do miss my friends and family back in DC.
DCSki: How do the best DC skiers compare to skiers in Utah? Is it humbling to now find yourself at the bottom of the class or can you keep up with the best of the West?
Tim Romano: I have a lot to learn about skiing and the mountains here. The extremely varied natural snow conditions and terrain make it very different from the Mid-Atlantic. I look forward to the opportunities to ski more often and have a longer season. I think many of the best East Coast skiers immigrate to places like Salt Lake City. I have met many, many transplants since I have been here. Once I get used to the conditions here I am sure I will be able to keep up with most of them. I look forward to skiing with many new friends and hope my old friends will visit this year.
DCSki: What are your long-term plans? Do you intend to stay in Utah or eventually migrate back to DC or some other East Coast haunt?
Tim Romano: Our plans aren’t set for now. We may stay in Logan, or eventually move to Salt Lake City if we decide to stay in Utah. I don’t anticipate moving back to the East Coast anytime soon.
DCSki: Thanks for taking some time away from the slopes to answer our questions. Utah is a major destination for DC skiers traveling outside the Mid-Atlantic, so do keep us posted on conditions, deals, and any other developments in the Utah ski scene.
John Sherwood is a columnist for DCSki. When he's not hiking, biking, or skiing, he works as an author of books on military history.