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Notes from the Road: Stuck in Utah 3
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

Utah is one of my favorite states in the nation, along with Colorado and the Tahoe region. It has been two long years since my husband Charles and I visited Utah, and I am so glad to be back, even if the trip is a short one. I chose the most visitor-friendly resorts, Park City and Deer Valley. In addition to the beauty of the area, the trails are designed and cut in such a way that encourages you to feel like an Olympic athlete. Of course, I did lose it and wimped out in fear on one short diamond trail. But, in general, I sang my way down Home Run, Bonanza, and some of the many others. There was a huge variety to choose from, with 108 trails, 9 bowls, and 4 parks open. The altitude is not too bad - around 10,000 feet at the summits. I took it slow, and it did not really bother me on the way down. Walking up hill, in heavy boots, makes my heart pound. Thanks to Charles for carrying the skis!

The weather was mild - in the 30’s or 40’s. It was gentle snow flurries at the lower elevations, but became biting sleet higher up. The peaks were foggy, but I have been in much worse white out conditions. When the snow and fog cleared, you could view the beautiful mountains and valleys, and look across to Deer Valley, with its expensive homes.

In the sunshine at Park City Mountain Resort. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Deer Valley and Park City are expensive resorts, but you get a lot of value for your money. I always remind people to get a package if you can - especially one that includes airfare, hotels, lift tickets, and - if you want - rental equipment and instructions. Also try to avoid peak events. We missed the Sundance Festival and Presidents Weekends by one week, and were probably lucky. Despite that, Park City was still busy, but there were short lines - even at the most popular base lifts, and there is music, laughter. Everyone treats you like an old friend. I love the spirit and the skiing at Park City! It took my mind off the problems of the world, for awhile. But, I could not escape worrying about Snowmageddon back home, and wondering if I still have a house left. I also hope our favorite regional areas got tons of snow!

For lodging, we chose The ChateauApres, in downtown Park City. It is a folksy, laid back, family-owned lodge, which they had the foresight to build in the 1960’s. It is steps away from the runs, but you do have to walk up several flights of stairs to get to the lifts. The staircase next to the lodge has an easy pitch, steel grated with sturdy wood railings, and was cleared of snow and ice. But leave your equipment off at the slopes, and then drive down and park your car at the hotel. The hotel has reasonable but spartan rooms and dorm space. We paid about $100 a night and that includes continental breakfast, wifi, and cable HDTV. Some visitors have been coming here for 30 years, and feel as though they are an extended part of the Hosenfeld family. It is not as fancy as the big chain hotels or fancy condos, but it’s more Park and less City!

There are so many aspects we like about Park City - it caters to all ages and groups. A scavenger hunt was underway for spirited children. Extremely fit senior skiers, in sexy racing suits, were competing in Masters competition. They were fast, and fearless, and claimed I was “a kid,” compared to them! Not true, but inspiring. Also inspiring were the Adaptive Skiers, who were doing a great job on the mountain. Park City has one of the largest National Abilities Centers in the nation. Park City is definitely a resort for all ages and abilities.

Deer Valley - February 7, 2010

I would gladly travel 2,000 miles to enjoy the expansive views, manicured trails, and yes, the gold faucets in the bathrooms! The helpful assistance of the Mountain Hosts and rest of the staff is also wonderful. It is no surprise that Deer Valley was named the #1 ski resort in North America by readers of Ski Magazine for this year and the past two. Now, we know there are many awards, and sometimes there appear to be as many as exist for the movies, music, and tv, but this vote is deserved.

Most of the views are breathtaking, but the best is from the top of Bald Mountain, at 9,400 feet. Three chairlifts come together there - Sultan Express, Wasatch Express, and Sterling Express. From the top, you see the vast expanse of Heber Valley and the Jordanelle Reservoir. From the top, you can proceed right, and go down the more difficult Stein’s Way, and the Mayflower Chutes and Bowls. Or you can go to the left, where you have a vast variety of easier runs. There are good greens, blues, and blacks. Most of the ones we saw or took were perfectly groomed. It’s true, they did not have the fresh snow we have in the mid-Atlantic area this week, but what they had was hard packed and in great shape. By the way, Deer Valley and Park City are filled with Easterners. Most of us are worried about our families, friends, and homes, and wonder if we will ever get back. It is great to visit Utah, but we also have responsibilities back home!

On the other hand, if one must be stranded on an extended trip, this is the place to be. The weather was warm, in the mid thirties. There were some clouds, but most of the time the bright sun was shining. There are six mountains and numerous trails and bowls. Deer Valley is also known for its gourmet, organic cafeterias and restaurants, and the famous Stein Ericksen Lodge and restaurant. Deer Valley is definitely the best of the West! It combines great skiing and luxury. It is expensive - with peak season tickets running as high as $86 a day, but some people were buying half-day tickets at noon for $60 and, as always, there are those package deals. You get your money’s worth, and do not have to stand in long, slow lines. You can also ski for FREE on certain airlines and certain days. Just show your proof that you flew in that morning. What a great idea.

“Hard to believe this posh area was once a 19th century industrial park!” writes Charles Sneiderman, about Deer Valley. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Deer Valley is less than an hour drive from Salt Lake City. You can stay at airport motels, hotels in Salt Lake, or lodges at Park City. There are ways to economize, so you can take advantage of the Deer Valley experience. It is definitely worth it!

On Monday, we returned to Deer Valley for another blue bird day. Warm, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. In fact, a real blue bird actually flew past Charles’s face as he was skiing!

We took advantage of a tour provided by Mountain Hosts, and flew over a lot of the mountains. My favorite trail is “Last Chance,” past some of the exquisite private homes (but we did not pass close to the dramatic, round house of Charlie Gibson, which dominates part of the resort). Other good trails included “Success,” “Homeward Bound,” “Ontario” and “Blue Bell.” There are so many - all well groomed with superb views.

Deer Valley does not allow snowboards, and has no terrain parks - they are at nearby Park City. It does make a difference. But, I still believe snowboards are the future of the industry.

Asam Piccari of Ski Butlers Rentals fits Connie to boots in the lobby of the Chateau Apres in Park City. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

We used up-to-date boots and skis supplied by Ski Butlers. What a great concept! They came to our hotel and fitted the equipment. Since they had all our dimensions, it only took a few minutes. The next morning, they returned for a minor adjustment. On Monday, we called from the slopes and said we were finished. They met us at Deer Valley in twenty minutes, and gathered up the equipment. Way to go! Check out their web site at www.skibutlers.com.

Garrett Alfieri of Ski Butlers picks up at curbside at Deer Valley. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Ski Butlers was started six years ago by Bryn Carey, an ambitious young man from New Hampshire. (Most of the people we met this week were former Easterners). Ski Butlers now serves 25 resorts in the West and British Columbia. They operate out of 8 shops or warehouses. Like many rental establishments, they sell much of their equipment at the end of the season, and get new skis, boards, and boots the next year. This is an idea that works! I appreciate anything that takes the burden out of skiing, and lets the love flow through!

Alta - February 9, 2010

Alta is #1 for thrills, beauty, and value. We had an exceptional day on Feb 9th. We were graced with an extra day of skiing when our flights got cancelled. Tremendous thrill to ski groomed easy runs, while viewing the steep peaks around us. It is also daunting to realize there is great avalanche danger, with the steep mountains and the heavy snow amounts - some of the highest in North America. It is somewhat comforting to see the handsome avalanche dogs and their handlers on duty for any problems.

Gate to Snowbird’s Mineral Basin. “Boarders and skiers can enter here and use the trails at Alta to descend to the road. Alta’s trails are in National Forest land and open to the public, but the lifts are owned by Alta,” writes Charles. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Alta is good bargain skiing - $66 a day and $56 half day. The combined Alta - Snowbird ticket gives you access to both areas and 4,700 acres. It costs about $32 extra. There is a special deal for rentals after 2:30 - $16 from the Alta Ski shop, and free skiing after 3 on Sunnyside Lift. This is a great idea for large families.

Alta staff Scott and Connie lead us down Devil’s Way. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Alta is another area which denies snowboards, but you can ride down from the Snowbird side. You might feel uncomfortable; signs say “Alta is a skier’s mountain; Snowboarding is not allowed.”

It is a high mountain, with Mt. Baldy at 11,068 feet.

Alta lists its trails as 25% Easy, 40% as More Difficult, and 35% as Most Difficult. It also places great emphasis on continued teaching, with lessons for all levels of skiing. I agree, and do much better when I ski with an instructor or a mountain host. I definitely need to regain the confidence I had in my first 45 years of skiing!

Snowbasin - February 10, 2010

Snowbasin is a magnificent area, with more than enough trails and challenges for everyone. And all are welcome - including snowboarders. Snowbasin was the site of several events for the 2002 Olympics, and the luxurious lounges, restaurants, and shops were completed just a few days before.

On the day we were there - February 10 - the runs were hard packed and too fast for me to safely handle. There was plenty of snow on the sides, but the regulars say they need more. The light was flat, and I could not see the incredible vistas. But we knew they were there from 3 other visits. With less than a one hour drive from Salt Lake City, and all day lifts at $65, Snowbasin is well worth the trip. It is best to stay in Salt Lake or Ogden, Utah, and there is some shuttle bus service available.

Connie and Grizzly. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The lounges of Snowbasin look like a combination of Versailles and an Italian castle. The buffet lunch serves a variety of gourmet cuisine, at competitive prices for fancy foods. The bathrooms have golden faucets and plumbing. They have managed to be even fancier than Deer Valley. I could happily spend a few nights in the lounge. But, when you go out to ski, you are well rewarded.

Snowbasin says it has 3,000 skiable acres and a verticle drop of 3,000 feet. It has more than 113 runs, terrain parks, tubing, and Nordic trails. Its highest peak is 9,370 feet, and it has two Gondolas among its 10 lifts.

Western Winter Sports Representatives Association demo days at Snowbasin. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

There are a variety of activities for all ages. We saw a lot of young children, and a host of senior skiers, in addition to the usual mix of college and family age skiers and boarders. There was a race and snowboard competition, and a large winter sports equipment show underway while we were there. That brought moderate “crowds” to Snowbasin, but it is nothing compared to what we have in the East. By the way, everyone was talking about our blizzards, and many wanted the snow their way. Vancouver could use some too!

About Connie Lawn

When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.

Author thumbnail

Reader Comments

February 15, 2010
Thanks for the great reporting on Utah. I have bookmarked your valuable tips for next year. Our family of four took our very first ski trip out west this year. Our 5 day trip to Breckenridge turned into 8 due to the Blizzards of 2010. Although we enjoyed our extra days of skiing and a trip to the Denver zoo, we sure are glad to get home. We were fortunate to make a flight into DCA between storms. Now if we could only get the kids back to school.
DCSki Reader
February 16, 2010
Planned trip Jan 26 to Feb 9 was extended to Feb 13 due to SW Air weather cancellations of BWI flights.
2 days Alta, 4 days Snowbird, 1 each at Solitude, Brighton,Sundance,PM,and Snowbasin. good powder early on at Brighton,Snowbird, Solitude. Then mostly
soft packed on steeper runs/ harder on easier trails.
Snowbird local and producer of recently recently released ski movie "The Edge of Never" guided us to gnarly trails including a hike up Baldy Shoulder. We saw his movie (now on Showtime
Channel) with a plot about Trevor Peterson's son skiing the Chamonix France run where his father
died. Glen Plake in in much of the movie. Different but I rate it highly.

At Snowbasin, with 6 inches new on Thursday a friend who was an instructor there had us hiking up in the John Paul area for gnar.

May go to Blue Knob this Sat if sore knee on a snowcat run on last day at Powder Mountain gets better.
Connie Lawn
February 16, 2010
Thank you for your comments. The West and Europe are terrific (I lived in Chamonix for 4 months in the 60's). But, this month, all our local areas are Heaven too. Yours, Connie

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