Yet Another Utah TR (Mar 1-6)
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March 10, 2009
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
I was among those "stuck" in Utah in the first week of March. Things started a little sketchy - they hadn't had snow in a while, and the temps were warm. I think at Alta on Sunday, we had base temps (base of Collins lift) of 55 or so. Over the course of the week, it got into the upper 60's/lower 70's in town, but the mountains were spared most of the heat.

A friend (an Alta regular, grew up skiing there and now lives 20 minutes from the hill) recommended parking at the Wildcat base, and focusing on the lifts available from there. We did explore a bit (Supreme, Sugarloaf), but found ourselves coming back to the Collins lift, and particularly to Wildcat, as the crowds were smaller, and the terrain was in better shape. Conditions were "good" by east coast standards, but the locals at Alta were really sour on them. That's OK, because it meant more room for us!

(note the empty chairs on Wildcat)

(and the empty everything)

But it's clear that snow was needed:

Monday was Solitude, Round 1. We didn't have much idea what to expect, and were really, really happy with what we found. Conditions were much like at Alta, but there was NOBODY there. The snow was soft, and there was room to run. We went after our first black runs of the trip, down Challenger and Inspiration, and found them, well, challenging and inspiring. It was nice to get that under our belt, so we felt like we could handle ourselves on terrain that is steeper (and longer!) than anything we ski around here.

This is Jana enjoying a mellower run:

And me, later on the same one (I think):

There was one spot on the Summit chair that kept weirding me out. With the flat light and a BIG drop to the ground, for some reason, I kept getting disoriented. It wasn't quite vertigo, but it was spooky. It was much better later in the week with better light.

Our third day of skiing took us to Brighton, which I'd heard to be more of a snowboarders' hill (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Skiing there on a Tuesday, there was, once again, nobody there (a fact no doubt helped by the "lousy" skiing conditions).

The views from Brighton are among the best of what we saw on the trip:

And the narrower tree-lined trails reminded me somewhat of skiing in New England:

With nobody around (and nice soft, forgiving snow), we decided to try some bumps:

Which can be very, very tiring:

I got myself into a little bit of trouble skiing "Little Milly", but the pictures from there aren't very clear. Basically, the trail hadn't been groomed (much of the mountain had), and was really crusty. I kept finding myself in places were I couldn't turn (because my skis were stuck in a rut or otherwise locked into crusty stuff), and I found myself headed right towards a big rock, a big tree, or a big tree growing out of a big rock. It made for a slow process of choosing deliberate lines (occasionally backing up to find them) and just being very careful to head where I wanted to be. I need to head back there to get a second chance at it, under better conditions.

Wednesday, we took it easy, headed to Park City to see the Olypmic stuff, and generally acted like tourists. At the end of the day, we headed to Alta for the "Ski Free After Three" thing, did a few runs, and packed it in. It was cold and windy, and the conditions were (finally) no good (that was the day the Peruvian lift got stuck at Snowbird in the wind). If it had been our last day, we would have made it work somehow, but we figured we were better off giving our legs a rest...

...and it was a good thing we did, because Thursday brought 12" of Utah's magical snow. And, boy-howdy, if it's not exhausting to ski in that stuff (even moreso when it's your first time, and you don't really know how to handle it). We were at Solitude, and it was alarmingly empty.

(looks like I hit a picture limit... Continued below...)
March 10, 2009
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
(continued from above...)

Not us:

We finally started to get the hang of things, and managed to venture into some new areas:

Me, battling the Headwall Forest:

Jana, all alone in Honeycomb Canyon (where I'm pretty sure I took my core shot):

But of course, it doesn't always go so well... At least falling feels a lot better in a foot of fresh, eh?

Our last day, we were back at Alta, with our local friend. Unfortunately (for us), our legs were pretty burned, and he was WAYYYY better than we are/were, so we didn't get to take full advantage of his expertise, but it was still a great day. Amazingly, we found some pretty untracked stuff off the Wildcat chair, so we spent most of our day there. I took full advantage of the "it doesn't hurt to fall in powder" defense:

We were lucky enough to have some snow throughout the day, which made for a great ending to the week.

It was a great trip, even if the conditions were less-than-optimal for most of it. I think we may try to head back next year.

For what it's worth, we stayed in the Extended Stay America in Midvale (right next to the movie theatre), for less than $400 for the whole week (7 nights). It was a little on the "cheap" side, but had everything we needed. The shower was pretty unimpressive, and the bed was a little hard, but for a budget option, it was great.

As far as vittles were concerned, we routinely après-skied at the Porcupine Pub, just outside of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and I'd heartily recommend their nachos as a good option for a very hungry group of people. The beers there are also a very good selection of local Utah microbrews. I was particularly impressed by the Polygamy Porter and the Abbey Ale they had from one of the breweries. Very good. The Squatter's pilsener is quite good as well, as was the Squatter's Full Suspension Pale Ale. We also enjoyed having Cutthroat Pale Ale at the Goldminer's Daughter, and the full-strength version (Angler's Ale) at the Bayou downtown (a nice, if loud, Cajun place).

We went to the Bohemian Brewpub, and were disappointed (esp. Jana, who was hoping for something more authentic). The beers were ok, and the food was not very Czech (but it was a bit on the expensive side, so it had that going for it). I'd take Squatter's over that place any day. As far as "skiing and eating Czech food" experiences go, I'd recommend skiing at Loveland, and then heading to Sobo 151 in Denver. Really good Czech food there, if that's your thing.

Overall, I was really happy with the trip. I found myself wondering why I'd gone to the trouble of skiing in Colorado, when it's soooooo much easier to make it happen in Utah. The only potential downside is the weird situation with the liquor laws, but it turns out that Utah just voted to end their "private club" stuff, so next time we're there it will probably be quite a bit different. Maybe 10 foot walls everywhere?

March 10, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Cool report -- so what makes you think the SLC option is easier than CO? (I agree BTW).
March 10, 2009
Member since 03/10/2008 🔗
80 posts
I loved your report. It's very interesting to see so many DCSkiers in SLC around the same time. Great pictures to show us the trip that words simply couldn't.

I also went to Squatters downtown on Saturday night and were surprised to find beautiful women and good beer. What more can a guy want? Powder, women, and beer. smile
JimK - DCSki Columnist
March 10, 2009
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,981 posts
Yet another OUTSTANDING Utah TR! I've never been to Big Cottonwood Canyon and I found your photos of the scenic view at Brighton and Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude especially eyeopening.

PS: can't wait to see what kind of photos skier219 brings home. Unfortunately the fresh pow is so deep during his visit his helmetcam will be mostly submerged. grin
March 11, 2009
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
Originally Posted By: skier219
Cool report -- so what makes you think the SLC option is easier than CO? (I agree BTW).

First of all, the abundance of lodging options makes for very inexpensive hotels. If we hadn't needed a kitchen, we could have stayed for $39/night or so, which is MUCH cheaper than anything within 20 minutes of the skiing at Colorado destination resorts. Even with the kitchenette, we were at $49/night, which is impressive (and figuring that we would have spent at least $10 (between the two of us) on breakfast each morning, it was sort of a break-even proposition).

Secondly, the ability to easily get to a wide range of skiing options (20 minutes to Alta, 35 minutes to Park City, just a bit more to Snowbasin) means that you can readily find something that is appropriate to your level/intentions without having to drive hours to get there. We really enjoyed being able to ski a different place for each of the first three days, and then pick and choose from there. Next trip, we'll definitely hit Snowbasin, and maybe Powder Mountain (and if we have time, I want to try Beaver Mountain, too!).

The terrain was at least as good as what we've skied at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, or Loveland (our Colorado experiences). That doesn't mean that those areas don't have better things to offer, but we sure didn't need them. And why pay $90/day for a lift ticket, when $56/day (with the Superpass) will throw just as much at you?

There's definitely something great about being at a big destination resort. Vail's great, for what it is, and if I had a family (kids) or a travel companion who wasn't into the skiing, I think there'd be a strong motivator to find someplace that has more non-skiing stuff to offer. Beaver Creek would be a great place to take a family (provided someone else is footing the bill). As it stands, we were looking to SKI for as many days as our legs would allow. We didn't need much in the way of entertainment, since we pretty much skied all day, grabbed a beer or two on the way home, and then had a simple dinner and went to bed (aside from the few nights we went out with friends in the area). When we've been in Colorado, we haven't really made use of the "other" activities available, so we might as well stay in a budget hotel in town, you know?

That hasn't kept me from putting some Colorado places on my skiing wish list (Telluride, for instance), but unless there's a real bargain, or a real advantage to going there (a group of friends headed out, or something similar), I'd just as soon go back to SLC. At least, until I get bored there.

Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter 
March 11, 2009
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
2,040 posts
You just made my case for skiing Utah; #1 in value. I would say if your an aspiring expert most Utah resorts will serve up the gnar much more readily then most Colorado resorts. Often you can find all the steep you can handle off of the first lift you ride. Staying below 5,000 feet and skiing under 11,000 sure makes it a tad easier on these old eastern lungs also.

Ski and Tell

Snowcat got your tongue?

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