Thirty one years ago at age 31, I learned to ski in Park City, Utah.
A group of New Jersey work colleagues invited me along.
While they were more interested in me paying a share of the condo costs than joining them in downhill fun, I fooled them. For I discovered an instant love for the sport.
Or maybe the joke was on me when I became a frequent sharer of their future ski travel expenses.
Despite Utah’s claim to having the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” I didn’t return to the Beehive State until two years ago when I made a “press trip” visit to Deer Valley Resort, while driving from Colorado to Lake Tahoe.
I was accompanied on the hill by Deer Valley Senior Communications Manager Emily Summers and Paul Marshall, who was then with Ski Utah.
While lunching in the Empire Canyon Lodge, Summers was kind enough to point me in the direction of what I consider the finest salad bar in all of skidom. Although it’s now called the “Natural Buffet,” the salad bar is still a Deer Valley dining staple.
Back on the snow, Marshall pointed out the border separating Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort. I noted that I was surprised by how close the two resorts are to each other, and how close some of the best skiing in Utah is to the Salt Lake City Airport.
“We’ve been telling you this for years. You thought we were making this up?” Marshall replied with a laugh.
Seeing and skiing is believing. And I had more chances to see and ski Utah last January when I visited the four resorts that call the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons home: Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude.
One Word Descriptions of the Salt Lake City Ski Resorts
For me, visiting six Salt Lake City resorts in a short time period is overwhelming. So I came up with one word descriptions to tell them apart.
And to add a bit of value to my single words, I asked Ski City’s Shawn Stinson to chime in.
Me: LUXURY. Stinson: Great groomers, fantastic tree skiing.
Me: CORPORATE (in a good, well run, good value on the Epic pass sort of way). Stinson: Big, too big to ski in a day.
Me: SKIERS (Snowboarders are not allowed at Alta — or at Deer Valley). Stinson: Powder, lots of it.
Me: FAMILIES. Stinson: Locals’, snowboarders’ mountain.
Me: SOLITUDE (With Solitude on the Ikon Pass, I hear this may not be true anymore). Stinson: Great for families, especially the village.
Me: BIG. Stinson: Big Mountain as in, bring your “A game” for its steeps.
You’re all welcome for the simplicity.
Some Helpful Details
Park City is a former silver mining town, separate from the ski resort of the same name. Park City is also home to Deer Valley Resort.
There are two Cottonwood Canyons – Big and Little. They get their names from the distance between their canyon walls. As a result, the wider distance means the Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts (Brighton and Solitude) have more gradual slopes and the narrower Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts (Snowbird and Alta) have steeper trail selections.
The four Cottonwood Canyon resorts are accessed by roads that dead end in each Canyon. Only one way in and out of each Canyon creates traffic troubles, especially in snowy weather. Dead ends are security concerns for high profile international events, so the four Cottonwood Canyon resorts did not host any competitions in the 2002 Olympics. And they most likely will not host again if the Olympics return to Salt Lake City in 2030.
Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird, Alta and Deer Valley accept the Ikon Pass. Park City is on the Epic Pass, as is Snowbasin, a northern Utah resort within an hour of Salt Lake.
Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird and Alta are also on the Ski City Super Pass, available for 3-10 days of skiing in a 14-day timeframe.
The Ski City Super Pass includes rental shop discounts and free transportation on the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) ski buses and TRAX light rail. Ikon Passes also work for free public transportation, which we recommend.
The Salt Lake City resorts are located in the Wasatch Mountain Range. As a geography challenged East Coaster I wasn’t sure if the Wasatch Range is separate from the Rocky Mountains. So I went to my source for all things Utah, Shawn Stinson, and got this reply. “The Wasatch Range is, indeed, part of the Rocky Mountains (similar to the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, the Tetons in Jackson or San Juan Mountains in Colorado).”
Ultimately seeing and skiing really does help with the believing and I’m now a believer.
So much so that I’ve switched my annual month long winter boondoggle from Colorado to Utah for 2020.
Look out Greatest Snow on Earth, here I come.
Martin Griff is an East Coast ski bum. A journalist by education and profession, he shares his thoughts, impressions, experiences and those things that puzzle him with Braveskimom.com throughout the ski season.
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