I’ve only been to The Canyons twice, last week and in March 2010. Let me tell you, in that year and a half, things have changed — for the better.
The first time we skied The Canyons in 2010, we drove up from Salt Lake City along I-80. This is a fast and easy drive that takes only about 45 minutes. Smooth sailing, we thought. Then we got to the parking lot and realized that before we could ski, we’d have to take a cabriolet to the base. From there, we walked (and it seemed like a long trek) across the village to the gondola — the single lift serving The Canyons base at that time. The line was horrendous and we spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to escape the crowds. Happily, we succeeded, finding relative solitude and some rippin’ terrain off of the Ninety-Nine 90 Express and Peak 5 chairs.
Last year, The Canyons made some major base area improvements, including realigning the gondola closer to the cabriolet and adding a new, heated bubble quad chair where the gondola used to be. According to the resort, adding a second lift from the base has cut lifelines in half (which only makes sense). I believe it. And while I have to admit I only noticed the heated chair the first time we rode it, it was kind of nice to have a blast of warmth as the chair rounded the bullwheel and we sat down.
Utah, like most of the Rocky Mountain West, has not seen much this December. Still, despite the thin conditions, The Canyons was skiing well — if on limited terrain. As of last Wednesday, only four lifts were running: The Red Pine Gondola, The Orange Bubble Express, the Sun Peak Express and the Saddleback Express. It was my first day out since spraining and fracturing my right ankle mountain biking, so I was kind of psyched to be looking at wide-open groomers. Most Utahns were staying home waiting for pow, so we really had the resort to ourselves.
And while we weren’t able to check out the new terrain over on Flatiron Mountain or revisit Ninety Nine 90, skiing at The Canyons last week has only whetted my appetite for learning more about Park City’s biggest mountain.
Because I was a guest of Columbia Sportswear on this trip, I stayed at The Grand Summit Hotel in the base village. My room was great — spacious, comfortable and with a fully stocked kitchen. And my “commute” to the lifts couldn’t be beat, just a simple walk out the 2nd floor doors and I was on snow. Much better than commuting from the valley.
So, while I still cannot say I “know” The Canyons, I did leave Park City last week with a favorable impression of the mountain and resort. I want to go back, when there’s deep pow and my family is with me. Spring break, anyone?
When You Go…
While I was lame and overslept on Wednesday, most of my group hit the slopes at 7:15 for First Tracks. This program, which allows guests to get on snow an hour before anyone else, runs throughout the season on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Designed for expert and intermediate skiers and riders, you’ll ski with a guide, usually a former Olympian, and watch the sun rise. Reservations are required. For more information, call 435-615-3449. By the way, I heard nothing but great reviews of First Tracks from my friends, despite the subzero morning temps that day.
In addition to going back to The Canyons to ski, I would love to return to The Canyons and spend more time at The Grand Summit or any of the base lodges. This trip, which was chock full of fun as Columbia previewed their technical winter line for next season, didn’t allow time for the lovely outdoor pool or hot tubs.
Nor did we really have time to visit the restaurants and bars in the village. We did have dinner at The Farm one evening, which was delicious, if a bit upmarket and adult for my family, at least. I also missed the waffle hut near the mid-mountain Red Pine Lodge (it wasn’t open yet). Two seasons ago, we skied up and devoured delicious Liege-style Belgian waffles at this on-mountain outpost of Salt Lake City hotspot, Bruges Waffles and Frites. Crispy, caramelized and chock-full of sugar, these waffles need no topping to enhance their deliciousness. We’ve been craving them ever since.
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