Park City, Utah Imagine waking
up on the East Coast, and making tracks in deep Utah powder by noon.
This is no dream, this is the reality of a Park City ski trip. Even
better, your first ski day is free with a Quick Start voucher from
the Park City
Chamber, you can be catching fresh tracks at Deer Valley, The
Canyons or Park City Mountain all afternoon.
Greg & I hopped an early Delta flight out of Logan, and by 12:30pm
Utah time we had ridden two high speed lifts to 9,400-feet and we
were floating on a foot of fresh powder on Deer Valley’s signature
Stein’s Run. With a direct flight to Salt Lake City airport, Park
City’s three major ski resorts are just a 30-minute drive, so you
can be clicking into
your skis by noon. We had our ski boots and ski
clothing handy for a quick change, and rented skis and poles from
(instead of lugging our own across the country). Ski Butlers met us
at our Lodge at Deer Valley, and in five swift minutes, we were
dialed in for six days of skiing. To say things were clicking would
be an understatement.
We started our five night /six ski day Utah odyssey at
- “the fairest of them all” in any skier’s storybook. Deer Valley is
everything you have heard about; rated the #1 resort by Ski
readers, four and five diamond lodging, award-winning on mountain
cuisine, ski valets that carry your skis from your car. Deer Valley
is posh, almost like a private ski club – snowboarders are not
allowed and lift ticket sales are limited to 6,500 a day to assure
everyone has a seat in their lodges. What’s not limited is the
terrain, with five separate peaks spreading over 2,026 acres,
3,000-vertical served by 22 lifts including 11 high-speed quads and
a leather-upholstered gondola.
Our first afternoon, we found gorgeous groomed cruisers off Bald and
Flagstaff Mountains, and powder-filled Aspen groves in Triangle
Trees. A typical travel day you get weary from jet lag, airport
shuffles and check in lines – not so on this day – we were fatigued
from high altitude air, too many turns, and too many temptations at
the extravagant Seafood Buffet dinner to finish our Deer Valley day.
Our condominium lodging was perfectly appointed; they call it rustic
mountain living but I call it refined with leather furnishings,
stone fireplace, fluffy robes and our own private hot tub on our
deck ( I told you Deer Valley does it right!). At our whim, a
shuttle would take us to the slopes, or to the fabulously funky Main
Street of Park City.
Day two, we were on the Silver Lake Express by 8:45am, (tip: this
base lift opens 15 minutes early to get you to the upper mountain in
time for official 9am opening). Deer Valley lays out the white
carpet each night (while you rest in high thread count beds),
catering to the Bogner wearing real estate buying clientele. We crushed cord on long trails like Hidden Treasure and
Legal Tender named for the silver discovered in these mountains in
1868. Deer Valley slopes coined over $400 million in silver, today
the gold rush is in real estate, as magnificent mountain mansions
hug the hillsides of the buffed slopes.
Empire Canyon is Deer Valley at its peaks, 9,570’, here in Daly’s
Bowl this pampered paradise gets double black steep with chutes and
tremendous tree stashes which I can’t share as I have been sworn to
secrecy (hint: ask a local).
Now a confession about my love of skiing and Deer Valley: the more
you ski the more you can indulge in Deer Valley’s fine food. The
best burger I have ever encountered is made with Chipotle at Royal
Street Café. Or you can ski to the delightful Austrian lodge,
Goldener Hirsch, for the finest cheese fondue lunch. For après
ski toddies and treats,
Lodge is the 5-star place to be seen, you may even see the
legendary Olympic Gold medalist Stein himself, he celebrated 80 this
year, still serving as Deer Valley’s director of skiing since the
resort opened in 1981.
For a long leisurely finale, we skied down to Deer Valley’s
Jordanelle Gondola, which we called a “real estate run” as you ski
over and under expansive snow bridges built solely to access
enormous elegant ski chalets, including the Ski Magazine Dream Home.
Second homes are booming in Utah, and luxurious hotels by St Regis
and Montage are both under construction on these slopes. Deer Valley
is the trail map out of “lifestyles of the rich and famous” but you
can have your moment of fame as you ski this posh upscale downhill
Mountain Resort was next on our three resort tour. In fact, Deer
Valley abuts Park City, which borders The Canyons – but ducking the
rope is a no-no for now. The Utah legislation is weighing a Utah
Interconnect, which would link Deer Valley, Park City, Canyons,
Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton - that would be epic
like European skiing.
Park City’s ski area emanates from downtown, making it a popular
choice. The US Ski and Snowboard teams train on the front side (this
is where Shaun White flies like a tomato in the superpipe), but
there is plenty more to explore among seven peaks. Park City is the
busiest area (no ticket sale limits or snowboard restrictions here)
but with 4 high speed-six pack lifts, Park City makes a case for
spreading people out over the 3,300 acres and 9 bowls of terrain. We
dispersed for the hardcore terrain of Jupiter Bowl, and found steep
and deep chutes off this remote double chair to 10,026’. Then we
tapped into McConkey’s for more double black delights.
After a morning of high elevation excitement, we took it down a
notch and discovered “The Motherlode”, a pleasant pocket of
well-spaced aspens and perfectly-pitched runs like Fool’s Gold and
Glory Hole. PCMR hearkens back to 1963 when skiers would ride the
3-mile underground mine shafts from town to access the slopes. I
preferred the fresh air and sunshine on the chairlifts. Today Park
City is owned by Powdr, the resort company that scooped up
Killington and Pico last year from ASC, and also owns Bachelor in
Oregon and Ski Las Vegas. Park City stays open till 7:30pm for
twilight skiing and riding, but with such a fantastic town at the
base, I found après ski took precedence.
Strolling by western boutiques and saloon-inspired eateries in Park
City’s Old Town, it’s easy to picture the 1868 Frontier town. But I
cannot imagine Main Street during Sundance, when 60,000 Hollywood
heroes and wannabes descend for the 2nd largest film festival in the
world. Tip: the ski slopes are empty during Sundance Film Festival’s
parties and premiers in late January.
We had a fantastic dinner at Fin, a swank seafood restaurant in the
Sky Lodge. Next door is Zoom, Robert Redford’s place if you are
into star memorabilia. Non-skiers could have serious fun in Park
City, shopping, touring the historic silver mining spots, and
meeting their ski friends for a slopeside lunch.
Saving the biggest for last, our final two days we conquered the
vast The Canyons,
all 3,700 acres – the largest single ski resort in Utah. Boarding
the Flight of the Canyons gondola from the Grand Summit Hotel (a bit
grander than ours at Sugarloaf and Sunday River) before 9am gets you
to mid-mountain where you have eight peaks to explore. We inscribed
our skis on Tombstone’s cruisers before heading up to experts-only
Peak 9990, named for the summit elevation. Here you can hike to
backcountry bowls or point ‘em down Magic Lines and Red Pine chutes.
No joke, this is avalanche prone territory so heed signage and
Peak 5 and Dream Peak to the East offer up gorgeous glades, gentle
winding trails and more of those “real estate runs.” As you ski
through The Colony, the largest ski in ski out lots for sale in
North America, you see one magnificent mansion after another.
Clearly this once sleepy ski area called Park West is transforming
into a mega-mountain for millionaires. Talisker bought The
Canyons from folded ASC, this Toronto-based real estate firm has
developments in Deer Valley, so the champagne and caviar crowd will
follow. Perhaps this new ownership will interconnect with Park City,
they could link by installing two lifts (I don’t see Deer Valley
participating by opening its borders, or allowing boarders, anytime
soon). A Canyons/Park City ticket would give skiers and riders a
7,000-acre network. For now, there is plenty to ski at each, and
there all within a 10-minute drive or free shuttle.
A Canyon’s must for lunch is Lookout Cabin, take the Short Cut lift
from Red Pine. This mountaintop chalet has panoramic Wasatch
Mountain views and table service dining. Refueled, you are ready to
explore the Canyon’s original ski terrain, in Silverado, Rendezvous
and Murdock Bowl. The Super Condor quad accesses chutes like Yard
Sale, groomed ridge runs with sweeping views, big bump runs or the
tight twisty Canis Lupis – one of six “natural halfpipes” on the
mountain that are banked, bumpy, loaded with turns and trees,
offering an amusing alpine descent (fun for kids and adults on short
skis). To conclude our 3-mountain 6-day ski tour, we spotted a moose
and her baby in the middle of the ski trail – a sign it was time to
return to Maine.
Eastern skiers that want to ski waist-deep Utah pow, trademarked
“the greatest snow earth,” should make their way to Park City - one
fun town, three world-class resorts, all within a half hour airplane
touchdown. By skiing on your arrival and departure day – you can hit
all three: Deer Valley, Park City and The Canyons.
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All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke