Park City Adventure: Park City Mountain celebrating 50 years

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin 

It’s not often that a chairlift will drop you off in the middle of town. But then, Park City, Utah, is a special place, where skiers take their sport very seriously.

So we laughed as we watched skiers and snowboarders jump on the town lift to take them up the hill to the huge Park City Mountain Resort. Must be nice to catch a few runs after school, which more than a few students looked like they were doing. Skiers originally traveled underground through a mine shaft to a hoist, where they were lifted 1,400 feet to the mountain. Now you can just jump on the city chairlift.

We had a little bit of everything at the ski resort, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Wind, snow, fog — but we still had a great time exploring this Utah ski resort nestled up against the city with the same name.

We met up with our group at the Eagle Statue in the lovely resort plaza at the base of the mountain. It looks great with shops, restaurants and services on the first floor and lodging on several floors above.

Canyons Resort is great for intermediate and advanced skiers in Park City, Utah

By Correspondent Marlene Greer

The Canyons is immense and glorious for intermediate and advanced skiers, with so much variety of terrain to choose from, it’s not to be done in one day. At least not for me and my group of nine.

But there’s not much at Canyons for beginners. Just 10 percent of the trails are marked green, and those trails cover little of the ski area’s vast territory.

The Canyons, one of the three major ski resorts in Park City, Utah, is four miles from downtown Park City and 32 miles from the Salt Lake City Airport. Several shuttle services offer transportation from the airport to the resort and to Park City for a reasonable price. Free public buses from Park City run all day between Park City and Canyons.

If you like to ski groomers and opt to try Canyons on your own without a guide, pick up the daily grooming report at the base lodge. It’s invaluable.

Great guide leads us to best spots in Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah

Our mountain guide gave us great tips to ski better. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Our mountain guide gave us great tips to ski better. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Correspondent Marlene Greer

When I’m not familiar with a ski area and I’m by myself, I like to sign up for a guided mountain tour. Canyons offers one daily at 10:30 a.m.

For me, a guided tour is a good way to get around and get to know the mountain without landing on a mogul minefield or finding myself looking over an abyss, thinking, “What am I doing here?”

Mountain guides know which runs are groomed and which runs are suitable that particular day for their group. I find the tours enjoyable and informative. Plus, I get to meet people from all over the world.

Our group of nine was a joyful band of good skiers who wanted to take it easy. No big bowls, no trees and definitely no moguls. Just nice, easy cruisers with good pitch and maybe some powder on the side.

We were a group of West Coasters — California, Oregon and Washington. Seems we were all fleeing the dry conditions in the West for the more favorable Utah snow.

Fortunately, we were graced with a fresh dusting of it — 6 inches of snow fell the day and night before, leaving a blush of powder over hard-packed groomed.

We wanted to see as much of the area as possible — boundary to boundary, as one skier in our group put it. A hardy task given the ski resort covers nine peaks and five bowls with 4,000 skiable acres and counts itself among the largest ski areas in the nation.

Roger Seaborn, our affable Australian tour guide, however, was unflappable. He took our request seriously. This was no tour for slackers.

With 182 trails to choose from, we got busy. With Roger leading the way, we managed to find one or two of the best blues, groomed double blues, and a bit of powder off each lift, skiing nearly end to end and top to bottom throughout the resort.

For those in the group who wanted a challenge here and there, Roger would stop on a run and point out another way down and we would all meet up at the bottom.

One place we skipped was the double-black terrain off the resort’s notorious Ninety-Nine 90 Express (so called because it rises to the resort’s highest elevation at 9,990 feet). This is expert-only terrain. Roger told us a couple of out-of-bounds skiers had triggered an avalanche on a bowl just outside the resort’s boundary only two days before.

Roger is also a certified instructor. Though it wasn’t part of the program, he offered ski tips to anyone in the group open to suggestions and improvement, which was all of us.

“Marlene, it’s your turn. Get in behind me,” he called out just as we were making our way off the Orange Bubble Express and down yet another nice groomer. “I want you to follow my tracks.”

Easier requested then accomplished. Roger was trying to get me to work on more rounded — and more graceful — turns. Others in the group he instructed to bend more at the knees, roll the ankles and lean more forward. I think the instructor in him just couldn’t help himself.

If he saw one of us doing something, he first asked permission in a nice way if you minded a little instruction — then proceeded to offer his advice, which we greatly appreciated.

Skiing 18.5 miles at the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah

Scenic view from top of the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Scenic view from top of the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Correspondent Marlene Greer 

“You’ve done 16,100 vertical feet and 31.7 miles,” reported Ed Kane during a mountain tour of Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah.

He had one of those $400 fancy oversized wristwatch gizmos that tracked his every ski move and recorded it for posterity. Plus for backup, he had a $1.29 app on his phone that did the same thing.

I’m not sure which one worked better. And since he and I skied on the same tour with the same guide, his end-of-the-day vertical was my vertical and his miles were my miles.

“Wow, 31 miles! I can’t believe we did that much skiing,” I replied. “We’ve covered so much of the mountain and didn’t even see it all. Thirty-one miles, that’s a marathon! And I don’t feel tired at all!”

I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I skied 31 miles in a day, and how much I enjoyed my excellent Canyons experience. Ed found my excitement a bit humorous and smiled as I went on and on.

Then came the bubble-burster.

“Ah… half of that was on a lift, though,” Ed informed me.

“So you mean I only went 15 miles?” I asked, thinking it didn’t sound nearly as impressive as the 31 miles I was already planning to post on Facebook.

“No. You did 18.5 miles,” he said with what might have been a hint of laughter.

If I had known Ed for more than the six hours we spent traversing the Canyons’ numerous slopes, I would have given him The Look. You know the one — the “Don’t get technical with me” look we reserve for those we know intimately.

Still, 18.5 miles didn’t sound too shabby. I could go with that. It was my first time skiing at Canyons.

Memorial Day skiing, riding at Mammoth Mountain? It’s on!

Believe it or not, this is not a Mammoth Mountain file photo from December. It was taken this morning when the resort received up to 10 inches of new snow. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

This is not a Mammoth Mountain file photo from December or January. It was taken this morning — six days into spring! — when the resort received up to 10 inches of new snow. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

For the 27th straight year, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area will be open for skiing and snowboarding through Memorial Day weekend, the resort announced today.

“Although winter got off to a slow start, the past month brought a series of strong storms with nearly 100 inches of snow, and more in the forecast this week,” said Rusty Gregory, Mammoth Mountain CEO. “With excellent conditions typical of this time of year, we look to continue our long-standing tradition of skiing and riding well into May.”

Mammoth currently has a base depth of 4 to 6 feet and 100 percent of terrain open. A series of storms are forecast over the next week. That’s in addition to the 8 to 10 inches of new snow that fell this morning.

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

Deer Valley Ski Resort plans major mountain addition in Park City, Utah

 

Skiing in the clouds at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Skiing in the clouds at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, is growing. President and General Manager Bob Wheaton announced recently the resort’s plan to add 1,000 acres of ski terrain with five or six new lifts.

The new ski area will be located on the resort’s east side below the Sultan Express and Mayflower lift on Bald Mountain. With this addition, Deer Valley will offer more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. A new lodge, dining area and possibly lodging will be built in the new base area.

Deer Valley has wanted to expand for some time, Wheaton said. On peak days the resort’s dining areas struggle to handle all the skiers. The expansion, he said, will alleviate much of the dining congestion and offer skiers another access point to the resort.

The anticipated start date for the project is 2017. The project is expected to be complete in five years and cost an estimated $50 million.

Also on the horizon is a new gondola from historic downtown Park City to Deer Valley. Another major ski resort, Park City resort already operates the Town Lift from one end of Main Street. Deer Valley wants its own gondola.

The gondola will run from Main Street to Deer Valley’s mid-mountain Silver Lake Lodge area at 8,100 feet. The ride should take 15 minutes.

A decision has not yet been made whether the gondola will be free or if there will be a small fee. The gondola project will begin within two years and cost $10 to $12 million, Wheaton said.

All of this is great news for skiers and visitors to Park City. With a town gondola to Deer Valley Resort and a town lift to Park City Resort, skiers can skip the public buses and go direct from downtown to two of the area’s ski resorts.

Big and easy, that’s Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah

Inside the beautiful lodge at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)
Inside the beautiful lodge at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

It’s easy to get to Deer Valley. It’s a 45-minute ride from the Salt Lake City Airport, and many transportation companies offer service from the airport to Deer Valley for a reasonable price.

There are many lodging opportunities at Deer Valley — all are on the expensive side. My stepdaughter and I stayed in a one-bedroom unit at The Lodges, a luxurious complex with a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, near Snow Park Lodge, Deer Valley’s main base lodge.

A free shuttle runs all day from The Lodges to Deer Valley and takes less than five minutes. Another plus at The Lodges is the free, on-call car service to anywhere we wanted to go in the town of Park City.

Skiers can also stay in Park City and take the free local public buses to Deer Valley that run all day and pick up at several locations.

On our second day of skiing at Deer Valley, the snowfall was heavy and wet, the kind of ski day that leaves your jacket and gloves soaked.

But that didn’t keep us from discovering and enjoying more of the resort’s beautiful blues and blue-greens, Deer Valley’s in-between groomers that challenge beginners and give intermediate skiers an easy final run at the end of the day.

Beautiful and easy. That’s Deer Valley.

Families and friends make Deer Valley a tradition

Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Deer Valley is a skiers-only resort — one of the few left in the country. And Deer Valley plans to keep it that way.

“We survey our guests and (no snowboarders) is among the top reasons why people come to Deer Valley,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager. He says the resort is doing well financially with only skiers, and he doesn’t see the policy changing.

No snowboarders made our skiing experience more relaxed. And quiet. Deer Valley is excellent casual skiing at its best.

Jill, skiing at Deer Valley with a friend and her friend’s daughter Lauren, described it a little differently. “It’s lazy skiing,” said Jill, a vivacious 50-something lifelong skier. “Nice runs, not crowded, no snowboarders, not too difficult. I’m old. I’ve got bad knees. I want nice, easy skiing.”

This was the trio’s third trip to Deer Valley in three years. The two friends from Texas, whose husbands don’t ski, have been skiing together for many years. Lauren joined them three years ago for their annual ladies-only ski trip, and Deer Valley is their go-to destination.

“It started with six of us friends,” Jill said. “Now only the two of us are going, with Lauren. We’ve been to Deer Valley many times. It’s our favorite mountain.”
It’s also the favorite of Amy and Bill from Austin, Texas. The couple returned to Deer Valley for the second year with their two young children, 7-year-old Ben and Caroline, 9.

The parents felt the resort was ideal for their family. Ben’s favorite trail is Ontario, a long green groomer running from the top of Flagstaff Mountain.
“We’ve been doing that all day,” Amy said with a sigh.

The parents also like the kids ski school program.
“They have fun with other kids, and Bill and I can go ski,” Amy said. “They could probably ski with us now, but we like the ski school. It’s expensive, but if you are spending this much to ski here, what’s a few hundred more?”

Deer Valley lift tickets are on the high side — $108 a day for adults, $68 for
children. The resort offers a nice discount for seniors 65 and older at $77 a day.

Making a mother-daughter trip to Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah

Bear House adds whimsy to ski trails at Deer Valley Ski Resort. (Photo by Marlene Greer)
Bear House adds whimsy to ski trails at Deer Valley Ski Resort. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

It was snowing for the first time in three weeks when my stepdaughter and I arrived at Deer Valley Resort in early February: Six inches of soft powder over groomed hardpack and just under freezing. Ideal conditions.

We were standing midmountain looking at the trail map trying to decide where to head to for some easy intermediate terrain. We had tried Bald Mountain earlier and found it too chopped up. It also has a 9,400-foot summit, so we were looking for something a bit easier on our first day on skis this season.
A mountain host gave us some great advice.

“Head to Flagstaff Mountain. There are some beauuuutiful blues off the back side,” the friendly Aussie said with the enthusiasm of a skier on a powder day. Everything was an exclamation!

“Take Hawkeye first. It’s excellent! Groomed with a nice pitch,” he advised. “Then try Sidewinder; it’s a bit steeper, but still nice. They are all just beautiful runs!”

This was our first trip to Deer Valley, and we found many “beautiful blues” in the next two days of skiing. We particularly liked Little Baldy Peak. The runs were groomed, nearly deserted (even on a Saturday) and there were no lift lines. We felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Deer Valley, one of the three major ski resorts in Park City, Utah, covers five mountain peaks and 2,026 acres. All levels of terrain can be accessed on all peaks with the exception of the resort’s highest — Empire Peak at 9,500 feet — which offers intermediate and expert terrain only.

Most of the lifts have high-speed quads, giving skiers more time on the slopes. The resort is surrounded by private property, so you’ll see large homes on the side of many runs.

Look for the Raccoon House and the Bear House off Last Chance Trail. Both have whimsical critters of all sizes hanging from the roof, sitting on the deck, peeking in windows and hiding in trees.

Sierra-at-Tahoe’s 2014-15 passes come with a bonus for this season.

Home to 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort has a deal for those who purchase a 2014-15 Keepin’ It Real Unlimited Season Pass: free skiing the rest of the 2014 season at the resort and also at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

Sierra-at-Tahoe is offering the Keepin’ It Real Unlimited Season Pass for $289 through April 30. The price increases by up to $100 starting May 1 (earlier, if quantities run out).

Along with free skiing and riding at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, passholders can enjoy free skiing/riding in much of the Western U.S. with The Powder Alliance. Those resorts include Angel Fire Resort, Arizona Snowbowl, Bridger Bowl, China Peak, Crested Butte, Mountain High, Mt. Hood Skibowl, Snowbasin, Schweitzer, Stevens Pass and Timberline.

Season passholders will automatically be enrolled into a free membership that earns points toward free lessons, rentals, lunch and other bonuses.

Information: www.sierraattahoe.com or 530-659-7453.