By Jessie G.
A few things I learned while being in Utah:
1. If there is a 30% chance of snow, it’s 100% going to snow
2. Conditions can rapidly change
3. Powder and moguls is a tiring combination
4. Utah is a perfect place to take your family for a ski vacation offering many mountains with terrain for beginners to experts
Over February break, my family went on our annual ski trip to Utah, specifically Park City and The Canyons. We also visited Alta, Snowbird, and Deer Valley. Every year, my family decides to go out west and explore a new mountain for one break. Last year, during President’s weekend, we traveled to Park City for 2 days, but we felt our short stay did not give us the proper skiing feel in Utah. We decided we must come back to explore all of the wonderful mountains, towns, and of course food, Utah has to offer.
Before the trip, my whole family frantically looked at the weather at all the mountains located near one another in Utah: Park City, Alta, Snowbird, Deer Valley, Solitude, and more. As our trip approached, my whole family was extremely disappointed by the horrible conditions the mountains had. There was barely any snow, and it was not predicted to snow anytime soon. It was depressing. Yet, we had a pleasant surprise when we arrived. Miracles do happen! On our second day of skiing, we were granted 16 inches of fresh powder, and it continued to thoroughly and abundantly snow every day after our first day.
We stayed at the Westgate Hotel located in the Canyons Village. The hotel consists of different buildings; the elk building, bear building, and more. We stayed in the elk building, a distance away from the lobby but located right near the indoor/outdoor pool and the arcade. The pool was great, having a connection from indoors to outdoors, and there were also two hot tubs. Daniel and I only swam once, but it was still fun. We did not go into the arcade, although we constantly heard the noise from one of the machines. We thought the noise would be a problem, but we could only hear the music during the day when the door was opened slightly.
Our room was significantly small, but it wasn’t a problem since we spent most of our day outside on the slopes. The pull-out couch often made it hard to walk, so we folded it back into a couch until it was time to settle down to bed. Instead of going to breakfast every morning at the pricey lodges, we decided to visit a local market and stock up on cereals, bagels, toast, and beef jerky, enough to last us the whole duration of our trip. Despite the small room, the hotel provided anything at the click of a button. They provided turn down service every night, delivering us different chocolate of different flavors. My brothers and I fought over them every night.
The two best things the hotel offered was 1. its’ complimentary shuttle that delivered the guests wherever they wished and 2. the skiing services. To get on a shuttle, you would have to call and set a requested time. They would drop you at your destination for free! We used the shuttle every night to get into town. The shuttle was never late. On the first day, the shuttle told us on the phone it would be there in 30 seconds. We had to rush out of the restaurant to make it. The shuttle also does not wait too long for anyone, even if your a few minutes late. As for the skier services, the hotel would pack away our skis for the night and would then deliver them to a green cart right in front of the gondola. After the day of the skiing, you would place your skis on the cart, and they would deliver them back to the hotel and safely store them overnight.
On the first day, we skied at Alta since they had a bit more snow than Park City and the other mountains. To get to Alta, which is about a 40-minute drive, we rode with Canyon Hop. They take skiers and snowboarders from mountain to mountain, but they don’t do a great advertising job. You tell them a time you want to leave as well as a time for pick up. The service was great. Alta Mountain only allows skiers, a plus for my family of skiers who dislike reckless snowboarders. The conditions were fine but not astounding. The snow was partly choppy, and the visibility wasn’t terrific, so we decided to finish the day off early, around 3 PM. Alta offers trails and services that are geared to all levels of skiers. There wasn’t a large number of greens, but enough that a beginner skier can learn correctly. Alta is large, new for my family, and offered various trails, which was a great way to start our ski vacation. For dinner, we headed to Fletchers. I wasn’t pleased with my tomato and mozzarella salad, which didn’t have cheese because they ran out, but my falafel was great. I didn’t enjoy the meal too much, but my whole family loved their teriyaki chicken and steak.
The next day we skied at our base mountain, Park City/ The Canyons. The Canyons is connected to Park City via gondola. The gondola takes you from place to place, but it requires a tremendous amount of skiing to reach the gondola. So, most stick with the easy way out and uber to the base of Park City from The Canyons. Our day at the Canyons/ Park City was on Presidents Day with 16 inches of fresh powder, so a huge crowd appeared at the mountain. We waited on a gondola line for 2 hours since my dad erroneously decided the singles line would be best. We waited on the singles line while people in the normal line waited for an hour maximum. We got out to the line at 915 AM but got up to the top of the mountain at 1115 AM. Since my family prefers to eat early lunches when skiing, we went right to lunch and then began our short but pleasant day of skiing. By the way, the lodges for lunch are ridiculously expensive, with a piece of pizza being priced at $13. Yet, the lodges do still attract locals and tourists alike. The snow continued to fall throughout the day, and there was terrific powder, large moguls, and groomed trails as well. Park City and the Canyons also offers a variety of different trails ranging from super easy to difficult. For dinner, we went to our friends’ (from Chappaqua) condo. We ordered local Italian food, which was wonderful.
The next day we headed to Deer Valley and skied with our friends who knew the mountain like the back of their hand. We got to Deer Valley, which is approximately a 15-minute drive, by way of our hotel’s free shuttle service. Deer Valley is also only home to skiers (no borders), which once again was a plus for my family. The family we were skiing with brought us to all the unexplored and least populated areas that still offered hard terrain as well as
untouched powder. The lines were super short, and we could ski plenty before our lunch at The Montage. The Kardashian family was staying at The Montage, but unfortunately, I could not see them. The Montage has an easy ski in and ski out feature and is also a beautiful hotel. We ate lunch there, and the lunch was terrific. My family and friends had heavily loaded nachos and wings to start, and I had pork tacos as a meal. It was great! Like Alta, Deer Valley offers terrain for beginners to experts. I would say that Deer Valley is more focused on younger kids over Alta since it does contain plenty of blues and greens, while Alta contained plenty of blacks. But, Deer Valley contained challenging terrain as well.
I was pooped after a long day of hard blacks and double blacks. We finished off the day with a meal at Shabu, a Japanese style restaurant. I got a tuna salad and enjoyed it, but was quite disappointed about the small size. I loved the restaurant, but the rest of my family agreed that it was their least favorite. For dessert, we went to a local ice cream and coffee place called Java Cow. It was our only time going the whole trip, although I continually tried to convince my parents to retake me to try the mint chocolate chip ice cream.
The next day, we went back to our home field of Park City and The Canyons. I decided to leave my family and ski with my friend and her family. The groomed trails were great, but the mogul trails weren’t up to scale since the many skiers and snowboarders skied them off. The day of skiing was wonderful, and I was able to explore a part of the mountain that was new to me.
We originally had dinner plans at a Chinese place chosen by Daniel since it was his birthday, but we then headed to High West. Coming into Utah, my mom knew that she wanted to knock off High West, so we fulfilled her wishes when the opportunity opened up. High West does not take reservations and is very popular with locals and tourists, so it is often considered “the wait on line place.” You give them your phone number, and they text you when to return; they tell you to stay within a 15-minute range from the restaurant. We arrived around 530 and had to wait an hour and a half. However, we were pleased because we used our time to explore the town which we wanted to do. We bought a glass bottle that holds oil in an olive oil store, and my older brother bought a Park City t-shirt. We then headed back to the restaurant and began to eat at 7.
To start, we got maple covered bacon popcorn, which was surprisingly delicious, and also got shishito peppers. My mom and I split the tomahawk pork chop and a trout salad as a meal, both being absolutely superb. For dessert, we followed our out west skiing tradition of going to Rocky Mountain chocolate factory for the caramel apples. Mason, Daniel, and I all got different and exotic caramel apples, mine being covered with butterfingers, Mason’s with M&Ms, and Daniel’s with chocolate and peanuts.
The next day we skied Park City and the Canyons again. We skied Park City in the morning and traveled
back to the Canyons in the afternoon. My family believed that it was warmer in the Canyons. The day of skiing was great again, and the lines were significantly shorter than the other days. For dinner, we ate at Chimayo. Because of the popularity of the restaurant, we were stuck with an 830pm reservation. The prices were not on the menu on the website or the menu outside of the restaurant. When we sat down, my whole family sat in shock at the absurd prices of the food.
Ribs were $57, bronzino was $43, elk for $53, and most entrees were priced over $40. The guacamole that we had as an appetizer was even $18. We stayed anyway; we were starving and chalked it up to vacation spending. My mom and I both got the bronzino, and it was the best fish I have ever had. It was topped with citrus dressing, spaghetti squash, and an assortment of pickled vegetables. Despite the exorbitant prices, it was my whole family’s favorite meal.
We finished off our last day of skiing in Snowbird. It was yet another day of great snow and skiing. As we did for Alta, we traveled to Snowbird once again by Canyon Hop. The drive was about 45 minutes. What’s interesting about Snowbird is a large tram that takes you to the top of the mountain. The tram holds 125 people and takes you to the peak. Although the snow was wonderful at Snowbird, most chairlifts were significantly slow, and some only carried 2 people. Most modern ones are fast and carry 4 or more people. The visibility at Snowbird was also not great at the top of the mountain, so it was hard to see and ski fast. I felt that I spent most of my time traversing across the mountain by way of a catwalk, which was not too enjoyable. There is a front and back side of Snowbird, but my family only had time to ski the front portion because of the limited time. There is a cool indoor tunnel that takes skiers and snowboarders from the front to the back, but we, unfortunately, could not explore it. Snowbird also offers a variety of terrain ranging from catwalks to double black mountains filled with rocks. It was my least favorite mountain I explored, but I think it’s because of the bad visibility and the lack of time to explore it.
My dad and Mason complained about the lack of wings, a good burger, and a bar experience for the whole trip. So, for the last night, we ate at Drafts, a sports bar located inside our hotel. We started with boned-in buffalo and barbecue wings as well as teriyaki boneless wings. For our meal, everyone but Mason stuck with exotic burgers, mine consisting of bruschetta, balsamic vinaigrette, pesto, and swiss cheese. The restaurant also had ginormous milkshakes of all different flavors like Twinkie and Pop-Tart.
Overall, Utah was a great place for my family to continue our out west skiing journeys and experiences. We were treated to terrific snow every day, wonderful food, and beautiful scenery and mountains.
Thumbs up for Utah!