Skiing Utah: A Four-Day Women-Only Getaway
By Cathie Arquilla
When people say they are going out west to ski Utah, easterners think, "Oooooh, aaahh isn’t that for serious skiers who mean it, terrain chock full of double black diamonds, narrow steep chutes (between boulders), big mountain skiing?"
We women were of differing ages and ski abilities, but we shared the common denominator of loving the sport and being crunched for time. In just four days, including travel, we covered three resorts –- Alta, Solitude and Park City Mountain Resort. We had the benefit of a Ski Utah guide, but anyone can use the tools of this detailed website to custom design a Utah ski trip to accommodate every desire.
Take Delta’s early morning non-stop to Salt Lake City from JFK and you can exchange your airline seat for a chairlift and be down the mountain by 1 p.m. -- and that is having rented your skies and eaten lunch first! So east coast skiers on a tight schedule can ski both on their arrival and departure day.
Alta: It’s about skiing
While ascending the slopes of Alta, I marveled at the whole concept of air travel, time change, and just how awesome these mountains were. Vistas beyond the resort boundaries looked like mountains of newly sifted powdered sugar while runs up close made me whisper, “Yahoo!” in anticipation of going down them.
Alta is known as the “skiers mountain.” Aren’t they all? Yes, but, Alta is for skiers who are passionate about skiing and less interested in resort amenities. Besides that, snowboarding is not allowed at Alta.
Having rediscovered my downhill legs that first afternoon, I felt prepared to tour Alta, the mountain, the next day. As it says in one brochure, “Alta’s best kept secret is great beginner and intermediate terrain,” and we cruised most of it. The mountain was non-threatening and I felt relaxed. At one point I noticed I was having so much fun that my teeth were drying out from smiling as I headed down mountain.
A European Flavor
As with any group outing, at the beginning of our trip we were met with a few small mishaps that were wonderfully “handled” by my fellow double-X chromosomes. My skies where swiped (later recovered), Note to self: Separate your skis, even rentals, when you go inside. One friend's boot buckle was misbehaving. We didn’t have correct change for lockers etc. All of which meant delayed time on the slopes, but blessedly, my companions didn’t seem to care.
On the deck of The Goldminer’s Daughter, one of Alta’s base lodges, relaxing in the sun with a beer, we compared notes and shared some skiing stats. Alta offers something called a Oneticket, a pass to both Alta and Snowbird, an adjoining resort, that gives you more terrain than you can shake a ski pole at.
Lodging at Alta is straightforward, and I enjoyed the basic accommodations at the Alta Peruvian Lodge. Just down the road from Alta’s other ski-in-ski-out lodges, the Peruvian was so “Alpine” I expected to see “Heidi” around every corner.
The no-name “bar,” complete with mounted buffalo head, antlers, and a carved wooden Indian, would make any wannabe cowgirl feel ass-kicking awesome. And for the cowgirl who wants to stay connected there is WIFI.
Alta’s lodges are all privately owned and operate separately from one another and from the resort. I gather each lodge has it’s indie feel, the Peruvian felt family friendly, personable and very authentic. One mother who was staying at the Lodge told me of her husband who as a graduate student, washed dishes at night in exchange for sleeping on the floor of a public room known as the Alf Engen room.
Solitude: It’s just that
As its name implies, Solitude feels as if you are skiing in the privacy of your own backyard –- with a few invited guests. Their slogan is “Solitude Mountain Resort, If you only knew”…so let me tell you.
The day I skied Solitude the crowds were non-existent. My group and I had the shared the experience of feeling like the mountain was our very own. We got chatty and silly and felt at ease even while skiing some of the more challenging runs. I skied 9,675 vertical feet before lunch! I know this because Solitude’s lift tickets are electronic and you can discover your “mileage” après ski if you log onto their website and plug in your lift ticket ID number.
The resort is touted as “great for families” and through Solitude Village Lodging you can book anywhere from a studio to a three-bedroom condo. With immediate access to the mountain, these condos keep hauling equipment to a minimum –- just what you want when skiing with kids. But frankly, the romance, sophistication, and style of Solitude’s village, with its nod to Bavaria, would tempt me to leave the kids at home.
I stayed at The Inn at Solitude and it was especially dreamy. Sinking into an ultra suede comforter, atop a big plush bed, in a well-appointed room, is pure luxury, especially when you’re wiped from a day of skiing.
When there, don’t miss the St. Bernard’s (yes, like the the dog) restaurant. Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee, Confit de Canard, Yellow fig Crème Brulee, Plat du Fromage were as rich, and French, and gastronomic as they sound! The resort also offers a dining experience called The Yurt. Amble along a torch-lit path through the woods on cross-county skis or snowshoes. You’re headed to a five-course dinner cooked on site in a fancy tent –- a yurt.
Park City Mountain Resort: Once a miners mountain now a skier’s park.
Like having a double espresso, it was a bit of a jolt approaching Park City from the solitude of Solitude. Yet anticipating the bustle of most cities can be intoxicating and we welcomed the buzz of Park City. Much the way New York City’s Soho was once a collection of small factories, Park City was once a mining town. There is still some legacy of the miner, but when approaching Deer Valley’s posh Resort, mining is the last thing on your mind.
The snippet of Deer Valley we experienced was dining at the Seafood Buffet. The name does not do this bountiful, artfully presented, “buffet” justice. Crab legs, sushi, oysters, shrimp, mussels and clams, are yours just for starters. Follow this up with seafood empanadas, bourbon ribs, grilled tuna, or sea bass with a berry glaze. Whether tart or chocolate lover, there is a dessert for every sweet tooth. I had an apple brown betty, which I combined with homemade ginger snaps –- heavenly.
I had skied Park City as a kid and I was anxious to reacquaint myself with this vast resort, but I was also little nervous. We would be skiing this mountain with two-time Olympic medalist Picabo Street as our guide!
Like a godfather giving a tour of the old neighborhood, Picabo gave us an overview of Park City that was personal, emotional and nostalgic. Pointing out vestiges of old mining shacks and equipment, Picabo discussed marketing strategies for this, Utah’s first ski resort. Like Park City, the town, she’s encouraging Park City Mountain Resort to capitalize on its western history and flavor of an old mining village.
Three days of unseasonably warm weather had made the terrain at Park City quite hard and slick and I was feeling a bit “off balance” –- not what you want when skiing, especially when skiing with one of the greatest downhill skier in history. However, Picabo’s disarming style and lighthearted nature put me ease and notwithstanding the conditions, I felt light on my skies that day.
She showed us the Jupiter Bowl. While this advanced area would represent extreme skiing for most of us, I’m sure it’s a piece of cake for this gold medalist. She referred to it as a fun place to “get rowdy.”
Undoubtedly Park City offers the most ski options in Utah. The Canyon Resort, Deer Valley Resort, and Park City Mountain Resort provide limitless possibilities for every skier. And while skiing these resorts you can also enjoy the cool quotient of Park City itself. If you want to eat lunch on Main Street and return to the mountain just after, one simply rides a chairlift to the heart of downtown and back.
Skiing out west, specifically Utah’s Alta, Solitude and Park City Mountain resort is something every avid skier should do. No matter whom you choose to ski with, the beauty and majesty of these mountains will be a magnificent backdrop to a good time.
Check it out:
SkiUtah.com: Excellent resource for Utah ski travel and more.
Shallow Shaft Restaurant: 801-742-2177 The only restaurant separate and apart from Alta’s lodges. Rustic with a contemporary menu, try the Rock Shrimp Corn Fritters, Crab Stuffed Mushrooms or Utah Trout Cakes.
Alta.com: A detailed website providing resort info and vacation planning.
Goldminer’s Daughter Day Spa: 801-742-2300 The Ski Boots Revenge foot massage sounds awesome.
www.skisolitude.com: Solitude’s comprehensive website
Solitudes’s Creekside Restaurant 801-536-5787: Casual and family-friendly. Don’t miss the Crisp Fried Calamari served with smoked tomato aioli. Or try the Creekside Ceasar, tossed with caper berries, asiago, and balsamic anchovy dressing it is something different.
St Bernard’s 801-536-5508: Located inside The Inn at Solitude reservations are strongly encouraged during holiday periods.
Newpark Resort 800-245-6417: Beautifully designed, these brand new fully equipped spacious condos and townhouses are minutes away from Park City’s three resorts and downtown Main Street. Shuttle services to and from the resorts are complementary, but reservations are required.
Stein Eriksen Lodge 800-453-1302: At Deer Valley Resort this premier hotel offers the ultimate in hospitality, fine dining and spa services.
The Spur Bar & Grill 435-615-1618: Located down an alley at 350½ Main Street, Park City. Imagine a country western bar serving up live music any baby boomer would love; Neil Young, Crosby Still & Nash, Joni Mitchell –- you get the picture.
Bacchus Wine Bar 435-940-9463: Recommended café with sensible prices serving specialty food.
No Name Saloon and Grill 435-649-6667: A local’s hangout with reasonable American fare.
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