I decided to head out west this year for a little spring skiing. This decision was prompted by the predictions of severe rain storms in New England by the weatherman. I was really glad I opted to sample spring skiing in Utah. The skiing was great, accommodations excellent and I got a chance to ski with a few of the local ski bums.
Overall, the ski conditions varied from excellent winter conditions, more reminiscent of January that April to warm sunny days with “ego snow” where I could do no wrong. I sampled the snow in various locations from the Park City area, to the high mountains of Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon and I even ventured to southern Utah peaks that typically experience more than 500 inches of annual snowfall. I found the conditions to be typical spring conditions…a little bit of everything including sunshine, rain, fog, ice and snow.
I also had a chance to drive through much of the state of Utah and experience the breath-taking scenery I had only seen previously in cowboy movies. The view of the mountains from the highway in the desert was magnificent.
Park City gets my vote for the best ski town in the USA with three major ski areas in town (Park City Resort, The Canyons, Deer Valley) and less than an hour away from Alta, Brighton, Powder Mountain, Snowbird, Snowbasin, Solitude and Sundance where you can experience some of the greatest skiing in the world. Salt Lake City is less than an hour away and is serviced by a major airport. In the winter you can find champaign powder snow and plenty of sunshine the year round. Fine restaurants abound and there are some interesting “private clubs” like the Noname. Utah doesn’t allow bars, so booze is served in “private clubs” where you “join” when the bouncer checks your ID at the door.
I stayed at my favorite place in town, the Washington Schoolhouse Inn. It’s just a half block from Main Street in the heart of town. This old stone school house has a huge cathedral ceiling in the livingroom with a large wood-burning fireplace that adds to the ambiance when they serve wine and hors d’oeuvres to the guests in the afternoon. The rooms are elegant and the hot breakfasts they serve are excellent. If you are staying there and skiing Park City, you don’t even need a car. You can actually walk to the Park City Resort chair lift in town and walk to most of the interesting shops, restaurants and bars in the center of town. There is a free trolley in town and inexpensive public transportation if you want to venture further afield.
Park City Resort is a great place to ski. I had not been there in over a year and was interested in experience spring skiing at this world-class resort. I was not disappointed, the skiing was great. I knew my way around from my previous visit and was delighted by the sunshine that I found. I got an early start and it was a little firm early in the morning but softened up nicely as the day went on. The grooming staff had done a nice job grooming the slopes and I had a blast doing some high-speed cruising down the slopes accessed by the Bonanza high-speed six-person chair. After warming up on the cruisers, I decided to look for some bumps to test my skill in the moguls. I decided to take a run down Double Jack, a bumped-up black diamond run and chuckled to myself when I discovered that the bumps were very fast. “Eastern bumps,” I said to myself and managed to do a good job skiing them. I had tuned my skis before leaving on the trip and my Volkl G4s were VERY sharp and waxed.
As I rode up the Thaynes chair, I eyed the bumps on Thaynes and thought about showing off under the chair. I decided to give the bumps a little more time to soften up but found myself on them in less than an hour. They were a little more edgable than the bumps on Double Jack but still VERY firm. I was quite pleased with my performance in the bumps and all the miles I had racked up over the years skiing icy Eastern moguls.
I decided to check out the runs that were in the sun and had softened up, so I took Jonesy’s to the McConkey’s chair. The bumps on the top of Sunrise looked menacing but they had been sitting in the sun for a while and I suspected that they had softened up. I was right, they were soft and so nice that I had to take a couple of additional runs.
I had lunch in the Mid-Mountain Restaurant, enjoying a bowl of chili. After lunch, I took a quick run down Tycoon and then rode up the Pioneer chair. I met a group who were on the Ski Safety Patrol who invited me to ski with them. We did the big bumps on Blueslip Bowl, a double black diamond slope that was sitting in the sun and I held up the honor of the Ski Bum News. We made a few more runs on that side of the mountain, skiing trails non-stop. I told them that I had skied Thaynes earlier and thought that the bumps might have softened up and we all skied over to take a run on that side of the mountain. They preferred to ski the Hoist which was OK with me and we found that the bumps were still quite firm.
We parted company after that run because my new ski buddies had to get back to work, so I continued on my way alone. I skied a few more runs but the snow was starting to corn up and was getting very sticky. It was getting late in the day, so I headed back to the base lodge. By the end of the day, my legs had gotten tired from so many bump runs and the snow had gotten heavy and very soft.
This had been an excellent day of spring skiing. On my way out, I met some locals that I had met the night before in the No Name Bar. They were sitting in the sunshine gabbing about skiing and other subjects and invited me to join then. Larry the Legend and a couple of his friends made me feel quite at home. They told me about the Easter Egg Hunt that was scheduled for that coming Sunday and urged me to attend. It sounded like a fun event, so I put it on my schedule. I was going to Ski Alta and then visit Brian Head in souther Utah in the later part of the week. I decided that rather than spending Easter Sunday driving back to the Salt Lake City area from southern Utah, I would drive up on Saturday after skiing, so I could have an additional day of skiing. It wasn’t much of a choice.
Easter Egg Hunt
I tied up with Larry the Legend the first thing in the morning. He was first in line at the chair and hell-bent on collecting Easter eggs that could be redeemed for prizes. I caught Easter egg fever and was soon zooming down the trail with him and his friends collecting all the Easter eggs I could find. We all picked up our share of eggs and began opening them up on the chair. As a skier could only redeem one prize, we wound up just keeping one egg and re-deposited the rest for other skiers to find. It was fun, even though the trails were really fast. We kept on the groomed trails and got in almost a full day of skiing by 10 AM.
I had a good time skiing with Larry and his friends. I was glad that I had elected to ski another day at Park City. Easter was sunny, the trails were firm and I was able to demonstrate my skiing prowess to a few of the local ski bums. I was sorry that I had to leave Park City and fly back to the Washington, D.C. area but even a diehard ski bum like me has to get back to reality. Utah is a great place for spring skiing and I was really glad that I had made the trip. I made a few friends and had a blast skiing the bumps and corn snow at Park City.
Park City has 350″Average Annual Snowfall with a Vertical Drop of 3,100 feet. There are 3,300 Skiable Acres with 18% beginner, 44% intermediate and 38% advanced terrain. They have over 100 trails and 14 chair lifts. This is a great resort for skiers of all levels. After all, I decided to ski it twice on this trip. That should tell you something.