|Smiles on my first day at Park City|
So the first day of March found me sitting in the backseat of Hollie's car, speeding through the Gorge at morning's first light. Joining us for the 13-hour drive to Park City was Hollie's friend Steve, himself an avid skier. Having three drivers made the trip much more bearable, and the miles passed quickly. Before I knew it, we were climbing out of Salt Lake City into the mountains. Park City here we come!
Our time share condo had a nice view of the pool and hot tub area. Plus - the gondola to Park City's Canyons base area was right outside!
|I could barely make out the mountains|
Park City, with 330 trails and 7,300 skiable acres, is the second largest ski resort in North America. In 2015, Park City merged with neighboring Canyons resort to become the biggest ski area in the US. And huge it is - the sheer number of chairlifts and runs shown on it's trail map was mind-blowing.
|But the fog was cool|
Large, famous ski resorts also charge big prices. A day lift ticket at Park City cost an astronomical $180. Trying to pick the best value for my wallet, I chose to forgo skiing the first day, which was Saturday, assuming it would be packed with weekend crowds. (I'm not paying 180 bucks to sit in lift lines!) Steve, who had an Epic pass, decided to check things out. He confirmed I made the right decision, reporting that the resort was so busy it "resembled Bejing."
|The place was huge!|
But the following day new snowfall, and the promise of smaller crowds, had me joining Steve on the slopes. Luckily, his Epic pass got me a "buddy discount" for a lift ticket (thanks Steve!) so I avoided paying full price.
|Famous "Orange Bubble" lift|
Having skied Park City many times, I was thankful to have Steve as my guide. His knowledge of the often-confusing maze of chairlifts and ski runs was a life saver. I just followed Steve where ever he wanted to go - and enjoyed every place he took me. Lots of nice wide blue cruisers, all groomed to perfection.
|Hollie at Deer Valley|
A scant 4 inches of fluffy powder had fallen overnight, making the first few downhill trips pure heaven. Although low-lying clouds hid much of the nearby mountains, views were still mighty nice. Having skied hard the day before, Steve was tired by 2 pm. He decided to head back, but wanted to do one more run, and point me towards the base area.
Having stuck to Steve like glue all day, I surprisingly took a wrong turn on the last run and lost him. But I had my trail map, and managed to navigate my way back to the Canyons base area just fine. Once there, I took a few laps on the "Orange Bubble" lift (so named because of the orange plastic shields that protected skiers from stormy lift rides). Then, I discovered a run that took me right to the front door of our condo building. Ski in/ski out lodging - how awesome is that?
|Huge slopeside houses|
Hollie and Steve had hoped to ski at nearby Deer Valley Resort. This ski area, with the reputation for catering to a more upscale crowd, also charged upscale prices for their passes. But Hollie to the rescue - after learning she could score discounted Deer Valley lift tickets for sitting through a time share presentation (she said "No problem, I'm good at saying no") Hollie took one for the team, and was able to get all three of us $75 day passes to this shi-shi resort.
|Hotel on nearby hill|
So Monday morning, Hollie, Steve and I piled into the car and drove a short distance to Deer Valley. The first run Steve and I accompanied Hollie, who is a beginner skier, down one of the easier trails. She did fantastic! As we progressed downhill, I marveled at the huge, fancy houses perched right on the edge of the ski trail. And on a neighboring hill was an enormous luxury hotel. Too steep to build a road to the top, this hotel was accessed by a rail track hugging the hillside.
|Views from every run|
Buoyed by her successful first run, Hollie was ready for round two. But I lagged behind taking photos and missed poor Hollie take an epic wipeout. She'd slipped backward and hit her head hard. (Even though she was wearing a helmet, packed snow is not soft.) Confidence shattered, and head throbbing, Hollie was done for the day. Steve and I slowly guided her down the rest of the run and delivered her into the lodge. After assuring Steve and I she was okay (and taking my emergency ibuprofen), she encouraged us to go and ski without her.
|Accommodations lined the ski runs|
Time to explore this new to us ski area! Although we had trail maps in our pockets, Steve pointed to the nearest lift and said "let's go here." We ended up randomly following trails, and hopping on lifts all morning. The runs were impeccably smooth - Deer Valley has a reputation for stellar grooming. I marveled at all the fancy homes, condos and hotels lining the trails and adjacent hillsides. It was like someone had plopped a ski area in the middle of a very wealthy city.
|Hills dotted with homes|
About one o'clock, we were both famished. Time to find a lodge to get a drink and eat our sandwiches. But where was a lodge? We skied up to a few gigantic houses, mistakenly thinking they were ski lodges (we really couldn't tell the difference!)
|The famous Stein Ericksen Lodge!|
After consulting a trail sign and hopping on a short lift, it deposited Steve and I next to another large structure. Was it another Mcmansion? Upon closer inspection, we discovered it was indeed a lodge. And not just any lodge - this was Stein Ericksen's Lodge!
Stein Ericksen was a legendary downhill skier from Norway, winning gold and silver medals in the 1952 Olympics. He was also credited with developing "aerials," a form of freestyle skiing. After retiring from competition, Stein taught skiing in several resorts throughout the US before settling in Utah as the director of skiing at Deer Valley.
|Havin' a beer at Stein's place|
As Steve and I stepped inside Stein's lodge, we could tell right away it was an extremely classy place. The restrooms had cloth towels, and the gathering rooms boasted fancy furniture and expensive carpets. Most of the people were sporting pricey ski wear. Boy did I feel like a country bumpkin!
The restaurant had a huge waiting list. Steve suggested we have a beer at "Stein's Place," but there was even a line to get into the bar. But one of the hostesses advised if we sat in one of living room areas, someone would serve us. Luckily, Steve and I snagged a set of chairs, and as promised, a waiter materialized to take our order.
|Loved the scenery|
So Steve and I spent a pleasant lunch break drinking our beers, and sneaking bites from our sandwiches (we assumed sack lunches were a big no-no, thus our incognito noshing). Once refueled, after taking one more potty break (gotta take advantage of such lavish restrooms!) we were ready to finish off our day at Deer Valley.
|Hooray for Deer Valley!|
Steve and I stumbled upon the furthest northerly lift that took us to Deer Valley's ski area boundary. Standing on top of the Empire chairlift, Steve and I gazed over the adjacent peaks, wondering exactly where Park City ski area began (we'd find out tomorrow just how close we were!) Then, navigating the many ski runs and chairlifts brought us back to Deer Valley's main base area, where Hollie was waiting. But....before calling it a day, Steve and I skied past two runs that were used for the 2002 Olympic skiing events. If my legs hadn't been so thrashed, I would have totally skied both of them. Oh well, next time.....
Ski day three brought Steve and I back to Park City. This day Steve said he'd take me over to the Park City side of the resort. Following a circuitous (to me!) pattern of trails and lifts finally brought us to the Park City gondola. After Park City acquired the Canyons resort, this gondola was built to bridge a deep canyon between the two. Now one big happy ski area, visitors can easily traverse between the two former resorts.
|2002 Olympic events held at Deer Valley|
It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the views from the Park City side were simply outstanding. Although my legs were tired from two straight days of skiing, the scenery and terrain revived them into service.
|Back at Park City|
Such wonderful wide, long runs! Such stunning scenery! And, although there were plenty of skiers, Steve found places that weren't very crowded. We had a great morning, skiing a different trail every time.
|Gondola ride to Park City side|
That afternoon, Steve took me up McConkeys Lift to see Park City's southern border. A long, sweeping blue run followed the ridgetop, treating us to wide open views of the entire valley. Stopping at one place, we both looked across a 20-foot gap of snow and spotted a ski run on the other side. What trail was this? It looked kind of familiar. Then Steve and I realized we were looking at Deer Valley ski area - and it was the run we'd been on the day before!
The next two days brought wet, stormy weather and I wasn't about to pay big bucks to ski in the rain (I could do that at home!) However, Hollie and I found other things to occupy our time. I'll recap our "off day" antics in my next post.