Mid-April 2017 in Utah part 1 of 3

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Mid-April 2017 in Utah part 1 of 3

D.B. Cooper
Woo hoo!  That was my reaction after Mrs. Cooper gave me the green light to investigate possible trips out west.  We were planning to go to the left coast to visit a relative of Mrs. Cooper’s, but when that fell through, I started plotting destinations.

First on the list was Jackson Hole, a resort I’ve long wanted to visit.  It was crossed off the list in large part to the Wx guys saying it’s S.E. facing and can be less than ideal from March onward.  Whistler was on the list, but I have been there a few times and Utah didn't cost that much more.  The Sierra Nevadas were also on the list, as was Vail and the higher elevations of Colorado.  We opted for Utah as we could ski several areas relatively easily and there was some familiarity as I had been there 26 years earlier.  Because we had limited time to decide, plan and execute, I tried a few travel sites and went with one from Orbitz.


Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Home to Snowbird, and 2 miles further, Alta.  A drive from downtown is about 45 minutes along a winding road that features 5 opportunities to deny you a visit.

We arrived about 11:00 local time and, after taking a taxi to a hotel to rent the car, we decided to get a lay of the land.  We drove to Little Cottonwood Canyon (Snowbird, Alta) to walk around, have a beer, scope out the parking, etc.  That gave us some confidence as to how long it would take from where we were staying, Park City.


Utah countryside, alongside the Echo Reservoir, Coalville, UT.  Pictures like this make a great wallpaper on your computer.

Following that was a jaunt to Solitude and Brighton, albeit that was because I took a wrong turn.  There is some pretty fascinating scenery in Utah, so the missed turn wasn’t the worst thing.  I think part of the attraction of the wide open, treeless spaces and rolling hills might just be that, in comparison, one feels very small yet unrestricted in the universe.

Some recommendations are below should you plan a trip to Big/Little Cottonwood Canyon:

- There is almost nowhere to boot up in the morning.  Deer Valley does have a small locker area, with a bag check of $5 or a small locker for $4.  Otherwise there is no cafeteria-type area anywhere.  Consider getting slopeside accommodation.  We changed in the parking lot in P.C. and Snowbird and carried our gear.  It was a long walk to the lift.  I don’t know what someone would do mid-winter with kids.  This is BY FAR the worst thing about Utah
- Consider getting a car.  We rented one from a hotel in SLC.  It was significantly cheaper than renting at the airport, even with Mrs. Cooper’s corporate discount
- Take a drive.  This scenery is like nothing else.  See it.
- Buy lift tickets (Snowbird/Alta) via Liftopia.  There is a link on the NYSB.  Buy lift tickets in advance for P.C. to get the best discounts.  Supermarkets, nor anywhere else, sell discounted lift tickets.  I was skeptical of using eBay.
- Go to Smith’s to get your lunch.  We had wraps and granola bars in our pockets.  As I recall every mid-mountain lodge has a water fountain and cups.  Use them as a bottle of water is about $4.50.
- We don’t regret the order of the hills we skied, but if we were to do it again, we’d go to Snowbird first.  It requires the most physical effort
- Consider sending your gear to the hotel via UPS, mail, etc.  It may be cheaper and/or more convenient if your hotel will accept packages.
- Download trail maps, get to know names of lifts, pods you might like to ski.
- For sure in the spring, bring sunscreen.
- Find out what type of skiing you want.  Spring is great, but there was no fresh snow.  We stuck to groomers and got a lay of the land for the first 2-3 hours until things softened.
- It’s I-80 and about :30 to the Big canyon (P.City, Deer Valley).  If it’s windy in the canyon, slow down or get a better handling car.  Springsteen’ The Promised Land comes to mind:  “driving a rattlesnake highway in the Utah desert….”
- It’s a mountain road to Snowbird/Alta or Solitude/Brighton.  Few or no barriers and possibility of being closed.


United….we won’t haul you off the plane if you get bumped.  Or will we?

Sent from the driver's seat of my car while in motion.
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Mid-April in Utah part 2 of 3

D.B. Cooper
Deer Valley – Day 1
We opted to go to Deer Valley day 1.  That was in part because of its terrain.  I wanted to start the trip with something that would have Mrs. Cooper say, “I like the idea of skiing out west.”

We started at the Snow Park base area, a short drive from Main Street, Park City.  There is plenty a great drop off zone and plenty of parking.  From there, a principal lift takes you to the main valley of the resort.  As the Silver Lake Express takes you over Bald Eagle Mountain and into the main valley, an entire town of vacation homes, townhouses and other resort amenities come into view, including the Silver Lake Lodge.


Cushing’s Cabin.  Accessed by 4 lifts, carpeted, padded seats, 270 degree view.  A coffee is $3.45, but with a free refill.

Deer Valley is almost entirely high speed lifts, none of which are particularly long – maybe 15 towers/120 chairs long.  Runs are wide, all groomed to perfection and single fall line.  Runs are aptly labeled as black, blue or green with, it seems, the exception of those runs that are near slopeside housing…..as in $5M+ vacation homes.  Those trails are clearly green, but marked as blue.  My guess, is that all of the above is designed to give the well heeled something to talk about when they return home.  Who wants a $6M ski in-ski out property on a green trail?

There is some more challenging terrain.  The Mayflower lift, the only fixed grip (triple) serves black trails.  Given the harder, spring conditions, we didn’t venture there.  The Empire and Lady Morgan Expresses serve decent terrain, too.  You can see Park City Mountain from Lady Morgan.


Daly Bowl (right) and Daly Chutes (left) as photographed from the Empire Express.

The level of detail of Deer Valley is impressive.  From the washrooms where Mrs. Cooper said, “it felt like I walked into a spa” and another friend said, “I thought, ‘do I belong here?’” to the very uncharacteristically un-disheveled lifties and other employees, Deer Valley seems to know and address its clientele’s needs very well.

After skiing we packed the car and walked to the St. Regis Hotel.  The lift to the hotel intrigued us, so we took the free lift and did a brief tour of the hotel.  Funicular lift on one side, ski in-ski out on the other, it’s $1500/night during peak times…..but you can pay significantly less and have a beer at the bar!


Free funicular to the St. Regis Hotel.  The Snow Park base lodge is in the background, left.

Park City Mountain - Days 2 and 3
We skied Park City day 1 and, based on Mrs. Cooper’s preference would ski either P.C. or D.V. for day 2.  Because of the expansive terrain, we chose Park City.

Day 1 we started at the Park City base area and worked our way over to Canyons.  This process took about 2.5 hours.  We had some decent vertical, but some of the lifts, including the Quicksilver Gondola and Timberline lift were pretty much exclusively to span mountains.  Timberline is one of a few lifts where you can load both sides.  Strange to us easterners.

Some of the mountain was closed because of business (late season) but that didn’t affect us much.  The Orange Bubble is an HSQ with bubble and heated seats.  We could really see the value of a bubble; if the new WF lift is a bubble, it would be great for wind, snow and rain, not to mention the word-of-mouth that would permeate the ski community.

Park City was founded in the 1800’s as a silver mining community.  That is evident throughout the ski hill as mines and mining relics are found all over.  Lift names (Motherlode, Silverlode), interpretive signs and crisscrosses in the landscape from old rail lines are found everywhere.


The Thaynes mine tailings, left, and Thaynes 2C lift (lower right).  My camera isn’t panoramic enough to capture the mine itself.

With hard and fast spring mornings, traversing the slope wasn’t a bad idea, although I wouldn’t do that mid-winter as it’s time consuming.  It did allow us to find some good pods….in future, I would find a pod, hit it for a while and then move to the next nearest pod.  Some of the better pods look to be Tombstone, McConkey’s, Jupiter and Super Condor.  King Con and Silverlode are good as more challenging groomers.


View from the Tombstone lift.  Typical shot of the density of trees in Utah.  Paradise valley/Paradise chutes (far slope, right) show that tree density is favorable for skiers.

The facilities at Park City are good.  You would expect so with a lift ticket of $128.  There are 5 six-packs, 2 gondolas and the bubble quad, in addition to newly renovated mid-mountain lodges.  Only twice did we ride a lift with someone else.  The bubble quad actually spans a snowmaking pond.  I asked a lift maintenance guy who said that in the event of an evac they had several options….one of which was evacuating by the Zodiac, parked at the top return station.


Miner’s Camp mid-mountain lodge.  This 2-year old building has a bar with 3 large flat panels.

For day 2, we stuck to the Park City base area.  Mrs. Cooper insisted I take a few runs on Jupiter, a double that led to some pretty gnarly terrain.  The double blacks were difficult, but some not as difficult as the Slides at Whiteface.


Jupiter loading area.  Note the snow depth for mid-April (after at least 2 weeks of very warm temps) and the BBQ to the right of the lift shack.

Jupiter chair is slightly out of the way.  A couple of runs here was enough to make me think I needed more time in the gym.
 

Jupiter chair.  I skied to the left of the orange line.  A pitch of 45 degrees (thanks, app) and about 15’ wide.  Main Bowl is under the lift line.

Sent from the driver's seat of my car while in motion.
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Mid April in Utah Part 3 of 3

D.B. Cooper
In reply to this post by D.B. Cooper
Snowbird – Day 4
We left Snowbird for the final day, day 4.  This was in part due to the distance from Park City and because it was the only resort open.  Alta, Park City and Deer Valley all closed Easter Sunday.

Some unique features of Snowbird include the Tunnel.  Used to get from front to backside – especially when the tram is closed due to wind – the 600’ tunnel includes a Magic Carpet to transport skiers.  Regrettably, it was closed for the season when we were there.


Snowbird tunnel, at the top of the Peruvian HSQ

Under advisement from a mountain host, we started off with the tram and went to the backside as the sun hits there first.  What wasn’t mentioned is that there are very narrow cat tracks that span each side of the immense bowl.  From those cat tracks, one can drop in the bowl.  Everything on the backside is above the treeline.


Portion of the backside of Snowbird, called “Mineral Basin”

For those who haven’t skied Snowbird, the narrow cat tracks, peppered with the odd 10’ high lift tower (actually pick points for winch cats) along with the occasional large, charcoal splattered divot (avalanche bomb detonation) and noticeably thinner air, can be very intimidating.  Multiply this by 4 or 5 if it’s flat light.

 
View from the top of the tram.  The Mineral Basin HSQ return station is to the left.

Snowbird’s front side is bordered by several tall peaks.  These peaks make for top notch chutes and couloirs, although not this time of year.  As a rule, you can follow cat tracks to the easiest route or, on the front side, stick to the valley.  All the green and blue trails we came across were groomed, with the odd black diamond as well.

After skiing some 70,000 vertical feet of difficult terrain the previous few days, we should have started with the Gad Valley.  The Gadzoom and Gad 2 chairs serve more manageable terrain as morning warm ups.


View from the top of the Gad 2 HSQ (front side).  The Little Cloud chair is in the foreground and the 4th and final tram tower is in the upper left.

Snowbird is typically open into May.  From what we were told this was a “pretty good” snow season.  Their close, from what I’m told, is gradual.  Peruvian, Baby Thunder, Mid-Gad, the Tunnel and Baldy were closed after Easter Sunday.  Apparently they close other lifts down until just the tram is running.


Top of the 125 passenger tram and summit cafeteria.  Every full moon there is a tram ride/dinner/ride down at the summit.  Cost is $70 per adult.


At the base of the Snowbird gondola – trail map and the best skiing advert ever.

Sent from the driver's seat of my car while in motion.
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Re: Mid April in Utah Part 3 of 3

tjf1967
Nice reports buddy, did you bring your fat skis? You know the 76's.  

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Re: Mid April in Utah Part 3 of 3

ADmiKe
Nice reports - Utah is still one of my favorite places out west, if not, the favorite.  Always have good trips out there and a family friend has been living in Park City for 20+ years, so we always get the locals treatment.  Lots of great mountains all within an hour or so of each other.

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Re: Mid-April in Utah part 2 of 3

MC2 5678F589
In reply to this post by D.B. Cooper
D.B. Cooper wrote
Deer Valley – Day 1
We opted to go to Deer Valley day 1.  That was in part because of its terrain.  I wanted to start the trip with something that would have Mrs. Cooper say, “I like the idea of skiing out west.”
PERFECT choice for that. The first time I took a western trip with my lady friend (first for her, not for me), we went to Park City/Deer Valley. Beautiful conditions, sunshine, great food (we did the buffet at the Stein Eriksen lodge for our "fancy" meal). Then we did Alta, but stayed at the Peruvian so we'd be at the base in case of a ton of snow and an Interlodge (which happened, and it was awesome). We saved a bit of money by not renting a car, and just taking a shuttle from the airport to PC, from PC over to LCC, and from LCC back to the airport. Figured out quickly that for the PC resorts, it worked better if we just booted up in the Hotel and were ready to ski when the (free) hotel shuttle dropped us off at whatever mountain we were skiing.

We started at the Snow Park base area, a short drive from Main Street, Park City.  There is plenty a great drop off zone and plenty of parking.  From there, a principal lift takes you to the main valley of the resort.  As the Silver Lake Express takes you over Bald Eagle Mountain and into the main valley, an entire town of vacation homes, townhouses and other resort amenities come into view, including the Silver Lake Lodge.

Deer Valley is almost entirely high speed lifts, none of which are particularly long – maybe 15 towers/120 chairs long.  Runs are wide, all groomed to perfection and single fall line.  Runs are aptly labeled as black, blue or green with, it seems, the exception of those runs that are near slopeside housing…..as in $5M+ vacation homes.  Those trails are clearly green, but marked as blue.  My guess, is that all of the above is designed to give the well heeled something to talk about when they return home.  Who wants a $6M ski in-ski out property on a green trail?

There is some more challenging terrain.  The Mayflower lift, the only fixed grip (triple) serves black trails.  Given the harder, spring conditions, we didn’t venture there.  The Empire and Lady Morgan Expresses serve decent terrain, too.  You can see Park City Mountain from Lady Morgan.

The level of detail of Deer Valley is impressive.  From the washrooms where Mrs. Cooper said, “it felt like I walked into a spa” and another friend said, “I thought, ‘do I belong here?’” to the very uncharacteristically un-disheveled lifties and other employees, Deer Valley seems to know and address its clientele’s needs very well.

After skiing we packed the car and walked to the St. Regis Hotel.  The lift to the hotel intrigued us, so we took the free lift and did a brief tour of the hotel.  Funicular lift on one side, ski in-ski out on the other, it’s $1500/night during peak times…..but you can pay significantly less and have a beer at the bar!

Park City Mountain - Days 2 and 3
We skied Park City day 1 and, based on Mrs. Cooper’s preference would ski either P.C. or D.V. for day 2.  Because of the expansive terrain, we chose Park City.

Day 1 we started at the Park City base area and worked our way over to Canyons.  This process took about 2.5 hours.  We had some decent vertical, but some of the lifts, including the Quicksilver Gondola and Timberline lift were pretty much exclusively to span mountains.  Timberline is one of a few lifts where you can load both sides.  Strange to us easterners.
Great report.

Those multimillion dollar houses must be empty for most of the year. It was pretty built out when I did my trip in 2003, so I imagine that it has only gotten worse. If I was rich enough to buy one, though, and it was ski-in ski-out, I don't think I'd care what kind of trail I was on.

The other thing about 2003 is that PC and the Canyons weren't connected. I don't think that affected me too much. Probably would have approached it the same way we did (get dropped off at PC base one day, Canyons base the next).

Only lifts in the east that go two ways are the Slide Brook Express at Sugarbush, and that one at Sunday River, I think. Well, those and the Gore Gondola when I download it in the Spring because the bottom has become too sloppy.

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Re: Mid-April in Utah part 1 of 3

marznc
In reply to this post by D.B. Cooper
Nice pics!

For future reference, if you want to boot up indoors at Snowbird then go early and park at the small base at Creekside.  Assuming of course that the GadZoom lift is running.  My understanding is that Creekside will be renovated and enlarged.

If you are parked anywhere along the road where the Snowbird shuttle buses run, they will stop to pick you up if you wave one down.

When driving to Alta, most people park in Wildcat and boot up on the ground floor of Goldminer's Daughter.  There are also lockers at the Albion base next to the ticket windows in the ski school building or on the ground floor of Albion Grill.

I left Alta on April 14 this year.  20+ inch powder day on April 9 that put the season total just over 500.  The snow coverage was much better this year than recent years.  Back up closer to the "average" that's around 550 inches over the last few decades.

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Re: Mid April in Utah Part 3 of 3

nepa
In reply to this post by ADmiKe
Great T.R. D.B.  Great photos & words... thanks for taking the time to create these.  

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Re: Mid-April in Utah part 2 of 3

HGTVfan
In reply to this post by MC2 5678F589
Great trip report DB. The only trip I every made to Utah we did a day at Park City. We skied that same orange line you did in Jupiter Bowl. That night we were talking about it in a bar and a guy near us said it was called 99 Turns. Don't know if that's real or not and it was a long time ago. BTW...this is HPD not HGTVfan.

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Re: Mid April in Utah Part 3 of 3

HGTVfan
In reply to this post by tjf1967
tjf1967 wrote
Nice reports buddy, did you bring your fat skis? You know the 76's.  
 I think he's finally seen the light. He was talking about adding at least a mid-fat for next season.

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