Utah’s mountains around Salt Lake City provide some of the finest US skiing and all within easy reach of Salt Lake City Airport (SLC). Just southeast of the city, the smaller town of Park City is home to three of America’s best ski resorts. Four more fabled resorts are nearby, and if you time skiers’ flights for midday arrival, they can be skiing free at Deer Valley, Park City Mountain or Canyons that same day by showing their boarding passes.
Clients interested in winter sports will thank you for steering them to this part of the Wasatch Mountains. In addition to some of the world’s best skiing, they’ll enjoy shopping in chic Park City (www.visitparkcity.com) boutiques and galleries, dining in its abundant restaurants, even exploring the secrets of fine rye whiskey at High West Distillery (www.highwest.com), the nation’s only distillery directly accessed by a ski lift.
For three weeks in January, Park City showcases independent filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival. The town is alive with celebrities, so make lodging and ticket reservations as far ahead as possible. One of the world’s most popular, Sundance runs January 16-26, 2014. Reserve time slots, via internet, for ticket purchase in January (www.sundance.org).
But skiing is Park City’s main draw in winter. Deep in a valley, it began as a vibrant and wild silver mining town, a history well-told in the Main Street museum. The long range of mountains west of town is perfectly situated to catch the champagne powder snow blowing in from Great Salt Lake. Park City is so attuned to the needs of visitors that it runs regularly scheduled shuttles between downtown, most hotels and all three resorts.
At Deer Valley Resort (www.deervalley.com) the highest skiable point reaches an altitude of 9,570 feet, giving a 2,020-foot vertical drop to its base. Skiing clients will appreciate the superb grooming on 100 trails across pristine mountainsides, served by 16 lifts; snow boards are not permitted on the mountain. There is plenty of terrain for skiers of all levels and excellent group or individual lessons. Deer Valley Mountain Hosts, all expert skiers, seem to be everywhere answering questions, suggesting trails and even where to eat lunch. They lead five free mountain tours daily, for all skill levels.
The most upscale of Park City’s resorts, Deer Valley concentrates on providing a first class experience, with three top-rated hotels -- Stein Eriksen Lodge, St. Regis Deer Valley and Montage - and several other on-mountain options. Advise clients not to miss a ski-in lunch at the mid-mountain Silver Lake Restaurant. (www.deervalley.com)
Park City Mountain (www.parkcitymountain.com) is one of the rare places where clients can ski right into town. A trail from the mountaintop flies over a snow-covered bridge and directly into downtown. More casual in atmosphere than Deer Valley, its attention to details of grooming and customer care is still tops. The highest skiable elevation is 10,000 feet, providing a 3,100-foot vertical. Fourteen lifts serve 114 trails, covering 3,800 acres.
Park City is a good mountain for intermediate and advanced skiers but fewer trails are designed for the inexperienced - suggest they try Homerun for a good sampling of the entire mountain. The resort has an excellent ski school program for all levels. For top-of-the-world views, suggest the intermediate Tycoon Trail (from the McConkey lift). This vast landscape is divided into color-coded sections on their trail map, making navigation easy. The resort allows boarders and has five parks and pipes areas from beginner to as many as 70 jumps.
Eight dining facilities are scattered across the mountain, from popular Legends Bar and Grill, famed for Kobe Beef Burgers, to the Summit House where breakfast and lunch come with spectacular mountain views. Non-skiers can enjoy the Alpine Coaster, Gorgoza Tubing Park and nearby mini-snowmobile track. (www.parkcitymountain.com)
Canyons Resort’s (www.canyonsresort.com) trail system covers more than 4,000 acres with 182 trails across several mountains. Its 3,190-foot vertical drop is the greatest in Park City, served by 19 lifts including the enclosed and heated quad Orange Bubble chair lift and one carrying people and gear from the parking lots.
Canyons is nicely planned as a village with hotels, restaurants and shops right at its base and lodging from high-end Waldorf Astoria Park City and Canyons Grand Summit to lower-priced hotels and condos. Eight restaurants range from casual to fine dining. The Red Pine Lodge is a good lunch choice on the mountain.
From a Park City base, clients can broaden their Utah experience at four other ski mountains. Favored by snow boarders but also popular with skiers, Brighton Resort (www.brightonresort.com), 12 miles away, has 66 trails and seven lifts. Nearby on the same road, Solitude’s (www.skisolitude.com) 65 trails and eight lifts cover 1,200 acres. Solitude is especially popular with intermediate and expert skiers for Honeycomb Canyon, a broad bowl combining groomed and ungroomed terrain.
Popular with Utah locals at the top of their game is Snowbird (www.snowbird.com), known simply as “the Bird”. Not as heavily groomed as some others, the snow here is moved around by skiers, not machines -- a good choice for diehard experts. Sundance (www.sundanceresort.com), the resort of Robert Redford (tip clients to watch for him working there early in the morning), has a lot of wide trails, where all levels of skier are comfortable and plenty of challenges for experts. Suggest the series of black-diamond and double-diamond runs from a high ridge off the Arrowhead lift for them.
Alta (www.alta.com), about 36 miles from Park City, is a place skiers dream of, with less glitz and all about the skiing. Its big bowl of mountains is less forested than most, leaving acres of open mountainside for skiing for all levels. Upper-intermediate and expert clients will fall in love with Alta, the resort of choice for many Europeans who travel to the US to ski to avoid poor conditions in the Alps. Alta’s 116 trails are accessed by six well placed lifts on 2,200 acres, with world class views and stupendous off-piste skiing. Dining options close to the slopes include Alta Peruvian Lodge and Snowpine Lodge.