I rode up the mountain in a heated chair lift, skied down several runs without breaking any bones, met an Olympic skier and enjoyed the best cheesecake west of Brooklyn. Overall, it was a perfect day on the slopes.
I experienced The Canyons Resort‘s famous powdery trails during a day trip to Park City, Utah. Jake and I drove to Canyons in under 30 minutes from our holiday base in Salt Lake City. It was a straight shot on the I-80, which was thoroughly plowed (Mayor Bloomberg, take note).
Canyons is much different than the ski resorts near New York City. At Canyons, we hit the slopes at 9:30 am and stayed on the mountain until the trails closed around 4:30 pm. There was no reason to return to the base since several restaurants lined the trails.
I skied right up to a snack shack, where I enjoyed a hot cocoa and updated my Twitter page, then immediately got back on the chair lift for a few more runs. I was in blogger heaven!
Canyons is Utah’s largest ski and snowboarding resort, but we had the trails mostly to ourselves. It was the Monday after New Years and it appeared that many tourists had already gone home. It seems the experts are right: the best time to go on vacation really is the week after a holiday.
Growing up in Long Island, NY, I didn’t have many opportunities to ski. Local resorts like Hunter Mountain provide a quick getaway for New Yorkers but don’t match the quality of trails in the West. Hunter’s peak elevation is 3,200 feet, compared to 9,900 feet at Canyons. As a result, Canyon’s trails are longer and more complex; the intermediate slopes don’t end as quickly as they do back East.
As a guest of The Canyons Resort, I had the opportunity to explore the slopes with an expert guide. Caitlin Martz, the resort’s Communications Coordinator, accompanied me on several runs. Caitlin is an LA native and long time skier– and she looks great in a helmet.
I was on the fence about renting the headgear, which has gone mainstream but still seems a bit “uncool.” I decided to go for the helmet after I rammed into someone’s skis in the parking lot while texting on my iPhone. Safety first!
For our initial run, Caitlin took us on Canyon’s heated chair lifts– the first of their kind in North America. These futuristic orange bubbles have heated seats and visors that protect skiers from wind and snow. We hit the slopes on a relatively warm day but I still enjoyed the lift’s funky design.
The orange bubble is supposed to simulate the experience of ski goggles, according to Canyon’s website. When we shut the hatch, our eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the glowing yellow snow.
Jake joined me for a few runs on the intermediate slopes before he set off for the double black diamond trails. He waited patiently as I snow-plowed my way down the steeper sections.
This was the largest crowd we saw on the slopes; we completed a few trails without spotting any other people. On the intermediate slopes many of the visitors were snowboarders.
Caitlin demonstrated excellent form while I cut a wide berth down the trails. I was still getting used to Utah’s high elevation and some of the “easy” trails were quite steep for me!
Wide open runs were a common sight at Canyons. That was good news for me, since I didn’t risk running into other skiers or fences– which has happened in the past.
We stopped for lunch at the Sun Lodge and I met Olympic skier Kaylin Richardson (at right). She’s one of the three finalists in Canyon’s “dream job” contest, a four month blogging gig that comes with a $40,000 salary, a room at the Waldorf Astoria and VIP perks. Kaylin is beautiful, poised and has impeccable ski credentials. How could she not win?
The highlight of our meal at the Sun Lodge was the creme brulee cheesecake, which was topped with whipped cream and surrounded by glistening syrup.
Machines were pumping fresh snow onto several trails when we visited Canyons. From the heated chairlift we spotted the resort’s new snow-making pond, which holds 20 million gallons of water.
The views from the chairlifts were amazing. Like Salt Lake City, Park City is framed by snow-covered mountains. It’s nearly impossible to snap a bad photo here.
After taking in several runs, I needed a breather. Conveniently, my last trail ended at a BBQ hut/snack shop. I ordered a hot cocoa with whipped cream (worth the $3.50 price tag), collapsed into a deck chair and checked Twitter for the latest travel news. The AT&T reception was at full strength despite the elevation.
While waiting for Jake to finish the Deshutes trail, I snapped a half dozen photos on my iPhone and edited them with the Photoshop Express app. (One of my masterpieces is above). I loved that a rest stop was located on the mountain; after my break I put my gear back on and kept skiing.
As the sun started to set, we hurried to the lifts to get in a final run. Jake convinced me to try an intermediate slope that was not marked “easiest way down.” He soon realized his mistake. Small children whizzed past me as I inched my way down the mountain, using a combination of snow-plowing, criss-crossing and stopping frequently. Despite a few tense moments, I made it to the base unharmed.
After spending a full day at Canyons, I’m officially a fan of Utah skiing. While I’m not ready to move permanently to the Beehive State, I look forward to my next visit. The small, icy mountains of the East Coast will never look the same again.
The Canyons Ski Resort is a half hour drive from the Salt Lake City (SLC) airport. It’s one of Delta’s major hubs and has frequent flights to cities across the United States.
For more information
Visit The Canyons Resort website for deals, lodging packages and information on ski conditions.