This year’s (10th?) Annual Spring Ski Trip was a lot different than it’s been in the past. Normally, we haul a chalet full of friends out to Colorado for a week and spend as much time on the slopes as we do in the hot tub. This year, Luke and I were flying solo, so we decided to try something new and check out the latest addition to our Epic Pass – Park City Mega Resort.
No, that’s not its official name, but when Vail purchased and combined Park City Mountain and Canyons resorts, they successfully created America’s largest groomed ski area. Luke loves skiing groomers and I love drinking mulled wine in mountain-side yurts. Both of us got what we wanted.
Despite the promise I made to the woman sitting next to me on the chairlift, I’m going to spend this entire blog post telling you how much fun we had. The locals aren’t happy about their relatively uncrowded, previously family-owned mountain turning into the next Breckenridge, but this place is pretty great and it won’t be able to hide for long.
We didn’t have to worry about the effects of altitude sickness – no wheezing, no headaches, no mountain gas. It took us one hour total from the time we landed in Salt Lake City to the time we pulled up to our hotel in Park City. And aside from the cost of food on Main Street, prices were uncharacteristically low for a resort town. We stayed in a Hilton for the price of a La Quinta that was ideally located blocks from the mountain, across the parking lot from a grocery store, and next to a wonderful microbrewery/breakfast joint.
The only downside was the weather. Park City, like many areas of the West, has had a warm and relatively dry spring, so the snow conditions were a little rough. We dealt with tailbone-bruising ice in the mornings and snow cone-style slush in the afternoons. The trade-off was getting to drink beers on top of a mountain in our base layers and coming home with very tan noses.
Also, the beer situation was tricky. We quickly learned to avoid “Utah strength” beer and look for “high alcohol” (5% abv) varieties instead. Nothing stings quite like paying almost $10 for a 4% abv beverage. This is especially true when you’ve been sweating it out on the mountain all day and all you need is a mellow buzz and majestic views to positively affirm your life choices.
Despite the less-than-ideal snow conditions and omnipresent beer traps, we skied over 60,000 vertical feet in three days. That’s the equivalent of ten vertical miles. Luke is a much better skier than I am, but he hung with me on the blues and we both had a lot of fun. They were steep and fast at times, mellow and wide at others. Some had a few bumps by the end of the day, but most remained in good condition thanks to light crowds. That’s something we never got to see at Breck or Vail, where you’re forever waiting in long lift lines and dodging others (while they’re dodging you) down the runs.
Occasionally, we found ourselves reminiscing about past ski trips that were bigger and rowdier than our present one. These conversations usually took place while we were squeezed into the corner of a crowded bar, where safety in numbers matters most. But traveling light gave us the freedom to set our own relentless pace. Per usual, give us five days and we’ll come back feeling like we traveled for ten.