Utah in deep and in depth: Your guide to five great days in the Beehive State
As seen in the February 2012 issue of Freeskier. Words by Leah Fielding.
Utah is the land of untold opportunity, and that’s not just some sales schtick of BYU recruiters. America is littered with winter playgrounds, yet none are as bountiful, versatile or tempting as the greater Salt Lake City region. With nearly a dozen resorts, thousands of acres of easily accessible backcountry and consistent yearly snowfall, it’s no wonder pros and ski bums alike flock to the Beehive state.
In the following pages you’ll find a tribute to what Utah has to offer. You’ll meet a few of the professional personalities that make their home here. You’ll see some eye candy from amazing spots around the area. You’ll learn about some companies that have set up shop and flourished here. And you’ll learn about the most legendary jump spot in our sport. Of course, 12 pages [as allotted in the February issue of Freeskier] isn’t enough to cover the breadth and enormity of Utah’s bounty, so make sure you make your way west. Oh, you’ll find an action packed, five-day itinerary for when you get here.
The Ultimate Trip: A five-day jaunt to the best of Utah
The Snowbird tram
Arrive at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Grab a rental car and head to the Peery Hotel. We like it for its central, downtown location near bars and nightclubs. Plus it’s listed on the National Historic Register, affordable and allows pets. Drop off your bags and get up to Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Start the day off with a hearty breakfast at The Forklift in the Snowbird base area.
Spend a few extra bucks for the AltaSnowbird one ticket ($92), for access to both LCC’s resorts.
Start the day on Snowbird’s tram, which will get you to the resort’s highest point, Hanging Valley. For the most options, head down Cirque Traverse and drop in wherever your heart desires. Or continue along the ridge, which will funnel you into the steep Wilbere Chute.
Take Baldy Express lift over to Alta. For some challenging hot laps, head to Supreme Lift. Off the lift, take a short hike to Catherine’s Area. Take a couple laps to explore the many runs in this zone.
Head down to the base of Alta for some après action at the Sitzmark Club, then head back to Snowbird’s base for sushi at the Aerie Lounge on the top floor of The Cliff Lodge.
Before leaving the city, grab java and breakfast to go at Coffee Garden on Main Street. If you need to fill up the rental car, stop by Maverick Country Store at 600 South. Answer their trivia question right and you get a free candy bar, perfect for the midday munchies.
Make your way to Big Cottonwood Canyon. For $78 you can purchase a Brighton/Solitude day ticket.
Start the day at Solitude Mountain Resort. You’ll want to head to Honeycomb Canyon, where you can easily spend the whole day thanks to an easy traverse to open powder bowls and perfect glades on the opposite ridge.
Once you’ve had enough, take Summit Lift up and drop into Brighton for a sunny patio lunch at Milly Chalet.
If you’re still going strong post lunch, Scree Slope is sure to get the blood pumping. But plenty of mellow options cover the Milly Express zone if the dogs are barking. End another successful day in the Wasatch with a beverage at Molly Green’s.
Head back to the hotel and get ready to drink some beer. Go to The Bayou for Cajun-themed eats along with your choice of 323 bottled beers and 30 drafts.
If the double IPAs haven’t completely destroyed your motivation, head to the Green Pig for dancing into the wee hours.
Shake off that hangover and grab your skins. Or if you left them at home, stop by Black Diamond because you’re about to spend your day huffin’ and puffin’ in the Utah BC.
Both Big and Little Cottonwood have backcountry access trails right off the road. Before you go, pick up a copy of Backcountry Skiing Utah by local guide Tyson Bradley for routes and snow safety information.
Black Diamond HQ
Our preferred zone is Twin Lakes Pass. From Alta’s parking lot, skin up Summer Road, which is typically groomed, through the famed Grizzly Gulch zone. From the pass, you have many fun options, including skiing the northwest lower ridge of Wolverine. As always, go with a knowledgeable local friend or guide. We recommend Utah Mountain Adventures. It’s just plain stupid to go into unfamiliar backcountry without a guide.
The best way to end a successful backcountry day is in full bragging rights regalia at Alta’s Peruvian Lodge.
Continue the locals’ tradition and grab a good (and cheap) meal at Lonestar Taqueria, located at the mouth of Big Cottonwood, on your way back to the hotel.
Powder Mountain may be off the beaten path a bit, but it’s well worth the extra travel time. This mom-and-pop joint lives up to its name. The lodge has a nostalgic, East Coast, home-mountain feel to it.
Dinkin’ around the ridgelines is awesome at Pow Mow, but the best part of this ski area is its snowcat service. The access can’t be beat. Nor can the price. For just $18 a ride you can access Lightning Ridge’s 2,100-foot vertical drop. Or if you’d like to make it a day, opt for the Powder Safari, which gets you to 3,000 acres of dreamy bowls and glades for $385 a person. Yes, lunch is included.
There isn’t much in the way of an après scene at PM, so head back to SLC. Pack up your bags and head to Park City. On your way out of SLC, head to Molcasalsa for the city’s best, and possibly most affordable, old-school Mexican.
For hotels in PC, we like Park City Crash Pad because it’s affordable yet hip, with organic linens and great coffee.
Wake up, enjoy that surprisingly good hotel coffee and get ready for the ultimate park session. If you’re looking to film the day’s antics with a POV camera, tune up your skis or grab any last minute gear, stop by Jan’s Mountain Outfitters.
Get your legs warmed up at PC’s beginner terrain park, The Ridge, located off of King Con Ridge.
After you’ve lapped that a couple times, check out the monstrous 22-foot Eagle Superpipe.
Byron Wells at Park City. Photo by Erik Seo.
Refuel with delicious all-natural hot dogs, brats or veggie dogs at Cobra Dogs at the base of the Eagle Superpipe and the Three Kings Terrain Park.
Continue the sesh in Alex Schlopy’s playground, aka King’s Crown, site of the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Cup. If you venture to these parks and drop in, you really need to have your gamed dialed. The pro-level features are matched by a pro-level crowd.
Once you’ve decided that the trick mission was successful, or you’ve driven yourself into the ground, head to High West Distillery—Utah’s first distillery after prohibition—for an après aged whiskey.
On your way back to the hotel to spruce up for your last night in Utah, stop in at Good Karma in Prospector Square for Indo-Persian to spice up the ensuing night.
And finally, send it like a local hero at rowdy O’Shucks. There you’ll find an overcrowded bar, cheap drinks, loud music and peanuts that you can throw on the floor. If you’re looking to shake it, you’ll want to stop by Cisero’s or Downstairs for live DJs.
Enjoy Freeskier on the go. Download the refined version 2.0 of our iPhone and iPad app for easy access to the latest news, photos, videos, snow reports, gear reviews, games and more.