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Help me plan my Utah trip (a zillion questions)
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Updated 2 days ago
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one month ago

With my sprained knee having passed the snowshoe test with flying colors, I’m moving quickly to firm up my Utah trip.  I leave in 13 days, and this will be my first trip out there since a week in PC in 2011.  A couple of quick pieces of context first:

- I learned to ski at Powder Mountain in the early 80’s.  I’ve only been back to Utah once since then; the 2011 trip where we skied DV, PC, and a day in Alta.  Part of me is tempted to hit PowMow just for the nostalgia, and to see if I remember anything (I was very young).  

- North American resorts I love: Deer Valley, Vail (almost exclusively the back bowls and blue sky basin), Jackson Hole.

- NA resorts I wasn’t as in love with: Whistler, Steamboat (although I only got to ski a third of the mountain before I was injured), PCMR (although I did find a couple of places I liked), Breck.

- Likes: Steeps, bumps, off-piste, good visibility, little wind, high speed lifts, lots of sustained vertical, good meals on-mountain, driving in snow

- Not a fan of: Intermediate groomers, lift lines, slow lifts, tons of snowboarders, parks, flat light / fog, high speed carving (I do it all the time because often that’s all there is on the east coast, but prefer more technical terrain when skiing out west), waiting on / riding buses

- I’ll be in SLC Mon-Thurs speaking at a conference.  My wife will be flying in Thursday night to join me.  The conference gives us lift tickets and transportation to PCMR on Friday.  I still need to book lodging, transportation, and lift tickets for Saturday and Sunday.  We fly out early Monday morning.

- I’m tempted to go back to Deer Valley, because I know I will like it, but I don’t want to pay the $$$ to stay in PC, plus I want to try something new.  So let’s take that off the table.

- I have read numerous forum posts and trip reports here on DC Ski, but it’s always fun to start a thread like this…

- I think the resorts I am considering for Sat/Sun (with PCMR on Fri due to the free tickets) are PowMow, Snowbasin, Alta, Brighton, Solitude, and Snowbird.

- I have Marriott Plat status, so will likely stay at either a courtyard in Ogden (if I ski PowMow or SB), or a Fairfield Inn in Midvale (for the CC resorts).  Both are around $90 a night.  

 

Now on to the questions:

- Is it worth it to even consider SB / PowMow, or since I have so little experience skiing Utah as an adult, should I stick with the Cottonwood Canyons resorts?

- Which resorts (and where specifically) have the best food / drinks, both for lunch, and for apres ski?

- Which resorts have the “best” lifts?  I’m defining best as high speed, with lots of vertical.

- Which resorts have the least wind?  Which have the best chance of sunshine?

- What else should I be considering?  

 

one month ago

Try Solitude and Snowbasin.  Brighton is nice midweek as all terrain is served by high speed lifts.

Snowbird is steep.  Alta gets tracked up fast on powder days.  Powder Mtn. is okay.       

I was not impressed with the Canyons.

Never skied PCMR or Deer Valley.

Lots of good choices in Utah with Snowbasin being my favorite.

one month ago

Snowbird, Snowbird. 

one month ago

jimmy wrote:

Snowbird, Snowbird. 

Loved Snowbird for the experience.  Big mountain easy to get overwhelmed tho.  Can go from bitter cold on the top to spring skiing in one run.  Go with someone who knows the resort if you can.  Brighton. LOVE IT!  Trees are great, milly express lift has something for everyone.  Thats where the most challenging stuff is (left turn off the lift if i remember correctly).  I really enjoy Brighton for a day.  

 

But based on your preferences, you might enjoy Snowbird best of all the Cottonwood hills.  Have fun.

 

Staying in town is easy. Bus and rental car are good options and ther are good chain and local restaurants.  If you need gear, check out Level 9 in downtown.

one month ago

Now on to the questions:

- Is it worth it to even consider SB / PowMow, or since I have so little experience skiing Utah as an adult, should I stick with the Cottonwood Canyons resorts?  I liked Snowbasin more than PowMow.

- Which resorts (and where specifically) have the best food / drinks, both for lunch, and for apres ski?  Snowbasin has great on-slope food.  Try the John Paul Lodge: 

I stayed at the Ogden Marriot some years ago.  Extremely nice hotel with good restaurants nearby.  More info here:  http://www.dcski.com/forum/61798

Deer Valley also has great food in all on-slope lodges.  

- Which resorts have the “best” lifts?  I’m defining best as high speed, with lots of vertical.

Pretty much everywhere but PowMow and Solitude.  Best sustained vert at Snowbird and Snowbasin. I think there is more advanced/expert skiing at PC than DV.  If you enjoy your Friday at PC it is certainly large enough to entertain you for two more days. More info here:  http://www.epicski.com/a/park-city-2-0

- Which resorts have the least wind?  Maybe Park City, Deer Valley and PowMow.  Kind of a guess based on lower elevation. Which have the best chance of sunshine? no idea.

- What else should I be considering?  When are you going?  After April 1 you might want to emphasize LCC and BCC becaue of higher elevation over the others and better snow preservation.  

one month ago

No snow boarders allowed at Alta and Deer Valley!

Canoyns and Park City are managed by Vail, have interconnection trail and gondola lift.  Now largest ski resort in US.

There is a Marriot slopeside at Park City base!

Unbelievable great food at Deer Valley!

Have fun!!!!!!!

MorganB

aka The Colonel

one month ago

Hmm … what jumps out at me:

* Sat, Sun skiing, flying out early Mon morning

* wants vertical and high speed lifts

* liked JH but not Steamboat

* would rather avoid being around a lot of snowboarders

Assuming there isn’t a powder storm on the weekend, doesn’t seem worth the extra drive to Ogden.  Don’t think PowMow fits the description of optimal “fun” in this case.  Snowbasin would fit up to a point.

Alta and Snowbird make the most sense.  With Solitude as a possibility to avoid lift lines.  If skiing at Alta, then should have lunch at the Rustle, Alta Lodge, or Collins Grill (top floor of Watson’s, mid-mountain Collins side).

one month ago

agree with the above - but eat at the Steak Pit in Snowbird!

one month ago

Alta, Snowbird, Snowbasin

My guess is you’ll probably like Snowbird and Snowbasin the best.  Top to bottom lifts, lots of vertical, great steeps.  

Alta is very unique, it’s a special place. At first glance there are some fun things, but the great stuff requires exploring.  It took me a few trips before I felt like I’d unlocked the place.  Once you discover some of these hidden spots you’ll realize why some people have decided they could ski a lifetime there.

I love Snowbasin, I don’t think enough people venturing to Utah take advantage of it.  The place is essentially two giant bowls.  The skiing is very different from the Cottonwood or Park City resorts.  You can find powder there for days after a storm.  On a blue bird day I don’t think any resort’s scenery can hold a candle to Snowbasin.  Oh yeah, the lodges and food are excellent as well.

one month ago

If you go to Little Cottonwood I echo the above.  Stick to Snowbird.  In two days you won’t even get to half the mountain.  Alta is amazing but a bit complicated.  Unless you preplan you could end up skiing a lot of cat tracks and traverses and then wonder whats all the hype about… Of course neither have much of an apres scene.

9 days ago

Have been meaning to follow up on this thread.  First, thanks so much to everyone for all the recommendations.  

A number of you recommended Snowbird and Snowbasin, and you were spot on.  It was an interesting trip; here’s how it went down:

- I flew out from DCA on Monday to SLC, and landed in the middle of a huge storm.  The mountains were getting nuked, and most resorts got between 18” and two feet Sunday night - Tuesday.  

- In hindsight, I should have either tried to figure out how to fly on the previous weekend (tough, given I have small kids), or should have booked an early, direct flight so I could have skiied Monday afternoon.  It would have been epic.

- Tuesday through Thursday, I was stuck downtown in a conference.  I was the good little corporate soldier and attended everything.  I found out later many people ditched the conference, including some of the senior leaders from my own company, to go storm chasing!!!  One guy said Wednesday at Alta was the best ski day he’d ever had.  

- I went shopping for skis Tuesday night, and wound up getting a smoking deal on a pair of DPS Foundations.  I had brought binding with me, and had them mounted.  More on the skis later.

- My wife flew in Thursday night and joined me, and Friday we skiied PCMR.  It was sunny, warm (high 30’s), and tracked out.  I basically skied groomers much of the day, but the groomers were soft, and I enjoyed myself.  

- Friday afternoon, we bought discount tickets for Snowbird, and stayed the night in Midvale.  When I woke up Saturday morning, I saw that Snowbird had sustained 40-50mph winds, with gusts into the 70’s.  I suspected they would close the tram, and wound up being correct, along with Mineral Basin and Peruvian.  We called an audible and headed to Snowbasin instead.

- We got to Snowbasin around 10am Saturday, and skied pretty much the whole day off John Paul Express.  Strawberry Express closed due to the wind before we could ski it, and we took Needles once.  John Paul had no line (on a Saturday), a ton of steep, sustained vert, and some decent side country at the resort boundary.  We ate lunch at John Paul lodge, and it was excellent.  The weather was very warm (mid 40’s) but very windy.  By the end of the day, the snow at the base of the mountain was so slow as to be almost dangerous (it would grab you and just stop you in places).  They opened the tram (after digging it out) for the first time in 2 weeks that afternoon, so we got to ski the top, but the snow quality was pretty poor.  Very manky.  

- Since we had already bought tickets, we were committed to Snowbird on Sunday.  I spoke with people who were ranting about how crowded it had been the day before (due to the closure of three main lifts mentioned above), but the crowds weren’t bad.  We got to ski the tram and mineral basin a little in the morning, but everything was super crusty.  In the afternoon, those lifts closed, so we skied Peruvian, which was decent.  I liked the resort a lot, but it had been through several freeze thaw cycles, and the snow quality left a lot to be desired.

- We drove to Park City Sunday night for shopping and dinner, and drove back to SLC in a storm.  I think they got a foot Sunday night, but we had a 7am flight Monday morning (that left on time).  So we kind of got the three bluebird days between storms.  Great viz, warm temps, but not only no new snow, but tracked out and crusty by Sunday.

- Last thing to note, the DPS Foundationa Wailer 99’s I bought.  All I can say is I’ve skied a lot skis over the years, but nothing like this, ever.  I have never been on a ski and found it so light, snappy, and responsive.  They were stable at speed, I could absolutely rail carving turns on them, but also ski off-piste.  I have never, ever had this positive a response to a new ski, including the other skis I demo’d this season like the Salomon QST 92’s and 99’s, and the Atomic Vantage 100’s.  

- Pics to come in a day or two, need to get them moved over to my pc.

9 days ago

Three sunny days at three excellent mtns.  Sounds good to me.  I skied four out of five days recently at Whistler.  Great snow, but porr visibility much of the time.  Some days I got some great skiing, but it was all inside a bubble of about 100 yards of visibility.  I left feeling like I really hadn’t seen (literally) as much of the mountain as I wanted to.  

About manky snow; here in the mid-Atlantic we don’t see the scenario much when a bunch of new snow lays around ski trails and gets baked in the sun.  It is usually groomed or skied into a packed surface quickly.  And onne thing good about hard manmade snow surfaces is that they ski pretty good in warm temps.  But in Utah fresh loose or lightly tracked snow can turn to sticky cotton candy before it firms-up to a better skiing surface.

7 days ago

JimK wrote:

About manky snow; here in the mid-Atlantic we don’t see the scenario much when a bunch of new snow lays around ski trails and gets baked in the sun.  It is usually groomed or skied into a packed surface quickly.  And onne thing good about hard manmade snow surfaces is that they ski pretty good in warm temps.  But in Utah fresh loose or lightly tracked snow can turn to sticky cotton candy before it firms-up to a better skiing surface.

I can testify to that. I skied Brighton this past Saturday. It was nearly 80 in Salt Lake and near 60 at Brighton’s base. It really hasn’t snowed the past couple of weeks, and although there was plenty of snow, most of it was rotten at this point. The groomers were sticky and slushy, similar to what I encounter often at Wintergreen, and no one was skiing the steeps or the trees at all. I ventured into the trees once and discovered why…sticky & crusty cotton candy snow (and that’s being generous). I did the 4 hour afternoon ticket and am happy I didn’t spring for a full day. Luckily, the forecast is for snow to return to the Wasatch later this week, so things should start to improve.

5 days ago

The19thHole wrote:

 

I can testify to that. I skied Brighton this past Saturday. It was nearly 80 in Salt Lake and near 60 at Brighton’s base. It really hasn’t snowed the past couple of weeks, and although there was plenty of snow, most of it was rotten at this point. The groomers were sticky and slushy, similar to what I encounter often at Wintergreen, and no one was skiing the steeps or the trees at all. I ventured into the trees once and discovered why…sticky & crusty cotton candy snow (and that’s being generous). I did the 4 hour afternoon ticket and am happy I didn’t spring for a full day. Luckily, the forecast is for snow to return to the Wasatch later this week, so things should start to improve.

Yep, Brighton when it’s in the 50s is not fun.  Especially since there are relatively long run outs at the base of the lifts.  Tried it a few years ago when staying at Alta.

I was at Powder Mountain last weekend.  Saturday was too warm in the afternoon to be much fun.  However, Sunday was much better with the cloud cover keeping temps in the 40s.  My friends and I easily got in a full day of skiing on good snow by moving around the place appropriately.  Even found a section of fun snow in some aspens at the end of the day.  Had a condo in Eden, so sticking with PowMow made more sense than driving over to Snowbasin.  Have also skied Snowbasin in warm weather in the past and didn’t care to repeat the experience.

5 days ago

marzNC wrote:

Yep, Brighton when it’s in the 50s is not fun.  Especially since there are relatively long run outs at the base of the lifts.  Tried it a few years ago when staying at Alta.

I was at Powder Mountain last weekend.  Saturday was too warm in the afternoon to be much fun.  However, Sunday was much better with the cloud cover keeping temps in the 40s.  My friends and I easily got in a full day of skiing on good snow by moving around the place appropriately.  Even found a section of fun snow in some aspens at the end of the day.  Had a condo in Eden, so sticking with PowMow made more sense than driving over to Snowbasin.  Have also skied Snowbasin in warm weather in the past and didn’t care to repeat the experience.

I was disappointed at the runouts on the groomers at Brighton. Maybe it was because of the sticky snow, but I ended up skating a lot more than I anticipated all over the mountain.

On the other hand, I had the best day of my life at PowMow back in January after 50” of fresh snow. What a place. I could easily retire there.

3 days ago

The19thHole wrote:

On the other hand, I had the best day of my life at PowMow back in January after 50” of fresh snow. What a place. I could easily retire there.

Have you been to PowMow this season after the installation of the new lifts on the other side?  Mary’s lift opens up a huge area so that now there is 7000 acres.  From what the mountain host told us as we did a free tour, PowMow intends to continue limiting the number of season passes and day tickets.  The current ownership has a very different goal in mind than most people would expect.

3 days ago

marzNC wrote:

Have you been to PowMow this season after the installation of the new lifts on the other side?  Mary’s lift opens up a huge area so that now there is 7000 acres.  From what the mountain host told us as we did a free tour, PowMow intends to continue limiting the number of season passes and day tickets.  The current ownership has a very different goal in mind than most people would expect.

Sure did. I took several runs off Mary’s and Village. The older I get, the more I appreciate low-angle powder runs through the trees (or at least my knees do). My daughter laughed at me and accused me of being giddy like a school boy after a couple of runs under Mary’s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HLFmuywJ50 if anyone is curious).

I can appreciate the current owner’s goal. The mountain always seems empty, and fresh powder can be found at almost any time. Tacos are great too. Quite a difference from the Little Cottonwood raceway/rush on a powder day. Can’t wait to go back!!

2 days ago

The19thHole wrote:

marzNC wrote:

Have you been to PowMow this season after the installation of the new lifts on the other side?  Mary’s lift opens up a huge area so that now there is 7000 acres.  From what the mountain host told us as we did a free tour, PowMow intends to continue limiting the number of season passes and day tickets.  The current ownership has a very different goal in mind than most people would expect.

Sure did. I took several runs off Mary’s and Village. The older I get, the more I appreciate low-angle powder runs through the trees (or at least my knees do). My daughter laughed at me and accused me of being giddy like a school boy after a couple of runs under Mary’s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HLFmuywJ50 if anyone is curious).

I can appreciate the current owner’s goal. The mountain always seems empty, and fresh powder can be found at almost any time. Tacos are great too. Quite a difference from the Little Cottonwood raceway/rush on a powder day. Can’t wait to go back!!

WOW…Great video!!! Those aspens are certainly close together for tree skiing!  Quite a video!!!

MorganB

2 days ago

The19thHole wrote:

marzNC wrote:

Have you been to PowMow this season after the installation of the new lifts on the other side?  Mary’s lift opens up a huge area so that now there is 7000 acres.  From what the mountain host told us as we did a free tour, PowMow intends to continue limiting the number of season passes and day tickets.  The current ownership has a very different goal in mind than most people would expect.

Sure did. I took several runs off Mary’s and Village. The older I get, the more I appreciate low-angle powder runs through the trees (or at least my knees do). My daughter laughed at me and accused me of being giddy like a school boy after a couple of runs under Mary’s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HLFmuywJ50 if anyone is curious).

I can appreciate the current owner’s goal. The mountain always seems empty, and fresh powder can be found at almost any time. Tacos are great too. Quite a difference from the Little Cottonwood raceway/rush on a powder day. Can’t wait to go back!!

Thanks for the video!  One of these days I’ll manage to get to PowMow for some powder turns.

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