Ski and Snow in Utah
Undiscovered treasures await
By Kathy Chin Leong
Less than a two-hour flight away from the Bay Area beckons a state with epic mountainscapes, gourmet gastronomy, and out-of-the-box experiences. In one day you can swim in a volcanic crater, snowshoe to a gourmet hilltop restaurant, and hang on for dear life in a 65 mph bobsled with an Olympian at the helm. True, not too many think of conservative Utah when it comes to these extraordinary activities. But once you’ve walked on the wild side of Utah, you will be anxious to return to challenge your mettle. The snow cities of Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Park City are within an hour’s drive of one another. When it comes to a vacation here, this triple volley delivers a home run. You can ski all three cities in a matter of a few days, and when the snow melts, you can enjoy hiking trails amid wildflowers galore.
Getting there is faster than you think. A flight to Salt Lake City on Delta or Alaska Airlines is less than two hours. From there, rent a car, and zip to Ogden an under hour and take advantage of ski slopes as with the fluffiest snow you have ever seen. Powder Mountain, with 7,000 skiable acres, takes pride in offering back country powder skiing. Meanwhile, its beginner slopes run wide, long, and surely mesmerizing with the stalwart Watsatch mountains watching in the background.
Closeby, Ogden’s Snowbasin, at 3,300 skiable acres, is so opulent that the lodges look like Ritz Carlton hotels. The spa-like restroom with marble countertops and gold colored fixtures is carpeted with individual wood doors for each stall. The chandeliers, shiny gold railings, and ornately patterned carpets pamper you with ambiance. While an excellent spot for expert skiers, non-skiers can enjoy a gondola ride to the dining room at Earl Lodge. Here’s a tip: when you fly via Alaska Airlines, your boarding pass gets you a free lift ticket if you redeem and ski within 24 hours.
Ogden is also a growing enclave for art and architecture. Grab maps to see Prairie style architecture through preserved neighborhoods, wander the restored Union Station and its museums, and visit galleries during the Friday night monthly art strolls. Historic 25th street represents the heart of Ogden where you can snag a great purchase at a boutique. A lineup of great restaurants are also in store. Consider dinner at Zucca Trattoria for Italian comfort food and wood-fired pizzas.
Lodging can be had at the centrally located Hampton Inn and Suites with breakfast included. The Ben Lomond Suites, a 1927 property, also offers breakfast and features fine dining at Restaurant 1107 with glittering views of downtown Ogden.
The largest ski resort in the nation is now Park City with lifts servicing 7,300 acres with over 300 whopping runs. While here, ride the insanely cute Orange Bubble which is the only chair lift in Utah with heated seats and an overhead plexi-glass cover to keep skiers warm.
On a non-ski day, go for a guided snowshoe walk and cooked-to-order, gourmet lunch at Lookout Cabin, a restaurant with fresh seafood flown in from Seattle. Tromp through a mixed forest glade and over bridges.
Need something that will spike the adrenaline? For just $175, the Utah Olympic Park bobsled ride will shake the doldrums out of anyone. Riding with a foursome, you tip and turn for 45 seconds at speeds up to 65 mph. Secured with a helmet and gloves, you ride the same type of bobsled that the Olympians do, and if you are lucky, a former Olympian may be your driver.
Outside Park City in the town of Heber, the Homestead Resort is the only place on the planet where you can swim and go snorkeling in a warm natural mineral spring inside a crater. Downtown Park City is riddled with shops, galleries, and restaurants. Popular restaurants include Tupelo, featuring trendy interiors for New American fare, and the High West Distillery where parents can get a whiskey pairing with meals.
Where to stay? Plenty of hotels can be found at the Park City ski resorts. We bedded down for a couple of nights at Grand Summit Hotel, located in the Park City village right by two chair lifts for ski-in, ski-out privileges. Convenience is the buzz word here. Pools and outdoor hot tubs, the FARM restaurant, casual coffee shop, ski shop, and an on-site spa offers something for everyone. The 80-minute hydration spa ritual will leave you feeling happy and intoxicated without drinking a sip of alcohol.
Skiers can hit up this third city to cover the week with sublime-to- death defying slopes. Get major bragging rights when you nail runs at Alta Ski Resort, one of three in the nation that only allows downhill skiing, no snowboarding allowed. With 2,575 acres, the 9-chair resort is served by five overnight inns, each bundling breakfast and dinner.
The powder is about the best there is, say avid skiers. The runs are nice and wide for beginner and intermediate level athletes. The resort opens up challenging mountain top areas when it deems it safe.
At Alta, the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge is a ski-in ski-out hotel that features cozy rooms all fashioned in the 1960s style. Amenities include indoor hot tub, ping pong and billiards game room, and free ski lockers. In downtown Salt Lake, book a Broadway play or concert. The arts is a big deal here. New is the stunning Eccles Theater, opened in October. Bask in the rust orange interior which harkens to the red rocks of southern Utah. Tiny lights above resemble night stars. In the day, see another architectural wonder-the Natural History Museum of Utah, finished in 2011. Take a selfie with a full sized dinosaur or two as you wander six levels of exhibits.
Epicurean delights include the Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar for homemade pastas and Italian vintages available by the flight. Dive into a plate of grilled calamari at Current Fish & Oyster, a seafood restaurant with consistent rave reviews. Originally a Ford car dealership, the original brick and celestial ceilings with modern interiors serve up eye candy galore. Its bar, directly adjacent to the food area, packs a punch with a speak-easy atmosphere and menu of at least 90 cocktails.
Snooze at any of the 200-plus hotel options in the downtown corridor. On one hand you have the 775-room Grand America, the tallest one in the area with opulence in abundance. Then there’s the boutique Kimpton Monaco Hotel, where I stayed, which offers an Art Deco feel and is centrally located to theaters, shopping, and restaurants. With 225 rooms, the Monaco is lavishly dressed in gold and navy blue hues and features a restaurant and bar on the first level.
This winter, snag a plane ticket and ski the wonders of Ogden, Park City, and Salt Lake City. It’s not too late to play in the powder!
When You Go:
Ski resort info: www.skiutah.com