Canyons, Casinos and Cliff-faces: A thrill-seeker's guide to the Utah Ski Safari
The Utah Ski Safari is just one of our signature multi-centre ski holidays and without a doubt, it's one of the most popular too. Taking in four mountains, two states and 500 miles of highway over seven days, four of Ski Safari’s team hit the road to try it for themselves. Here’s their trip report.
Park City Mountain Resort
By Tara Rogers
The Real Deal
If it's authentic ‘real’ ski towns that float your boat, then Park City has got to be on your must-ski list. The compact traditional town is lined with western-style fascia-shops and restaurants. All season long it's visited by thrill-seekers for its proximity to “The Greatest Snow on Earth™”, but in January Hollywood's glitterati take-over for the week-long Sundance Film Festival (chaired by legendary Robert Redford). We visited in April so Main Street was sadly star-free. It was still fun to find out courtesy of the locals which celebrities had supped craft beers at the No Name Saloon and whisky cocktails at High West Distillery just a few months earlier.
With the main season out of the way, we had this immense stretch of the Wasatch Mountains practically to ourselves (one of the main benefits of skiing in North America during spring) and it was playtime! A foot and a half of fresh powder had fallen overnight and we had just the best day of skiing: immaculate wide groomers in King Con, hidden pockets of un-tracked powder meadows in Silverlode and off-trail trees and bumps on McConkey’s.
Did someone say ‘cookies’?
Lots of our customers stay in the great value Park City Peaks Hotel, and it's the warm hospitality, cosy rooms, and laid-back yet faultless service that really makes it stand out. Renowned for their fun après ski Wine and Wings (chicken wings cooked four ways - to die for), and the affectionately-named ‘Cookie Man’ (he delivers steaming hot chocolate and a cookie to your room each evening). The Peaks also took the title of Best Pillow and Best Hairdryer in Utah. Well, us ladies have got to get our priorities right haven't we?
Ride on time
For Brits, public transport isn’t usually pleasant or enjoyable. However, if you're considering a stay in Park City without a car, thanks to the environmentally friendly Park City Shuttle, it's a surprisingly enjoyable and flawless way to get around. It runs on time (yes!), picks up from right outside the Park City Peaks Hotel and you and your skis can be in Main Street or at the base of Park City, Canyons or Deer Valley within minutes.
By Kirstin Thatcher
In the hot seat
Day guests have ample parking spaces at the resort, and a quick hop on the Canyons Cabriolet lift and you’re in the main base area. We headed straight up the Orange Bubble Express, our first experience of a chairlift with heated seats! The mountain is big; made up of nine peaks there’s something for all abilities from beginners to back-country experts.
The terrain was so enjoyable and we skied 17,500 vertical feet in three hours, as clocked by our rather nifty Epic Mix app. The trails that wind around and through the most fabulous multi-million dollar homes was a highlight - some frequented by famous faces. And although we didn’t spot any, we were told it’s not uncommon to spot the odd moose munching through the foliage under the lifts too!
Hot toddies and half pipes
At lunch we tucked into a delicious mexican menu and a welcome hot toddy at the Red Tail Grill before clicking our skis back on - we couldn’t wait to get back out, and what a fun afternoon we had! Morna found the natural half-pipe in the Condor Woods, which we each had a stab at - considering our group range from early intermediate to advanced skiers!
Four legged friends
As well as the vast ski area, the resort itself is compact and well thought out with a good choice of eateries, shopping and bars and, accommodation to suit all budgets. Each afternoon the Ski Patrol Team and their four-legged colleagues meet at the base of the Red Pine Gondola to give guests a chance to say hello and learn about mountain safety, a big hit with the kids!
Snowbird and Alta
By Morna Fox
We headed off in the affectionately named 'ginger ninja' (our day-glo bright orange SUV hire car) for a day's skiing at Snowbird and Alta. Skirting Salt Lake City and up through Little Cottonwood Canyon we arrived less than an hour later at the Snowbird base. From the car park the slopes looked much more steeply alpine in appearance than Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort, which made a few of us a bit apprehensive. However, half an hour later we were on skis being shown round by the local Mountain Hosts on one of their free guided ski tours which start at 9.30 and 10.30 daily. Starting off in the north/east facing Gad Valley, Tara, Claire and Kirstin skied lots of lovely intermediate groomed blue runs covered with fresh light powder whilst I headed off on my own to explore some of the more challenging stuff.
Through the mountain
The hosts had headed over with the group to the Peruvian Express lift, where at the top they stepped onto the magic carpet which took them into the 600ft-long mountain tunnel, 200ft under Hidden Peak. Music is played as you travel through the mountain, and at intervals there are historical pictures of the mountain's mining heritage. It’s a real experience as you emerge into the bright sunshine of south-facing Mineral Basin. This great bowl is served by two fast quad chairs and from the top of Baldy Express, and if you have the full Alta/Snowbird lift ticket and are not snowboarding (it's skiers only in Alta), you can head over to Alta too.
After a brief stop at the Forklift Restaurant for a delicious pesto burger, I headed off to Alta via Mineral Basin for a couple of hours, particularly enjoying some of the black diamond runs to the left off the Collins lift in the West Rustler area. Having skied mostly in Europe, it struck me once again how North American skiing is all about being able to ski the whole mountain within the ski area boundary, not just the groomed runs - there is no ‘off-piste’ as such; I was skiing alone but felt safe. There is accommodation option at Snowbird and Alta, and I decided that when (not if!) I come back to Utah with my family, I would definitely base myself here for a few days.
Having had a great day, we headed back to Park City, with far too brief a stop for shopping at the Tanger Outlet Village in Kimball Junction. One other thing I would have loved to have had time for was a visit to the Utah Olympic Park museum and the chance to go on the Comet Bobsled ride and the adventure ropes course. I'll just have to save that for next time too!
Deer Valley by Claire Jones
Off to a flying start
Deer Valley is famous for its grooming and being an exclusively skier’s mountain. We drove just 5 minutes from Park City to Snow Park Lodge, the main base area at Deer Valley. We met our mountain host, Hans, an airline pilot who had chosen to take the winter off from flying to volunteer as a host in Deer Valley. He really was living the dream! We all headed up the Carpenter Express from the base and skied over to Bald Mountain. The view of Jordanelle Reservoir from the top is gorgeous.
Fed like royalty
We skied over to Flagstaff Mountain, passing incredible dream mountain homes - I really must keep buying Lotto tickets - and then on to Empire before heading for lunch at Royal Street Café at Silver Lake Lodge. The mountain was so quiet and we managed to cover five of the six peaks in just a few hours. There was so much choice for lunch but we were drawn to the most incredible salad buffet I have ever seen. I’d like to say we all stuck with the healthy option but we were encouraged by our hosts to try the famous turkey chilli fries too. Well, it would have been rude not to!
Deer Valley certainly is an upmarket resort and the hotels on offer live up to that reputation. We visited the Montage at Deer Valley which is an impressive luxury hotel. The family friendly hotel has an informal restaurant called Daly’s Pub which has its own bowling alley. The huge spa was beautiful with a stunning pool area and has a mere 28 treatment rooms! We were also lucky enough to visit and dine in the the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. Named after Norwegian Olympic Gold Medal skier Stein Eriksen, Stein's is a grand ski-in ski-out hotel, and is so exclusive its even got its own chair lift.
Road Trip through Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park
By Kirstin Thatcher
Road to Ruby's
We'd already had a sensational four days skiing, but it's the other destinations you can visit in a true Ski Safari that turns your holiday into an extraordinary experience. An easy four-hour drive from Park City is Bryce Canyon National Park. We were urged by colleagues who had been before to visit a touristy shop, Ruby’s General Store, and 'quirky' would be a good word to describe it! If you need to grab some presents for back home, here's the place to do it! Of course, we were here to experience the views of Bryce Canyon, and stopped at one of the easy-to-find photo spots to take in this spectacular feat of nature.
A further two hours on the road, we arrived in Springdale in Zion National Park. We swiftly checked ourselves into our accommodation for the night, the understated yet stylish Cable Mountain Lodge. There was no rest for the wicked! We dumped our bags and headed off to meet Savage, our tour guide for the Sunset Jeep Safari. Wow! This was breath-taking, exhilarating, funny and - at times - a little scary (if like me, you don’t like heights)! The two hour tour, hosted by Zion Adventure Group is something that we recommend you try too, taking you to some of the best spots in the area and provide running commentary of the history of this amazing place.
Oscar’s was our chosen spot for dinner, we tucked into a mix of huge burgers, BBQ ribs and fries, washed down with a well-deserved pitcher of beer! Springdale has plenty to keep you occupied for a one or two night stay and the scenery never tires. The next day we decided on an easy hike up to the three-tiered Emerald Pools, which took around two hours. We recommend setting off early in the morning to avoid crowds and get a parking spot to take the shuttle to the hike start.
24 hours in Las Vegas
By Tara Rogers
Travellers are split into two types: the ones that like to plan their days with meticulous precision, and the type that like to go with the flow with spontaneous abandon. Our group fell into the first category, which was particularly useful when navigating 24 hours in Vegas. Kirstin had learned from her previous visit that it's best to pick three things you want to do (rather than try to do it all - you just won't!). On our list? 1. Drink a yard-long Margarita at Margaritaville; 2. Ride the New York New York Rollercoaster and 3. Eat an all-you-can-eat buffet (we chose The Cosmopolitan's). We accomplished all three, and in that order (for reasons you can probably imagine). A word of warning: wear flats when you visit Las Vegas: you cannot overestimate how many miles you'll cover, even for a quick trip like ours.
Claire, Kirstin, Morna and Tara flew with United Airlines from Heathrow to Salt Lake City with a connection at Chicago. Although there is no direct flight to Salt Lake City, the advantage is you clear immigration at Chicago, meaning your arrival at Salt Lake City is swift and it's just a short transfer or drive to the resort.
A 14 night Utah Ski Safari starts FROM £1325pp based on 2 adults travelling and includes accommodation, flights and car hire. Request a quotation or call us on 01273 224 060 for more information.
Skier, four seasons.