Road Tripping Through Colorado and Utah
In February I embarked on a road trip with my parents, experiencing two of my favourite Colorado resorts Beaver Creek and Aspen, together with 'The Greatest Snow on Earth' in Park City and Deer Valley, Utah.
My parents are avid, well-travelled skiers, although their legs are a little rusty! We had been planning a family ski holiday for a while, so I put together an itinerary that would combine a variety of skiing with some bonding time and a grand road trip across two states. We began our trip in Colorado, where we skied both Beaver Creek and Aspen, before driving over 800 miles via the Moab National Park, ending our adventure in Park City, Utah home of the lightest and driest powder in the world.
Our first stop was Beaver Creek where my parents found their inner ski spirit once again. The first class level of service and groomed runs meant we could all relax and warm our legs on long, cruisy blue runs in the sunshine. Stopping at Bachelor Gulch for a beer at the Ritz-Carlton while listening to live western music was an early highlight of the trip.
From Beaver Creek we travelled onto Aspen (a personal favourite US resort). It was rather a different experience to my last trip to Aspen in December 2015 because this time we avoided Aspen Highlands and advanced powder hunting, instead deciding to spend the days lapping the top of the beginner-friendly Buttermilk Mountain. My parents couldn’t quite believe just how few people were on the mountain, we really did have the slopes to ourselves. Well, except for the occasional fitness enthusiast ski tourer, tackling the mountain uphill!
The three of us really enjoyed our time in Aspen. With its welcoming locals, beautiful town, big range of dining options and world-class skiing, it’s always a resort that I love returning to. With big smiles on our faces, we packed up our car and headed out to drive from Colorado into Utah through the stunning Moab National Park.
Moab National Park
I’d been told that for a really authentic Utah experience we should head through the Moab National Park. I’d heard enthusiastic descriptions of sweeping desert landscapes, bordered by stunning sandstone formations. We weren’t disappointed! We drove on a meandering mountain road alongside the Colorado River with stunning red rock scenery shadowing our car as we listened to country music while passing the odd cowboy. As far as authentic American experiences go, this takes some beating.
We continued our drive and spent the day exploring Arches National Park (which has a small entrance fee), settling in for our stay at Red Cliff Lodge, a rustic old working ranch to enjoy a glass of locally produced Castle Creek wine.
The next day, before heading to Park City we drove to Canyonlands, a mini Grand Canyon (similar to Bryce Canyon). We stopped at various observation points along the route, which once again provided great views of dramatic landscapes.
Owing to a few too many ‘wow look at that’ stops along the way, we arrived into Park City quite late at night, but excited to experience the famous resort, which is continually growing in popularity. Upon arrival I was immediately wowed by the sheer expanse of the resort, with all base areas leading from the Highway 224.
Vail Resorts have owned Park City since 2014 and one significant change has seen the merging of Canyons and Park City, now connected by a high-speed gondola that makes this the largest single ski area in the US. With direct flights into Salt Lake City from the UK, we have seen a significant increase in interest for this Utah resort. The flights, with Delta and Virgin airlines, depart on various days throughout the week. Families travelling at half term can even enjoy a full seven days skiing, as you can ski on the day of departure with evening flights.
With over 7,300 acres of ski terrain, 17 peaks and 14 bowls, Park City is a winter playground. We enjoyed the groomed trails, but there is also world-class glade skiing and Utah’s famous dry powder! Snowboarders are in their element with superb terrain parks and natural half-pipes.
Utah hosted the 2002 winter Olympics, with a substantial amount of the action happening in Park City. The Olympic Park is still in operation and provides a great place for non-skiers or thrill seekers to enjoy some time off the mountain. My advice is to try the bobsledding, but ensure you avoid sitting at the back because that’s where you feel a little more of the impact as you slide down! For film enthusiasts who also love to ski, the Sundance Film Festival comes to town each January and during this period the slopes are almost deserted. But be warned, this is also the time when accommodation prices are at their highest.
The Historic Main Street in Park City
In 2016 Travel + Leisure magazine readers voted Park City their favourite town in all of the USA. Spend an hour or so walking along the main street and you’ll see why. Park City has its origins in the silver mining rush of the 1800’s and much of the small-town charm still exists. It is certainly a lot prettier than the name suggests, with rows of quaint shops and restaurants everywhere. Many original buildings still stand, with colourful wooden and brick fronted buildings that reminded me of Breckenridge and Steamboat.
The downtown area is fast establishing itself as a mountain dining paradise with a large selection of restaurants. The locals tell me that the dining options are continuously improving, with high-end restaurants and great value eateries springing up all over town. In Canyons the award winning restaurant The Farm, located at the base of Red Pine Gondola offers gourmet style après cuisine.
On mountain the food was of a very high quality, Miners Camp was a personal favourite. Eating wagyu beef burgers with stunning views of the slopes is something that shouldn’t be missed. In recent years it has been suggested that prices on the mountain are getting higher, however there is an excellent selection of food including salads and soups, which in typical American style tend to be huge and more affordable.
For those groups of guys and girls who wish to explore the nightlife the No Name Saloon is highly recommended, as is the High West Distillery where you can enjoy a fantastic whisky tour.
Where to stay in Park City
After a day on the mountain and feeling a little tired, we drove in the wrong direction when trying to find our accommodation and ended up in Kimball Junction rather than Canyons base area! I would certainly recommend hiring a Sat Nav if you’re going to be driving around Park City, because street signs aren’t always lit up as you would expect and it can lead to a bit of confusion. Well, I’m going to use that as my excuse anyway!
Kimble Junction is ideally located for those wanting to experience Park City, offering affordable accommodation just 10 minutes from the base of Canyons. The Landmark Inn is a great option as it offers a complimentary hassle-free shuttle to the base areas. In the evening time opposite Kimble Junction there is a large shopping area called ‘Redstone’ with a fantastic selection of eateries. We dined in the iconic American joint 'Five Guys', which has unforgettable burgers. Another favourite is ‘Ruby Tuesdays’ which offers great value dining options. For those in self-catering units there is a huge supermarket/liquor store enabling you to stock up for a longer stay.
If you're looking for ski in ski out accommodation then the Canyons area is well suited. Alternatively, the newly renovated Park City Peaks Hotel has modern rooms and is closer to the nightlife of main street. Accommodation options in a lower price range often don’t run a hotel shuttle, but most are within close proximity of a bus stop which is serviced by the town's fare-free transit system and is the easiest way to get to and from the historic main street station area.
For those wishing to use Park City as a base for visiting the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas or other Utah resorts - see our Utah and Las Vegas Ski Safari.
Deer Valley is one of the few 'skiers only' mountains left in the US. As an enthusiastic snowboarder I felt it was important for me to learn about the full Ski Safari customer experience and pick up skiing after 10 years of having my feet stuck together! Skiing was certainly not like riding a bike, and it required a lot of patience from both myself and my instructor.
We stayed at the boutique Scandinavian-inspired Stein Eriksen Lodge, ski-in ski-out alpine accommodation positioned right on the side of Deer Valley's slopes, two minutes from Base Lodge. I arose to a day's skiing with heated boots and staff carrying my skis onto the piste each morning. For those looking for that little extra luxury, the Stein Eriksen Lodge is the place to go, but don’t just take my word for it; the hotel has previously been voted world's best ski hotel at the World Ski Awards.
The ski instruction in Deer Valley is world-class, with knowledgeable instructors who tailor their tuition depending on each group's ability level each morning and manage to give one-on-one help very effectively throughout the course of the day. After a couple of runs down ‘Ontario’ I soon found my ski feet again. Deer Valley I believe is a perfect mountain for intermediate skiers (intermediate runs make up almost 50% of the slopes) who are looking for perfectly manicured groomed blue runs, wide pistes, and quiet slopes (Deer Valley limits the numbers of skiers on the mountain each day). I was there for the first day of Presidents weekend, understandably it was busier than normal on the slopes but by usual standards in USA resorts it was still fairly quiet.
When staying in Deer Valley most dining can be found within the luxury hotel properties. The Stein Eriksen Lodge has Troll Hallen Lounge, a popular après spot which often plays live country music in the evening. The seafood buffet served within Snow Park Lodge is also highly recommended.
For guests who wish to ski both Deer Valley and Park City (using the Two Resort International Pass), I would recommend staying at Zermatt Utah which is located within 15 minutes of both resorts. This Swiss style property is excellent value and has a ‘resort feel’ with bars and restaurant on site. Perfect for families, with hotel rooms and large condos coupled with an array of activities to keep the children happy including a huge swimming pool and even scuba diving within a geothermal spring known as ‘The Crater’!
For skiers looking to tick a few things off their bucket list, purchasing the Ski City Super Pass will allow you to stretch your legs a little further and explore Utah’s hidden powder gems Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and Solitude.
Experience it Yourself
After two weeks road tripping and lots of snowboarding and skiing with my adventure-seeking parents I can honestly say it was the trip of a lifetime. The times as a child with my dad carrying my skis to the slopes are long gone, instead I was guiding my parents round the mountain acting as a tour guide, carrying their equipment to the lifts. Lots of special memories were created and it's a trip I'll never forget.
For anyone wanting to experience unique landscapes, world-class skiing and luxurious accommodation then both Colorado and Utah are areas to visit, with lifelong memories to be made. Call our North America ski specialists on 01273 224060 or request a quotation online for more advice on skiing in the USA.
For an easy twin-centre ski holiday, you can combine Colorado with Utah, driving seven hours to Park City, flying into Denver and out of Salt Lake City.
Boarder: Skied as a child all over Europe and North America, switched to boarding as a teenager. Lived in Canada (Banff and Whistler) for two years in 2013-2015.