Why You Must Ski Out West This Year
“Have you ever been skiing out West?” — I have been asked this question a hundred times. My answer is always the same. I grew up in New Jersey and skied in the Catskills. After I got married I moved to Vermont and have five ski resorts within an hour’s drive of where I live. Therefore, I only ski the East. That was until I got invited by Ski Utah to ski out West at Park City Mountain and try the ‘Greatest Snow on Earth®’.
At 50, I thought my days of skiing might be coming to a close. Certainly, trying something as intimidating as skiing out West was off my radar. After all, I only know how to ski on ice, and not even that well, so how would I handle powder, bowls, and miles of trails. Turns out pretty well.
Park City: A Winter Playground for Skiers
The proximity of Salt Lake City’s Airport to Utah’s ski resorts make it the ultimate destination for skiers. The majority of Utah’s ski resorts are located within an hour’s drive of the airport. Park City Mountain is merely 35 minutes away making it very easy to escape to the slopes for just a few days.
Should I Rent a Car?
There is no need to rent a car. Instead, I’d highly recommend using Canyon Transportation to take you to your hotel. They are fast, reliable and using them couldn’t be easier. Upon arrival at the airport, simply check into their desk adjacent to the baggage claim area and within minutes a representative will whisk you out to your awaiting vehicle. The drivers are courteous and knowledgeable. Our driver gave us a quick Utah history lesson on our ride. It was like having my own personal tour guide on the way up to the mountain.
Once you get to the mountain you won’t need a car either. Park City is the only ski resort with lift access that goes directly into town. You can ski right into the High West Distillery if you’d like. Park City also has an environmentally conscientious free public bus system. These zero-emission buses make stops at most of the resorts and provide easy access to town.
Where Should I Stay?
Park City is made up of two distinct areas; the Mountain Village and the larger Caynons Village. Both have a wide variety of accommodations to suit all types of visitors. There are vacation rentals, lodges, and luxury properties. I stayed at the ski-in, ski-out Grand Summit Hotel. Set at the base of the Canyon Mountain, it is just a few steps from their back door to the orange bubble express. The hotel boasts loads of amenities that will make your ski vacation ultra relaxing like in-room grocery delivery, hot tubs, a sauna, steam room, and spa.
The hotel overlooks the ‘ski beach’ where people hang out for après ski. It is also alongside the village which has an ice skating rink, firepits, lots of shops, and plenty of restaurants. Be sure to make a reservation at The Farm, the award-winning farm-to-table restaurant. They use locally sourced ingredients in their dishes which must be why everything tastes so fresh.
What is Skiing Like in Park City?
Park City Mountain Resort is the largest ski resort in the United States. It boasts seventeen peaks, fourteen bowls and seven terrain parks spread out over a total of 7,300 acres. There are a whopping 348 trails! You will find wide open groomers, powder-filled bowls and plenty of black diamond runs. The sheer size of it all could make it slightly terrifying for anyone there for their first visit.
One of the best ways to experience Park City for the first time is to ski with a professional guide. My son and I were fortunate enough to ski with Alex Fleet, one of Park City’s finest. He took us on a peak-to-peak adventure I will never forget. I can’t remember the last time that I was first and last chair.
Having a guide map out our runs and navigate all of the chairlifts enabled us to cover more ground than we would have on our own. Truth be told, skiing with Alex made me fall in love with skiing all over again. In addition to a guide, I also recommend insurance for skiing to protect yourself and your gear.
Should I Bring My Own Gear?
I prefer to travel with just a roll-on. By using a ski rental delivery service, I was able to avoid the hassle of checking bags and paying extra baggage fees. Ski Butlers meets you right to your hotel room. A knowledgeable staff member will arrive with multiple pairs of skis, boots, and poles. They will bring enough gear with them to ensure the right fit. In less than thirty minutes we were ready to get on the slopes.
What Kind of Lift Ticket Should I Get?
Consider purchasing an Epic Pass. If you ski more than five days a year you will get more than your monies worth out of it. A full Epic Pass gives you unlimited and unrestricted access to 65 resorts. For me, living in Vermont, I use the Epic Pass at Stowe Mountain Resort and Okemo. Then if I want to ski Park City for vacation, my lift tickets are already covered. This significantly reduces my vacation costs.
Epic Pass Benefits:
- Discounted lodging – 20% off the best available rate when available at all of the Vail Resorts locations.
- Ski-with-a-friend and Buddy Tickets – discounted lift tickets for family and friends.
- PEAKS Reward – a free membership program that earns free lift tickets, lessons and more.
Keep your eye out in the fall for the best deals on pre-seasons passes.
Why Park City?
Famously known for the Sundance Film Festival, this silver mining town was founded in the late 1800s. It is now known as one of the best ski towns in the country. In 1940 the first ski hill was created but what really put Park City on the map was the 2002 Olympic Games. Keep your eye out for an Olympic return. They have a bid for out 2030 games.
A huge draw for vacationers is the historic section of Park City. Along the streets, you will find colorful buildings with saloon style architecture that house boutique shops, wine bars, art galleries, and coffee houses. Everything is within walking distance although there is a trolley that will stop anywhere along the street.
There are dozens of world-class restaurants, gastropubs, and breweries to choose from as well. We enjoyed a great meal at the Wasatch Brew and Pub. Despite being landlocked, many park city restaurants specialize in seafood that is brought in daily from Alaska, California and even Maine.
Although this was my first time skiing out West, it won’t be my last. This season I will be using my Epic Pass to check out Vail Ski Resort.
Disclosure: Complimentary accommodations, meals, transportation, and activities were provided by Ski Utah and their partners. No other compensation was received for this review. This post reflects the honest opinion of my experience without outside influence.