Utah's ski resorts encompass rich histories, colorful characters, and legends from the days of yore. We've collected some widely unknown and wacky facts about Utah's resorts for your enjoyment.
ALTA SKI AREA
The Emma Mine of Alta, Utah became so famous for its rich silver deposits that when the silver vein ran out, Britain and the U.S. almost went to war.
Hamburger Hill earned its name because you could often smell grilled hamburgers wafting out of the old Watson's Shelter as you skied down the run nearby.
Skiing pioneer, Alf Engen, of Oslo, Norway served as the Alta Ski School Director for 40 years, beginning in 1949. Alf is widely regarded as "The Father of the Powder Skiing Technique." Alf wanted the Cabin Hill area of Alta Ski Area to look just like a ski run in the Alps, so he planted trees there to replicate his favorite European run.
The Alta Environmental Center plants 2,400 trees each summer to accelerate the process of reforestation. The vast majority of old-growth trees in Little Cottonwood Canyon were removed to support silver mining operations and the town of Alta.
The Albion chairlift was originally named Never Sweat lift.
The iconic High Rustler ski run got its name from an old map depicting mining claims. The map identified the peak as Rustler Mountain.
Photo: Alan Engen Ski History Collection
Beaver Mountain was powered entirely by generators until 1988.
Anyone can privately rent the entire night operations of Beaver Mountain during the ski season! You can party on the mountain with all of your closest friends at a private ski area and it won't even leave you broke! Drop just $1,200 for a weeknight or $1,500 for a weekend night to enjoy the Beav in private.
Beaver Mountain's first tow rope was powered by the engine of an old DeSoto automobile.
In the days of yore, before there was a National Ski Patrol, the first skiers who arrived at Beaver Mountain each morning were given vests and told they were on the Beaver Mtn Ski Patrol for the day.
The ski run Dead Horse was named after a shepherd's horse who died in the area while the timber was being thinned for the ski run.
Beaver Mountain has been owned and operated by the same family, the Seeholzer's, for 72 years! You can expect to purchase your inexpensive lift ticket from the lovely Marge Seeholzer in the ticket office.
BRIAN HEAD RESORT
Brian Head Resort is named after the highest peak in the region, but nobody knows for certain how Brian Head Peak earned its name. The peak was originally known as Monument Peak and was used by early surveyors and expedition parties as a prominent landmark. One theory is that the name was derived from three-time Democratic presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan around the early 1900s. Another tale claims that explorer, John Wesley Powell spied the peak and named it after an official in the Geographical Survey Office named Bryan.
Brian Head Peak is Utah's highest ski area summit at 11,307 feet. From the top, you can see into the neighboring states of Arizona and Nevada.
The stone hut on the peak was built between 1935-1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
In the early days, the bulk of visitors to Brian Head came from Las Vegas. Many of the lifts and ski runs have been christened with Vegas-themed names. Roulette (Chair 5) is named for a gambling game and a number of its runs are named after bets or odds: Aught, Double Aught, Straight Up and Even Money are bets or payouts and Hard Times speaks for itself!
Stargazing around Brian Head truly is remarkable. The Cedar Breaks National Monument has been designated a "Dark Sky Park." The high altitude combined with the lack of development around the resort makes for excellent stargazing conditions.
Brighton's founder, Zane Doyle, banned ski-paragliding from Brighton when his son, Randy Doyle, the current General Manager, executed an unsuccessful landing in the parking lot atop a customer's car!
DEER VALLEY RESORT
All but a handful of Deer Valley Resort's ski run names are the names of mining claims in the area: Hawkeye, Hidden Splendor, Daly, and Know You Don't. Some of the exceptions are Stein's Way, Edgar's Alley and Supreme.
The ski run Supreme was named after founder Polly Stern's favorite racehorse, Supreme Sensation, though that was deemed too long for a ski run name so it was shortened to Supreme.
Heidi Voelker, Deer Valley's Ambassador of Skiing, was the first living person to ever be featured on a state license plate.
Before Deer Valley opened in 1981, private snowcat tours were given by Stein Eriksen. Birdseye and Wizard on Bald Mountain were the first two runs open to these exclusive tours.
With its upcoming 10th anniversary this winter, Eagle Point is one of Utah's newer resorts. The original Mount Holly opened in 1972 and Elk Meadows opened in 1985. Together, they comprise Eagle Point Resort.
Most weeks (excluding the holidays in December) Eagle Point is closed Tuesday through Thursday. When midweek storms blow in, the snow piles up and guests may enjoy as much as four FEET of snow on Friday mornings! Powder Fridays at Eagle Mountain must be experienced by all avid powderhounds.
Anyone can rent the entire resort with Eagle Point's "As You Wish" program. For corporate events, reunions, alumni events, weddings, or celebrations, it is possible to rent the entire resort operations for a truly exceptional experience. There are only a handful of resorts in the country capable of pulling this off!
Guests of the Canyonside Lodge can enjoy slopeside hot tubs located at the top of Canyonside Double Chair. Added bonus: bar service is available from the Canyonside Bar.
PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT
Park City was nearly a ghost town when a group of Park City miners pitched the idea of a ski resort as a last-ditch effort to save the town. In 1963 the ski area Treasure Mountain was opened by United Park City Mines, the last surviving mining cooperation in the town, with help from federal funding. When it opened, Treasure Mountain had the longest gondola in the U.S.
In 1963, Treasure Mountain used subway cars to navigate through old mining tunnels to cart skiers 2.5 miles through the mountain to the slopes. The ride was pitch back, cold, wet, and took over an hour. After the ride, skiers would use a mining elevator to ascend 1,750 feet to the base of Thaynes Canyon ski lift.
Today you can still ski or snowboard by many of the historic mining structures that still stand along the slopes of Park City Mountain. Park City also offers a free Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour -- click here for more info!
The old Powder Country bus shuttle used to be an old Bread Delivery box truck and back in the day, guests once had to hold on very tight! Nowadays, 4-wheel drive buses are used to facilitate access the 1,000+ acres of Powder Country at Powder Mountain.
These days, you can hop aboard a comfy snowcat to access the incredible terrain around the Lightning Ridge and Raintree areas. However, in the past, snowcats were outfitted with huge ropes for riders to hang on for access to Paradise, Lefty's and Mary's, (now accessed by chairlifts).
The Engen Brothers, of Alta fame, also helped to plan the layout for the original Snowbasin Resort. Cory Engen, the youngest of the Engen brothers, ran the Snowbasin ski school for a short stint until the 1950s.
The Allen Peak Tram at Snowbasin and the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky in Montana are the only two jib-back trams in the United States. An electric motor at the bottom of the tramway is used to effectively pull one cabin down, using that cabin's weight to pull the other cabin uphill. Snowbasin's legendary tram holds up to 15 people and takes guests to the top of Allen Peak where guests can see five states on a clear day – Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada.
Ski flick icon, Warren Miller, won The Eccles Cup Men’s Giant Slalom at Snowbasin in 1948. The race was held on Wildcat Bowl – a run guests can still enjoy today.
The name Snow Basin was changed from two words to one (Snowbasin) starting in the 1979-80 season.
Snowbasin was home to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games Downhill Course. The average speed of medalists was 64 mph and the top five finishers completed the course in less than 100 seconds!
How did the run Hot Foot Gully at Snowbird get its name? John Stratton, one of the original Snowbird ski patrollers, relayed this now famous story. After a big storm in February of 1975, John was out doing avalanche control work with some fellow patrollers. They threw charges in a gully in Peruvian Gulch. After they believed everything was clear, John skied out the gully and over a bomb that hadn't yet exploded. The bomb detonated exactly when John was skiing directly above it, blowing him right out of his skis. Miraculously, John was not injured, and from then on, the gully was dubbed: Hot Foot Gully.
How did Hole 5 get its name?
In the mid-70s, Snowbird planned to build a fifth lodge. Construction crews blasted a lot of bedrock and excavated quite a large area next to the Snowbird Center. As it turns out, the hotel was never built, but the hole remained and became known as Hole Five. Not wanting to waste capital investment, Snowbird paved over the area, put up a huge tent that could be disassembled in the winter, and used the space for summer events and conferences. From August through October it is now the main site of the Snowbird Oktoberfest. In the winter, it serves as an introductory slope for beginning skiers and snowboarders with a magic carpet.
The Snowbird aerial tramway was constructed in 1971 and was one of the resort's original lifts. After intense negotiation, a $3 million dollar contract was signed to construct the tramway with the European manufacturer, Garaventa. At the time, this was an unheard of sum for constructing a ski lift. This company also built and designed the tram at Jackson Hole.
SOLITUDE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Solitude's Challenger run, accessed via the Eagle Express chairlift, is the steepest groomed run in Utah.
Woodlawn, Solitude's longest run, winds a total of 3.1 miles along the floor of Honeycomb Canyon.
A number of films have been shot at Solitude over the years, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), starring Jim Carrey. Here's a clip of the scene where Solitude makes an appearance.
The Victorian rosewood bar located in the Owl Bar at Sundance was originally located in Thermopolis, Wyoming where it was frequented by the Owl Hoot Gang, the rival gang to Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang. The bar was purchased by Robert Redford and moved from Thermopolis to Sundance in 1994.
Robert Redford used the maintenance building at Sundance as his workspace when he edited the movie “Quiz Show”.
The run Hills Headwall is named after an employee, Jerry Hill, who has worked at Sundance for over 60 years now!
The name for the small eatery at the top of the mountain, “Bearclaw’s Cabin” came from the movie “Jeremiah Johnson.”
Before Sundance was a ski resort, the land was used for herding sheep.
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