Rhythm and Blues in Utah
Guest blogger Louise Hudson is a ski writer with newspapers such as The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and Calgary Herald, many different magazines, and also a ski blogger at: http://onetwoski.blogspot.com
Just as I leave Utah, it gets dumped on! It’s so hard to get the timing right this season, wherever you ski. Up until recently, the media has been full of no snow, poor snow, thin snow, bad snow almost everywhere! But that doesn’t give anyone an excuse to pack away the skis. Lucky locals like Emily Summers at Deer Valley are still notching up 40 days and counting this season – she says she’s aiming for 60 plus!
So how come Summers is still enjoying Winter? It’s all about attitude, rather than snow conditions: getting outdoors, enjoying the uplifting mountain scenery, sensual sunshine and crisp corduroy and motoring multiple mileage from edge to edge of the piste map.
For beginners and intermediates, greens and blues all over Salt Lake City’s closest resorts are relatively unaffected by the drought. Grooming crews continue to manicure these trails assiduously and, due to early season snowfalls and expedient snowmaking, they are still in cruising condition. I should know, I skied all the trails at Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Park City and Deer Valley recently when the drought had dragged on for over a month.
Now, I’m a veteran skier, manic for moguls and so passionate about powder that I will ski inches from trees, face-whipped by branches, in order to nab those last inches of soft stuff. So I could have been disappointed in my Utah trip timing. However, I am also a lover of leisurely bluebird days spent honing my skills and, once I relaxed into what I call ‘rhythm and blues’, I had an elevating and energizing experience enlivened by sunshine and azure skies.
My first ski day was at Snowbird, cruising the blues with two locals, benefiting from insider knowledge and different perspectives on the slopes and area. Anyone can do the same by joining the free hosting service at each resort which so many people undervalue. As the sensational sunshine warmed the top layer of snow, we tipped into double diamond terrain at just the right time of day and found surprisingly edgy bumps and tree routes.
Coming originally from Brighton in the UK, I was thrilled to ski its namesake in Utah, next day, enjoying the perfect panoramas so diametrically opposed to the flat seascapes of my hometown. Having scoped out the rustic and ranchy Silver Fork Lodge on the way in, Prosecco on the patio with comfort food was a great way to top off the day.
Staying in the alpine atmosphere of Solitude next day was a total joy for me, having spent my teens, 20s and 30s skiing in Europe. So pretty with its gabled and shuttered architecture, the undulating, tree-lined skiing was equally charismatic. And I got a hint of more typical Utah beneficence with an overnight nine inches of fresh feathery pow! With its Austrian motif, the Inn at Solitude reminded me of my early family ski days which induced my lifelong love of skiing. After a pub crawl around all the après ski venues, cheese fondue in the Honeycomb Grill was the ultimate reward for a full day spent sloughing the slopes.
Satisfying a longstanding ambition to stay in downtown Park City right near the Town Lift, Days 4 and 5 were spent exploring this picturesque, large-scale resort, pipped to be the biggest ski resort in America when it merges with Canyons next season. I spent the two days in my ‘rhythm and blues’ zone, fluently linking short-swing style turns on minutely manicured runs drenched in sunlight. To add an exquisite edge to my Park City stay, I lodged at historic Washington School House, imbibing the calm, cool and cultured interior, indulging in decadent delicacies for breakfast and après ski and popping out for a lavish dinner at succulent Silver.
Onward to Deer Valley, I was impressed by multiple magical moments at the Montage Deer Valley. Known to some as ‘Dear’ Valley because of the high price tags and mega mansions, the resort offers exclusivity and quiet number-capped sculpted slopes. Set right in the middle of the tree-lined trails, the Montage prides itself on tiptop, intimate service with lots of wow factors adding up to extra value for money: free gourmet s’mores and hot chocolate by the firepits every pm, live après ski music and free Roman-reminiscent spa. And where else could you stumble upon Ryan Innes – of The Voice fame – singing as sensuously and professionally as Bruno Mars, for free all evening in the lobby lounge? And it’s not as ‘dear’ as people imagine: the new Burgers and Bourbon restaurant, for example, is priced similarly to any casual eatery around town but has the benefit of the biggest bourbon selection in Utah and a burgeoning burger menu - all available to both residents and general public.
At the end of the week, I was so glad I skied 9-4 regardless of conditions. I am now ski fit without energy depletion, altitude acclimatized, healthy and happy with the Vit D bonus, and ready for the next big dump.