Saturday, April 10, 2010

Park City Utah

Derek and I went to Salt Lake City Utah during his spring break from high school to get in a little skiing. Although we had originally planned to ski Alta and Snowbird , Mother Nature threw us a curve ball and we wound up skiing for two days at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City Utah, about a half hour drive through Parley's Canyon. Alta and Snowbird are in the Little Cottonwood Canyon, and wouldn't you know it, the night we arrived it snowed over two feet and the canyon was closed for two days. Totally cut off  from any road traffic at all due to avalanche danger. Because of several other SNAFU's regarding rental cars, lift ticket refunds and what not, Tuesday morning was spent on the telephone rearranging itineraries, and replacing goggles that were scratched up beyond use by Delta Airlines baggage handlers (I'm really starting to not like Delta).

So we decided that we'd take a drive and see the Great Salt Lake.

In Prehistoric times, it was what we call Lake Bonneville today. It had a surface area of nearly 20,000 square miles, a depth of over 1,000 feet, and was comparable in many respects to the Lake Michigan of today. It was formed 32,000 years ago. Because of long term flooding, seepage weakened the lava dam and caused the release of 1,200 cubic miles of water, causing the lake to lose 351 feet of its depth and shrinking the size of the lake by over 60% to its current size, which fluctuates between 1,700 to 3,300 square miles, depending on the drought conditions in the area. The salinity is much higher than the oceans, but the lake is not barren. It supports brine shrimp, which in turn provide food for migratory waterfowl. However, some of these waterfowl cannot be hunted as there is also the highest ever recorded level of methyl-mercury, 25 nanograms per millileter. This is 25 times higher than the waters of the Florida everglades. There is an interesting story about a Chilean Pink Flamingo "Pink Floyd" who escaped from the Tracy Aviary in 1987 and liked living on the brine shrimp so much that he made his home at the Great Salt Lake until 2005. Looking at this liquid desert, it made me shudder to think what could happen to our lakes in Michigan if some natural and/or man made catastrophe like this were to happen.

This is the Eastern shore. To the right are the Promontory Mountains. This is a penninsula jutting out from the north shore. It looks like the Forbidden Zone from "Planet of the Apes".

On Wednesday, Little Cottonwood Canyon was still closed, so we decided to ski in Park City. Park City has three excellent Resorts. Deer Valley , which was voted the best resort in North America by Ski Magazine, the Canyons which is Utah's largest resort, and our choice, Park City Mountain resort, rated #4 in North America. First thing that I learned is do not buy your lift ticket at the resort. Go to any ski shop in Salt Lake City and you can get a better deal. We paid $64 each for a one day lift ticket, but if you buy it at the resort they are $86. You can probably also find a good deal if you go to the front desk of your hotel. We stayed at the Little America and found that it was very nice. About $100 a night, tax included. It's centrally located and many restaurants are within walking distance. Originally I had not planned on renting a car as there is a bus that will take you to Alta or Snowbird right from the hotel, but the hotel concierge recommended a car as it's much easier than taking the bus with all your gear. Also, there is not a bus to the Park City resorts. It's only 30-45 minutes to any of the resorts so you have much more freedom to try different places. Derek liked Park City so much that we decided to go back a second day.
The Wasatch Mountains may not be as high as the Rockies, but the snow is excellent and the views? Well I'll let you be the judge.
Little G. Kickin' it old school at 11,000 feet.
This was taken at the top of the run "Georgeann". It's about 3,000 vertical feet above the resort. I estimate it to be 7.5 miles or so to ski to the bottom. It took about 15 minutes to ski to the bottom.
The view from Georgeann.
Way down there to the right is Park City. Zoom in to get a good look.
The beginning of Georgeann. It veers to the left through those evergreens.
Derek skis in front of me.
The Great Salt Lake from the air.
The Wasatch range.

All that I can tell you is that my time there was way too short. I'm going back and skiing as many of the resorts as possible. And I'm taking some powder skiing lessons, too. If you think you're a good skier, come out here and take the Pepsi challenge. Believe me, there is no better skiing anywhere.