Sunday, March 06, 2011

Snowbird, Utah

This is the fourth and final post chronicling my 2011 ski trip to Utah, a pilgrimage that will definitely occur on an annual basis as long as I am able. Snowbird was certainly the biggest as far as the resorts go. 3,200 foot vertical drop and tons of trails. Great skiing (as good as Alta) and it also had the added bonus of the high speed tram which gets you to the top in about five minutes, and this really allows you to get in a lot more downhill time. Although the skiing was just as good as Alta, the lodge lacked the atmosphere of Alta, which is two miles away. It had sort of a 1970's utilitarian feel to it, a concrete and steel creation that seems more at home as part of a freeway overpass or some other sort of municipal infrastructure construction. Still, it was laid out well and was certainly doing what it was designed for. I liked the place very much but still favor Alta. Another minor drawback was the presence of rowdy snowboarders who act like they own the place and felt little need to act courteously with their fellow snow sports enthusiasts. They really did not get too out of hand I suppose, but were overly aggressive at times. Their presence was not in any way missed up the road. I did not take as many pictures here because frankly, I was having too much fun skiing. After Alta, I'd say that this was my favorite Utah resort. Being that you can get a combo lift ticket that allows you to ski both places it is a sure bet that I'll be back here. in fact, you can get a super pass that allows you to ski Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton, although I'd just be interested in the first two.      

This is the view from the top of the high speed tram. Salt lake city is off to the right.
Out the rear window of the tram is the Snowbird lodge and other village structures .  
A better shot of the lodge. 
This view is off the back side of the tram...
This shot of me is standing right where the last picture was taken, getting ready to ski down the run.

This is the top, right before I took off down the mountain... 
...and at the bottom, looking back up at where I just skied. This is the "bookends traverse" to "white diamonds" that you see in the trailmap below.
Rear of mountain trailmap.
Front view trailmap. My favorite run was a black diamond called "Primrose Path", an over one mile long natural half pipe.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Alta, Utah

This is the third installment of my 2011 Utah ski odyssey. Alta was absolutely the finest ski resort that I have ever had the pleasure of carving turns at, and I will certainly be skiing there every year as long as my legs will hold me up. This place is old school, and it shows. Built in 1939, it has that authentic feel and not the Disney on snow feel that so many resorts like Solitude have. From the panoramic views, rough hewn furniture in the lodges, and a million other little things that are reminiscent of a European ski resort, this is what skiing is meant to be. Other resorts may have 5 star hotels, wonderful spas and shopping, etc., and if that is what you are after, fine, go to Vail or Deer Valley, but if you want the best possible overall skiing experience (sorry snowboarders, you'll have to go 2 miles down the canyon to Snowbird) this is the place to be. I never believed in love at first sight, and then I saw her, and her name was Alta. Unbelievably Ski Magazine ranks this jewel at #28th overall, but let's break down those numbers:
Snow- #1
Terrain variety- #8
Challenge- #5
Overall satisfaction-#1!

Well, there you have it. Not in the top ten for on mountain food, lodging, dining, terrain parks (they don't have or need one), off hill activities, or family programs. This is a skier's mountain, and this is what they do: provide the best skiing experience in America. End of story.
Getting ready for my first run near the base lodge.
 Here I am at the top of the Collins lift. It had been sunny most of the day, but as the lifts were getting ready to close the sun hid for a little while behind the clouds.
It began to burn through again just in time for my last run.  

 Even the parking lot had spectacular scenery. 

The deck of the Alta Lodge.

This cozy little bar is called the Sitzmark. It was very intimate, holding no more than 20 or so guests. It  made the top ten Apres-ski hot spots recently in USA Today. It was like traveling back in time to 1939. I had two beers here, the only drinking that I did for the entire trip.
The top photo was the right window next to the fireplace, this is the left. I am guessing the entire room is no more than 20 by 20 feet.
The Sheriff of Alta.

Alta trail map. the skier's map to Heaven (Nirvana, or Mecca. choose your own word for paradise).

Anyone lucky enough to ski here will attest to the wonder of this magnificent skier's mountain.