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Ski Utah Interconnect Tour

Thanks Jennifer for this great article about Utah.  Old Town Guest House, B&B and the owner Deb Lovci appreciate it!!

 

UTAH-How’s this for a brazen claim? Utah has the greatest snow on earth.

Utahn skiers and other outdoorsy types slip that bold statement into casual conversation. Drivers get it emblazoned on licence plates. It’s a marketing slogan, admittedly, but one that had tourism officials endure an epic trademark battle up to the U.S. Supreme Court with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (“The Greatest Show on Earth” folks) in order to keep using.

Snow hyperbole aside, here is an actual fact: Ten of Utah’s 14 ski hills are within 30 minutes of Salt Lake City so people can tackle a new resort each day, if desired, plus have “Ski City” to play in every night.

You can even ski four to six hills in one day. Deb Lovci, lead guide for the Ski Utah Interconnect Tour, calls this experience “pretty unique. You’re not jumping in a van. You’re not jumping in a helicopter. It’s muscle power. It’s for that adventurous skier.”

The route changes depending on the conditions, but usually hits Deer Valley Ski Resort, Park City Mountain Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta Ski Area and Snowbird resort.

“So many people feel they might not be good enough and they show up tentative and anxious,” says Lovci over a Mexican feast at Red Iguana in Salt Lake City. “I wish I had that magic wand to tell them (a) you’re going to be safe and (b) you’re going to have fun.”

Lovci, a Coloradoan, is a staunch “greatest snow on earth” believer. “The snow stays drier because we’re a high mountain desert and we have such little moisture in our air. You can’t make a snowball — we just don’t have the moisture.”

The way University of Utah atmospheric scientist Jim Steenburgh, author of Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth, explains it, is that specific climate conditions that brew over the Wasatch Range resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons create light, dry snow. Light snow falls on heavier snow and creates “flotation.” Meanwhile, the right number and strength of “Goldilocks storms” also help produce “just right” snow conditions.

It’s a little cerebral, but I can say the Utah snow was kind to this lapsed skier during a half day at Park City under the watchful eye of guide Steve Parker. Things have changed since I last skied in 2009. Skis are shorter and “parabolica,” and boots are in “mondo sizing.” You’re not supposed to wear a hat under your helmet and nothing goes in your boot except “leg and sock,” according to Eric Bjornn, client relations manager at Ski ’N See rentals.

What’s unique here is that this resort is home to the National Ability Center, so you’ll share the slopes with people with physical and mental challenges using adaptive and customized equipment.

What Parker really loves — besides the way you can have kosher meals in Silverado lodge or take the Town Lift or Quittin’ Time run to the town of Park City for lunch — is the fact that historic silver mining buildings are scattered throughout the resort, bearing plaques for history buffs.

The other thing Parker loves is Vail’s EpicMix app that tells you lift line times and tracks your movement with RFID-enabled lift tickets. We did five runs and accomplished 4,256 vertical feet in a couple of hours. He achieved 1 million vertical feet last season.

Over at the five-star Deer Valley Ski Resort (which as the name suggests is a ski-only mountain), my ski legs are too shaky to continue so I unwind over tea with Ryan Mayfield, content and social media manager. If I’d known All Seasons Adventures was on-site and offering winter fly-fishing excursions, I would have rallied.

Instead we chatted about Deer Valley’s ski valets, free ski storage and limited lift tickets to reduce crowds. The big draw here is apparently the food. The luxury resort flies in seafood daily for an evening buffet at the Snow Park Village base area that includes a poke station. At night, Empire Canyon Lodge turns out four-course meals served from stone fireplaces.

Don’t get the wrong impression — Utah’s resorts aren’t all posh. Go to a “locals mountain,” such as Alta Ski Area,which is actually another rare, skier-only zone. “We allow snowboarders here, but they have to have skis on,” quips marketing and public relations director Connie Marshall over lunch at Alta Lodge.

The area’s five, family-run lodges have a tradition of providing breakfast and dinner since the town of Alta has just 232-odd residents. Word is you can even join the après-ski scene in your bathrobe. What Marshall really likes, though, is the fact this former silver-mining area has stayed alive with skiing. “I think it’s neat to think these canyons and mountains have several lives.”

Back in Salt Lake City, I meet Yeti, the mythical snow creature who searched the planet for “the Greatest Snow on Earth” and settled in Utah. OK, technically it was the inflatable Yeti since the “real” Yeti was at an out-of-town wedding, but it was a fitting end to the ski side of my Utah time.

I had just met with Jerry Jensen, one of the lawyers who successfully defended Utah in that “trademark dilution suit” with Ringling so it could keep using the promotional phrase, “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” The state actually started using the phrase in 1962 but the legal battle ran from 1988 to 1997 and was settled before Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics (something that comes up in most conversations about snow).

“I think that was a great victory for the state, and I felt like I was doing something for the state of Utah,” Jensen reminisces. “Thanks for letting me relive one of my victories.”

So does Jensen believe Utah’s snow is the greatest? “It’s a great advertising slogan, but I don’t know how you prove it.” He skis with his grandsons, loves Snowbird and takes an annual ski trip to one of Utah’s best-kept secrets —Beaver Mountain.

After posing for pictures with Yeti, Jensen drives away in a car bearing — you guessed it — a “Greatest Snow on Earth” licence plate.

Jennifer Bain was hosted by the Utah Office of Tourism and its partners, which didn’t review or approve this story.

When you go

Get there: I flew Delta from Toronto to Salt Lake City.

Get around: I took the All Resort Express shuttle from the airport to Park City. Canyon Transportation is another option, and it also has camper Jeep rentals. You can get from the airport to downtown Salt Lake City by public transit on the TRAX/light rail for $2.50 (U.S.) Car rentals are another option.

Interconnect Tour: The Ski Utah Interconnect Tour costs $395 and runs daily for up to 12 advanced to expert skiers with two guides. You’ll ski four to six areas in resort and backcountry terrain. You must be 16 to ski with a parent or 18 to come without one.

Ski deals: The Ski City Super Pass lets you visit Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude, and get a free ride out there from Salt Lake City on TRAX light rail and UTA ski buses.

Eat: In Park City, I ate at Burgers & Bourbon in the Montage (get a bourbon cocktail), Legends Bar & Grill at the Park City Mountain Resort’s base area (get the gnocchi), and High West Saloon in Park City (get the chicken schnitzel).

Do your research:skiutah.com, parkcitymountain.com, deervalley.com, alta.com, visitparkcity.com, visitsaltlake.com,visitutah.com

And of course:  Old Town Guest House, Park City’s only Bed & Breakfast.  www.oldtownguesthouse.com