Skier visits were up a whopping 29 percent over the past three years, surpassing 4 million visits. With strong state funding for tourism promotion and with many resorts pouring millions of dollars into improvements, the 2006-07 winter season promises to set another record.
There are 13 very different and unique winter sports resorts where you can enjoy what Utah calls the “Greatest Snow on Earth.” Eleven resorts are located within an hour of Salt Lake City International Airport. And with Delta Air Lines providing non-stop service to Utah from the state”s top 50 markets, it’s easy to get there. In fact, we personally think Salt Lake City has the easiest airport to get in and out of without question. Anyone can easily ski or snowboard on the day they arrive in Salt Lake City. And to find out how to ski for free in nearby Park City, visit www.parkcityinfo.com/skiing/quickstart and choose from three world-class ski resorts. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Here’s a look at the enhancements some of these stellar ski resorts underwent in recent months.
With 638 inches of snow last season, Alta continued its momentum by completing the “new” Watson Shelter mid-mountain restaurant, and adding art that reflects the resort’s past and present. That bit of yesteryear will propel the “new” Watson Shelter down the same nostalgic road as the original structure built in 1938.
I don’t know any other resort that offers the “Ski Free After 3” program for those die-hards fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of it. What a deal for locals!
The Canyons Resort has officially opened the newest area in its 3,700 total acres of terrain. Over 200 acres of never-skied-before runs, and the newest lift on the mountain, DreamCatcher, present one of the best options for tree skiing at any resort—all north-facing. The brand new lift services eight new runs on mostly upper intermediate to expert terrain.
Previously a bottleneck, the heavily traveled Tombstone lift was updated to a high- speed six-pack, in-creasing uphill capacity by a staggering 52 percent. Almost everyone on the mountain rides Tombstone at least once during their stay, so this is a huge improvement to The Canyons.
Being the busiest hub at The Canyons, mid-mountain Red Pine Lodge received a much-needed facelift with the addition of 175 seats and an upscale second floor with several flat-screen TVs, a first-class beer bar, and exceptional views of the activity outside—all part of $10 million in improvements.
Deer Valley Resort, established in 1981, continues to rate high with the best service on the mountain and the highest percentage of groomed runs in North America. It’s a unique experience for avid skiers who want everything first-class.
Spending $7 million on improvements, the resort replaced the Sterling triple chairlift on Bald Mountain with a new high-speed detachable quad, giving skiers quicker access to main line runs. New glade skiing was created off of the Sultan chairlift for those choosing to go off-piste (off the groomed terrain and trails). Snow Park Lodge at the base was expanded and upgraded to include more amenities for guests. And with the replacement of four snowcats and one winchcat, Deer Valley’s legendary groomers will only get better this season.
With North America’s first ski area tunnel, Snowbird now houses a conveyor lift transporting skiers and riders from Peruvian Gulch into Mineral Basin. At the top of the brand new Peruvian Express high-speed quad, the 10-foot wide tunnel provides a four-minute ride to intermediate terrain in Mineral Basin, making it more accessible to skiers and riders, eliminating many switchbacks and the steepest pitch of Chip’s Run, and providing an efficient way to reach Hidden Peak without the use of the tram. It will definitely alter the traffic pattern on the mountain, giving skiers more choices.
And for those avid powder hounds, Snowbird now gives those with Internet access the ability to track new storms by simply going to www.snowbird.com/snowcam, which provides live shots of actual snow accumulation. A ruler with 4-, 8-, 12- and 16-inch gradations mounted on a winch allows it to be raised or lowered to the surface of the snow. The whole scene is lit so you’ll be able to see the snow falling any time of day or night.
A new triple chair called the Silver Star has been installed for the 2006-07 season providing guests with another way to access the mountain, and opening up three new intermediate runs. The resort also retrofitted the gearboxes in all of its detachable quads—a much needed improvement.
Fourteen new snowmaking guns were also installed to produce more snow early in the season, opening up more terrain sooner for guests, but also producing snow more efficiently.
Park City Mountain Resort will also continue the “Signature Runs,” rotating groomed advanced runs that provide intermediate skiers and riders an opportunity to experience more of the resort.
Just Keeps Getting Better
The reality is that all of Utah’s winter sports resorts are working hard to attract the adventure traveler by continually enhancing and improving facilities, restaurants, and terrain. Given the state’s reputation for long seasons and the powdery snow that skiers and boarders crave, Utah’s new slogan, “Life Elevated,” clearly says it all. A vacation experience at any of Utah’s signature winter resorts is never forgotten, and truly worth the effort. I promise you’ll keep coming back time and time again.
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