Park City Pleasures
Head to Canyons for great terrain and so much more.
Courtesy of Canyons Resort
Call me a ski nut. I try to get in as many downhill days as possible and to rip as many runs as I can before lunch. I’m first in line on a powder day, and I like to hit the terrain parks to catch a little air. Life doesn’t get much better than a day on the slopes. Except when the temperature is below zero, and you freeze your tail off sitting on the chairlift, and have to go into the lodge to warm up. Boring! Which is why I was intrigued to hear that Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah, installed North America’s first chairlift with heated seats and a bubble to block the wind. As far as I’m concerned, this invention is long overdue.
The odd thing, however, was that I hadn’t heard of Canyons, even though I have skied most of the best resorts in California, Colorado, and Utah. I was a little skeptical that this could be the resort of my dreams. I had to check it out.
Now, truth be told, if you are a hard-core skier who rocks KT-22 at Squaw, you’ll probably be happier on Utah’s world-renowned steeps at Alta and Snowbird. But if you like fresh-cut corduroy and a mix of terrain, including tree skiing, terrain parks, and some expert double blacks, Canyons will not disappoint.
The main thing to know is that Canyons is huge: 4,000 acres of skiable terrain. That’s nearly twice the size of Kirkwood. The other thing is that it is delightfully deluxe. Originally called Park City West, the resort opened in 1968, and has changed hands several times, each time with major new improvements. Talisker, a residential development company, bought Canyons in 2008 and has pumped more than $50 million into the resort to make it a destination. It seems to have had an effect: Canyons just cracked the top-10 list in Ski magazine’s readers’ poll for the first time.
I can see why. The heated Orange Bubble Express represents the type of experience you’ll have here. I stuck my skis on a rolling rack, rather than carry them through the village. (Love that!) And there were none of those long lift lines I’m used to at Northstar. The food is not Tahoe grub; it rivals Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. While I’d always rather be skiing, even I could hang for a bit at the resort’s Lookout Cabin and enjoy a smoked Utah trout salad with grapefruit and arugula, along with the killer views of the Wasatch Mountains. All the meals at Canyons were consistently creative, delicious, and healthy. And who would expect fine, fresh cuisine on the top of a mountain in Utah in the middle of winter?
Really, I wish I’d had a few more days at Canyons, and not just so I could get to all that great terrain, or so I could soak up more of that sublime service: This winter paradise thinks it’s a Carnival Cruise on snow. You can soar above the trees on a zip line between two canyons. Or if you are afraid of heights, like me, opt for snowshoes, and hike the deserted and peaceful canyon between ski ridges.
But whatever you do, do not miss the Ultimate Mountain Experience Fantasy Camp, with former Olympic athletes. Racing behind Olympic downhill skier Kaylin Richardson is some of the best fun I’ve ever had on snow. After she gave me a few pointers, I was able to stay on her tail on the blues. She also told us about her days on the tour with Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, racing World Cup—very cool. (Plus, she had the warmest gloves on the mountain. I’m still jonesing for a pair of her Astis Mittens.)
In my short trip, I did squeeze in a totally exhilarating dogsled ride and one visit to the charming town of Park City, chockablock with chic boutiques, intriguing art galleries, and more fabulous restaurants.
The highlight of Park City is the one-of-a-kind High West Distillery and Saloon, with some very fine small-batch whiskey, and a chairlift by its back door, making it the only ski-in, ski-out whiskey distillery in the United States. Take the tour, too, because learning how the distillery makes whiskey and tasting how it mellows with age was a treat.
Of course, there are several luxury hotels at the resort, but I quite enjoyed the Waldorf Astoria. It’s a little off the beaten path, about a half-mile from Canyons’ village, so I missed some of the fun of staying in the village. But it’s a quiet and relaxing spot. It has its own gondola to whisk you to the Orange Bubble Express, and the ski valets store and manage all your pesky ski gear. Plus, the Waldorf has the Golden Door Spa, the highest of high-end spas. I could have almost skipped my amazing deep-tissue massage because I so enjoyed relaxing in the spa’s fireside lounge, where you sit and sip vitamin-packed tomato broth in front of a fire, toasty as can be.
I’d take the family back to Canyons in a nanosecond, but about that chairlift: Well, it would be good in a blizzard to block the snow and wind, but on our first ride, 7 a.m. first tracks with the temperature in the single digits, we still shivered on frozen seats. And later, after the sun had warmed up the day, we didn’t need the mildly warm heated seats. Sigh.
So, don’t go to Canyons for the Orange Bubble Express. Go for lots of great skiing, delicious food, and other ways to enjoy the good life in the mountains.
Canyons Resort, (888) 226-9667, canyonsresort.com.