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TR: SLC 23 Feb - 11 Mar [long]

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
This was my first trip to Utah. I was there on my own and the budget was all-important, so I stayed in Sandy at the Extended StayAmerica. As I've posted elsewhere here, IMO it's stunningly good value. Since I gave a pretty good run-down of the place in the other post I won't repeat myself here. It's nicer than I expected it to be, given the price. Since I was staying 16 nights they gave me the weekly rate of $260 including tax.

To get from the airport to Sandy, I used a taxi. Big mistake: it cost me nearly $50. A much better alternative is Express Shuttle. (I have no affiliation with them except as a delighted customer.) The drivers are incredibly friendly and were right on time both trips that I used them for (I did a side trip to New York during my time in Sandy). They have desks in both terminals by the baggage carousels. One way to Sandy they were $20 including the tip. According to their admin staff, you need to make a reservation for your inwards journey, but according to my driver, you don't so long as you're not going to downtown SLC. Phone: 1-800-397-0773

The ski bus system was great -- my only complaint being the buses don't go all the way out to Sandy during the middle of the day. Sometimes it was a bit of a pain to wait till 3:30. But I know the demand just wouldn't be there for extended services, and other than that it's great. The drivers were mostly very friendly and very patient. Note that you don't have to put your skis on the outside of the bus! There is a "cage" inside for them -- and that way you don't have to worry about them falling off as the bus lurches around the corners.

Weather: the first week I was there we had blue skies every day. The second week saw some snow each day, sometimes significant amounts both during the day and at night. The first week I was stunned with how sunburnt I got. I thought New Zealand, being under the ozone hole, had the worst UV in the world. When I'm skiing at home, I use 30+ sunblock about every hour and a half. In Utah I actually got quite burnt doing this. In the end I was applying it every 40 mins or so.

Since I was using the ski bus, I only skied the 4 cottonwood resorts. I did multiple days at all but Snowbird. Following are my comments on each, sorted alphabetically by resort name. Bear in mind that when I'm skiing overseas I tend to be very conservative -- I may have travel insurance but I don't want to have to use it! I mainly enjoy cruising on the groomers. I like steep groomers some of the time, but I spend most of my time just cruising on the easier blues.

Snow, overall: great groomers every day the first week. During the second week, depending on which resort I was at, I continued to find great groomers and at times had to cope with some pretty chopped-up stuff. But the constant through all of this variety was the incredibly dry snow, so different from the Sierra Cement-like stuff I ski on in the north island of New Zealand! Unbelieveable that five days after the last storm, and with warm sunny weather, the snow was still so dry it squeaked when I walked on it. I pretty much stopped looking out for problem terrain, since where I was skiing there simply wasn't any. I got used to guiding my skis where I wanted them to go, and expecting that whatever I found there would be perfectly skiable.

Alta: By far the best signage of the four resorts. A great place for a single skier to turn up and simply ski with no local guidance. I really like the way they post Easier Way Down signs everywhere. If you're looking to dial back the intensity, Alta is a good place to do it, simply because of those signs. You get off a lift and Bam! there's the sign telling you the easiest way down from there. I also like the way they make it easy to get between lifts with lots of signs. Seems like you can't get lost at Alta -- important for someone on their own. I hated the lack of safety bars on the chairlifts, especially since I ski with a fairly large Camelbak. I did get used to this after a few days in Utah (other cottonwood resorts have chairs without safety bars too) but initially I found it unnerving. And rather bizarre, given that the US is the Land of Litigation -- here in New Zealand where sueing people is very rare, lifties yell at you as you leave the loading station, to pull the bar down! I skiied Alta 3 days in all, none of which were on a weekend, so I can't comment on weekend crowds. But I did find the longest chairlift queues of any of the cottonwood resorts at Alta. Most especially on Supreme lift; often it was out to the ends of the ropes. This, given it was midweek, made me unwilling to touch the place on a weekend! In general the staff attitude was also lacking at Alta. As a single skier it's nice if staff are a little bit friendly and outgoing. I always say hi to lifties and thank them -- after all, if not for them I couldn't ski! In 3 days at Alta I doubt I got more than one or two smiles.

Brighton: In contrast to Alta, staff at Brighton are friendly and very outgoing. The whole place felt like one big friendly family. Lovely rolling trails, cat tracks much wider than at Snowbord. Good fast lifts with footrests on all but the two older lifts over on the right. (Footrests became very important to me in Utah since my boots were causing excruciating pains in my feet) Boarders are NOT a problem at Brighton, despite what other posters say and imply! Most of them hang out in the terrain park (as you'd expect) and the rest are no problem whatever. Brighton really needs some shelter and restrooms out in the Snake Creek / Great Western area, though -- you have to keep going back to the main area and then it takes at least one lift ride to get back out. Very frustrating if like me you use your Camelbak a lot! Good grooming during non-storm periods, but it appears they groom early in the night, so during a storm the groomers tend to get cut up quite badly because of all the fresh snow sitting on top of the packed grooming. Solitude in contrast has good groomers right throughout the day in similar conditions. On the plus side for Brighton, this is probably a good place to get used to skiing off the groomers, since lots of green and blue trails end up cut up, and the slope angles are non-threatening, so you get a gentle introduction to it.

Snowbird: Expensive lockers ($4 as opposed 75c Solitude / 50c Alta / $1 Brighton). I did not enjoy my time at Snowbird, mainly because of all the narrow cat tracks. A very tiring -- and scary -- place to get around if you don't want to go off the groomers. Also the trails are not very well marked; there are lots of places where you really don't know which way you should go. As with Brighton, very nice to have footrests on the lifts. And very friendly lifties. If you're trying to do Snowbird on a budget, note that you don't have to buy the tram ticket. You can get to the top of the hill with a chair-only ticket, but it takes two chair rides to do it.

Solitude: What a little gem. I simply could not believe how empty it was on a weekend. The first thing that comes to mind is there must be something wrong with the place. Not really. Admittedly, they could do with more restrooms and in more locations -- especially in the Moonbeam Lodge. One per gender serving the main cafe is pretty silly -- and I was not impressed with the super-slippery floor in them. I nearly slipped over more than once in my ski boots using Solitude's restrooms. The blue groomers are significantly more steep than Alta's ones: something to bear in mind if taking an advancing beginner there. There definitely is easy cruisy skiing at Solitude, but it'd probably pay to ask advice from a staff member before heading up the hill or getting on particular lifts. One lift -- the Moonbeam -- has footrests.

Overall: my favourite of the four is Brighton. Second favourite Solitude. I'd ski Alta again if I had to. I wouldn't go back to Snowbird if you paid me to.

In general, I loved my time in Utah. The people are friendly, Sandy is safe for a single female to walk around after dark (with due caution and city sense), and it was a fantastic location with everything I needed within walking distance. A low-cost, high-quality ski holiday.

Acknowledgements: many, many, many thanks to all here who gave such wonderful advice! I planned this trip entirely without a travel agent, including making all of the bookings. Planning a Utah trip from New Zealand was quite a big effort, especially given my constraints such as cost. I couldn't have done it without you folks!
post #2 of 4
I'm glad to hear that you had such an excellent time in Utah! I live here, so it is always interesting to read what other people have to say about our resorts. I haven't ever actually skied at Brighton, just because of the reason of dealing with snowboarders who take unkindly to us skiers (although we are purists ), but I'm definently going to give it a try this next season! I have mainly skied at Alta, and if you think the lines at Supreme were long midweek, I would suggest you stick with Solitude, cause it gets to be a real bother. Again, I'm very happy to hear that your time in Utah was well enjoyed, and I hope that if you ever come back, it is just as good!!
post #3 of 4
Given SkiAddict1's terrain comments, I think she might have enjoyed the Park City group of areas more. On a 3-week trip it's hard for me to understand why she didn't give them a try. I assume budget reasons. If she didn't want to have a car, she could have divided the lodging time. I don't know how close she could get to Sandy lodging cost in the Park City area. But on a 3-week trip I would certainly have tried hard to find out.
post #4 of 4
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
Given SkiAddict1's terrain comments, I think she might have enjoyed the Park City group of areas more. On a 3-week trip it's hard for me to understand why she didn't give them a try. I assume budget reasons. If she didn't want to have a car, she could have divided the lodging time. I don't know how close she could get to Sandy lodging cost in the Park City area. But on a 3-week trip I would certainly have tried hard to find out.
Yeah if you like blue cruiser runs, Deer Valley is the expert at those and Park City is good to. DV has cruisers across the whole resort on every mountain. PC has a lot a King Con lift and in the middle of the mountain.
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