Headed to Utah for the first time during the "great heat wave" in the first week of March. Things started a little sketchy - they hadn't had snow in a while, and the temps were warm. I think at Alta on Sunday, we had base temps (base of Collins lift) of 55 or so. Over the course of the week, it got into the upper 60's/lower 70's in town, but the mountains were spared most of the heat.
A friend (an Alta regular, grew up skiing there and now lives 20 minutes from the hill) recommended parking at the Wildcat base, and focusing on the lifts available from there. We did explore a bit (Supreme, Sugarloaf), but found ourselves coming back to the Collins lift, and particularly to Wildcat, as the crowds were smaller, and the terrain was in better shape. Conditions were "good" by east coast standards, but the locals at Alta were really sour on them. That's OK, because it meant more room for us!
(note the empty chairs on Wildcat)
(and the empty everything)
But it's clear that snow was needed:
Monday was Solitude, Round 1. We didn't have much idea what to expect, and were really, really happy with what we found. Conditions were much like at Alta, but there was NOBODY there. The snow was soft, and there was room to run. We went after our first black runs of the trip, down Challenger and Inspiration, and found them, well, challenging and inspiring. It was nice to get that under our belt, so we felt like we could handle ourselves on terrain that is steeper (and longer!) than anything we ski around here.
This is my girlfriend enjoying a mellower run:
And me, later on the same one (I think):
There was one spot on the Summit chair that kept weirding me out. With the flat light and a BIG drop to the ground, for some reason, I kept getting disoriented. It wasn't quite vertigo, but it was spooky. It was much better later in the week with better light.
Our third day of skiing took us to Brighton, which I'd heard to be more of a snowboarders' hill (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Skiing there on a Tuesday, there was, once again, nobody there (a fact no doubt helped by the "lousy" skiing conditions).
The views from Brighton are among the best of what we saw on the trip:
And the narrower tree-lined trails reminded me somewhat of skiing in New England:
With nobody around (and nice soft, forgiving snow), we decided to try some bumps:
Which can be very, very tiring:
I got myself into a little bit of trouble skiing "Little Milly", but the pictures from there aren't very clear. Basically, the trail hadn't been groomed (much of the mountain had), and was really crusty. I kept finding myself in places were I couldn't turn (because my skis were stuck in a rut or otherwise locked into crusty stuff), and I found myself headed right towards a big rock, a big tree, or a big tree growing out of a big rock. It made for a slow process of choosing deliberate lines (occasionally backing up to find them) and just being very careful to head where I wanted to be. I need to head back there to get a second chance at it, under better conditions.
Wednesday, we took it easy, headed to Park City to see the Olympic stuff, and generally acted like tourists. At the end of the day, we headed to Alta for the "Ski Free After Three" thing, did a few runs, and packed it in. It was cold and windy, and the conditions were (finally) no good (that was the day the Peruvian lift got stuck at Snowbird in the wind). If it had been our last day, we would have made it work somehow, but we figured we were better off giving our legs a rest...
...and it was a good thing we did, because Thursday brought 12" of Utah's magical snow. And, boy-howdy, if it's not exhausting to ski in that stuff (even moreso when it's your first time, and you don't really know how to handle it). We were at Solitude, and it was alarmingly empty.
We finally started to get the hang of things, and managed to venture into some new areas:
Me, battling the Headwall Forest:
My girlfriend, all alone in Honeycomb Canyon (where I'm pretty sure I took my core shot):
But of course, it doesn't always go so well... At least falling feels a lot better in a foot of fresh, eh?
Our last day, we were back at Alta, with our local friend. Unfortunately (for us), our legs were pretty burned, and he was WAYYYY better than we are/were, so we didn't get to take full advantage of his expertise, but it was still a great day. Amazingly, we found some pretty untracked stuff off the Wildcat chair, so we spent most of our day there. I made liberal use of the "it doesn't hurt to fall in powder" defense:
We were lucky enough to have some snow throughout the day, which made for a great ending to the week.
It was a great trip, even if the conditions were less-than-optimal for most of it. I think we may try to head back next year.
For what it's worth, we stayed in the Extended Stay America in Midvale (right next to the movie theatre), for less than $400 for the whole week (7 nights). It was a little on the "cheap" side, but had everything we needed. The shower was pretty unimpressive, and the bed was a little hard, but for a budget option, it was great.
As far as vittles were concerned, we routinely après-skied at the Porcupine Pub, just outside of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and I'd heartily recommend their nachos as a good option for a very hungry group of people. The beers there are also a very good selection of local Utah microbrews. I was particularly impressed by the Polygamy Porter and the Abbey Ale they had from one of the breweries. Very good. The Squatter's pilsener is quite good as well, as was the Squatter's Full Suspension Pale Ale. We also enjoyed having Cutthroat Pale Ale at the Goldminer's Daughter, and the full-strength version (Angler's Ale) at the Bayou downtown (a nice, if loud, Cajun place).
We went to the Bohemian Brewpub, and were disappointed (esp. my Czech girlfriend, who was hoping for something more authentic). The beers were ok, and the food was not very Czech (but it was a bit on the expensive side, so it had that going for it). I'd take Squatter's over that place any day. As far as "skiing and eating Czech food" experiences go, I'd recommend skiing at Loveland, and then heading to Sobo 151 in Denver. Really good Czech food there, if that's your thing.
Overall, I was really happy with the trip. I found myself wondering why I'd gone to the trouble of skiing in Colorado, when it's soooooo much easier to make it happen in Utah. The only potential downside is the weird situation with the liquor laws, but it turns out that Utah just voted to end their "private club" stuff, so next time we're there it will probably be quite a bit different. Maybe 10 foot walls everywhere?