Skiing in Utah: February, 2020

What a difference a year can make! Last winter, we spent about ten days skiing with our Epic Pass at Park City and Canyons. The snow was plentiful as the resort was getting continuously dumped on. We had a blast skiing in multiple feet of fresh powder, and “Double Nickels” became our favorite mogul run at Canyons. Unfortunately, the conditions this year did not mimic that of last winter. While there was snow on the mountains from January storms, there hadn’t been much new snowfall since we arrived. Also, this year we have the IKON Pass which means we would be skiing at places we have never skied at before.

We reserved a site at Mountain Valley RV Resort in Heber City, which is about a 30-minute drive to the ski resorts.

We had stayed here last year, and it is one of the nicest RV Resorts that we have ever stayed in. It is perfect for families, and last year they completed an “Adults Only” section complete with Rec Hall, exercise hall, laundry room, pool and oversized hot tub. Scott arrived four days before me and spent his time familiarizing himself with our new rig. This year we have the IKON pass, which means instead of skiing Park City and Canyons, we would be skiing Deer Valley. We had a seven-day limit on our pass at Deer Valley, and Scott didn’t want to use up his days skiing without me, so he kept busy doing other things. How could he know that I would arrive in Utah not feeling well?

On Monday, February 3, I flew from Nashville to Houston. There was a short layover before I would board my flight to Salt Lake City. There was a winter storm warning, and I was convinced that my flight to SLC would be delayed or cancelled. The airline contacted me the day before offering to change my flight for free if I wanted to fly on Tuesday after the storm had passed. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous when the flight took off. It was a pleasant flight until we were about a half hour from our destination. It felt like our descent into Salt Lake was rushed as I experienced extreme pain my right temple. The pilot told me that it wasn’t the descent but rather my sinuses were not draining properly. Really, sir? Thanks a lot.

Scott had to drive a little over an hour to get me. The snow was intensifying and the ride back to the resort took even longer.

By the next morning, I couldn’t breathe through my nose and was experiencing a severe headache. Maybe the pilot was right? We chilled out for the day and decided to wait until the next day to ski. The next morning we headed out to Deer Valley. It was quite cold and windy. The conditions were not what we had hoped for. They were hard and fast, and in some areas it was icy. It wasn’t long before I decided to stop. I thought that the fresh air would make me feel better, but it was way too cold. The next day, Scott headed out to ski alone so I could rest. By Friday, we went to Urgent Care. I knew that I had a raging sinus infection, but the doctor would not give me any meds. He told me to come back only if I did not feel better in ten days, which would be another five days. Really, sir? It didn’t phase him that I am an asthmatic.

The next day I needed to get off the couch, so we took a short hike to Upper Falls in Springville, near Provo, Utah. It is a 0.6 mile heavily trafficked out-and-back trail that features a beautiful waterfall. The trail begins as you cross over Provo River.

The trail was snow covered, so we wore our micro spikes to minimize slippage.

We got a bit closer.

On Wednesday, February 12, we left Heber City and headed west to Draper, Utah. This would be our first stay at Mountain Shadows RV and Mobile Home Park, which is located about 30-40 minutes from the ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

It was not nearly as nice as Mountain Valley, but it was closer to other ski resorts (Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird, Alta) that we planned to ski for the first time. Today was Day 9 since my symptoms began and they were getting worse. No skiing for me until this illness passed. Fortunately, I was able to reach my New Jersey doctor (who had been on a ten-day vacation in Aruba) to prescribe meds to put me on my way to feeling better. Skiing would have to wait.

By Saturday, I was beginning to feel like myself again. We typically do not ski on the weekend due to the crowds. Instead, we took a short, three-mile hike to Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge via Orson Smith Trail in Draper, UT.

As you can see on the above map, there are a number of trails with varying elevation gain to choose from. It was a warm, beautiful sunny day and most of the trail was dry dirt, with the exception of some muddy patches where the snow had melted. As we began the hike, I took a picture of our view above the parking lot, with the snow-capped mountains in the background.

On Monday morning, I woke up feeling only minor congestion. I was ready to get out on the slopes and felt like I had the energy to pull it off. We headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon, which brings you to Solitude and Brighton ski mountains. There was a LOT of traffic, perhaps because it had snowed Sunday night, leaving about 8” of fresh powder on the mountain. We also didn’t realize that it was a holiday, President’s Day. After an hour in the car, we passed Solitude only to discover that the lot was full. So, we continued up the mountain.

Brighton, another two miles up the road, was also full. It would be another hour of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic before we were turned away. This has NEVER happened to me before. These resorts are smaller than Park City but we would soon see why they are so popular, especially to the locals.

We went back to the ranch, changed our clothes, and returned to Orson Smith Trailhead. Scott stopped to take a phone call as I continued up the trail. Today, the trail had some snow cover from yesterday’s storm.

The next morning, we decided to go on a hike in Bells Canyon at The Wasatch Front Watershed.

The trail was completely snow covered and required micro spikes due to the steep incline. We ran into another hiker who was gracious enough to take our picture.

This was an intensive hike with continued elevation gain. We made it to the Falls, which was frozen.

Time to turn around.

On Wednesday, we drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon once again. This time we got parking in the main lot at Brighton Ski Resort.

It’s a fun, little mountain and the conditions were good. It was however, a very cold day.

The next day we drove up Little Cottonwood Canyon which will take you to Snowbird and Alta Ski Resorts. While there are trails for every level at these resorts, the bulk of the terrain is for the experienced/expert skier. It was a warmer, bluebird day with remnants of fresh powder in some areas as we spent the day at Alta.

On Friday, we weren’t able to get parking in Snowbird, so we drove up further and parked at Alta again. The two mountains are connected at the east side of Alta and the western side of Snowbird. Snowbird has much more skiable terrain than Alta, but Alta has some really great runs. Alta is one of three resorts in the United States does not allow boarders. Snowbird does.

We made our way right over to Snowbird where the skiing was steep, hard and fast. Eventually, we wanted to make our way back to Alta. To do so, you have to take a magic carpet ride through a tunnel.

Scott is forever filming me when I am not aware.

After you exit the tunnel, you make you way back to Alta.

On Saturday we chose to hang out and rest from an active week. Since we don’t ski on weekends, on Sunday we took another hike on Cherry Canyon Logging Trail. This five mile, out-and-back hike had an elevation gain of 2,451 feet, located off Orson Smith Trailhead.

The initial part of the trail was mostly dirt with traces of snow.

As we gained altitude, the trail was mostly snow covered.

The higher you go, the more intense the scenery below you becomes.

Truth be told, when we go on hikes with continual elevation gain, I constantly question why I hike. It isn’t until I get to the peak that I remember why. My favorite part, however, is going back down!

We returned to Alta on Monday morning. It was cold, windy and snowing. We didn’t last very long as visibility was compromised.

We headed back to Mountain Valley in Heber City for four more nights. Our dear friends, Brendan and Denise, arrived tonight to ski Park City. It was fun to be back on the slopes skiing together again. Let the fun begin!

Park City
Deer Valley
Deer Valley
My dear friend, Nils
Dinner at our place
Dinner at their place

On the last day of February, it was time to depart Utah. Brendan and Denise flew home to Brooklyn, and Scott and I headed north. Next stop for us is Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.