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Trip Report: Park City and Snowbird

Jack M

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Just got back from school vacation week at Park City. We also did a day trip to Snowbird. This is a low snow year for them, but as far as this year goes we hit the jackpot. PC got 18" Sunday night through Monday, Snowbird got 21", so that improved things tremendously for the week. Our first ski day was Sunday before the storm, and it was like skiing in the east on a good day. Nice soft groomers and bumps, but trees were generally off limits and there were many closed trails and areas that would normally be powder/mogul fields. Our hotel was in the Canyons village, at the bottom of the Red Pine gondola, here:
Note the angle station on that gondola. The cars come off the cable and slow down on a track through the angle station. I believe the cable gets angled by a series of bull-wheels. There is another gondola, "Quicksilver", with an angle station that goes between Canyons and PC. You can ski from Canyons to PC but not back, you either take Quicksilver or a shuttle. Trail map: https://assets.vailresorts.com/-/media/park-city/products/brochure/the-mountain/about-the-mountain/trail-map/trail-map.ashx

The Sunday night/Monday storm was just what the doctor ordered:
my son was thrilled to get proof of this face-shot
daughter was loving it too

With PC and Canyons linked, it is now the largest ski resort in the nation. However getting from base to base takes several lift rides or a shuttle bus, so doing that chews up a significant part of your day. It's best to pick a sub-area and stick to it for the morning or afternoon, or even the whole day. The resort has kind of a Sunday-River-on-steroids feel to it. There's a lot of easy trails and run-out, and you do a lot of "transit skiing" just to move around the area. A lot of the clientele seems to be people from places without Winter or mountains who ski once or twice a year. The best terrain is up at the very top-most lifts, like McConkey's Express, Pioneer, and Jupiter on the PC side (never managed to find Jupiter open), and on the Canyons side, Ninety-Nine-Ninety and to a lesser extent, Super Condor. Up there is where I felt like I was actually up on a western mountain, not just a big soft version of an eastern resort. Here is the top of Charlie Brown, on 9990:
A great run, but unfortunately you cannot return to the bottom of the 9990 lift from there. They should fix that with another lift. Although PC/Canyons has 41 lifts, they need more. The majority of high alpine terrain is either hike-to only or out of bounds, e.g. most of what you see in this pic:
Taken from the top of Dreamcatcher.

There is a huge gap in high lift service between 9990 and Jupiter, and another one between 9990 and Saddleback. Many tasty looking snowfields beckon you, but it's all out of bounds. The good hike-only terrain that is in bounds would take a number of hours out of your day and out of your legs, for one run. I would have been up for one hike, but the wife and kids were not, and I don't blame them. Right now all the hardcores are going "good! earn your turns! save the pow for the locals!" Meh.

Snowbird is where it's at for high alpine skiing. Many lifts get you right up to the good stuff, and, it's all good stuff. To go any higher you would need to be an accomplished extreme skier with avalanche training and gear. We went there for a day trip (45 minute drive) on Wednesday. We hit the lottery with the weather. Bluebird day. The most beautiful place I have ever snowboarded, just edging out Jackson Hole. We took the Tram first thing and got right up to the top. From there, Gad Valley is to your right:
and Mineral Basin is to your left:
taken from Mineral Basin chair:
We spent the morning in Mineral Basin, which faces southeast, so it gets sun all morning.


We spent the afternoon in Gad Valley, which faces northwest, lapping the Gad 2 and Little Cloud lifts. Trail maps: https://www.snowbird.com/uploaded/maps/winter1718_trailmap&guide_web.pdf
Little Cloud lift seen in the background here:
No, my son is not taller than me yet, he is standing uphill!


I did more ptex damage to my board on this day than I have done in my whole life combined.  The 21" of new snow hid a lot of rocks, some of which you can see above.


Our neighbors spent the week at Alta/Snowbird, we met up with them.


Their daughter asked me for this shot, haha.

Here is a shot from near the bottom of Gad 2, looking across Little Cottonwood Canyon:

A tram returns at the bottom:
Note the steepness of the terrain coming right to the bottom of the resort. No run-out here!!

On the last day of the trip we were spent, so the kids just lapped the park off the Sun Peak chair at Canyons.  Next time we will schedule an "off" day in the middle.




We need to go back to Snowbird. Need another sunny day in Mineral Basin, and we didn't even get to the Peruvian Gulch area.  As for PC, I wouldn't take another family vacation there, but it would be a great place for a dedicated carving trip, or for an Expression Session.  There are lots of groomers that looked great for carving.  I was with my family and we did a lot of mixed terrain each day, so it didn't make sense to even bring hardboots and an alpine board.  As such, I didn't bother poaching C.B.'s Run, where the 2002 Olympic races were held.

Anyway, great trip. I would recommend PC to anyone wanting a huge variety of intermediate/advanced terrain, and a big ski town experience with lots of night life. I'm sure it's a lot better during a normal snow year. Many expert trails were simply closed due to low coverage. If you want a high alpine experience among soaring mountain peaks with tons of expert terrain and open bowls, go to Snowbird. There is a groomed swath under the Little Cloud lift that would be epic for EC on a 185.  Very little nightlife there though. Wish we had spent the whole week in Snowbird, but I had been warned against it as there is a lot of one-foot-out traversing for snowboarders. Would have been worth it, in hind sight, but PC was fun too.

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15 hours ago, lowrider said:

Good chance you will  never see your kids again once they are finished school. Nice review.  ( How many days in before you were ready to strangle someone and go ride by yourself ? )

That's fine, we will move out west with them!!  I think if I had brought alpine gear, I would have wanted me-time.  But I only brought softies, so the trip was all about family time.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/6/2018 at 8:38 PM, utahcarver said:

Glad to hear you had a great family outing, Jack! Next time in PCMR locate EmDee (Martin) for a locals view of the area. I love the area, too. Thanks for the pics! Hope you get back out here in a few more years to lay it over a bit more. 


Thanks Mark.  I did have a couple PMs with EmDee beforehand.  We'll see about a future trip!  Wouldn't that be nice.  Next time I think we would stay at Snowbird and do 1 or 2 hardboot excursion days to PC instead of the other way around.  I hardboot because IMO it's the best way to enjoy eastern conditions - and when it's good here, it's really really good for carving.  So when I go out west I want to schralp the gnar! :biggthump

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