You’ve anticipated the ski season for months, watching the forecast and snow totals carefully, and now it’s time to enjoy winter in the Wasatch. Your out-of-office reply is clear: “I’ll NOT be checking emails.” No more work time, meeting time, client-call time or screen time. Here are some tips and tricks for making your on-mountain time the escape it is meant to be.
The popularity of Utah’s resorts above Salt Lake, Park City and Ogden mean that you won’t be the only one on the road. But idling in a line of canyon traffic or circling a crowded parking lot is not a great way to start a ski day. Wouldn’t you rather be sitting on a chairlift?
Tip 1: Carpool. This will save you on parking fees and help reduce traffic and improve air quality. Resorts like Solitude reduce fees when a vehicle has two or more occupants. If you are flying solo, try out carpool apps like Waze Carpool and connect with like-minded powder hounds eager to get to the slopes.
Tip 2: Ride the UTA Ski Bus. The ski bus picks up at locations around the valley and at the well-situated park-and-ride lots below the resorts. The UTA Ski Bus will take you directly to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, Sundance Mountain Resort, Park City Mountain, Powder Mountain or Snowbasin and it allows you time to study trail maps to plot your first tracks. Some resort season passes come with complimentary ski bus access.
Tip 3: Reserve a spot. Resorts vary on paid parking, but some require parking reservations on weekends and holidays. Others, like Brighton, offer free parking (but it fills up fast) as well as a small reserved parking lot. Check resort websites for the latest parking information and reservation options.
Ski and Ride Smart
Skiing and snowboarding are lifelong sports, relatively easy to learn but difficult to master. It is important to ski within your own range of ability, heed trail signs and consider the terrain you are venturing into. And it’s important to know that the commonly known and understood Green, Blue and Black indicators are not universal—they are individual to each resort. That’s right. Each resort bases the black-to-green range of difficulty on its most difficult run. That means a blue run (intermediate) at Snowbird—known for some of the steepest and most challenging runs in Utah—may not equate to a blue run at another resort.
Tip 1: Take a lesson. Sure, your best buddies are great skiers but are they great teachers? Utah resorts offer deals on lessons for beginners and a menu of workshops and clinics for intermediate and advanced skiers who want to eliminate bad habits, learn new skills and up their ski and riding games. Working on technique and practicing under the watch of an experienced teacher can make skiing less difficult, help you avoid injury and just plain make your time on the mountain more fun. BONUS TIP: Never try to teach your significant other how to ski. It’s relationship suicide.
Tip 2: Up your gear game. You might be skiing on a set of Rossignols from 1995 and in boots you bought at a garage sale. Skis and boards have gotten much better. Consider renting a demo package at a resort for a day or from one of the local rental shops. Rentals also offer an affordable way to try before you buy and many shops offer deals on season-long rentals. (This is especially helpful for parents whose kids are quickly growing out of their gear from season to season.)
Backcountry—Know Before You Go
One of the great things about the Wasatch Range is its easily accessible backcountry and sidecountry terrain. But easy access does not translate to “easy.” Backcountry skiing is a risky endeavor that requires special equipment, training and an extensive understanding of terrain and snow conditions. Before you attempt any backcountry experience, educate yourself or consider going with a guide. The Utah Avalanche Center offers low-cost Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshops for beginners and experts to understand the finer points of terrain and avalanche danger. Visit utahavalanchecenter.org for dates and times.