Plus where to stay, where to sleep and what to buy in the resort mountain town.
There was a moment—me, poised above a grove of aspens and about to sink into knee-deep powder—when I considered chickening out. My guide, Rory, had been speaking to me in encouraging but oddly non-specific visualizations all day—float your feet, keep your body moving—until now, on my first real attempt at the kind of boot-topping powder stash that’s basically the norm around Park City. “Core, core, core,” he says. That, I get. I should qualify that, despite my trepidation, I’m a decent enough skier. But I’ve never quite mastered the thrill of the epic powder day that seems to be a siren call for my skiing friends, preferring the sweet, fresh tracks of perfect corduroy on groomers to any tree stashes. “You know how you get better at powder?” Rory asks when I explain that to him. “You ski more powder.” And really, why else would I head to Park City when the behemoth of Whistler Blackcomb is but a 90-minute drive from where I live? Well, for starters, as of 2016 both places are now owned by the same parent company—Vail Resorts—and there was some curiosity on my part to see what big skiing might look like in this new era. And since a nearly 2,500-metre-long gondola was installed between Park City and the recently acquired Canyons Resort, Park City has the second-largest skiable terrain in North America (behind, you guessed it, Whistler Blackcomb). But the fact of it is, one of my reasons for being powder averse is the heavier coastal snow of my home mountain. I’m itching for a little champagne powder—and, frankly, the amount of snow Park City gets on any given day, let alone over a season, is enough to give me a restless sleep the night before my first day on the mountain. All of which means the bar for a great day seems exceedingly high around here. When my friend expresses her excitement to a room service attendant on the morning we’re heading out, he shrugs it off as a nothing-special day. Wait, did we read the weather reports wrong? We did not. “It’s just 10 or 12 inches,” he says. The thing about 7,300 acres is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. My plan had been to stick to the trails that I knew worked, lest I wind up in powder hell (which is powder heaven to almost everyone but me). Rory is here with us to blow up that plan and get us in deep—but first he spends the morning showing us the hill, past relics of the mountain’s silver-mining days. (The Mid-Mountain Lodge, for example, was once a miners’ boarding house.) https://www.instagram.com/p/BPG3aeEDOrE/?taken-by=westernliving Until he leads us to the previously mentioned grove of aspens. My powder-pro friend boots down first so she can set up a video at the base to record my tumble for later posterity (and laughs). Core engaged, deep breath taken, and I’m off, and… doing okay! Instead of bailing, I’m cruising through the powder stash, and even the trees feel less threatening than usual. It’s no Warren Miller film, but there’s a giant grin on my face at the end of my video—and that’s enough. At the end of the day we cruise down the Boa run to discover it’s only recently been reopened, and we find it lined with stashes of powder. And even though he’s ducked out for the day, I want to make Rory proud, and I do as he says, doing a powder sip here and there around the edges of each run. And then I’m full-on playing, dancing in buttercream, finding my floating feet, my solid core, my feet of powder. Lightness of feet, lightness of mind. Now I get it, Rory.
The Ins and Outs of Park City
Getting There There are direct flights from Vancouver and Calgary to Salt Lake City, and Park City is a short highway drive of about a half an hour from there. Salt Lake is one of the few cities to also have Uber Ski—four-seater cars with roof racks for your equipment. Stay Main and Sky’s location in downtown Park City (pictured above) is in close proximity to the restaurant strip at night—no doubt why the Vanity Fair crew stayed here during Sundance—and the rustic modern design sees oversized sofas gathered around a roaring fire, with wide wood beams overhead. The white and bright reno of the historic Washington School House hotel is just a few steps off Main Street and a pretty study in contrasts: lofted one-bedrooms feature turn-of-the-century furniture and a modern setting. For on-mountain accommodation, the Grand Summit offers ski-out access to Canyons Resort, and their Red Tail bar is the perfect spot to take skied-out legs for a hot almond cider. Recover Your Powder Legs Head to stand-up paddleboard yoga in the Homestead crater. Yes, it feels like you’ve stepped back into the ’60s once you wander down a narrow tunnel into the rustic mineral-water crater—its natural beehive roof curves over 100°F water that’s 65 feet deep. Balancing in warrior pose on a SUP is trickier than it looks, but once you’re over your fear of falling in (a dunk or two in the toasty water has that effect), the poses come more easily. Or the falls will. However you choose to spend your hour. Impersonate a Local No, you’re not seeing a ’70s revival on-mountain: cult favourite Soul Poles (from $99) are made in Park City, so you’ll find an even higher number of bamboo poles per capita. Though they’ve got a retro vibe, Soul Poles are made from sustainable bamboo, and they’re twice as strong as aluminum—and just as light. Souvenir for the Sads Back Home Founded by Robbie Stout and Anna Davies in 2010, Ritual Chocolate is just off the main drag and crafts single-origin chocolate bars, complete with surprising tasting notes (dried fig, cherry and tobacco for the Belize). Or, for a serious step up from the on-hill machine hot chocolate, grab a cup of their sipping chocolate.