Escape to Utah

Growing up in the Vermont snow, and now residing in North Carolina with limited access to the white stuff, I'm always left with a winter itch. An itch best scratched by heading west to the Rockies! Over the years we have had the honor of skiing Montana, California, Colorado, and Wyoming. The first time I was 14 and when I stepping off the tram at the top of Rendezvous Bowl I was hooked. I remember getting to the bottom of the fresh pow bowl and thinking I had discovered a different sport than that of East Coast ice skiing.

My birthday is in January, Coles is in February, and we figured what better way to celebrate than to head to Salt Lake City and ski for 3 days? We spent countless hours grooming over weather reports, blogs, and websites to try to decide where we wanted to go. Revelstoke, Grand Targhee, Copper, Big Sky, Brighton, and Snowbird the options were overwhelming. We didn't want to have to take a second mortgage for the trip, so we narrowed the list by best value for the snow. Only having 3 days we also wanted to spend as much time skiing/snowboarding as possible.

What we decided; Salt Lake City. Direct flights from Charlotte, the TRAX light rail system, UTA ski buses, the Superpass, and the close vicinity of Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird, and Alta made it the perfect option for the situation. I snowboard now, and so was not allowed at Alta, making our 3 day list easy; Saturday Solitude, Sunday Brighton, Monday Snowbird.

We chose a hotel at the intersection of the light rail and ski bus stops, which made the use for a rental car or Uber non existent. The Monday before we left the slopes got 13” of fresh powder, making the wait to the Friday night flight a terribly long 5 days. When we touched down in Salt Lake City I remember standing in the baggage claim, waiting for my board bag to be unloaded, smiling from ear to ear with anticipation.

Day 1: Solitude

We were up, day packs packed, and on the ski bus headed East up the mountain before the sun peaked over the Wasatch Mountain Range. Being on the first bus of the morning most of our fellow travelers were employees of Solitude and Brighton. Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd hides what is to come, almost as if it was designed to build anticipation. The snowbanks were 6 feet and the canyon walls were so steep there were no glimpses of the slopes until you unloaded from the bus.

The Superpass may be the most convenient thing since zippers and individually packed poptarts. You buy it online ahead of time, choose how many days you want to ski, and it acts as your lift ticket to 4 mountains, ski bus pass, and light rail pass. All this squeezed into a small RFID card you keep in your jacket.

Off the bus, strap up the boots, push through the lift gates, and we were on our way up. First stop Honeycomb Canyon. A bowl made of steep lines and gnarly trees, no better way to knock off the rust then point the tips downhill and let gravity do the work. The first couple runs were filled with smiles and typical “getting your snow legs back” shenanigans. Cole lost a ski 4 feet down in the powder off on an OB line. A picture of the fear of not finding it was painted all over his face when he finally reached us down in the lift line. Our cousin Kyle buried himself in the deep powder, which ends up being quite the struggle to get out of. I came ripping through the Queen Bess glades, enjoying the deep powder I underestimated the height of the drop back to the groom trail. I landed chest first on the groomer, like I was dropped from the sky, with an abrupt THUD!

We skied the whole mountain, following the slopes where the sun lay to avoid flat light. We all thought we were in decent shape until we hit hour 8 of riding. Legs felt like spaghetti, and my ‘care’ reflexes were gone. Like the 3 20-something-years-olds we are, we had big plans of enjoying the Salt Lake City nightlife. By 9 o’clock we were all dead asleep back in our hotel room.

Day 2: Brighton

We chose to ride Brighton on Sunday hoping to avoid the crowds. We had the pleasure of sharing amazing conversation with Brightons Skiing Santa on the way back up Big Cottonwood. A clarinet playing ski patroller who resembled Old St. Nick, and patrols the mountain dressed accordingly during the month of December. He gave us all the hot tips of the mountain.

First run was meant to be a traverse run to the west side of the mountain, Milly Express. We ended up on some of the best tree skiing of the weekend.  We spent the whole morning on Milly, flying down groomers, bailing off into the powder, finding untouched lines in the aspen groves, and competing for the best lines.  Laughs and smiles were shared over the spectacular crashes that left us trying to gather our marbles in the power.

After a quick lunch we moved to the Great Western Express side of the mountain which was now in full sun. 10,750 ft of elevation, aspen and pine groves covered in powder and sunshine, perfection. We ducked trees, hit trees, and used trees to pull ourselves out of the powder. The sun had made the powder heavy like mashed potatoes at the end of the day and our legs burned.  On our last run of the day, about halfway down the mountain, we carved out a snow bench, unstrapped, and just sat in the snow looking over the mountain. The air gets no fresher than the air at that elevation. We sat in the snow, looking west, and watching the sun sink for 15 minutes. Not much was said, we just took it all in.

Day 3: Snowbird

Snowbird and Alta are in a different canyon south of Solitude and Brighton. We took the light rail to another bus stop and headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Immediately off the bus we piled into the Aerial Tram. 125 of us packed in like cattle headed up to Hidden Peak at 11,000 ft, the top. We had our sights set on Mineral Basin, a backside bowl of a couple hundred acres and virtually no trees.

Off the Tram I headed left to some chutes appropriately named Livin’ the Dream. I would meet up with Cole and Kyle at the bottom. I pushed hard, vowing to not get back to the east coast with  “I-should-have” on my mind. I gave myself a breather halfway down and soaked in some sunshine, valid excuse for needing to catch my breathe.

I met up with the boys at the bottom and we found some untouched snow to play in the rest of the morning. Typical cousin/brother antics, trying to outdo each other. We ate lunch at the summit lodge and had some fellow skiers snap some photos to send to our parents and grandparents. 2 ½ days of hard riding had left us gassed. Not much left in the tank.

We went back to the front side for the afternoon and skied fast groomers that were easier on the legs. Kyle found a picnic table at the bottom and I convinced Cole to take 1 more run. We rode the lift together as we had hundreds of time throughout our lives, reflecting on the past couple days. We bailed out at the top and gave each other the Moyer brother nod. 15 minutes of riding with reckless abandonment with my little brother. Everything was right in the world. It took me back to being 8 and riding Middlebury Snowbowl, our home mountain, with Cole. He watched me take a big fall, and struggle to stop sliding. I pushed him to hit a narrow chute with me, which he tackled with ease.

We met back up with Kyle and shared the picnic table for the rest of the day. We sat at the base and enjoyed each other's company. We knew when the trip was over Kyle would go back to managing Battleview Orchards, our family farm on our moms side. I would be full bore on getting racecars prepped for the upcoming season, before beginning to travel for the next 38 weeks. Cole would be back to running Oakmulgee, working his other job, and trying to deal with his older brother. For that hour in the sun at the base of Snowbird we didn’t have any responsibility. We told jokes, smiled, laughed without worry.

 

*Note: We have no affiliation with any of the Ski Areas or Services listed, but were thoroughly impressed by all of them. If anyone would like any addition information on a trip we highly recommend, contact us and we would me more than happy to share.