Category Archives: Winter Guide

Ask PCSkiGal: Second Thoughts About Skiing Spring Break?

Hi Jill,

I know you are a Park City woman and would greatly appreciate your advice if you can spare the time. We are planning a trip from NH out there on February 23rd to March 1 but are rethinking because of the lack of snow and warm weather. We can’t cancel our flights but probably our condo and so we’re thinking of going to Solitude or somewhere else in Little or Big Cottonwood. We have two boys 7 and 13 and I like the Club Solitude approach. I’d love your take or advice, Thanks,


Hi Fanne,

Good to hear from you. You really never know what the snow will do a month from now. Yes, it’s very lame around here at present. Today it’s 50 degrees and summerlike. Monday we’re due for rain and snow and lows in the 20s. It’s also supposed to continue snowing through next weekend. And March is known to be extra snowy so we have our fingers crossed.
That said, there is next to nothing to do up Big Cottonwood Canyon (Solitude) if there’s no skiing. You could snowshoe at the Solitude Nordic Center but the snow is so compacted you could walk around in your boots without sinking. You might even be hiking in dirt by then. I’ve seen folks out rockclimbing this week in both LCC and BCC. If you are beginning skiers then you don’t need much to keep you entertained on the slopes but if the boys are advanced and want to rip around they might be bored if the conditions are anything like they are right now.

Photo by Ryan Freitas

Your family will have a much better vacation in Park City when there’s limited snow because there are so many other things to do – fat biking, tubing, ice skating, shopping, dining, bowling, alpine slide, ziplining, you could even be a cowboy for a day at the Blue Sky Ranch. Solitude will of course have BETTER snow than any of the Park City areas but right now that’s not saying much. Our bases are well below 100 inches.

If you have time to cancel I’d just watch the weather. There’s probably going to still be tons of availability in Solitude by the end of February. Park City not so much.

Hope that helps!


TreeUtah, Altas Trees and How The Snow Did This Weekend

It almost feels like old times. It snowed a foot all day Sunday and we woke to gorgeous blue skies and temps in the 20s Monday to keep our new gift light and fluffy. Now, it really would be old times if there was a December base of 75 inches instead of 39 inches but beggars can’t be choosers. It snowed on and on and it was a lovely sight. Alta was reporting five inches of new and 10 inches in the last 48 hours. Sunday was supposed to be sunny or at least partly cloudy. But this is what it look like all day long. So much for weather forecasting. The storm total came out to about a foot.

altas trees

You begin to appreciate trees in a whole new way when there’s zero visibility, and, trust me, right now you want to see where you’re going. Despite the new snow and the additional off-trail terrain opening up, there are landmines everywhere. I stood in the Race Arena as Ryan buzzed past me only to watch him flip up in the air and crash into a twisted heap halfway below all because of an underlying rock.

Alta has arguably the best tree skiing in the Wasatch so we headed over to Wildcat after giving his head a rest at Watson. In the trees, you can actually see the potentially hazardous stumps and rocks. We had the area to ourselves. The only signs of others were the soft moguls they left behind. The aspens and pines blocked the fog but embraced the new falling snow so we danced Kitty laps for the rest of the day.

Alta works closely with TreeUtah to preserve their groves. The non-profit is dedicated to planting trees throughout the state and educating people about the environmental and social benefits we get from them. The resort recognizes that trees are part of the product they’re selling. Crews of sawyers are constantly out glading to remove dead timber which could invite beetles or other infestations and this past summer they planted nearly 2000 pines and spruces; not just for looks and powder stashes in the winter but to keep our planet alive. Did you know that in one year, it takes one-acre of trees to provide air for 18 people?

The chlorophyll layer just under the bark of the aspen allows trees to synthesize CO2 even in the low light of winter. So while you’re tree skiing, air is being created all around you. Trees lower air temperatures by releasing water vapor through their leaves so the snow they trap stays better longer. Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water. They also prevent erosion as the snow is melting, absorb noise so your runs are filled with the sound of silence and provide habitats for the animals you’ve sent scurrying with your turns. There’s a lot to love about resort trees.

altas trees

The trouble is that livestock grazing, wildlife chewing and butting trunks, fires, development and people carving their love letters into our trees have thinned out the tribes. No wonder we need to keep planting! The next time you’re playing off the Kitty or beating it in Eagle’s Nest take a moment to appreciate the terrain. You can help with simple things like not carving (it’s ok to pee) and having a voice at BLM meetings where hunters cry for larger elk herds. If you don’t have time to become more involved in how our lands are managed at least lend support to the people who can. TreeUtah works year round. Their next event is a Snowshoe Tree Hike at Wasatch Mountain State Park in Heber on January 10, 2015.

Another storm is heading our way on Wednesday and another this weekend. Keep ’em coming. The tree stashes can only get better and better.

Alta Sits Pretty Despite Low Snow



Low Snow

I heard they were opening the backside. We’re talking Alta Ski Area- steeps, lots of rocks, known for serious powder. And I thought yeah, maybe not. We haven’t had a lick of snow in the last two weeks so I’m thinking it couldn’t possibly be worth the risk. I wasn’t about to wreck my skis on rocks or possibly impale myself on them. But, to be frank, after a few runs down Razor Back off Sugarloaf the groomers were getting boring; and by about 10 a.m. they were firming up. Venturing off trail had an appeal. The off-piste was soft, stable and sweet to my delighted surprise. It was- dare I say- fluffy? Now at this point I was still hesitant to explore more than a foot from the groomed but then there it was.

I had gotten off Sugarloaf slid across the unloading area and peered over toward Little Dipper. What the heck. I found a notch between the band of rocks on the rim and dropped in. The smile was inescapable. It spread from ear to ear. This is winter skiing.

There were soft gentle bumps in the belly that began to form from the clear days and eager skiers. But they were nothing that would cause you to grit your teeth. The snow spread like butter under my skis and I gleefully made turn after turn all the way to the Razor Back connector. I was hungry for more and ready to take the next chance I got to jump into more ungroomed.

Don’t get me wrong. The main trails weren’t iced over but they were hardpack and I hadn’t quite found my edges yet. Plus, people were bombing all around me. I’m not ready to go that fast. At this point in the season I have no ego. I’m willing to take my time and ease into the winter that seems to be easing into Utah. So avoiding the main flow of traffic never hurts.

Then the back side. We took the rope tow over to Collins, came around the patrol shack and traversed through the back gate. The sun was beating down on the bowl but the shots above Glory Hole were filled with fluffy crud. We skied down to the lower traverse and wound into Greeley Bowl. Granted, that’s a lot off traversing but considering the High-T is littered with scree, this was our best alternative. When I looked below me I saw what is arguably Nirvana for a skier who hasn’t skied all summer- an apron of untracked snow. It had been buffed by the wind so it wasn’t your typical 40-inch Utah blower but it was still soft and I could still make tracks and that was good enough.

Low Snow


We played all the way down until the run funneled into a grove of twigs. Normally, this section is covered and we can just cruise but today we gingerly weaved right and left to avoid getting tangled. In the maze at Sunnyside, I looked at Ryan. Both of us said without using words, “Let’s do it again.” We spent the rest of the day running laps in Greeley; it was just so good. We stopped into Albion for a brief snack and to rest our pre-season quads. Then it was back out for a taste of Ballroom on the front side. Unfortunately, the rocks were more prominent there. It was back to the back side.

All in all it wasn’t a bad day for the middle of December. Of course I’m the first in line to complain about our lack of snow right now but I’m also the first to cheer when we can actually find the sweet spots. Alta delivered; as it always does.

U.S. Forest Service Sides With Alta In Fight Over Snowboarding Terrain


There is “no authority holding that the…Fourteenth Amendment protects those who stand sideways on snowboards” said Alta Ski Area in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit raised by riders this January. And it looks like the U.S. Forest Service is siding with the resort.

A group of snowboarders along with a local nonprofit calling themselves Wasatch Equality filed the suit shortly after being denied as they tried to board the Collins Lift. They want to force the resort and the Forest Service to open its borders to boarders. But the Forest Service says the case without merit.

Not only is snowboarding allowed on Forest Service land in 13 other states (showing that they don’t harbor an “anti-snowboarding” policy) but that there is no evidence they worked with Alta in the resort’s decision to ban that particular sliding device. They went on to say that due to federal immunity, the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

Further, they say Alta’s approved operating plan gives it the right to exclude any “skiing device deemed a risk, harmful to snow quality or not consistent with its business decisions.” Alta is a private resort, says the resort’s attorneys. If they consider snowboarders a hazard to skiers because of a “blind spot” that exists as they ride sideways down trails then that’s their right.

Spring Savings At Utah Resorts



Spring break season in Utah is here. The slushy slopes are spilling with happy smiles and goggle tans. Take advantage of some recently added discounts to make those grins even bigger.

If you purchase Canyons tickets through Axis Freeride you’re not only getting a slick deal but supporting a worthy cause. The non-profit youth organization provides kids a solid and safe foundation in terrain park riding. Buy adult lift tickets for $60 through Axis. That’s $26 off the online price and $47 off the window price. The ticket is good through the last day of the season. Just email  HERE to get tickets.* They take cash, check or credit cards and it’s tax deductible. BTW, Canyons’ ticket prices drop to $59 on April 7 but they’re not tax deductible.

If you’re interested in test-driving the Axis program and you have girls, check out the Freeskiing All Girls Camp at Park City Mountain Resort. The 2-day program is a fun-filled learning environment catering to girls 9 and up. Coaches will focus on terrain park and all-mountain skiing but no previous terrain park skills are needed. The camp runs March 29 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost is $125 (lift tickets not included). 435-655-5366, or email

Other Spring Savings-

This one’s a tease: Park City Mountain Resort will announce a deal next week and it promises to be news worthy so keep an eye on their website.

Brighton isn’t exactly slashing for spring but they are slashing for ‘taxing’. April 15, they’re offering Tax Day relief with half off tickets…so that’s a $34 ski day. And on April 11, college students get half off with their student ID. 

Don’t forget about Alta’s Boarding Pass Program: Fly into Salt Lake City and ski at Alta or Snowbird the same day for half price. You have to register online before you leave to convert your airline boarding pass into a half-price AltaSnowbird lift ticket. The offer is valid within 24 hours of arrival, Monday through Friday, so if you get in at 9 p.m. you can ski the next day for half off!

Keep checking Groupon and Living Social in Utah for deals. Right now Alta’s offering a $59.99 lift ticket that’s good for the rest of the season. Use it this weekend for the Snowflake Festival. Tomorrow (Saturday) is One-Piece Ski Outfit Day. Don’t miss the free ski demo day April 11. Alta Ski AreaAlta Ski Shop and Powder House Ski, Shoe, Bike – Utah
are teaming up with as many ski manufacturers as possible for “testing”. All you’ll need are your boots and a credit card (in lieu of a deposit) to ski as many skis as you can from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Spring is the perfect time to get the little ones out skiing. Kids 6 and under ski FREE at Eagle Point, Park City Mountain Resort, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, Snowbird, and Solitude. At Brighton, the deal extends to kids under 8! Canyons, however, got stingy this year and lowered the limit at 5 years old.

Finally, Costco in Salt Lake City has several lift ticket packages that will save you BIG bucks. You can’t order them online, however, so ask a friend to pick them up for you or get yourself a rental car for a quick roadtrip. PCMR: 5 tix for $350; Sundance: 2 tix for $87; Canyons: 2 tix for $150; Snowbird: 2 tix for $145.

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