Category Archives: Winter Guide

ONE Wasatch’s Interconnect Concept Poses Multiple Questions For Utah Resorts

ONE Wasatch Conference Photo courtesy Alta Ski Area

(Photo courtesy Alta Ski Area)

Well, Folks. I wish I had something new to report from this afternoon’s SkiUtah press conference but alas there were more questions than answers.

shared the news last night and hoped that today’s conference might shed more light on the plan- nay “concept”- of lift-linking seven of Utah’s ski areas but the meeting went about as expected. We were introduced to a program/concept called ONE Wasatch – that will be a thinktank to draft a plan for an interconnected lift system. The system would allow skiers and boarders a means to traverse all seven resorts without encroaching on public lands; thus avoiding lengthy environmental impact studies.

“We have an opportunity to create a ski experience that would be unique in North America and rivaled only by the larger ski circuits in Europe,” said Canyons’ Mike Goar. “The timing is good for us to bring this forward, sharing it with the community and making sure it is framed in a conversation with other ongoing mountain efforts.”

So, ok, when might we see this happen? No one’s saying. How will it happen? No one’s saying. SkiUtah President Nathan Rafferty said the interconnect would cost around $30 million and be funded privately. By whom? No one’s saying. How much would a ticket cost? No one’s saying. The managers did agree that to charge too much more than a regular single resort day ticket wouldn’t make financial sense. They said, however, that with the RFID scanning ticket system they would be able to track people’s ski habits and then divide revenue accordingly so where people start their day wouldn’t matter. But one reporter boldy asked the Big Question, “Who do you think is going to be bopping back and forth between Alta and Park City Mountain Resort or Deer Valley? You’ve got seven world-class resorts here. I’ve been to each one of them and it’s too much terrain for me to ski in one day. Who do you think is going to buy this (interconnect) pass?”

Snowbird’s Bob Bonar said he had the same concerns when they linked with Alta. “A lot of times people will go to one resort and ski 10 or 20 runs or whatever they’re able to do in one day and it’s enough. [The interconnect] is more of just a concept and I think a lot of our destination skiers and even some of our local skiers really like the concept that they can come in and ski at Alta, work their way over to Deer Valley for lunch and return on the same day.” (Rafferty estimated that you could ski from DV to Snowbird in an hour and a half if they were linked by lifts.)

Ultimately, the most impressive aspect of the ONE Wasatch conference was the fact that we had the seven heads of Utah’s resorts all in one room, all agreeing to join forces. They all echoed each other: we want what’s best for the industry; we want to be environmentally sensitive; we want to protect our watershed and users’ interests.

All this does is beg one question from this intrepid ski blogger. If everyone is so gung-ho and onboard to link our resorts, why wait? Why not start now with Park City? “McConkey’s went in at the same time as Empire (1998),” said Deer Valley’s Bob Wheaton. “We (Wheaton and PCMR’s Phil Jones) spent a lot of time up on that ridge and we knew that One Wasatch was going to be a reality. We wanted to be sure that when we positioned those lifts we would not design ourselves out of that possibility of being able to do this. The spirit of cooperation was extremely strong and still is.”

The infrastructure is there. All it would take is maybe a new chair from the Canyons and ribbon (rope) cutting in DV’s Empire Canyon to create that mini-European experience.

Perhaps PCMR, DV and Canyons are waiting to see what happens in court next month? No one’s saying.


2015 Season Ski Passes Already?

Are we really calling the end of the season already? It’s the second week of March and Vail Resorts has just put next year’s Epic Pass on sale while other resorts are rolling out spring pass offerings.

Make a $49 down payment on an Epic Pass before April 13, 2014, and lock in the $729 price for unlimited, unrestricted access to Canyons in Park City, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota, Mt. Brighton in Michigan, and five consecutive free days at Niseko, Japan,
for the 2014-15 winter season. The remainder of the balance won’t be due until mid-September even though you’ll be able to ride the lifts all summer.

Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts said, “There’s a reason we sell the Epic Pass in 80 countries and all 50 states. This is the one pass that lets you chase the powder at the world’s finest resorts, including Japan. This is the pass for true skiers and riders.”

The price has gone up $40 but it’s still a decent deal to ski California, Utah, Colorado and Japan. Noticeably absent from the mix, however, are free ski days in Arlberg, Austria, and Verbier, Switzerland, that were part of the 2013/14 Epic Pass.

Purchasers of an Epic Pass will also receive six Buddy Tickets (that’s $74 each at Canyons) and six Ski With A Friend tickets ($91 at Canyons) that can be used this spring; but that’s nothing to rave about when you consider the straight ticket price after March 31, 2014 is $73. Best to save them for next winter.

Snowbird’s $499 spring tram unlimited pass went on sale March 1, 2014, but drops to just $329 on April 1. Most Utah resorts will close in mid-April but let’s hope we get some late season snow storms to keep Snowbird skiing sweet past May. The other Utah resorts have yet to release their 2015 pass pricing details.



“We are excited to announce a renewed partnership between Vail Resorts and Les 3 Vallées, France, as well as Verbier, Switzerland, providing ongoing access to truly legendary and world-class resorts in Europe. Epic Pass holders that have taken advantage of these partnerships have been nothing short of blown away by the experience that these resorts provide and we couldn’t be more pleased to be able to extend the opportunity for more of our most loyal skiers and riders to ski the world” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “Each and every year, we look to further increase the already incredible value of the Epic Pass, and the 2014-2015 season will be no exception, with continued access to the best of Europe, in addition to five free days in Niseko, Japan.”

“We are very happy to continue our partnership with Vail Resorts. Les 3 Vallées is the largest ski area in the world and the premier destination in ski terrain choice, service and gastronomy in Europe” said Vincent Lalanne-Clouté, director of Les 3 Vallées. “It’s no mistake that we are aligned with the preeminent mountain resorts in the world. We look forward to once again having Epic Pass holders experience the special place that is Les 3 Vallées, during the 2014-2015 season.”

Ask Jill: Which Park City Resort?

Hi Jill,

My family and I will be coming to Park City in a couple of weeks. Any tips on where to stay? I have 3 kids so need a two- bedroom that we can walk to the slopes from. My kids are 10,9,4 years and are starting out. The older boys have skied but will need lessons and I will take them out in the afternoons. My daughter ( 4 years) will be on skis for the first time. I need black slopes with moguls ideally. Where should we stay and ski. I know you work at Canyons; my wife would like Deer Valley. I was planning PCMR. Any thoughts? Thanks.


LOL. The good news is that the three resorts are close enough that you can try them all! I’d say for beginning kids you would want- and need- to start at Park City Mountain Resort. Deer Valley has a great ski school but the green terrain is limited. You’re either on the lower bunny hill (Wide West) or skiing a cattrack/road. DV is known for intermediate groomed skiing and killer food. Canyons is basically the same- a flat hill with a magic carpet, one beginner chair/hill (with one wide run) and then a HUGE transition to the next level; which means your kids will spend a ton of time on High Meadow before they’ll see any of the rest of the mountain. PCMR rocks for beginners. Tons of greens all over the mountain and their kids instructors are there because they like teaching kids rather than because it’s their first year in America.

Ski school group lessons run about $200+/day per kid. I’d recommend getting a private instructor the first day for all three. Have the instructor get the boys going and while they’re doing laps, the teacher can work with the four- year-old individually and show you how to ski with her so you can take her out for a bit each day and save $$. After the first day, do a group lesson and don’t be afraid to split the kids up. Often one will learn faster than the other. They’ll do better if they are with kids their own level. It’s cheaper than a half-day private to sign them up for a group lesson and arrange to meet them at lunch or after if you want to ski with them.

I would recommend two or three days at PCMR and then surprise your wife with her DV day. Make reservations for lunch at Royal Street at Silver Lake Lodge. It’s basically the same food and prices as their cafeteria next-door but without the desperate plea for a table and the long wait in line for a burger. You have to get the homemade ice cream sandwich for dessert!

The best black diamonds are at Canyons- steeps, long vertical, easy access. They do have bump runs but the best moguls seem to pile up at PCMR. After you’ve beat up your knees, you’ll love that DV break. If you do go to Canyons, take an Advanced Mountain Experience ($184). It’s an all-day group of no more than 4 skiers that’s more like a steeps clinic than a lesson and it often winds up as a private for expert skiers because, well, there aren’t that many experts who sign up (even though they should). It’s a great, inexpensive way to learn the ins and outs of the mountain while getting pointers that up your game. Plus, if you hate skiing alone like me it’s an awesome option.

As far as lodging, DV has the biggest selection of slopeside condos. Even if you stay at Canyons you’ll still be trudging through the Plaza in ski boots. There are some cool accommodations on the north side of PCMR at Silver Star. Check with Resorts West, VRBO and Flipkey to see what’s out there.

Let me know if I can help with anything else!

Jackson Hole Trip Report

Jackson Hole delivered. It took a couple of days but it delivered. As a major swell rocked the Rockies and Utah began to go from hardpack to divinely soft, we popped into my Honda for our annual pilgrimage to one of my favorite resorts in the world. The snow is usually better than in Utah and we hoped that the new storm cycle could finally bring on a Jackson powder experience. Even the milk toast cop who pulled us over in Evanston, Wyo., to write us up for speeding couldn’t dampen our excitement. “Where ya headed?” he asked. “Jackson Hole,” we answered as I handed him my insurance and registration. “I love Jackson Hole. It’s one of my favorite places. Drive safe now,” he said as he handed back a speeding ticket. Niiice. It was Sunday night and no one was on the road. He could have written us a warning in his zeal to bond over our mutual Jackson love, right?

We motored on. Even with the light snow and slick roads we made it to Fireside Resort in about 4.5 hours. The stable of reclaimed wood portable cabins is located just 4 miles from Teton Village. The individual one-bedroom units offered a touch of rustic luxury amid the gently falling snow. I was in a Jackson Hole portrait!

We had everything we needed from a medium-firm king bed to the s’mores kit left for us in the kitchenette.

In the summertime, there’s an RV campground in back and the entire place is booked solid. Fireside was an ideal spot to set up ‘glamp’ so to speak. We crashed hard in anticipation of our first Jackson ski day, We woke to 1″ of new. What?!

Lucky for us that one inch was on top of two inches, three inches, an inch, etc. It’s been snowing consistently in Wyoming for the past month and you can tell the difference. The wind, too, has smoothed out potential mogul fields. Needless to say it was a fluffy playground that starts with the long but fast-moving tram line and ends with beers at the Alpenhof. It snowed for three days straight. Although our clothes were drenched it never felt heavy and wet under foot. Just creamy. ‘Like butta’ my guide Karin would say. Ryan took off and hiked Headwall for three laps into the Casper Bowl area while we danced in the trees off Cheyenne Woods and South Colter Ridge. Why hike when everything was sweet inbounds? Even the Hobacks were more inspired than grueling. I almost made it top to bottom without stopping but the burn kicked in. Maybe next year.

We planned to do Headwall the next day but the winds kicked up shutting down Sublette Chair and forcing us to ski between the Bridger Gondola and Thunder Chair. No matter. The day went swiftly from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ever ski Tower 3 without ski poles in a blizzard? Try it sometime, just to mix things up. The steeps lesson for the day was moving your hips and torso down the fallline without worrying about timing a pole plant. I was nervous at first but not only was it challenging, but fun. We did it again before grabbing the poles for the third round. Jackson Hole is a huge mountain filled with everything an expert skier could demand. And when you want more, ditch the poles.

Though there is a sizeable amount of intermediate groomers, the staggering canyons and cliffs will intimidate newbies.

If you were ever considering a ski lesson (and even if you weren’t), this is the place. There are an unprecedented 16 PSIA DECLs (Division Education Clinic Leaders/ski examiners) on staff. Ski programs don’t get any better than at Jackson Hole.

One apres pitcher later and it was back to the cabin for s’mores, Olympics and showers. The dog was missing us too. By Day Three we were packed and planning to head home at 1 p.m. Four o’clock rolled around and we had just kicked off the ski boots. How could you cut out early when there was more than a foot of new snow on the ground? OMG it was seriously one of the best Jackson ski days in PCSkiGal memory. Rumors swirled of another 10-18″ on the way and Ryan begged to stay another night. If only. Utah awaited. And as we drove through the storm, bodying buzzing and sticky from hard charging all day, we day-dreamed about buying one of those Fireside Wheelhaus units and leaving it right where it was just so we could have a place to come back to every year. I’ve said it (more than) once and I’ll say it again. There’s no place like Jackson Hole.

Winter Dog Play

We humans are not the only ones to get a layer of insulation during the colder months. The problem is, it’s cold outside! Who wants to have to bundle up like the Michelin Man just to go out for an hour? There’s a reason why more babies are born nine months from now. Most of us get lazy in the winter and as much as we love our dogs and want them to be healthy and happy, snuggling on the couch sounds a heck of a lot more inviting. Exercise, however, is essential to a dog’s physical and mental wellness. It’s also relationship builder between you and your friend. Not to mention, keeping your pup active in winter avoids a summer of dieting. Here are some tips to make playtime part of your New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Use your stairs. Toss a ball or his favorite toy down and watch them chase and fetch- over and over; or run with him and let him chase you! You’ll both get a great workout.
  2. Save those holiday boxes and set up an obstacle course in your house.  Cut “tunnels” for them to scoot through; use the small ones for them to jump over.
  3. Laser pointers are annoying to everyone but dogs and cats. For some reason you can entertain a pet (and yourself) for hours by making them chase the pinpoint of red. Be mindful that you don’t create an obsession. It’s a fine line between playful and crazy. Also be careful not to shine the light in his eyes as it could cause damage.
  4. Hide and have him seek. Set treats or toys around the house for your dog to find. She’ll get both mental and physical stimulation. Plus, it’s the beginning steps for scent work.
  5. Take your dog on the road. It’s not hot or illegal to have your pet in the car now. If you’re worried about them getting cold while you’re away put them in a sweater or stash something like the Aspen Pet Self-Warming Bed in the back. You don’t need to plug anything in. The cushy bed has a special lining that uses the same technology in Mylar “space blankets” to reflect a pet’s body heat. The slight crunching sound may make your dog nervous at first but the faux lamb’s wool fleece really works to create a warm, soft nest your dog will love. The non-skid bottom will keep him from sliding around as you drive. It’s completely machine washable if they get it muddy getting in and out of the car.

  6. Socialize indoors. Stores like Petco and Home Depot allow you to bring your pets inside. Meeting new people and animals ups the energy level.
  7. Teach them tricks. They can learn to shut doors, pick up toys, find your remote control. Go to YouTube and search “dog tricks” for inspiration.


  8. Uh oh, here it comes- go snowshoeing or skiing with your dog. You’ll want to slap some booties on his paws like the Ultra Paws Snow and Go boots if you plan to be out long. Ice and snow can cause frost bite and cut pads. If you see your pooch picking up her paws like she’s doing a dance that’s a sign to head in.

  9. Start obedience or specialty training. Weekly classes give you an excuse to get your dog out of the house and mingling. It also keeps them stimulated and out of your trash.
  10. Speaking of which, it’s probably a good idea to crate your pet if you’re going to be gone all day skiing. Bored dogs can do a lot of damage. Or simply tune into DogTV online or through DirecTV Satellite to keep them entertained.

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