Our flight landed in Salt Lake City at 9:48 a.m. We were at Park City Resort a little more than an hour later.
Yes, it’s just as easy as everybody has tried to tell you.
This was a verification of the persuasions I had heard from various parties over the years when discussing the best locations to take my family skiing out West. “You’ll be on the slopes by lunch” was the popular refrain of those trying to sell the Utah destination as the ideal family escape.
Indeed. After hopping on the first Utah-bound flight out of Boston, it was only 10:55 a.m. when our shuttle pulled up to the Westgate Resort and Spa, located within spitting distance of Canyons Village at Park City Resort. This was an ease I had never experienced on any of my previous skiing adventures in the western United States.
I’ve been lucky enough over the years to have a few of my best friends land in cities like Denver and San Francisco, which has made the ability to play in the Rocky Mountains and Lake Tahoe a frequent event. Then, my wife and I had three children and I was forced to envision trying to navigate the challenges of I-70 or Highway 80 with them in tow. Suddenly, my intention of taking the entire camp to experience the back bowls of Vail or the gnarly routes at Kirkwood didn’t exactly sound all that attractive a journey.
Utah? All I knew about skiing in Utah during my 20s was that the state had beers with lower ABVs.
The ease with which Utah’s skiing is accessible from Salt Lake International is its biggest calling card for the unknown. But until you actually find yourself at a base lodge less an hour after claiming your luggage, that reality doesn’t effectively sink in.
Yet, there I was, enjoying lunch at the slopeside Drafts Burger Bar, staring out at the Canyons Village that would be the starting point for our Utah adventure.
It wasn’t even noon.
In an ideal world, I could have whipped out my Epic Pass and taken a few afternoon runs, but I decided to wait until the morning, choosing to spend some family time exploring the Westgate Resort instead. The next morning, with all three of my kids (ages 11, 8 and 6 at the time) taking lessons in order to assimilate themselves to the Western terrain, I had the opportunity to explore. I took some runs off the Saddleback Express, soaring through trees and into some more genteel terrain that I would later explore with the kids over the weekend. I made the difficult hike up Murdock’s Peak and dipped into the bowl, immediately reappreciating the sensation of floating in shin-deep powder.
Around noontime, I navigated my way to the other side of the resort, passing some of the old mining remains that still reside on the Utah mountain’s landscape. I took advantage of being alone and checked out some of the more-challenging terrain on Jupiter Peak, shooting from McConkey’s Bowl into the Black Forest. The quality of the snow, terrain and vibe immediately made Park City a favorite, a feeling I found out later that afternoon that the kids had as well (Tunnel of Love and Pinball Alley, both intermediate, bumpy tree runs, were their favorites).
On our final day, our flight didn’t leave Salt Lake City until 5 p.m. That gave us the bulk of the day to ski the Canyons, then enjoy another lunch at Drafts (complete with enormous, $12 shakes) before hopping in our shuttle at 3 p.m. No rental car. No hassle. From last chair to wheels up in a matter of three total hours.
Perhaps the only mistake I made on my first afternoon was not leaving myself enough time to make my way from the Park City side of the resort back to the Canyons in time to pick up my daughter from her lesson. I figured an hour would be enough to transport myself across the tremendous landscape.
Spoiler: It was not.
That’s the sort of detail East Coast skiers learn when they find themselves in the much larger landscape of the West. The massive nature of everything is all-encompassing, a treat for the soul, but also one that takes some familiarizing. Besides, how could I have figured it took less time to get from the airport to the mountain than it would to ski from one side of the resort to the other?
If there was one drawback to familiarizing myself with Park City, it just might be the hesitancy with which I might plan my future endeavors out West. Colorado, Montana and northern California all beckon, but with some question. As in, will I be there in time for “The Price is Right?” Because, otherwise, let me tell you about how easy Utah really is to get to.
You will be there by lunch. But that only depends on how late you eat breakfast.
Eric Wilbur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.