Utah Journal (2000)

Never Turn Down a Challenge

“I’m going skiing out west this weekend,” Andrew said, exhaustion coloring his voice on the phone.

“You can’t just go out west.”

“Sure I can!”

“Have you made reservations? Found a flight? I’m being realistic.”

“Don’t ruin my fantasy, it’s all that’s getting me through the week.”

We were a couple weeks back from our long weekend in Quebec City where the skiing was great, but as icy as New England. Andrew was craving deep powder.

Later in the week I asked him, only partly tongue-in-cheek, if he’d booked his trip. He didn’t even recall our conversation–that’s how tired he’d been when we’d had it. The next day he asked if I wanted to go to Utah for a weekend in March.

“It’s your fault, you know. You mentioned going for a weekend, and it got me thinking. So I went on-line and found that we can get to Salt Lake City in less time than it took to go to Quebec.”

“Okay. Sure. Let’s go.” I never turn down a challenge.

The challenge grew. We booked the trip, but then a week before our departure the deal Andrew was working on looked like it might present a scheduling conflict. He approached the client, telling them he had to know whether he would need to be in town over the weekend or not. They couldn’t be sure. He said he had to be able to tell his traveling companion yes or no now, so it would have to be no–no trip. But of course I’m more flexible than that, so we held our breath and kept our bags ready. Sure enough, he called on Thursday to say they would be concluding all they could on the deal that night and we would most likely be able to get away on Friday afterall.

Bobsled starting line at the Winter Sports Center.
The derelict luge run at the Utah Winter Sports Center

We arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, land of clean living and great skiing, around 10 p.m. Even Andrew’s skis got there. The drive to Park City took about an hour in our rental car. After a minor booking glitch we were settled in our odd little “condo” in the slope-side resort complex.

It was a “condo” in quotes because it sported a kitchenette, a gas fireplace, and a murphy bed. The sofa folded out, but to do so you’d have to put the coffee table outside on the balcony. They told us it was a room for four. Pretty funny.

First thing Saturday we located breakfast in one of the complex’s restaurants. Then I drove Andrew to Deer Valley, the neighboring ski area known for its excellent facilities and attentive service. He was met by one of the “ski bunny” porters who carry your skis and buckle your boots for you. Knowing he was in good hands, I went in search of low-lying snow for cross country skiing or snowshoeing. I’d done some research. There’s a cross country center on the town golf course.

Refrigeration pipes on the back of the luge run.

But the golf course was covered with grass, not snow. By late March the ski touring season has come to an end in Park City. All of the shops and rental places had stowed their skis and snowshoes and were displaying mountain bikes and rollerblades. Disappointed, and not in the mood for mountain biking in the slush, I fled to the outlet mall for the morning.

The summer ski jumping runs and pool.

Armed with new Coach accessories, I took in the Olympic sports center with it’s dormant luge and bobsled runs. Most amusing was the landing pool for summertime ski jumping. Then I returned to Park City’s main drag, “Historic Main Street.” I was soon shopped out and visited the Wasatch Brewing Company for a late lunch.

Back at the ski complex I located the swimming pool and hot tubs, and I’d discovered heaven. The pool was divided into indoor and outdoor sections, with hot tubs on both sides of the glass wall. The combination of 40 degree air and 90 degree water was invigorating.

Andrew had seen an interesting restaurant on the top of the hill at Deer Valley, but we decided to drive to Sundance Ranch for dinner instead. Afterall, it’s in the canyon on the other side of the mountain that forms Deer Valley. Sure, we have to drive around, but how far can it be?

Town lift with friendly operator

Luckily, we allowed two hours so that we could check out Sundance.

After 90 minutes, mostly on two lane, twisty mountain roads in pitch blackness, we found it. The last few miles we suspected Mr. Redford of posting decoy signs, the road was so tiny, dark, and twisting. We stumbled into the shop next to the restaurant and asked the woman at the counter if there was a better route. She took one look at us and pulled out pen and paper to draw a map. There was a slightly more direct route, but only slightly.

Park City and its town lift.

Our meal in The Tree Room was more than worth the drive. And thanks to the rough little map the drive home was less hair-raising.

Sunday morning Andrew clumped off to the Park City slopes, the lift for which was about 50 yards from our door. I set out on foot up the road to the town lift’s first stop. This was the very bottom of the hill, except for the base of the lift which is actually in town (the first leg of the lift carries skiers over buildings, houses, and a street before reaching the snow). I walked up the edge of one of the runs for a ways and took some pictures of the Wasatch range. Back at the lift, the woman operating it came out to chat. She and her husband had moved here from the east to ski. They run a small B and B on the road into town. She worked the lift for the ski pass, and the occasional passes to Deer Valley.

I returned to the pool to do some laps and read in the hot tub before our afternoon departure. I had the place to myself since all the respectable guests were off skiing, but that didn’t bother me. Enough that I could hear them shushing by on the slope just beyond the patio wall.

Back in the lowlands we stopped at a Salt Lake City Wendy’s for pre-flight food. Not exactly the pate and cheese we like to bring aboard from France.