Greatest snow on earth? We took our Epic Passes for a spin in Park City (PHOTOS)
My partner and I had one goal for this winter: have a great ski season.
We’d spent much of the pandemic at Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains with occasional
Whistler trips, and this year we wanted to step it up — and try an entirely new mountain.
Vail Resorts bought Whistler Blackcomb back in 2016, and now that international borders are open, Vail’s Epic Pass gets you more than just access at Whistler — you can go to any mountain affiliated with Vail. So we headed to Park City, Utah, over spring break.
Park City is the largest ski resort in the US, and it’s famous for its dry, fluffy powder — the entire state’s marketing slogan even calls it the “greatest snow on earth.” Seriously, it’s on licence plates.
We started our journey by flying into Salt Lake City, Utah, and taking a 45-minute shuttle to the ski town. We had to play Tetris to get all our winter gear into two carry-on bags, but once we checked into the Grand Summit Hotel, the struggle was all worth it.
We were treated to a view of the Utah mountains, gleaming a dusty mauve as the sun set.
The next morning was an early wake-up to get on the hill. We went up from the Canyons Village side with instructor and guide Robert Messina. He’s been on the slopes since he was six, and fell in love with teaching during his early seasons working at resorts. He likes to joke about how much his degree in business and economics has helped his career.
Messina has lived on the East Coast and the West Coast, but loves Utah because there’s room to breathe. He orchestrated a grand tour of the resort, winding across the sprawling terrain from peak to peak.
I have to come clean that I didn’t actually ski in Park City because I got injured earlier in the season (how about that for trying to cram in as many days as possible? The universe really told me to relax). But I did wait at the on-mountain lodge to hear all about it.
“We don’t get ice,” Messina says of what makes skiing here great. “It’s cold and it’s dry, so the snow dries right out. It’s great.”
And it’s true. Park City hadn’t seen new snow in a few days — instead, treating us to a gorgeous bluebird morning. But the snow is still soft and fluffy as ever, and consistent throughout the mountain — no slushy soup toward the bottom like at Whistler.
Another beautiful feature of the resort is the glades of silver aspen trees. Their lack of leaves means it’s better visibility through them compared to evergreens, and, as Messina says, “if you can see through it, you can ski through it,” although he reminds us never to look at a tree — or we’ll risk slamming into one.
The mountain is in a totally different type of biosphere than we’re used to, with bare, dry peaks that glow a dusty blue in the sun. Certainly a treat for the eyes, and for the legs — if you can handle getting a little more winded than usual because of the high elevation.
“If you’re coming to Utah, expect to enjoy a lot of wide open views,” Messina says. “And to ski a lot of days.”
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After we bid adieu to Messina, it was time for a rewarding soak in one of Grand Summit’s three hot tubs.
As any skier knows, you’re simply famished by the end of a day on the slopes. Good thing there are some seriously gourmet dining options in Park City, so we brought our appetites (and our phone calculators — the conversion to USD is no joke), to replenish our energy.
My favourite restaurant we tried was Purple Sage. It focuses on American western cuisine with meat-forward dishes including its award-winning meatloaf and sugar and chile-cured duck. A basket of cornbread precedes the meal, which is simply delicious, and you can’t finish without the spicy, warm brownie with ice cream.
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The next morning we tried snowshoeing — a way for me to still get out into the mountains despite my injury.
Victoria with White Pine Touring took us up through the Ontario Mine trail system, where we quickly ascended through pines and gorgeous aspens to see mountains, other ski resorts, and the old mine.
Park City started as a mining town, where silver, gold, and lead were extracted from the mountains beginning in the 1800s. According to Messina, the first skiers used mine shafts and elevators to ascend the peaks long before chairlifts were put in place.
Now, the old mining infrastructures have become landmarks along our snowshoe route.
Victoria found us lots of fresh powder and encouraged us to make fresh tracks and run down the hill. We kept a good pace, but she reminded us not to go too fast — or we’d lose the views and good-for-the-soul medicine that snowshoeing brings.
Another busy day meant another good meal was in order. We visited Kita at Pendry Park City, a newly opened Japanese spot. We had buttery sashimi, crispy fried cauliflower, and hamachi crudo in a yuzu-chilli emulsion.
I wish we’d come earlier to dip in the hotel’s stunning pool and hot tub, which anyone can visit with a purchase from the poolside bar.
After that, the last thing left to do was enjoy a relaxing massage at the Rock Resorts Spa and get one last delicious Italian meal at Cafe Terigo — run by the parents of the man behind Purple Sage.
We came back to Vancouver feeling relaxed, in the way you do after getting a good workout and enough sleep. If you can afford the airfare and USD conversion for food, taking advantage of the Epic Pass at other mountains is a cool experience — certain to make winter go by in a snap of the fingers.
Epic Passes are already on sale for next season, if you’re thinking of exploring beyond Whistler. The next mountain on my ski bucket list? Maybe one in Japan.
Daily Hive was hosted by Vail Resorts