PCSkiGal: It's Summer In The Wasatch
The snow melts and not only does nature spring from the barren trails but shorts-wearing, dog-toting, cycled-attached bodies sprout up as fast as wildflowers in July.
Instead of skiing, boarding, snowshoeing and sledding, these tanned torsos and leathered toes tackle hiking, mountain biking, festing, discing and even birdwatching. Some locals and visitors to Utah might even try to argue there’s more to do in the summer than there ever is in the winter.
I’m a skier and that’s all I need to do in winter. But I’m glad that the summers explode with activity. I don’t know what I’d do with myself from May to October otherwise.
Solitude: My first summer Solitude experience involved mountain biking the lift-served, gentle single track before gorging myself on phenomenal snacks and libations from our state’s finest restaurants and beverage purveyors.
The Annual Taste of the Wasatch is Utah’s premiere culinary event, featuring unlimited nibbles created by chefs from over 50 top restaurants and resorts, and perpetually flowing alcohol from boutique wineries and craft breweries. There’s also live music, and a live and silent auction. The tickets for the August 3 event are steep - $90- but if you make this the sole meal of the day you can justify the price; not to mention that while you’re crushing your hunger, a portion of the funds support efforts to fight hunger in Utah.
But you don’t have to wait until August to take advantage of Solitude’s mountain biking, hiking, fishing, disc golf, mountain scooter riding, and scenic lift rides. FYI- The Honeycomb Grill is open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. and for Sunday Brunch 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Snowbasin: Snowbasin Resort has some of the best mountain biking in the state for wimpy riders like me. SSSSHHHHH. While everyone’s out ripping Twist and Shout at Deer Valley, you can take the weekend to play on 26 miles of (relatively) uncrowded single track. The resort is open Saturdays and Sundays with scenic gondola rides to Needles Lodge for brunch or lunch, riding and hiking, free guided tours, Frisbee Golf on a 9-hole course. You can also rock climb but you’re on your own in terms of route finding.
Little ones will love the new playground, Euro bungee, and bounce houses at the base. There’s also the free outdoor Blues, Brews & BBQ concert series every Sunday with both national and regional artists. Snow cones and soft serve ice cream are served alongside your favorite BBQ items and local Utah craft beers.
Alta: One of my favorite things to do in the summer at Alta is brunch at the Alta Lodge then walk it off among the wildflowers in Albion Basin. Bring your climbing gear for excellent routes off the Cecret Lake Trail with gorgeous views of the Wasatch from the shady bolted routes.
Snowbird: Summer activities here are just as extreme as winter ones. This place is not for wussies. The mountain biking is legitimately black-diamond level whether you ride off of Hidden Peak on Chips Run or take one of the seven miles of single track on the lower mountain.
The newly opened Big Mountain Trail brings an additional 7.5 miles of high alpine terrain and an average grade of eight percent. It starts at the top of the Snowbird Tram (11,000 feet) and descends through Gad Valley. But more “girlish” proclivities will appreciate the Aerial Tram and Peruvian scenic rides, Alpine Slide, Mountain Coaster, Mountain Flyer seated zipline, new Vertical Drop, Climbing Wall, Bungee Trampolines and Ropes Course.
Children can pan for gemstones in the Wasatch Mining Co. sluice daily on the Plaza Deck. The mountain biking, hiking, mountain scooters and horseback riding is accessed in Mineral Basin, fishing in Austin Pond. Rent gear from the Activity Center on the Plaza Deck. There are free movies on Friday nights and concerts on Saturday nights when you’re ready to chill.
Deer Valley: Music or sports? You don’t have to choose if you’re spending the day at Deer Valley. After hours riding the nearly 70 miles of world-class single-track, unload the picnic basket, camp chair and bottle of wine, and settle in for a memorable evening of music under the stars. The 2014 summer concert series, performed at the resort’s renowned Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater, includes the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Deer Valley Music Festival, the Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Outdoor Concert Series and the Locals Community Concert Series.
Park City Mountain Resort: Summertime’s rocking the resort despite the ski area’s winter future hanging in the balance. The mountain is open daily for more than 70 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails off the PayDay, Town, and Crescent chairlifts.
For less strenuous but no less heart-pounding adventure check out Utah’s longest alpine coaster, one of the world’s longest alpine slides (and rowdiest if you take the concrete track instead of the fiberglass ones); the ZipRider Zip Line. Kid-friendly activities include the Spider Slide; Climbing Web; boulders and climbing wall in the Adventure Zone; and the Legacy Launcher trampolines. Little Miners Park’s merry-go-round, airplane ride and mini-train cater to the resort’s youngest guests.
A couple of events are the new free Monday Night Movies in the Mountains just after sunset on the Resort Plaza.
The North Face Endurance Challenge’s first ever Utah stop lands at PCMR October 4-5 with a series of trail run distances including: 50 mile; 50k; marathon; marathon relay; half marathon; 10k and 5k.
You can’t beat the apps and French onion soup at Legends Bar and Grill, located in the resort plaza. They do have a full lunch and dinner menu. For eating on the fly try out Crescent Burger for made-to-order burgers, hand-cut fries and homemade shakes just steps from PayDay Chairlift.
Canyons Resort: The Saturday evening concerts draw crowds in the thousands but there’s more to do around this Vail Resorts-run area than just dancing in the plaza.
Hiking, mountain biking, disc golf, mini-golf, ziplines, aggressive (progressive) bike park, catch and release fishing, stand up paddle boarding, and - if you know someone staying at the Grand Summit - swimming; to name a few. The Wednesday afternoon Farmers Markets not only supports local produce and wares but there’s also live music and dog training demonstrations from Dog Training Elite.
Speaking of Wednesdays…the Resort stays open until 8 p.m. so you can ride or hike in the evening. Purchase a 2014-15 Epic Pass for next winter to access the Red Pine Gondola the rest of the summer. The Bike Park costs extra. One huge bummer is that there is no youth Bike pass available, so plan accordingly. FYI- there is a free Bike Park at Trailside Park but you won’t get a lift-assist to the top.
The Red Tail Grill in the Plaza is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but don’t eat there if you’re in a hurry. Service is sloooowwww.
Sundance Resort: Plan to overnight at Sundance to get the full effect of a summer weekend retreat. The cottages are luxurious, the five-star food at the Treeroom and Foundry satisfy big and little palettes and there are more than 25 miles of trails to explore by bike and boot.
For the more artsy, you can take hands-on workshops in jewelry making,
wheel-thrown pottery, watercolor or oil painting, printmaking, photography and charcoal and pencil drawing in the art barn or take in a performance of Fiddler on the Roof under the stars or listen to unsung artists at the Friday night Bluebird Café Singer/Songwriter concert series.
Photo: Summer in Utah’s Wasatch (Jill Adler)