SnoCountry Road Trip: Ikon Pass In The Wasatch
SnoCountry's Road Trip team is grabbing its Ikon Pass and hopping a flight to Salt Lake City to try out a trio of Wasatch Mountain resort. Ski and ride all you want at Solitude, and up to seven days each at Deer Valley and Snowbird.
From the newly remodeled Salt Lake Airport, either rent a car, take a resort shuttle, or board public transport to get to your resort. Accommodations choices include at the mountain, on the Wasatch Front near Salt Lake, or over the hill in Park City.
That's where we start, at Deer Valley above the town of Park City. Skiers only and limited tickets (pre-Covid) on 1,750 acres. LIfts galore and no one grooms like Deer Valley (they sometimes do so during the day!) so "gettin' your carve on" is it. About 85% of runs are blue or green, and nowhere else can you ski over and under bridges through a luxury 'hood (Little Baldy). For steeps and untracked, you have to lift-hop to Empire Peak. No American resort offers such bow-and-scrape luxury. Have it all at Stein Erikson Lodge, Montage, or St. Regis at mid-mountain. Or seek out a motel on the way and save cash for escargots at lunch.
The next stop is over the ridge at Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Lives up to its name as crowds are rare. Nearly 2,500 vertical on 1,200 acres means steep. Warm-up on wide blues-greens that huddle at the bottom. Then head to the upper mountain where all is black. Getting there can be awkward with a disjointed lift network, especially from lower parking ($20 fee). However, once there, Honeycomb Canyon has the most concentrated powder lines in the Wasatch. Ikon Pass cuts 25% off lodging. Traffic can be heavy on either end of the day, and both Solitude and neighbor Brighton make it worthwhile to take a shuttle from the base of the canyon.
The final stop on our Wasatch tour is the biggest. Snowbird swarms over three cirques, with 3,500 of vertical feet. Basically, novices won't see much of the mountain's 2,500 acres. Lifts are fast and long, tram zips from base to 11,000-foot summit in less than 5 minutes. From there, pick your pleasure. Only blue Chip's Run winds back to base. Traverse backside treeless Mineral Basin for the steepest pow' runs. On the front, stay high to the skier's right and test gullies in Little Baldy Bowl. Or stick to Little Cloud and Gad II high-speeds to lap freshies most every run. Lunch at Mid-Gad.
You can't ski or ride The 'Bird without taking the oft-gnarly traverse to infamous Cirque. Bowl skiing at its best, with infinite lines. If you've got your groove on, stay on the ridge and dive off ridge's end down Mach Schnell into the base.
No matter in which order you ski or ride on this road trip -- or the time of day for your return flight -- a free or cheap shuttle will be waiting at the bottom for no more than a half-hour's trip to the check-in desk.