Saturday, January 14-Monday, January 16, 2017: Park City, Utah
Over Martin Luther King weekend 2017, I tried learning to ski in Park City, Utah . Park City is a quaint old mining town above Salt Lake City centered around two sizable, connected ski resorts and a pleasant downtown area. The friends I joined for the quick trip were all moderate-to-good skiiers, and I am not, so I spent all Sunday in lessons and fell a lot. Below are reviews of the places I hit in Park City and the time I spent there.
Summary of the Below Verbosity
Getting There and Getting Around
- Airport: Fly into Salt Lake City. Frontier has cheap flights
- Uber: If surging isn’t in full effect, you can get up to Park City for $30-40 from the airport. At peak times, e.g. leaving for Salt Lake City on the morning after a popular weekend, surging will be in full effect. The app was asking for $150-200 for the trip to the airport. (Note: The hotel arranged some alernate car service that cost about $100 between two people, but I did not mark down its name.)
- 902 Bus: This bus is the only public transportation to speak of between Salt Lake City and Park City. I did not use it, as it only seems to run twice a day (each direction) on weekends (and holidays) and four times on weekdays, and you also need to catch the UTA Trax to or from Salt Lake Central Station from or to the airport. For comparison’s sake, the route costs $4.50 and Google says it takes 1 hr 35 minutes; Google says the drive takes 35-55 minutes
- Park City Transit Bus: Park City has free buses to and from resorts (funded by Vail, I assume, which is willing to eat the cost of a bus ticket to get you to give it $6 for a side of fries). From the DoubleTree to the main Park City base, just cross the street and walk to the left to reach the bus stop. It isn’t heated but it is covered. Buses seem to run every few minutes – you want any bus that is going to downtown by way of the base
- DoubleTree by Hilton Park City – The Yarrow: I will be a DoubleTree loyalist as long as they keep giving me unlimited warmed up cookies every time I pass the front desk. This hotel is situated in a nice spot in Park City, a short bus ride from the base and a cheap Uber from downtown. Note that Vail, the resort conglomerate that owns Park City (and Vail) also runs this hotel, so if you think you are pulling a fast one on the resort by only skiing there and not paying for its expensive accommodations, you’re not. That said, the DoubleTree’s prices are reasonable. An important feature is the outdoor heated pool and large hot tub, the latter of which especially makes for a very nice setting to end a day spent tumbling over in the snow
- Hotel Intelligentsia: The DoubleTree has a makeshift Intelligentsia in it. The prices are not makeshift, but it’s staffed by the hotel employees, who are friendly
- Juipter Java: This coffee shop seemed like a good place to warm up after a cold day of skiing and has a cool name, but it was a letdown – crowded, and serving Starbucks at extortionate prices
- Legacy Cafe: My ski instructor said that all the actual restaurants would have long waits and so recommended that my classmates and I eat here. The food was fine but was insanely expensive. The resort knows that it has a captive market. The salmon reuben with apple slaw was pretty cool, but the side of fries for an already expensive sandwich ran somewhere between $6 and $8. I paid thirty dollars total for a sandiwch, bottle of water, side of fries, and a yogurt
- Park City Ski and Snowboard School: The lessons were pretty good, and after a full day on the (bunny and turtle) slopes, I felt much more confident. Because I am bad at skiing, I did not have the chance to survey the scenery higher up the mountain or the enjoyability of the blues+, but everyone I spoke with gave the mountain, which hosted much of the 2002 Winter Olympics, positive reviews. At Park City, you save money for everything by booking it online – lessons, lift tickets, rentals. They may have a package for lift tickets and lessons together, and I think you might save something like a hundred bucks doing the reservation that way. Even if you don’t get the package, you can pick up your lift ticket at the school so that you don’t need to stand in the lift ticket line; you will need a lift ticket for lessons as long as you make it off the bunny hill. The school seems to encourage anyone who has skiied at least once to try something above beginning, but if you are not very comfortable with the basics I personally would recommend starting with beginner anyways. (Supposedly, there are Groupons and deals through independent ski shops on lift tickets)
- Rent Skis: The resort recommends reserving whatever you need to rent via this website. Service was good. The Park City pickup is right in the base area’s main building, but there are ample independent shops in the base area that may be cheaper
- No Name Saloon: This place actually has a name and it is No Name Saloon. It is your quintessential Park City bar – everyone who recommends bars in Park City recommends it, everyone who has visited Park City seems to have been here, and at times it feels like everyone currently in Park City is inside this very bar. It does trace some sort of continuous lineage to the time when Park City was a mining town. According to High West’s (see below) website describes mining town saloons thusly: “The saloon was the epicenter for community gatherings, victuals, and tasty libations.” I can vouch for the victuals – the Zesty Red Bell Burger, made with buffalo meat (like all the burgers) was delicious
- High West Saloon: Relax, this is Utah, not Colorado – don’t let the name mislead you. This bar/restaurant is accessible from Park City base by bus and is also a quick fifteen minute walk. It’s associated with the local High West Distillery and primarily serves its liquors. The wait, including just to get to the inside bar to wait for an inside table, on a popular ski day is pretty ridiculous, and the day I visited, all heat lamps but one were broken, but the outside area does have its own bar, serving hot High West cider and various other drinks. I especially appreciated the availability of hot virgin cider. Once my friends and I finally were seated, the waiter killed it with his recommendations. We started with shishito peppers and these weird wings that were kinda barbecue-ish and delicious; added some tasty onion soup; and then shared very healthy portions of short rib and chicken schnitzel (trout and the burger were his other recommendations) with sprouts and mac and cheese for sides
- Downstairs: I had a real hell of a time at this bar. As its name implies, it is downstairs, below a few other spots on Main Street. Though its website refers to it as an “Upscale Nightclub,” I would dispute that description. It is cleaner and more modern than a dive bar, but it’s really just a big open space with a couple of tables. You can claim a table by standing near it or ordering a bucket of beers, neither of which would pass muster at an upscale nightclub. By midnight or one, it was packed and most everyone was dancing, but people were still wearing their ski jackets or in jeans, sweaters, etc. instead of shirts with cool stripes or uncomfortable dresses
Notes and Photos
I landed in Salt Lake City on Saturday night. My friends were supposed to fly in from various parts of the country on Friday, and all but one missed their flights. By the time I arrived, they had found their ways to town, snuck in a partial Saturday of skiing, and moved on to No Name Saloon. I Ubered to the DoubleTree, dropped off my bag, and met them at the bar. The place was packed, and they were taking turns eating at a table in the corner by the door and standing, twenty feet away, kind of in everyone’s way, kind of near the bar. Fortunately, the guys occupying the next table over left fairly early, so we expanded our empire of tables and I was able to eat my burger fully seated and only had to share a chair once or twice. The table was very cold as the night air rushed in through the frequently opening door, and I felt envious of the people sitting on the heated bench outside the window. Nonetheless, a good time was had by most and we ended the night boisterously belting out American Pie before serenading our waitress with an emotional rendition of You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’ by the Righteous Brothers. She seemed pleased but still asked us to pay our bill. I retired at a reasonable hour to prepare for my accession into the world of skiing.
Before this trip, I had skiied precisely once. It was nearly fifteen years ago and I never made it past the bunny hill. My clearest memory from that attempting is of me, learning to pizza and french fry on what was essentially a flat surface, and suddenly starting to slide away from the group. I toppled over in front of a group of skiiers, presumably more advanced than me, who were preparing to head out for the day. They looked at me, and in my memory, laughed and made no effort to help. I struggled for several minutes with my new six feet-long feet to right myself and abashedly shuffled back to the group. When I made my reservation with Park City, the employee said that, because I’d skiied before, the Never Ever class would bore me and I would make a good candidate for the next level up.
I did not make a good candidate for the next level up. I woke up early, dressed warmly, grabbed some espresso from Intelligentsia, caught a bus over to the base area, picked up my lesson and lift tickets, stuffed myself into rental ski gear, and reported for class. Instructors are identifiable by their blue jackets, and I waddled uncomfortably in my new ski boots to request placement in a class. Two instructors gathered all of the level 2s and informed us that our group was big enough so as to be split into two groups – the slightly more and slightly less advanced. One said that I seemed like I should be in the more advanced. I said that I thought we should play it safe and put me in the less advanced group, and then I asked how to put on skis.
The less advanced group was too advanced for me. I fell repeatedly on the way to the ski lift, could not figure out how to point the tips of my skis towards each other enough to slow me down, struggled to stop, and needed very explicit instructions to make it on and off the ski lift without getting knocked over or mangled by its mechanical march up the mountain. The instructors quickly directed the group down the easiest green hill, which is marked with a turtle. I crashed over into the snow while going down the slower, flatter, shorter part of the turtle hill, and the instructor and the rest of the class started to get the idea that maybe I was developmentally not at the same level as the others. At the bottom of that smaller hill, a slope from higher up merged with the turtle hill, and what seemed to me like old pros raced past with reckless abandon and no concern for my safety. I made it onto the safe zone part of that hill, and inched to the bottom by crawling (as in moving very slowly), actually crawling, falling, gaining to much speed, losing my skis, and walking. I didn’t cry at all. The instructor said that maybe I should give the beginner class a shot. I concurred and was promptly demoted.
The move worked out really well. I was moved to the Never Ever (not related to Never Have I Ever) class with Allen, which only had two other students, a couple visiting from California. The girlfriend half of the couple had serious problems with her boots and called it a day very early, so the boyfriend half and I ended up with basically a two-person private lesson. We spent the morning covering all the basics before proceeding to the bunny slope, which I cycled through over and over. I went down the hill, up the conveyor belt, and fell on less than half my trips.
At midday, we retreated inside for some overpriced cafeteria food at the Legacy Cafe. The girlfriend rejoined us for lunch, and the four of us dined and chatted. Allen is a good beginner instructor and impressive fella away from the mountain as well: MBA, JD, CPA, recently retired managing partner and still principal owner of his own local business. He still teaches skiing because it is fun. He also has two daughters and offered to set me up with either of them if only I wasn’t leaving town the next day, which was very nice of him.
We spent the afternoon back on the greens, and my trips down them went much, much better than my harrowing morning journey. I still felt out of control at times, and still fell over plenty of times, but I stayed vertical for the entirety of the day’s final run. It was a good thing, too, as the painful bruise that I already could feel building on my left hip (my preference when falling was onto my left side) might not have been able to take another blow.
I returned my equpiment and grabbed a hot drink at Jupiter Java while waiting for the more advanced skiiers to finish up. The walk up to High West Saloon was only fifteen minutes, and the buses were only running every eight or so, so we hoofed it up the hill for hot drinks and delicious food. Thoroughly satiated, we headed back to the hotel to recuperate in the outdoor hot tub until the hotel kicked us out of it. We then took our prunish skin over to Downstairs and, for a group of sizable adult males, danced rather aggressively for several hours to EDM, Latin music, current top 40, and old to 40. I liked that establishment quite a bit.
The next morning, I waved goodbye to Park City and moved on to Salt Lake.