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Having it All in Ski City: World-Class Powder, Arts, Sports

Published: 02/06/2015
By Hilary Nangle, Boston Globe -- Art, culture, music, sports, science, technology, and world-class skiing: Welcome to Ski City: Salt Lake City, Utah. Book a direct flight from Boston’s Logan airport, and the rest is easy peasy. Light rail, TRAX, connects the airport to the downtown, and the fee is a mere $2.50. Check into your hotel, and then either hit the slopes, the shops, or the museums. We made TRAX to the Red Iguana, an authentic Mexican restaurant for lunch.

We had purchased three-day Ski City Superpasses ($228, a savings of $46.50 off window prices), which provided three days of skiing over 14 days. It includes free transportation on city buses and TRAX, a real benie. No need to search for a parking space and then lug gear to the base lodge, the bus stops at the front door of Brighton, Solitude, Alta, and Snowbird. Even better, no need to stand in line at the ticket window. The pass provides direct lift access.

Our first full day we skied Solitude, which earns its name. Over the course of the day, we skied onto the lift every time and rarely shared a trail with more than one or two other skiers and riders. Blue skies, unblemished powder still calling a full day after a storm, and the quietude of having it to ourselves won us over. Word on the street is that Deer Valley, which recently acquired it, plans few changes other than perhaps enhancing the facilities and food service. Although we had planned to also ski Brighton, which is connected to Solitude and valid on the same pass, we never got there. We just loved Solitude.

If you’ve heard about the grand plans to connect the Park City and Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts with lifts, it’s easy to understand it from the top of the Eagle Express. Our guide pointed across the valley: “That’s the top of Jupiter on Park City,” he said, and then gestured for us to follow him and slide off skier’s left to the rim of a canyon. “And the other side of that ridge,” he continued, pointing to a across Honeycomb Canyon to a wall of powder chutes, “is Alta.” With those two gestures, he made the impossible possible.

We returned too late to visit either the Leonardo, the wondrous museum where art, science, and technology merge into a mesmerizing and fun interactive experience, or the Utah Museum of Natural History, famed for its dinosaur exhibits. Instead, I speed-walked the downtown, taking in the temple and City Creek, the downtown shopping mall near Temple Square.

Day two, we headed to Alta, and found ourselves riding the lifts with musicians in the Utah Symphony, who would be performing with the Utah Opera that night. “I love it here,” a violinist told me. “The skiing is great and it’s only about 40 minutes from downtown.” He shared a nifty tip: If you show a same-week lift ticket, you can get a best-available seat ticket to any performance for just $35. That night, we visited the orchestra pit during intermission to give him our thanks.

We finished the week at Snowbird, where we shared one ride up the tram with Margie, a ski patroller, who told us about her six-month-old pup-in-training, who had just passed the first test as an avalanche dog. “We didn’t know what to call him. I tried a few names, and he didn’t respond, and then I said ‘Frankie,’ and he perked right up, ‘yup that’s me,’ so Frankie it is,” she said.

Although exhausted after a day tackling Snowbird’s steeps, we rallied for an early dinner at Squatter’s, Salt Lake City’s famed brewpub, and then padded over to catch a Utah Jazz-Lakers game. That’s the beauty of Ski City, yes, the ski areas are within easy reach, but the city itself offers so much within walking distance. And, if you’re exhausted, as we were, you can always catch the TRAX back to your hotel or on to the airport for a red-eye home.