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Park City Primer: Skiers Only at Deer Valley and Alta

December 18, 2012 at 1:38 PM | by | ()

You know Kai. Earlier this year he surfed Costa Rice and scuba-ed Bermuda. All this week, he'll be hitting the fresh snow on some Utah slopes and bragging about it, just in time for ski & snowboard season.

Two of the remaining three resorts in the US that do not allow snowboards are within forty or so miles of each other in Utah. It's not really clear why these rules are the case, given that the rest of Utah is pro-snowboarder, but if you're a skiier who'd rather not share the slopes then heading to UT for your next trip could be the way to go.

One of those skier-only options is Deer Valley, right in Park City. Known as one of the world's swankiest resorts, this hill was home to some of the 2002 Winter Olympic events and has long been a staple for the celebrity ski set. In fact, its official "ski ambassador" is the pink-haired, two-time Olympic medalist Shannon Bahrke (pictured at right).

At Deer Valley, lift pass sales are capped so you'll find shorter lines than most other resorts, and the service is absolutely tip-top.

Great service is all well and good, but without decent skiing Deer Valley would just be a fancy resort on a hill. Luckily they average around 300 inches of snowfall a year and their snowmaking facilities, which cover an incredible 1/4 of the skiable area, are among the best in the world. If groomers are your thing, then Deer Valley could be your skier heaven.

As for terrain, it's listed as 20% beginner, 50% intermediate and 30% advanced, but in truth it skis a little easier than that. They also claim 3,000 ft of vertical, but Empire Canyon, the highest point of the resort, is a little off the beaten track; it's more of a mini ski hill within the main hill. No great matter though as there are plenty of steep, aggressive runs, and it all feels rather refined. It's the kind of resort where you could picture James Bond taking on the slopes during a restful weekend. James Bond quality does not come cheap, however; you'll pay $106 for a single day pass in peak season. Ouch.

Another great option to consider is Alta, in Little Cottonwood Canyon about an hour's drive from Park City. It's one of the oldest ski hills in the country, dating back to 1938, and the weather systems over this side of the mountains deliver more snow more consistently than the Park City side. Here they average 500 inches a year, and as it's a little more remote you are likely to need snow tires or chains to drive there.

The terrain at Alta is definitely more suited to the advanced skier, and although there are plenty of easy runs it's the more aggressive skiers who'll get the most out of the mountain. If you want big drops and super steep skiing all without a snowboarder in sight, then Alta is for you. Most of it is ungroomed, too, and if you're an expert, you'll love the back country over there. If you do go this route though, please hire a guide. It's very easy to get lost in the Utah back country.

There is fantastic, spectacular skiing all over Utah, but Deer Valley and Alta really stand out as two of the very best. One is terribly civilized, the other a little more rugged and extreme. Both we love for being absolutely world class.

[Photos: Kai MacMahon]

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