Local Lowdown from Park City – January 12, 2016

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There are few better things in life than friends congregating from their respective parts of the world to ride. I’m lucky enough to have a friend, Matas, who lives and works in Park City and was so gracious to host me and our two Canadian friends for our stay. He picked Jonas, Rory and I up in Salt Lake City and it was time to make the 35 minute trek to Park City. I’d been to Park City 2 years ago, but recently Vail Resorts had purchased Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons to create America’s largest resort, which they just call “Park City”.

Park City – “America’s Largest Resort”

View From Pinecone Ridge/Photo Credit: Matas Freiman
View From Pinecone Ridge/Photo Credit: Matas Freiman

One thing that stuck out immediately was the changes at Miner’s Camp restaurant and the addition of the Quicksilver Gondola. By far, this was the cornerstone achievement linking the two resorts into a massive sprawl of powder chaser paradise.  Once in town, we dropped our gear at Matas’ place and set off to make our dinner reservation at Yama Sushi at Montage of Deer Valley. I won’t go into much detail about the food as I’m a snowboarder not a food critic (call me a foodie and you may end up with a black eye), but it was spectacular. Our table was perfect, up against a huge window allowing us to watch the flakes pile up as we enjoyed our feast. The conversation was light; we caught up and made jokes, the whole time my mind was on the snow.  Already it looked like we’d received a good six inches; it was forecast to snow all night and into most of the following day…Could we be blessed with a pow-day in the morning? Options started to bounce around my head.

Should we save Park City for day 2 and hit Snowbird instead? Choices, choices…

Main Street Park City/Photo Credit: Rory Gillilan
Main Street Park City/Photo Credit: Rory Gillilan

The rest of the night we hung out at O’Shucks. It’s a solid dive bar with great beer specials, lifties playing shuffleboard and pool and a lively local vibe. That’s where the debate starts. Park City or Snowbird. For those who haven’t been to Snowbird on a powder day, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s life altering! During a past trip, I was lucky enough to experience a 24” powder day that left me shining and exhausted. Obviously, I was team Snowbird. Matas, being a local, most experienced and considerate of our different skill levels gets us all to agree that Park City is our best choice. As the night continues, it was time for karaoke. You’ll have to forgive me, but by now I can’t even remember the name of the bar. Time seemed to fly by as we close out the night, head home and hit the bed. It was difficult to get any shuteye due to the anticipation and expectation of waking to a decent total the next morning.

The following day, we wake to a total of 14” of Powder

Crecent Lift/Photo Credit: Rory Gillaland
Crecent Lift/Photo Credit: Rory Gillaland

I’m grateful. The weather is warm, low 30’s, a nice greybird day. It’s still snowing and the peaks look like they’re enveloped in tall grey clouds. The snow was ideal, perfectly formed crystalline flakes that sent up a rooster-tail of flour to antique your friends with. The peaks were a touch sketchy though.  Because of the clouds and falling snow you could only really see 15-20 yards ahead of you making it nearly impossible to spot a line or keep an eye on your friends. It definitely was not safe for off-trail riding, but was the perfect warm-up to the cloud line and freshies below.

Park City Mountain/Photo Credit: Rory Gilliland
Park City Mountain/Photo Credit: Rory Gilliland

After getting a few runs in it was time to move on. We needed a beer break and Matas thought that Canyons would be the place to go. To get there we’d have to take the Quicksilver Gondola, which was something I was actually looking forward to. The ride was nice, just like any other gondola there’s staff to assist you and make the most of the space, but as early as we were moving on we had the space to ourselves.

Not going to sugar-coat this at all, Canyons was EXPENSIVE.

Canyons Rest Area/Photo Credit: Rory Gilliland
Canyons Rest Area/Photo Credit: Rory Gilliland

At $8/beer (we’re talking BUDWEISER tall-boys not anything special) a round was sounding ridiculous, but this is where Vail Resorts knows they have you by the short and curlies. Of course we’re ready to pay because at this point we’re parched and even melting snow would quench our thirst. The friendly attractive heavily accented bartender cracks our beers and then we’re out to go hang in the snow lounge.

This being my first time at Canyons I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little bummed that there were a lot of 2 & 4 person lifts, none of them high speed, but the lack of patrons made up for the extra time lifting. The runs, just like PCMR (I’ll continue to differentiate between the two just for the sake of it) were cushiony soft and almost lacking evidence of prior powder chasers. The trails were narrower, but peppered with multi-million dollar mansions the likes of could be compared to lodges or resorts that left us joking and laughing about which we could purchase or go in on. Once we’d had our fill it was time to get back to PCMR because it was getting late and Matas knew it would take a bit to get back to our car and still enjoy our time on the mountain.

We decide to take a break at “Corner Store”

By the time we’d made it back to PCMR the day was getting long. A little tired and starting to get a bit hungry we decide to take a break at the “Corner Store” and have a snack. The deals are good and we’re only feeling a snack so the spin-dip is the consensus. Now a side-note about my friend Matas. He is probably one of the NICEST people you’ll ever met, and because of that gift he knows EVERYONE. In town, you can’t go 10’ without someone saying hi to him or him hollering out to someone he knows. Back to Corner Shop there’s a few of his friends at the bar who come by to chat, one of them (I’ll apologize I don’t remember his name) was a tiny little guy with curly blonde locks and blue eyes and talked Matas into getting us back out to hit a few more runs before the end of the day with his girlfriend. Of course we’re in and it’s back to the lift to enjoy the last couple runs. Now I remind you it’s been gently snowing all day, so our runs are still somewhat powdery and our visibility isn’t all the best. Once at the top Matas announces that him and his friend are going to run a line and we’re welcome to follow. I was sure I wasn’t in any shape for (both of them are HIGHLY competitive skiers and I didn’t feel like kissing a tree). So I take the safe route, but still enjoy pushing around the piles of snow that cover the what would normally have been moguled mountainsides. After a quick trip through Neff Land it was time to call it quits. Getting back to Matas’ car we cracked on those who fell, reminisced on tricks pulled or powder slashed and gleamed on the perfect day that the universe had granted us.

Just like any other day of riding…

back at the house it was time for a couple beers while people showered, planned what to do for food and talk about what to do for the evening. After a shower and getting back to the living room I find out pizza is the consensus. Being from Chicago there’s rarely a time I wouldn’t eat a pizza. Now I have no idea where we’re ordering from, the only thing I know is that we’re putting in the order online and I trust my friend enough w/my credit card to put the order through. I should have been suspect when “BBQ” and “Alfredo” were options; being from Chicago I take pizza VERY seriously. The defining features being a standout dough (thin or pan), a signature MARINARA, distinctive cheese and fresh toppings. I go with him to pick up the pies only to find out it’s Domino’s. No lie, hadn’t had one since college which we’ll say was a while ago and again, being from Chicago ordering from a chain is a shunable offense. I’m actually pleasantly surprised. To my surprise my pepperoni and black olive pizza is actually pretty decent (props to you Domino’s, you’ll never be my first choice but not bad). After a shower and a meal the general consensus is a quick nap before the evening out. And this is where those who know me best know…I didn’t make it out.

On the Mountain Day 2.

Pinecone Ridge/Photo Credit: Unknown
Pinecone Ridge/Photo Credit: Unknown

I get up early. I have a dog so it basically a requirement. After waking up and not seeing any other signs of life I waste time doing other menial tasks till we get closer to first chair. Finally people start moving about, after all we’re there to ride. Power through!  There was a trace snowfall through the night, another greybird day. After another pass through PCMR then Canyons via the Peak-to-Peak Matas wants to climb Pinecone. I’m always down for a challenge and in fairly good shape so I decide I’m in for the challenge.  After making plans to meet up with Rory and Jonas, Matas and I split off to chase an unadulterated run. I’m soon to find out I’m no match for a man who gets 100+ days a year on a pair of skis who calls this mountain home. Keeping up with him is painful, to get to the traverse alone we have to truck across a couple football fields worth of chopped up yesterday’s snow. After finally catching up to him it’s time to completely unstrap and hike the rest of the way to the peak. Lying to myself I think I’ll be able to keep pace, there’s no way, I’m making 1 step to his 2 and after about 10 yards of distance and 10 feet of vertical I’m sweating through my layers opening every vent I have. After what feels like an hour I FINALLY make it to the summit. Working for it always tastes better than just popping off the lift. And just as it should makes for a completely virgin run across acres of powder leaving me completely satisfied.

Powder Day/Photo Credit: Rory Gilliland

Overdoing it leads to injury

Once we catch back up with our group I come to find out Jonas has tweaked his knee and the majority of the group is ready to call it a day. We decide to take one last run to which I vow to practice some buttering. After a couple successful spins and 180s I decide to speed things up. Womp womp. Overzealous I catch an edge and bite it, reinforcing it’s time to call it a day.

Back home we clean up and get out to Davansa’s for some sandwiches and wind down. A group of Matas’ friends join us and it’s off to Flanagan’s to which a highly talented band was playing (again I apologize I can’t remember their name but they rocked) and it was then time for bed.

The next day I was satisfied.

The mountain had been inviting and the weather had been agreeable. On our way to the airport a trip to In-n-Out was necessary since there are no locations in Chicago or Toronto. And after our goodbyes to Matas and then toasting our trip at Gordon Biersch in the terminal before we parted ways I think we all appreciated that although Vail Resorts had changed the landscape, mother nature is what really provided the show.


Submission by: Erikas Vizinas

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