Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Park City and The Canyons: 01/31 - 02/02/2016
I’ve loved every one of the western ski trips I’ve gone on over the last several years, but with the east locked in a snow drought this winter, our trip to Park City, Utah was a godsend. As if on cue, the storm cycle that started the day before our arrival deposited 22 inches of fluff during our stay. And that came on top of what’s already been an excellent snow year in Utah.
I’m not exactly sure how the destination gets chosen for our “guys’ trip” each year, but this year it went something like this: “Anywhere but Park City,” quipped one the guys. Next thing you know, Park City it is! While there are destinations with more extreme terrain and higher annual snowfall totals, Park City was a perfect fit for our group with easy access, a great town, and plenty of terrain variety to keep everyone happy.
Since Park City and Canyons are now connected (as of the 2015-16 season) and run as a single resort, we had more than 7,000 acres of skiable terrain available from our condo at the Canyons base area. If a skier can’t find fun and challenge in 7 thousand acres, then you’re just not doing it right.
My main priority on a western ski trip is to seek out terrain and snow conditions that simply aren’t available in the east. With that in mind, I had already pegged the Jupiter Peak, Jupiter Bowl and Ninety-Nine 90 terrain pods for exploration.
After warming up on a few cruisers, I found my way to the top of the bootpack above the Ninenty-Nine 90 lift by 10am on our first day. My partner and I pushed through the side-country access gate and traversed along the ridgeline. Another 15 minutes of hiking got us far enough out to take our pick of untracked lines through the foot of new snow that had fallen in the last 2 days.
Blue skies don’t last forever, and on that day they didn’t last past noon. But clouds bring snow, and by the morning of our second day nearly another foot had fallen, for a total of 22 inches since our arrival. Blue skies are nice, but storm days are a special kind of fun.
We had stuck to the Canyons side on our first day, but explored our way over to the Park City side the second day, sampling whatever snow looked good along the way. The connection between Canyons and Park City is via the new Quicksilver Gondola:
Storm days are perfect for skiing in the trees, so we explored the steep but beautiful tree runs in McConkey’s Bowl before lunch. After lunch, we headed for the old-school double chair that serves the Jupiter Bowl terrain pod. Far from Park City’s base and with no defined trails, Jupiter Bowl feels more like a backcountry area than a ski resort. Pick your line through the trees, the open bowls, or anywhere it looks good. And it looked good in a lot places.
By late afternoon the storm was letting up and the sun tried to push its way through, but by the next morning it was full-on bluebird skies. We started with a warm-up lap out of the Park City base…
…and then headed back up to McConkey’s. The side-country access gates which had been closed during the storm (for good reason) opened on our second or third ride up the chairlift. A 15 minute hike brought me to the top of Jupiter Peak. My descent, through an area identified on the trail map as the East Face, was hands-down the nicest run I’ve had all year. Some turns through steep rock bands just below the summit opened into a beautiful powder-filled bowl below. I skied alongside a pair of tracks, spooning their turns to conserve the powder for whoever might follow. Maybe skiers who live out west get to ski stuff like that every weekend, but for me that’s a run I’ll remember for a long time.
I’d hike for turns like that all day, but we had a 1pm meet-up time with the rest of our crew, over on the Canyons side. We skied our way over, enjoying more first tracks through the trees in McConkey’s, a final lap on the Jupiter Bowl double, and some beautiful runs in the Dreamcatcher area at Canyons, a lightly used back corner of the resort.
We ended our final day skiing the Canyons side until the lifts closed at 4pm. It’ll be a long time till I ski snow like that again.