That is the view on the driveway up to Sundance, a little resort about an hour outside Salt Lake City. Sundance was founded in 1969 by Robert Redford. It is over 6000 acres of protected wilderness and ski runs. He has personalized the resort by naming some of the runs after his daughters, naming a restaurant at the top of the back mountain "Bearclaw" in honor of the character in the Jeremiah Johnson movie, and has a picture of him and Paul Newman as the characters from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the front desk. His environmental statements are subtle - yet not - the main lift informs you that it protects the environment by being wind turbine powered and all the literature around Sundance tells you how much they love the environment.
Phrases to characterize my vacation: Winter paradise. Spectacular wipeouts. Lovely views. Getting my snowmobile stuck in the powder. Silent snowfall.
This was my third time skiing and I've never skied in California. I had always heard about the long lift lines, large amounts of people on the slopes, and the endless line of traffic just to get into the resorts, and hence, never went. From all I heard from fellow travelers, I didn't miss much.
Utah's snow is like fine powder, and there are literally hundreds of inches of base snowfall. I got to ski at Sundance and Park City - and I've found that I have graduated from the "green circle" (beginner) ski runs to the "blue square" (intermediate) runs. I only fell a few times, but they were spectacular, lose-my-poles-and-my-skis-20-foot slides. Those falls where you're so impressed that you made it that you're almost glad that it happened. Almost. I haven't dared any "black diamonds" (advanced) only because they look so dangerous and scary to me. Eventually though, I'd like to be able to do it.
This was my first ski trip that I realized that skiing is very expensive - even for a single guy. This is because in the past I have slept over at friend's homes and borrowed their gear and clothing. Let's run through the costs of a conservative average 3-day trip for a single man:
Transportation (optional) Airplane ticket - $200 Rental Car - $150 Gas - $20
Views like this - priceless
But in all seriousness, that's pretty pricey. That's a little under $700 without a plane ticket and easily over $1000 with. And that's for one person. Obviously cost goes down if you split certain things - but you can't split skis or lift tickets or equipment.
It's well worth it for people who love nature and love gazing at beautiful scenery while swishing downhill; cold air in your face and the wind howling in your ears.
I also got a chance to snowmobile about an hour outside of Sundance. I felt pretty good - until I hit the powder. Snowmobiling in powder is very different from normal snowmobiling. We had some beautiful Polaris 550s, but when you're in the powder, if you wander off into the snow, hit a drift, or fail to keep the throttle down, you'll get stuck. I went on a three hour guided tour of the back country, but at least 45 of those minutes were spent digging my sled out of the snow when I got stuck.
Here are some of the views I got to experience in the back country
Nights after skiing should be spent in front of a warm fire with hot apple cider or hot chocolate. I was midway through watching season 4 of "24" on DVD, so I got pulled into finishing the last 12 episodes of that highly addictive series. That show always manages to top itself in ridiculousness.
As for Park City - it has a charming main street and it's not hard to imagine that the Olympics were hosted there just 4 short years ago. The ski run is enormous, and because I went the week after New Year's, it was much less crowded, though I did sense many a skier zooming past me.
Thus ends 3 weeks of vacation. I am intensely grateful to God and my friends for the opportunity to have taken all these trips. I feel refreshed and ready for my last 5 months in Southern California.