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Sunsets

What is it about sunsets that are so fascinating and appealing?

Looking through my Instagram photos, a collection that features a variety of different subjects, there’s clearly favor shown to the shots of sunsets by those doing the viewing.

Is it based solely on the visual stimulation created by the complex combination of Mother Nature’s colors? The oranges, reds, yellows and blues making magic on the horizon.

Or is it something more emotional? The satisfaction, uncertainty and excitement that goes along with knowing that another day in this thing we call life has come to a close, with another about to start.

Sunset

Sunset. Columbia Falls, MT.

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Groomed to Perfection

Have you ever wondered what happens when the lifts stop spinning at ski resorts? Or how that corduroy looks so perfect every morning? Most things don’t happen overnight, but perfectly groomed runs do. Justin Olsen tells the story of how it goes down through this sweet time-lapse video. Enjoy.

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Have Mountains. Will Bike.

I thought I knew what mountain biking was.  In fact, if you asked me I would have told you that I’d been mountain biking.  But that was before I moved to Salt Lake City.  That was before my eyes were opened to REAL mountain biking!  Turns out riding your Huffy along the dirt back roads of small town Washington State and poppin’ wheelies off of tree roots doesn’t count as mountain biking . . . who would’ve thought?

For you unfortunate souls who have yet to visit Salt Lake City, let me fill you in on one simple fact:  mountain bikers flock to SLC like flies to . . . well, you get the idea.  Why?  Two words – Wasatch Mountains.   From tall, gnarly peaks and ridges to low-lying wooded foothills, the Wasatch’s terrain is as varied as the riders flocking to it.  Lung bursting ascents? It’s here.  Fun, swooping double track? Check.  Buttery single track? You betcha.  Breathtaking descents and scenery? Definitely!

 

I’m new to the mountain biking scene, recently purchasing my first mountain bike.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the day, I’ve got a group of hardcore mountain biking friends looking to initiate me to Salt Lake City’s trail systems as quick as possible. Like any newbie, I’ve bonked, captain crashed and endo’d with the best of them.  I’ve been left in the dust and had to walk my bike.  But I’ve still ridden on some sweet trails in some amazing areas!  Here are a few of my favorites so far:

The Bobsled – Steep.  Fast.  Gnarly.  Challenging.  Epic.  Not to mention one of the most famous trails in Salt Lake City.  Drop into the creek bed that is home to this twisting, turning downhill trail, and you’re in for the long haul.  Over 1.6 miles you’ll drop 1,000 vertical feet, flying up and around steep banked turns, through tight single track and over jumps.  First-timer or beginner?  Take your time and enjoy the ride.  Experienced?  Cut loose, keeping your eyes open for the unique features and big air opportunities.

Clark’s Trail – Located in Corner Canyon, Clark’s Trail is perfect for intermediate riders, with the loop from the mouth of Corner Canyon to Traverse Ridge and back registering at just over 3 miles.  After a short climb to the top of Traverse Ridge, you’ll get to enjoy some awesome downhill.  Looking for a longer ride?  Hook into the Draper Race Loop, Clark’s Ghost Loop or any of the other trails in Corner Canyon.

Wasatch Crest Trail – By far the prettiest trail I’ve ridden to this point.  And that’s saying something considering I rode it at night!  The views from this trail are amazing, and I can only imagine how pretty the aspen groves and meadows look during the day.  Not to mention great views of Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City.  We started in Mill Creek Canyon, taking The Great Western Trail and hooking into the Wasatch Crest Trail for a couple of miles.  Despite a tough climb, the swooping single track on the descent made it all worth while.

What are you waiting for?  Grab your bike and hit the trails!  But know that once you start you won’t want to stop.  Check in at Two Feet to Adventure for more of my adventures.

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Ski Season Means – Hitchhiking

Powder Magazine launched its gear guide (which I’ve read cover to cover).  Ski Utah announced it’s “Ultimate Powderhound” competition.  Industry magazines are releasing their resort guides.  Season passes are going on sale.  And last week Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort received a dusting of snow on their highest peak.  Ski season is officially on its way!  If you’re anything like me, you’ve been looking forward to this season ever since you tearfully put your skis away last spring.  And if you’re anything like me, which I’m guessing you are since you’re reading this post, there is more than one reason why you live for ski season.  Is it the face shots?  Maybe it’s the après ski scene? Or maybe still it’s the people you meet?  In honor of the impending season, I present you with my latest series of posts – “Ski season means.”  From now until the lifts start spinning, I’ll be posting regularly on the things I love and look forward to most about ski season.  Consider it my personal effort to spread the stoke!

Hitchhiking – I know what some of you are thinking.  Hitchhiking?  Really?! What does that have to do with ski season?  I will answer your questions with a question.  How else do you get up to the mountain when your car is not considered “safe” to drive in the winter, you have no money for gas or you missed the bus heading up the canyon?  The answer, and my main mode of mountain transportation this past winter, is hitchhiking.

Before you judge me, let me just say that hitchhiking has gotten a bad rap.  Contrary to popular belief, hitchhiking, particularly to and from salt lake area resorts, is safe, fun and surprisingly efficient.  As evidence, my longest wait this whole winter was a whopping 10 minutes!  Even UTA can’t compete with that!  True, I could have ridden the bus or even carpooled with friends, but hitchhiking, in my opinion is part of the skiing experience.  It allows you to meet new and interesting people.  It allows you to trade stories and share secret stash information.  And if you’re lucky, it leads to a friendly beer in a crowded ski bar at the end of an epic day.

I’ve hitchhiked with and without my gear.  I’ve hitchhiked in snowstorms and on beautiful days.  I’ve hitchhiked with fellow hitchhikers and I’ve flown solo.  All have led to different experiences and results.  But all have helped me formulate a few key ideas on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to hitchhiking during ski season.  Here’s what I know:

  • Thumb positioning is vital.  Too high and/or straight screams desperate.  Too low says, “I don’t really care.”  A slight bend to the elbow with the thumb at a 45 degree angle to the ground is perfect form.
  • Tall tee = long wait.
  • Luggage = longer wait.  Traditionally, the more gear you have the longer you’ll wait.  Tip:  Hitchhike fully dressed (ski boots on).  The appearance of less gear makes you more likely to be picked up.
  • Smile.  Look excited.  And for god sakes try not to act hung over!
  • Sport resort gear.  If you’ve got resort apparel wear it with pride!  The resort name and logo gives you credibility.
  • Ditch the headphones.  Nobody wants to pick up someone who won’t say a word the whole ride.
  • Share the wealth.  A thermos of coffee or box of donuts can do wonders for your wait time – think about it!
  • Early bird gets the worm.  Show up early.  Those heading up for first chair are more likely to pick you up than those rushing to get the last of the freshies.

Consider these tips my hitchhikers guide to, well . . . hitchhiking.  Hopefully they help you in your quest for fresh tracks.  And the next time you see a hitchhiker on the side of the road, pick them up.   After all, its ski season!

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Just Call Me G.I. Joe

Have you ever had your name chanted on a crowded boardwalk in a foreign country?  I have.  Here’s my story . . .

Barcelona, Spain is an amazing city.  It’s culture,  food, architecture, nightlife and street performers are virtually unmatched anywhere else in the world.  Not to mention its beaches . . . and the people who make the beach their place of business (Yes, I am talking about drug dealers).

His hair was in dreads.  And for no other reason but that he looked eerily similar to Bob Marley, whose famous mug graced the front of his shirt.  He was deeply tanned and his bare feet were as dirty as the knees of his baggy pants from walking and working in the wet sand.  But if you were to think he was a bum you’d be wrong.  He was a drug dealer.  And a clever one at that.

You see, this guy didn’t just peddle pot.  He was an artist too.  His plan was simple, yet effective – use his artisitc ability to attract prospective customers.  I’m by no means condoning the dealing of drugs, but this guy had a good thing going. Seriously, how can you resist wanting to get a closer look at a HUGE dog or dragon made out of sand? 

His name was Matthew and our first conversation went something like this:

Me:  “Nice sand sculptures.  How long did those take you to build?”

Matthew:  “Not long.  Hey man, you want some grass?”

Me:  “No thanks, bro.”

And that was it. From sand sculptures to drugs in ten seconds flat.

With the sun out, and the sand warm beneath our feet, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beaches of Barcelona drinking warm Spanish beer and fending off propositions for “Massageys” from the small Asian women scurrying up and down the beach.  The groups of tourists and locals came and went – some clothed and others leaving nothing to the imagination – but all providing great foder for people watching. 

As the sun retreated into the ocean and the boardwalk filled with people eager to experience Barcelona’s renowned nightlife, we pulled ourselves from our comfortable spots in the sand, grabbed our remaining beers and began the trek back to our hostile.  Weaving my way towards the boardwalk, remaining beers in hand, I realized three things:

  1. Awkwardly carrying three beers through the throngs of foot traffic on Las Ramblas would be a pain.
  2. Matthew was slaving away creating another sand sculpture.
  3. It was hot and he was probably thirsty.

Always looking to improve foreign relations, I stopped and offered the beer to Matthew.  His response was priceless.  Pure amazement and gratitude as he immediately cracked one open.  We made small talk as he drank.  He told me his name was Matthew and that he was originally from Germany, but now called Barcelona home.  Matthew then asked my name and I told him Joe.  His response:  “Joe . . . Like G.I. Joe?!” After telling him that I was from the state of Washington, we shook hands and I merged into the stream of people on the crowded boardwalk.  As I walked away I turned around and saw Matthew, to the bewilderment of many onlookers, pumping both hands in the air and chanting “G.I. Joe!  G.I. Joe! Washington State! Washington State!”

Chances are, I’ll never see Matthew again.  But you can bet I’ll always remember that evening on the boardwalk in Barcelona.  And that is exactly what I love about traveling.  New places, activities and experiences are only part of the story.  Traveling is about the people you meet.  Because it’s the stories you create with those people that you’ll always remember.

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Rock climbing at Reservoir Ridge

Have I mentioned that I love living in Salt Lake City? Since moving here permanently in July, I’ve been having one great outdoor experience after another.  I’m like a kid in a candy store down here . . . except instead of candy I’m gorging myself on cycling, mountain biking, hiking, bouldering, rock climbing, canyoneering and trail running.  Whoever said “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing,” obviously never got the chance to live in SLC.

 

After spending this past winter climbing at Momentum and the early part of this summer bouldering in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I finally got the chance to head to Big Cottonwood Canyon for some real rock climbing.  For those of you who don’t know, Big Cottonwood Canyon is a great place to climb, offering routes for beginners (such as myself) to challenging routes for the seasoned climber (such as Nick, my patient teacher).

We decided to head to Reservoir Ridge, which offers seven routes that are perfect for fine tuning your top roping skills and practicing sport and trad climbing – which is exactly what we intended to do.  To get used to climbing outside, I top roped my first two routes (Iraq In The Back Attack, Error of Our Ways).  Both were relatively easy with ample foot and hand holds – perfect for my first outdoor climbing experience.

With my confidence up and the light quickly fading in the canyon, I decided to attempt leading my first sport climb.  I returned to Iraq In The Back Attack, a 5.6 climb, and started climbing.  I quickly realized sport climbing is a whole different animal requiring patience, skill and confidence in your climbing ability.  There is much more to think about when sport climbing such as rope and carabiner placement, making it both fun and challenging.  Luckily, I made it to the top, successfully completing my first, and definitely not my last, lead on a sport climb.

Was there anything negative about this experience?  Yes.  I’m now thoroughly obsessed with climbing, which adds another expensive hobby to an ever growing list.  Can you say second job?

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Gaining Momentum

I haven’t rocked climbed in years.  Ok, that’s a lie.  I’ve never actually “rock climbed” . . . I’ve only been bouldering . . . in Tonasket, WA . . . which isn’t exactly a mecca of bouldering or climbing. 

Needless to say, my experience and skill level in any sort of climbing is limited.  Yet, despite my shortcomings, I’ve always wanted to start climbing seriously.  Maybe because climbing is such a great workout.  Maybe because I’m looking for another activity to add to my ever growing list of hobbies.  Or maybe it’s because it looks so rad.  There’s never been a lack of great reasons for me to start climbing.  But for some reason I’ve never pulled the trigger . . . until now.

I’d like to think that I finally made the jump myself.  But in reality it was my girlfriend who finally convinced me to start climbing.  You see, she’s probably the most adventurous person I know.  And unlike me, when she discovers something she wants to start doing, such as climbing, she does it . . . right away.  Fortunately for us, Salt Lake City is a hotbed of climbing, both indoors and outdoors.  And being that ski season was in full swing, we headed for Salt Lake City’s largest and most notable indoor gym – Momentum Climbing Gym.

After walking into Momentum, seeing the intimidating walls and routes, the highly skilled climbers hanging precariously by their fingertips and the plethora of technical looking equipment, I realized something.  I realized that most people, including myself, shy away from climbing because of the perceived necessary skill level and technical prowess.  Fact of the matter is, those guys climbing the insane routes have been climbing for YEARS!  And they all started out the same way I did –  knowing absolutely nothing! 

In reality, it only took about 15 minutes for me  to pay for my gym time, rent the necessary equipment and get belay certified (a must for every new climber).  After that I was turned loose on the wall, free to climb to my heart’s content!    

Momentum offers a great deal for climbing on Friday and Saturday’s.  For $10 you can climb from 6-10 pm.  The great part about this deal, besides the fantastic rate, is that you get a good mix of people climbing.  Not only is it great for the sport of climbing as it builds interest, but it’s good for those new to climbing because they don’t feel as intimidated as they would completely surrounded by expert climbers.  The bad part of this deal – if you can call it “bad” – is trying to climb for four hours.  Seriously, take the word of this newly wise and very sore climber – climbing for four hours is hard!

Like any new beginner I started out tentative, slow and on easy routes.  But by the end of the night I was climbing faster, smoother and with more confidence on harder routes – finishing the night by topping out on a 5.9.  Pretty good for a first timer, if you ask me!

With my first climbing experience complete, I’ve come to a conclusion.  Climbing is a great workout and you do look rad when you’re doing it.  But that’s not the reason I like climbing and will continue to climb.  I’ll continue to climb because it hurts so good.  You see, I was tired and sore after climbing.  That goes without saying.  But was I exhausted?  No!  In fact, I was energized.  I was energized by the activity.  Energized by the conquering of a new route or a difficult problem.  And most importantly, I was energized by the progress I made, both physically and mentally.  It is because of this feeling I get when I’m done climbing that I’ve since bought new climbing shoes, purchased a climbing harness and am quickly becoming a regular at Momentum Climbing Gym.

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My Top Photos From the 2009-2010 Ski Season

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  So, instead of using the written word to eloquenty describe to you how great my winter was at Solitude Mountain Resort, I figured it would be best to use photos.  No, I’m not being lazy and not wanting to write.  I’m actually doing this for you!  I want you to be able to SEE the terrain, SEE the snow and SEE the mountains, so that maybe, just maybe, you can feel what it’s like to ski in Utah and ski the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

I’m not a professional photographer.  In fact, my skill with the camera would be more aptly described as a work in progress.  However, I did get to shoot a lot of photos this winter.  Some were good.  And some were bad.  Yet, no matter how many bad photos I took, the feeling I got when I captured an image that I knew was a winner made it all worth it.  Will my photos make it on the cover of Powder MagazineSkiing Magazine or Freeskier Magazine?  Probably not.  Nonetheless, here are some of my favorite photos I shot this season:

After being behind the lens and experiencing the pressure of having to get “The shot,” you would think that being the skier in a photo shoot would be less stressful.  I beg to differ!  In fact, I would say I was more nervous as the skier.  Not only do you have to concentrate on skiing, but you have to try and look good at the same time.  How’s my line?  How’s my form?  So many things to think about!  Here’s a few photos from this season where it all came together:

Jealous, huh?  Maybe wishing you’d spent your winter in Utah?  Or perhaps you’re regretting not skiing enough this season?  All reasonable feelings to be having after seeing pictures of Utah’s famous powder.  I believe Dolores LaChapelle summed it up best when she said, “Powder snow skiing is not fun.  It’s life, fully lived, life lived in a blaze of reality.”

Got any great powder shots from this winter?  Comment below with links to your favorite ones!  After all, I showed you mine, now you have to show me yours!

Check out Solitude Mountain Resort’s photostream on Flickr for more great photos!

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What’s Your Fantasy?

From the first time I saw Fantasy Ridge, towering high above the east face of Solitude Mountain Resort’s Honeycomb Canyon, I knew that I wanted to ski it . . . I just didn’t know if I had the guts.

Fantasy Ridge as seen from Evergreen Ridge

You see, Fantasy Ridge isn’t your normal ski run.  In fact, it’s not a ski run at all.  There is no lift access.  There is no groomed terrain.  And there is certainly no easy way up or down.  It’s a bootpack, and one of the gnarliest bootpacks you’ll ever encounter.      

A section of Fantasy Ridge

Last week, after months of excuses, some good (avalanche danger) and some bad (scared stiff), I finally set out to hike Fantasy Ridge.      

Backpack and helmet – check.  Beacon – check.  New Blizzard Answer skis – Check.  No time like the present to see what they can do!  It might seem like I’m overpacking, but believe me, when skiing in the Wasatch mountain range, particularly lines like the ones off Fantasy Ridge, you’re better safe than sorry.  With all gear ready and accounted for, I left Solitude Mountain Resort’s village and caught the Sunrise chair up to the Summit chair which brought me to the south edge of Honeycomb Canyon and the base of Fantasy Ridge.     

A spiny, knife-edge ridgeline, Fantasy runs north, northeast above the Honeycomb Canyon cliffs creating chutes or “shots” 1-26.  These 26 distinct spillways are not for the faint of heart as some require mandatory airs and most feature rock lined no-fall zones.  With my skis strapped to my backpack and my beacon turned on, I stepped through the Fantasy Ridge gate and started hiking what some have called the most technical inbounds hike in North America.     

Fantasy Ridge from the Black Bess Traverse

The first pitch is pretty mellow, bringing you to the Black Bess traverse and giving you your first view of Mt. Millicent, Patsy Marley Peak and the famed Wolverine Cirque.  But from this point on, there’s no turning back.  This may sound cliche, but it’s absolutely true.  When it comes to Fantasy Ridge, turning around and trying to climb back down is much more dangerous than continuing to hike  up.      

Mt. Millicent and Wolverine Cirque

From here the hike gets interesting, and by interesting I mean down right sketchy.  For the next 10-15 minutes, you’ll climb pitches so steep that you have to use your hands (or the cable that has been bolted into the rock) to pull you up.  You’ll walk along sections of trail so narrow that there’s barely enough room for your boots to be next to each other.  You’ll tight rope your way across narrow sections of trail with steep, long drop-offs on both sides.  And you’ll inch your way around rocks that jut out into the path by holding onto a cable so you don’t take a tumble down one of Fantasy’s many rock strewn chutes.  Before I hiked Fantasy Ridge, I’d heard the stories of people freezing part way up and having to be talked down or helped down by Solitude Mountain Resort Ski Patrol.  And after hiking Fantasy Ridge I now understand why.      

Climbing the steeps of Fantasy

“Don’t drink too much coffee if you’re gonna hike Fantasy Ridge. It’s like walking a high-wire; you don’t want to shake yourself clear off.” – Kristen Ulmer, extreme skiing pioneer     

“During the hike, if you can bear to look around, you’ve already started to come to grips with the steepness. The terrain falls away on both sides, but it’s particularly intimidating on the Honeycomb side: cliffy slabs of snow hanging in space. Thus, when you get to the top, and look into the gut of the first line a hanging triangle of snow which funnels into a mandatory straightline which then dumps you out into a huge apron you are ready for steep.” – Matt Harvey, Editor, Freeskier Magazine       

The top of Fantasy - Mt. Superior in the background

But if you can conquer the climb and your fears, the end result is worth its weight in fresh, untouched tracks.  First, the view from the top is breathtaking.  On a blue bird day there’s nothing more beautiful!  Mount Superior, Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, Alta Ski Area, Silverfork, Brighton Resort, Honeycomb Canyon, Wolverine Cirque and Twin Lakes backcountry area are all visible.  Not only can you see some of the best backcountry lines the Wasatch mountain range has to offer, but because of your willingness to hike, you’re about to ski some of Solitude Mountain Resort’s best, and most advanced terrain.      

“The rowdy access deters most, if not all, of the tourists who vacation in this beautiful part of Utah, which is one reason that the lines off of the top of the ridge back down into Honeycomb Canyon stay fresh. The other reason that most of these lines stay fresh is the fact that they are steep. Very steep.” – Matt Harvey, Editor, Freeskier Magazine        

From here, the only question you have to ask yourself is, “How gnarly am I willing to go?”  Looking for mandatory airs, mandatory straight lines and super skinny chutes?  You can find all this and more in the first 10 shots.  For my inaugural Fantasy Ridge run I chose shot 12, a steep and mildly technical run in the middle of the ridge.  After dropping in and making 4-5 turns on the spring like snow, I straight lined it through a chute and into a wide apron full of untouched powder.  Pure bliss!      

Shot 12 - my first run on Fantasy

Were the turns worth the hike? Definitely! Would I do it again? In a heart beat!  In fact, I made another fantasy lap later that same day.  Is Fantasy Ridge for everyone?  Definitely NOT! If this article makes you nervous, or if you’re not completely and utterly confident in your ability to hike and ski advanced terrain, then it’s probably best to leave the fresh tracks off of Fantasy Ridge for . . . me!    

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Ski Salt Lake – A Contrast in Personalities

Every ski resort has one.  It is what differentiates them from their competition.  It is what people remember most.  It is a combination of terrain, amenities, apres ski activities, reputation, service and of course, the attitude of the locals.  Resorts spend thousands of dollars every year trying to enhance, fix and promote it. It is one word, yet it describes so much.  It is personality.

Personally, experiencing the personality of a resort or mountain is my favorite part of skiing.  There’s nothing quite like exploring the mountain on your own and finding fresh stashes, riding the lift with the locals, chatting it up with the mountain staff and telling stories that may or may not be true in a crowded ski bar at the end of the day.

It’s a ritual I’ve repeated on ski trips through Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Western Canada.  I’ve fallen in love with the personalities of resorts like Big White Ski Resort and Schweitzer Mountain Resort.  And I’ve been turned off by the personality of resorts like Deer Valley Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort.  Yet never, in all my travels, have I made tracks in an area that boasts resorts with such unique and strong personalities as Salt Lake City.  Four world-class resorts.  Four drastically different personalities.   Four completely different experiences.  Here’s my take on each one.

Brighton ResortBrighton is chill.  From the parking attendants striking yoga poses in the parking lot (No lie, I saw it happen!), to the “Bro Brah” attitude embodied by everyone from lift operators and bartenders to rental shop staff and the locals, the whole mountain is laid back.  As the nice guy who I hitched a ride up the canyon with so eloquently put it, “Dude, Brighton is just laid back.  There’s no drama.  Everyone  just wants to shred the gnar.”  I’m not kidding, that’s a direct quote. 

But seriously, I’m a fan of Brighton.  And for more reasons than their chill vibe.  I like that Brighton is known for its snowboarding, despite being open to both skiers and snowboarders.  I like how 100% of Brighton’s terrain is accessible by high-speed quad lifts.  I like that Brighton features legitimate night skiing.  None of that “one lift and a few runs” stuff.  It offers 22 runs on 200+ acres, three lifts and the mountains main terrain park.  I like that Brighton offers sweet cliffs . . . easily visible and accessible from its lifts.  I like that you won’t get jeered or looked down on for sporting rear entry boots or wearing camouflage, Levi 501’s or duct tape.  I like the mix of locals who call Brighton their home mountain.  And I like that there is no valet parking.  Bottom line – Brighton is a no frills, no-nonsense kind of resort where it’s all about the boarding and skiing – Just like it should be.

Snowbird Ski & Summer ResortSnowbird is legendary.  Ask anyone, skier or non-skier, to name a resort in Utah and Snowbird is likely be the first one out of their mouth.  Don’t get me wrong, this recognition is well deserved.  Snowbird boasts arguably the best terrain, the most vertical and earns a tram load of awards from ski publications every year.  Even I, a Solitude Mountain Resort and Big Cottonwood Canyon advocate, can admit to skiing Snowbird whenever I get the chance.  Let me tell you why.

I don’t ski Snowbird because of its vibe.  It’s a bit too intense for me.  I ski Snowbird because it’s terrain is unmatched.  In bounds, off piste, trees, chutes, bowls; I’m NOT lying when I say that Snowbird has it all. I ski Snowbird because of the Tram Club.  Awesome apres ski scene offering $5 “Shot and a Beer” deals.  I ski Snowbird because I like riding the conveyor lift from the top of Peruvian, through the mountain (literally, you’re in a tunnel) to Mineral Basin.  I ski Snowbird because of The Cirque.  Steep, deep and technical!  I ski Snowbird because I like comparing myself to some of the best skiers the Salt Lake City area has to offer . . . even if I don’t stack up. I ski Snowbird to catch up on the latest and greatest in ski industry fashion and gear.  I ski Snowbird to rip the bookends.  And I ski Snowbird to poach the hot tub at the Cliff Lodge at the end of a great ski day (Shhh!).  Bottom line – Snowbird rocks!  But no matter how much I love skiing its terrain, I’m always glad to leave the lift lines and attitudes behind and head back to Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Solitude Mountain Resort: Simply put, Solitude lives up to its name.  In fact, I’ve never skied a resort that more thoroughly lives up to its name and slogan.  You might think I’m being biased (Solitude Mountain Resort is my place of employment), but I’m being completely honest when I say that I love Solitude.  In fact, if I created a “Joe’s Top 10 Favorite Places to Ski” list, Solitude would be numero uno.  I just love it.

I love Solitude because there are no crowds.  I love Solitude because lift lines are non-existent.  I love Solitude because the FOG’s (Friendly Old Guys) are exactly what their acronym suggests.  I love Solitude because it DOESN’T get tracked out by noon on powder days (see Little Cottonwood for the opposite).  I love Solitude because working for your turns makes them that much better.  I love Solitude because it has a bar called The Thirsty Squirrel.  I love Solitude because Honeycomb Canyon is as peaceful as it is epic.  I love Solitude because Fantasy Ridge is gnarly, tasty, scary and sweet!  I love Solitude because lounging on the patio at the Sunshine Grill on a blue bird day is perfection.  I love Solitude because it really is family friendly.  I love Solitude because of EGP (This acronym has been used to protect the identity of some of the best skiing Solitude has to offer).  I love Solitude because you can find untracked powder days, and sometimes weeks, after a storm.  But most of all, I love Solitude because it’s my mountain.  Bottom line – Solitude might not be the biggest mountain, or the most well-known.  But to those who know and love skiing, Solitude is truly a secret.  A secret that is worth keeping.

Alta Ski AreaAlta is to skiing as Germany is to beer.  The two are synonymous.  From its logo and reputation to its faithful skiers and die-hard locals, Alta is known as THE classic ski hill.  But don’t think for a second that this reputation isn’t well deserved.  Alta consistently ranks at the top of ski industry lists when it comes to snow quality and terrain.  And I can’t help but agree with the writers and readers handing out these awards.  Alta is awesome!

I dig that Alta is for skiers only.  Sorry snowboarders! I dig that you can “Ski Free After 3” at Alta.  I dig that you can easily access Snowbird from the top of Alta’s Sugarloaf lift – using the AltaBird pass of course!  I dig that Alta, despite being one of the premier ski areas in North America, has yet to become “resorty.”  And yes, I did just make up that term.  I dig the spectacular views Alta has to offer.  I dig Alta’s terrain.  I dig that Alta’s stickers are everywhere – literally!  Talk about grass-roots marketing at its finest.  I dig that Alta’s reputation has spawned a group of haters.  Bottom line – Despite the intense vibe, the “We’re better attitude” of the locals and the tracked out snow by noon, I dig Alta’s terrain and would gladly ski there any day of the week.

Do I like certain Salt Lake resorts better than others?  Sure I do!  Who doesn’t have their favorites?  But the fact remains, that if given the opportunity I would rather make tracks at Salt Lake resorts than anywhere else in the U.S.

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