Posts Tagged With: salt lake city

Multi Sport Season

For most people there are four seasons: Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall. But when it comes to the state of Utah, there is one season not mentioned in the previous four that rules them all – Multi Sport Season.

By definition, Multi Sport Season is the short window of time when the cool, yet dry, weather of late Winter pairs with the warm, long days of Spring creating the unique opportunity to experience silly good skiing and quality mountain biking and/or trail running in the same day.

Disclaimer: I totally made up that “definition.”

I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure no other destination, city or state, offers the quality and quantity of Multi Sport days like Salt Lake City and Utah do. Sound off if you disagree.

From making turns at Alta to hittin’ the singletrack on Antelope Island, here’s what this year’s Multi Sport Season in Utah has looked like to me:

First Tracks in Main Chute. Approximately 11 a.m., Friday, April 26

First Tracks in Main Chute. Approximately 11 a.m., Friday, April 26

Trail running Salt Lake City

Trail running on Jack’s Peak. Approximately 7:00 pm, Friday, April 26

And one more example, just for good measure:

East Castle Alta Ski Area

Topping out on Alta’s East Castle hike. Approximately 10 a.m., Saturday, March 16

Biking on Antelope Island

Mountain Biking on Antelope Island. Approximately 2:30 pm, Saturday, March 16

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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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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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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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20 Things I’ve Learned This Winter . . .

Moving to Salt Lake City to work in the ski industry was a big change.   Gone were the comforts of family, friends and familiarity.  Only to be replaced by the unknown and uncertainty of a new job, new city and new circumstances.  Sure, one could look at this negatively.  But what’s the point?  Why focus on the negative when there is so much to be learned from the experience?  In fact, I was thinking about how much I’ve learned this winter.  Some things have been important, and others not so serious.  Some have helped me develop professionally, and others have changed who I am personally.  Some have been necessary for survival and others have been purely for entertainment.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned: 

1. I learned that cat skiing is the poor man’s heli-skiing. Which means using a snowmobile is the poor man’s version of cat skiing. Which leads me to the conclude that I’m flat broke since I’ve never done any of the above types of skiing.

2.  When one thinks of great beer producing cities, Salt Lake City probably doesn’t garner a lot of votes.  But to leave Salt Lake City off the list would be a mistake.  Squatters Pub Brewery,  Desert Edge Brewery at The Pub, Red Rock Brewing Co., Wasatch Brewery, Uinta Brewing Co. and Bohemian Brewery are just the start of an impressive lineup of award-winning breweries that call Salt Lake City home.

3. When skiing deep powder, it is smart to ski with your mouth closed.  Even though you may be laughing or have a case of the powder yelps, a mouth full of powder can choke you and result in having to stop midway through one of the best runs of the year.

4. Not all journalists who cover the ski industry are good skiers.  When skiing with a journalist it is wise to discuss ski ability before committing to a run.  Though entertaining, the end result is not always good . . . particularly for the journalist in question.

5. Anyone with half a brain – yes, I’m talking about you Scott Willoughby – knows that Salt Lake City is far superior to Denver when it comes to ski town supremecy.

6.  Contrary to popular belief, Salt Lake is a very diverse city, particularly when it comes to the culinary scene.  My favorite new restaurant so far – Himalayan Kitchen.  Delicious Nepali and Indian cuisine!

7. Utah really does have the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

8.  SugarHouse Coffee is the ultimate coffee shop in Salt Lake City.  Great coffee, great food and even better live music.

9.  Despite sounding very similar to the word “Skeezy,” which carries a negative connotation, the word “Steezy” is actually a good thing when talking about skiing or snowboarding.  For example, “Dude, that corkscrew 720 was straight steezy!”  Note:  I have never actually tried a corkscrew 720. 

10. A month-long backpacking trip through Europe is a great idea and a life changing experience.  Becoming a ski bum is a fantastic idea and a great experience.  However, speaking from a strictly financial point of view, a month-long backpacking trip through Europe immediately before becoming a ski bum is not what you would call a  fiscally responsible decision.

11. Once the gas light comes on in a 2001 Kia Spectra, you can drive exactly 24.1 miles before running out of gas.  Not 28 like I originally thought.  Lesson learned.  Oh, and you can carry a lot more than you would think in the back of those Spectras.

12. As a AAA member, you are only allowed four free calls per year.  After the fourth call you get charged.  Bummer.

13.  Top Ramen comes in six delicious flavors: beef, chicken, shrimp, oriental, picante beef and chilli.

14.  A bad ski day in Utah is a great ski day anywhere else.

15.  Simple Fact:  The Ski Salt Lake resorts (Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude) get more, and better snow than the Park City resorts (Park City, Canyons and Deer Valley).  Live with it!

16. Steve Lloyd, Adam Barker and Mike Brown are amazing photographers and artists.  It has been a pleasure picking their brains and watching them work.

17.  Even more than other industries, I think Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media are transforming the way the ski industry connects with their customers.

18.  The reporting of snow totals is a very misunderstood “science.”  However, ski areas do their best to accurately report the snow fall totals.  And for those of you wondering, yes, two resorts which are very close to each other (2 miles) can report different snow totals!

19.  It only costs $1.50 to watch a near new-release movie at The Cinemark Sugarhouse Movies 10 in Salt Lake City, UT.  Score!

20.  Feel free to disagree with this statement if you’d like (please comment below) – Salt Lake City is the mecca of skiing in the United States.  Where else can you find seven world-class resorts, each offering a unique experience, within a 40-minute drive of a city?  Nowhere! 

Pretty impressive list, huh?  Sure, some of them may not seem very important.  But in the end they’ve all played a part in the amazing experience and adventure that this winter has been so far.

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Ski Bum Economics

I’m not going to lie to you, this blog has been a long time coming.  I’ve pre-planned, planned, thought and over thought just about every detail.  And most of this planning and thinking centered around the topic of my first post.  Should I pen a post about trekking through the Grand Tetons?  Should I write about skiing the “Greatest Snow on Earth”  in Utah?  Or maybe share about backpacking through Europe?  Believe me, I’ll get to all these adventures, so stay tuned!  But it wasn’t until I read a recent editorial in Ski Press Magazine that I knew the subject of my first post. 

You see, over the past two months my life has been one big adventure.  I left a job most people would kill for, working with great people at the Spokane Regional CVB, to backpack through Europe.  After returning, unemployed and broke as a joke, I was offered and accepted a marketing/PR job at Solitude Mountain Resort in Salt Lake City, UT

Backpacking in Europe

What’s the catch?  First, I know all of two people in Salt Lake City.  Second, I was offered the job on a Wednesday and had to be in Salt Lake City on that Friday.  I had a whole day-and-a-half to pack up my life!

Word from the wise:  When you’re broke, rushed decisions are not your friend.  Paying to live in two different cities because you didn’t have time to find a subleaser is rough!

Right about now you might be thinking the same thing that a lot of people have.  You’re doing what?  Why?  What are you thinking?  You know the economy is in the pits right?  Is this a smart decision?  Believe me, I’ve heard it all.  And for the longest time I had a hard time explaining myself.  I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t convey it to people in a way that made sense.  Until now.

Peter Kray, Editorial Director of Ski Press Magazine, wrote “Ski Bum Economics” (pg. 6) an editorial that everyone, and I mean everyone, should read.  Here are my favorite excerpts:

“When I graduated from college I moved to Jackson Hole and skied more than 600 days over four years.  I delivered pizzas and planted trees, and was out of work each mud season in the spring and fall.  But I always had enough money for a new pair of skis and a seasons pass, and there was never any shortage of beer.”

“Billy D, my roommate from that time, sent me an e-mail when the economic crisis was snowballing across the planet like the wreckage of a small moon that said, ‘I bet we could get back our old jobs.’ He’s an investment banker now.  But other than his wife, his kids and their impending college tuition, he says he thinks about those seasons we spent skiing more than anything else he ever did.”

“Which I think is the difference between making memories and making money.  No matter how hard you work to earn either, only memories consistently pay you back over the long haul.  That’s why, no matter what happens with the economy, I’m skiing as much as I can this year.  Because the dividends are guaranteed, and the (re)turns are unbeliveable.”

Wow.  So simple, yet so profound.  I’m not making much money right now, in fact, I might even have to get a second job.  But you know what?  That doesn’t bother me at all.  Because when it comes down to it, it’s the great times, people and adventures that I’ll remember, not how much money I made.

Hiking Mt. Olympus in the snow

So here’s to hiking Mt. Olympus (and finishing in a snowstorm), Bobby the Brewer, movies at Brewvies, top ramen lunches (and dinners), barely making rent, Thanksgiving with new friends, Solitude Mountain Resort, future epic powder days and the people I have yet to meet.  No amount of money could replace the great memories!

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