Monday, March 1, 2010

Snowbird and Burning Popcorn - 14,756 Vertical Feet

Variety is a good thing, especially when vacationing in one place for an entire month. To add some spice to our lives, we decided to go to Snowbird today, another ski resort in the Wasatch Mountains just 12 miles from our condo. If you look at the map of Utah ski resorts, you will find they are all quite close together. In fact, from Park City Mountain you can see Deer Valley. Snowbird and Alta share a mountain, only they are on opposite sides. It's quite incredible really. And, if you think about it, with so many mountains for skiers to chose from, there is always something "new" and the mountains don't get as crowded. It's quite brilliant. Thank you Mother Nature for creating such ski conducive mountains so close together.

Unfortunately, Snowbird is not easily accessible from Park City via public transportation. To do so, one would have to take a shuttle from Park City to Salt Lake City airport and then transfer there to another bus heading to Snowbird. Being people who dance to our own drum, we decided to rent a car for the day, easy peasy. We rented online with Enterprise last week anticipating our Snowbird trip. The great thing about Enterprise is the door to door pickup. They picked us up at our condo (albeit an hour late) and took us to the rental car center. When we got there, Shane (who was driving) signed some forms, they gave us the keys, and we were off! Shane brought Mom's Garmin from home so we were able to have GPS in the car, even though it was quite easy to get to Snowbird from Park City.

To get to Snowbird from Park City, one must first go down the mountain and into Cottonwood Canyon, then back up to Snowbird. The view is absolutely breathtaking. Coming from a flat island, it always amazes me how spectacular mountain ranges are, even though I've seen them quite often in my life.

The GPS announced our arrival at Snowbird and we parked the car in the free lot and walked to Snowbird Center where there are lockers, shops, restaurants, a pharmacy, and a mini grocery store. We headed up to the top floor balcony to get Mom's ticket (we already had two discount tickets purchased from Canyon Sports) and then headed to the waiting area for the Aerial Tram which holds up to 125 people, has a vertical rise of 2,900ft (my ears popped on the way up), and is 8,935ft in length. The tram these days isn't much needed because of the added tunnel and Mineral Basin Express lift, but it's still a treat just the same. I've had my fair share of tram rides in my life. Of course I rode the tram in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last year and for the two years I lived on Roosevelt Island in NYC, I rode the tram there on a frequent basis. You might remember the Roosevelt Island tram from Spiderman 2... maybe?

Video of the two trams crossing, one goes up the other goes down.

As we were waiting for the tram I spotted a family that I recognized from the previous day at Deer Valley. Creepy? Maybe. But I distinctly remembered the two children's ski outfits because they were a glorious color of green. The "green girls" totally stuck out in a crowd, so I said "Hi" to them and we got to chatting. Then of course Mom got to chatting with them. All the chatting on the tram led to a huge photo shoot on the top of Hidden Peak at 11,000ft elevation.

The family on top of Hidden Peak

Panoramic from the top of Hidden Peak

We opted to first go down a short ways on Peruvian Gulch and then catch the "magic carpet" through the tunnel to Mineral Basin on the other side of the mountain.

Shane in the tunnel.

Riding the Magic Carpet

The tunnel is relatively new with it's completion in 2006. Mineral Basin, the "back bowl" of Snowbird is also relatively new with it's opening in 2000 just two years before the Olympics came to Salt Lake City. After we rode the magic carpet to Mineral Basin, we skied to the bottom blindly, not because of visibility, it was in fact a perfectly sunny and warm day, but because of the lack of signs and postings telling skiers where the trails were. Alas, we think we missed the run we intended to do (this happened a few times throughout the day) but all is well. We mostly wanted to explore the mountain and sample a little bit of everything. And let me say, the sampling has got me wanting more. I fully intend to spend multiple consecutive days in Snowbird in the future.

Snowbird is unlike any mountain I have ever visited. Everything is wide open, the complete opposite of The Canyons I'd like to point out. The front AND back of the mountain are in "bowl" formations, and multiple ones at that. The expanse of Snowbird is huge with 2,500 acres of ski-able terrain. One of the unique features of Snowbird is their 40 year old chair lifts. For those of you who don't ski or snowboard, this might not mean that much to you, but for those of you that do ski or snowboard, appreciate those comfortable chair lifts! Two of the lifts I rode today, Little Cloud and Gad 2, were 40 year old two seater chair lifts with seats that literally resembled beach chairs. The seats were plastic slats on a thin metal frame that had teeny tiny armrests and a completely awkward footrest (but at least it had a footrest). I actually got anxiety on these chair lifts, especially when Gad 2 stopped for 5 minutes over a huge bowl. I'm a complete wuss when it comes to chairlifts, it is true. However, I survived the chair lifts enough to continue skiing. And ski I did! We skied a total of 14,756 vertical feet. Not bad considering how much time we spent taking pictures and videos and just staring in awe at the expanse of the mountain.

Me in awe of the mountain, babbling of course.

My favorite thing about Snowbird, however, is their dedication to safety. The trail map for Snowbird is called a "Trail Map and Safety Guide". They have a poster at every lift stating the Skier Responsibility Code. Upon entering Snowbird Center there is a ticker screen ticking off the Code as well. On the tram ride, the operator announcement references the Code as well. This is my kind of mountain! And my observations proved that skiers and riders at Snowbird take the Code to heart. I only once got passed by a fast skier, but that was on a super narrow run. And, since Snowbird has many catwalks cutting through expert terrain, it is especially important to follow the rules of the Code including yield to downhill skiers and observing slow zone regulations.

After out day of skiing came to a close, we headed back to the car to journey back to the condo. Of course, this journey included a requisite stop to 7-Eleven (our favorite convenience store - in fact, on the February 21st episode of Undercover Boss, you can see me in the turquoise sweater purchasing coffee at our local 7-Eleven). Mom and I were overjoyed to learn the 7-Eleven we stopped at had steamed milk, a staple in the perfect cup of coffee. The employees were even nice enough to make us a fresh pot of hazelnut coffee, our favorite. When we questioned the employees about steamed milk (because not all 7-Eleven's have steamed milk much to our dismay), they mentioned that it's mostly people from the East who get the steamed milk. Well, that makes sense! Almost all the 7-Eleven's where we live have steamed milk and hardly any when we travel have it. Go figure. East Coasters sure know how to drink their cheap coffee.

For dinner, we ordered take out Japanese from Shoyu right near where we got our nails done that one time. I learned while waiting to pick up the order that Reef's used to be in that location. This is significant because Reef's was a restaurant we were told to go to because our very close family friend's son's friend's parents owned Reef's. Got that? Well, we weren't able to eat at Reef's because it's not there anymore, but at least we were able to pay it homage by getting take out from the restaurant that occupies it's former space.

After our Japanese food, Mom decided she wanted popcorn... Well, needless to say I gave mom the incorrect microwave cooking time for the popcorn and it started to smoke, heavily I might add, all throughout the apartment. Mom and I were fanning the front and garage doors open trying to get the smoke out while Shane busted open the sliding glass doors in the living room. So, E and R, if you smell any residual burnt popcorn, don't fret... we got it all under control...

Tomorrow it's our last day at Deer Valley. After Shane returns the car to Enterprise and hitches a ride home from them, we're heading the mountain early (why am I awake?). Shane and I want to be sure to hit up the NASTAR race track like we did when we were kids. It will be our fun memory from this trip, that is assuming I don't crash and burn like I did when I was a kid. Until then...

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