Saturday, February 8, 2014

Family February

Families that play together, stay together - so we are told. And what better playground than ski areas? I skied first with my parents and sister in resorts throughout Europe back in the 70s. Then with my husband while working in the Alps and California in the 80s and early 90s. And later with our two sons who learnt to ski in Verbier, Switzerland. After moving to Canada in 1999, family skiing for us revolved around Alberta and British Columbia resorts. And, since relocating to the USA, we have skied en famille at lots of Colorado destinations.
Heated chairlift at Canyons

An extensive track record you might say but we have just discovered that we have been missing out on an entire ski state and some great family ski resorts - in Utah. After spending a week there, we literally fell in love with Salt Lake City skiing and it is definitely not just a holiday romance.

Emerging from the glades at Sundance
Having had a taste of Sundance, Alta, Canyons, Snowbasin and Deer Valley (and a sneak-a-peek at Park City), we fully intend to include Utah on our annual ski trip list and we're even looking at it from a future live-ability point of view. Prices are affordable by ski resort standards - always a plus for family skiing - and every resort has a multi-generational vibe. People are incredibly friendly and helpful and there is an air of continuity everywhere with locally-sourced employees many of whom have been in their jobs for decades rather than just a season or two.

Families have the choice of staying right on the hill at Canyons, Deer Valley or Alta, for example, or staying in the valley at Salt Lake City - the Grand America is a must for a five-star splurge or Little America for family fun - or in a smaller city such as Ogden. Everything is so compactly located in the canyons surrounding Salt Lake City that you can easily plan a ski safari to encompass a wide variety of wintersports' experiences in the same week.

Salt Lake City is a Delta hub so there are lots of direct flights from all over North America. If you plan an early flight arrival, you can be skiing the same afternoon and, on departure day, an evening flight adds an extra day's skiing at the end of your stay. Ski-mad New Yorkers take the red eye in order to squeeze a wintersports weekend into their busy cityslicker schedules.

Snowbasin on Thursday
You'll notice I haven't yet mentioned the snow for which Utah is so famous. Well, that's just to stop you being too jealous! Seriously, it really is super light and fluffy with hardly any moisture in it due to a combination of geographical factors - something to do with the salt sucking much of the moisture out of the precipitation. We skied seven consecutive days during what locals are saying is not the best snow season so far. And yet we skied powder every day. All the pistes were beautifully covered and well manicured but, best of all, the off-piste areas and glades we skied were loaded with fresh snow and not too tracked out. Yes, there was some visible undergrowth, but the fresh foot of powder was irresistible. If this is what it is like after a relatively dry January, it must be like cat or heli skiing when they get 700 inches!

Utah's Family Features include:
- high quality customer service at all Ski Utah resorts
- ski variety: 11 very different ski hills within one hour's drive of Salt Lake City
- delivery ski gear rentals direct to hotel rooms with Ski Butlers at Park City
- free ski buses in and around resorts
- kiddie carts at Canyons Resort
- ski hosts who help unpack the car at Snowbasin and Deer Valley
- iFly (virtual sky diving experience) at the Salomon Center in Ogden
- kids' snowshoe tours at Snowbasin
- bobsledding, skeleton and luge camps at Utah Olympic Park at Park City
- chairlift ride to top of 7,130 ft ski jump at Utah Olympic Park at Park City
- chocolate exhibition at Natural History Museum of Utah, Salt Lake City
Career-play at Discovery Gateway Children's Museum
- educational play at Discovery Gateway Children's Museum, Salt Lake City
- luxury self-catering condos at the Park City Waldorf Astoria at Canyons Resort
- great terrain parks for skiers and snowboarders at Canyons and Snowbasin
- specialist ski tuition at skier-only resorts of Alta and Deer Valley
- night skiing at Sundance  
- Western history, food, culture, arts, eco-tourism and film festival at Sundance
- Alpine chalet-style communal dining at Alta Lodge
- raclette and chocolate fondu at Empire Canyon Lodge, Deer Valley cooked at the fireplace
- horse-drawn sleigh rides at Deer Valley
- affordable lodging/ski packages at Summit Hotel, Ogden accessing Snowbasin and Powder Mountain
- daycare at most resorts from 6 weeks old - eg Canyons
- free ski passes at some resorts if you ski on your arrival day on presentation of boarding card
- kids 6 and under ski free at Snowbasin
- smaller, easily navigable acreage and cheaper ski passes at Sundance
Alta-tude: pounding the pow on Tuesday
- fun slopeside tree skiing at all resorts - esp. Deer Valley and Alta -  to dip in and out
- children's art and pottery classes at Sundance
- snowmobiling at Deer Valley
- zipline at Park City
- kiddie spa at Sundance
- 5th and 6th grade free passport to ski one day at each of Utah's 14 resorts and Yeti pass for parents
- for families with older kids - Ski Utah Interconnect Adventure Tour - 16 or older

There's so much more I could write about Utah's skiing but no time right now. So stay tuned to One, Two, Ski to hear more about our experiences over the next few weeks.

Talking about families, it's Family Day Weekend in British Columbia (Feb 8-10). With the Alberta equivalent following next weekend (Feb 15-17), it is a really popular time for skiing and snowboarding in Western Canada.

Family Day ski events include:

Kicking Horse, BC, Canada - reduced tickets, Box and Rail Jam workshop, dual races, barbecues and live music. To read more about Kicking Horse's culinary scene, check out my Food High article in Eat.Drink.Travel magazine.

February Skiing at Red Mountain by F. Marseille

Red Mountain, BC, Canada - reduced lift tickets on Feb 10 and lots of snow promised in the February forecast .

Check out the full list of half-price lift tickets in BC collated by Canada West Ski Areas Association.

Family Fireworks at Panorama Mountain Village

Although actually in BC, Panorama is celebrating Alberta Family Day weekend with a fireworks display on Feb 15. The resort is almost fully booked already due to a new Family Day Flex package which allows visitors to customize their stay. They also get up to 15% savings even during this peak period. The new Pano-Pass is also helping sales as it gives unlimited tubing, tobogganing, night-skiing and cross-country skiing, as well as the usual downhill day.


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    Chris & Kevin are brothers from Tucson, AZ who moved to SLC for the outdoor scene. After many years of enjoying the Wasatch as their backyard playground, the countless granite routes and powder days continue to challenge and inspire them. For them, the only thing better than adventuring in the mountains is doing so with friends, both old and new alike.