Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Park City Play Time

Bode Miller - Courtesy of The US Ski and Snowboard Association
Bode Miller with Qualtrics employee,
Alan Mark at Park City March 2017
Wow factors are Qualtrics' forté so, when it comes to arranging a ski day at Park City for its annual Insight Summit delegates, the star guest just has to be Bode Miller! And he wasn't the only celeb involved in the week-long Salt Lake City conference - he was following Elton John who staged a two-hour concert the night before (just for the delegates and families) and Michael Phelps who had also wowed the ardent audience earlier that week. 

South Carolina snowboarder and Qualtrics' conference attendee, Dan Pannell was lucky enough to ski with Bode that sunny Friday. "It was great to spend some time on the slopes at Park City. I thought the snow was in great condition -  it was almost powdery after being several days old, even with very warm temperatures," Dan told me over lunch in the Pig Pen SaloonHe had been out all morning with a group of three advanced snowboarders, guided around the 7,300-acre terrain by a local snowboarder who works for Qualtrics, an international research and experience software company, which is based nearby in Provo. 

Qualtrics lunch at Pig Pen Saloon
Park City
"It was great to be able to ski with a local who knows the mountain, not to mention answer my Qualtrics questions," said Dan. "I don’t think we stopped for more than 20 minutes - for lunch - the whole day." Everyone in the 1200-strong Qualtrics group was on the lookout for Bode who was apparently coming along from Deer Valley, the neighbouring ski area and it turned out later that Dan was one of the lucky ones: "I have to say that the highlight was actually getting to ski with Bode Miller. That guy has some serious speed! Bringing him out to our ski day was a nice touch to an already incredible week," he said. 

The idea of having Bode Miller there came through a brainstorming idea: "We asked ourselves who could we get who really represents ski culture?" explains Kortney Osborne, Qualtrics Insight Summit Event Director. "It was a last minute add, as we weren't sure if his schedule would be able to accommodate it, and we didn't want to promise something that might not happen. But when we found out for sure, we decided to make it an extra element to wow our attendees." Feedback has been phenomenal, with those delegates who happened to be in the right place at the right time thrilled to be able to interact with such a high profile skiing celeb in a very personal way. "It gave that lasting impression at the end of the event to really make it a great experience," Kortney concludes.

Park City Panorama - Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
For a bit of background on where Bode is now in terms of career, I turned to Tom Kelly, VP Communications for the US Ski Team, who was in Finland at the time. He told me that Bode, who lives with his wife and kids in Southern California, is working with Bomber, a unique custom ski brand, and Aztech Mountain Clothing. "In both cases, he is very hands on with each company," says Tom. "Bomber is a unique custom ski brand. Bode joined the brand a couple years ago and is pretty passionate about his engagement." Recently, Bode was an NBC commentator alongside Olympic presenter, Dan Hicks, at the World Alpine Championships in St Moritz. "He has received rave reviews from fans," says Tom. "On one hand, I think he really enjoyed it. He and I were at a dinner a few weeks ago in St. Moritz. But, on the other hand, I think the TV process and time frames are frustrating for him. He wants to tell more. He’s a real student of the sport and is extremely adept at making the sport understandable to others."

Powder shots at Park City - Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
So, why was I in Utah attending a techie conference? Well, my hubby, Dr Simon Hudson is, as you probably know by now, a tourism professor at the University of South Carolina and a researcher into all the latest trends in winter and summer tourism. For his work he uses the Qualtrics' survey and questionnaire technology, so it was he who first discovered their inimitable Insight Summits. Based from the opulent Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, these are topnotch conferences with sensational speakers - not least of which is charismatic company founder Ryan Smith - plus amazing catering and evening entertainments. As well as the celebs mentioned before, this year's lineup included Angela Lee Duckworth (of 'Grit' fame) - a powerful motivational speaker - and Michael Lewis, the brilliant non-fiction author and financial journalist, who wrote the books The Blind Side, Moneyball and The Big Short (among others), which were all made into fascinating films.

Groomer at Park City - Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
I was there as a journalist, particularly focusing on the Park City ski day with which the conference always culminates and which this year attracted over 1000 downhill delegates - a great turnout. And, of course, one ski day is never enough for me so I made sure we tacked on extras both before and after the convivial conference. 

Park City was venue 3 on my Utah ski itinerary and I was also anxious to hook up with a group of friends from Charleston who had moved there at the beginning of the season for a six-month sabbatical. Based from a lovely residential area of Canyons Village, Brumby and Jamye McLeod had been teaching their three children how to ski, while honing their own skiing skills, courtesy of the Epic Pass

Since the Ski Day marked the end of the Qualtrics Summit, Simon and I moved into Sundial Lodge, also at Canyons, to be close to our SC buddies. The hotel turned out to be in a great position, right in the village centre at Canyons, with a large panoramic balcony overlooking all the apres action and just a quick scoot to and from the base lifts. Another bonus was free underground parking, which is a definite advantage on busy Park City weekends. 
Me with Brumby (centre) and Wells (front)
Last time I skied Park City it hadn't linked to Canyons so it was a great pleasure this time around to be able to ski the six-mile trek from one side of the trail map to the other at the end of the day, managing to keep one step ahead of all the lift closures (takes the best part of an hour). Earlier Brumby and clan had taken us into Jupiter Bowl, extensive advanced territory on the Park City side, with bowls, bumps and glades descending from the resort's highest pinnacle. One of the kids, Maddy was thrilled to have conquered this double diamond area for the first time, saying "Does that mean I am 'Expert Only' now?", referring to the sign saying just that at the bottom of the Jupiter Chairlift. Her younger brother, Wells, unfazed by the punishing pitch and the humungous bumps he'd just done, took us next into another double diamond domain, Motherlode Meadows - steep in places but great snow and topographical variety. These locals' picks are so peaceful even when the intermediate and beginner runs lower down the mountain are busy. 

Jupiter Peak Park City - Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
In the space of one season, the McLeod kids have gone from bunny to black, loving every minute of their snowy sabbatical. "It’s such a great ski hill here, especially the way they treat kids," said Jamye. "They always come to the back of the chairlift to help the kids on and if any of them fell while they were learning as they were getting on or off the lift, they would always stop it and rush out to help - that was so reassuring." She was terrified initially when the kids graduated from the bunny hill. "We thought Home Run would be a good idea, a long easy green, but it turned out to be really daunting the first time," she said. "It's amazing when we think back how far we have come since then." 

McLeod Clan with me at Park City
The cold took some getting used to, coming from the South: "We especially love the Yurt at Tombstone because it saved the day on one of our first really cold days," says Brumby. "The kids love sitting in the Adirondack chairs on a sunny day too - the smell of the BBQ is comforting." The whole family loves the variety and expansiveness of the skiing and knows all the character-marked runs such as TNT and Detonator as well as the wriggly routes between Canyons and Park City intimately. 

Just like locals they save certain areas for the next snowfall: “9990 Express, that’s where I am heading next week when we have the next dump forecast,” Brumby told me. Because he still has to fly off to various different areas for conferences and research projects during his sabbatical, Brumby particularly appreciates the location of Canyons Village, just 35 mins (33 miles) from Salt Lake City International Airport

Canyons Village heated Orange Bubble Chairlift
Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
With the kids having enjoyed the local school as much as the skiing - and made more friends than they have back home - Jamye's only concern is the future: "We are worried we have turned the kids into ski snobs, the snow has been so good this season. Everyone says we are lucky to have come this winter as it has been the best for a decade." They intend to purchase the Epic Pass again next year and get back to Park City for the Christmas holidays. “It's just the best value there is," concludes Brumby. "Once you have skied three or four days it has paid for itself and there are so many resorts included to choose from.” Having had such an amazing experience at Park City he is seriously considering downsizing in Charleston so that the fun-loving family can have a two-centre lifestyle: "I'm trying to combine the two cities as lifestyle hubs. Perhaps a condo in Charleston downtown and a single family home in Park City."

Waldorf Astoria Park City
Pow Day IPA at the Waldorf Astoria Park City
The climax to my Park City experience was a delicious dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Park City, which, situated right in Canyons Village, is the only Waldorf in a ski resort. The ritzy restaurant is called Powder, its modern mountain menu a mix of fancy, fresh and funky fare. Having gorged on the local cheese and charcuterie platter, followed by Snake River Farms wagyu bavette, I had trouble tackling my share of the decadent desserts we ordered. Another feature here is the Pow Day IPA, custom created by Park City Brewery. The brewers created the rye-based pale ale to pair particularly with Powder's organic fried chicken and mac cheese dish. As a result of this culinary collaboration, the Waldorf has set up a Become The Brewmaster Experience which includes transportation, tour, tuition, and tantalizing tastings. 
Waldorf Astoria Park City by night - linked to Canyons Village and ski base by its own gondola

Social Media Links:

Me skiing at Canyons Village in my pre-helmet days
Spring Savings and Events:

Final Night Free Lodging Package
Grab your skis, bring your sunglasses, and don't forget your sunscreen! Park City is the perfect spring destination for bluebird skies and freshly groomed terrain. Book your spring lodging at a participating lodging property in the Park City area and get your Final Night FREE!  Book a minimum 3-night stay between March 1 and April 16, 2017 and receive a $200 Delta Air Lines travel voucher.

Secret Season Savings
Located just 35 minutes from the Salt Lake City International Airport, Park City Mountain is a world-class mountain destination providing more than 7,300 skiable acres of diverse terrain suited for every skier and rider. And as insiders know, spring is the best time of year to visit with unlimited sun, great snow and family-friendly activities to enjoy. Guests planning a trip to Park City this spring can take advantage of Secret Season Savings of up to 30 percent on lodging with rates starting at just $111 per night.

Spring Rental Savings at Park City Mountain
Save up to 20% on rental skis and snowboards at Park City Mountain this Spring by reserving online

Spring Concert Series: Free après ski concerts at both base areas, featuring local and national bands. Every Saturday through April 16, weather permitting, the outdoor concerts will take place at 3 p.m. on the Canyons Village Stage at Canyons Village and the PayDay Plaza Patio of Legacy Lodge at the Park City Base Area. 

Park City Spring Gruv - Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
10th Annual Spring Grüv Celebration: From March 25-April 9, Park City Mountain will also host the annual Spring Grüv Celebration. The 16-day event will feature daily activities at both base areas, including the 21st annual Pond Skimming competition on April 8 and free concerts headlined by Crystal Fighters and MAGIC GIANT. A full schedule for Spring Grüv can be found here.

2/18/2017        Knox Hamilton
3/4/2017          Mokie
3/11/2017        The Changing Lanes Experience
3/17/2017        Badfeather
3/18/2017        Smiling Souls
3/25/2017        The Fabulous Flynstones
4/1/2017          MAGIC GIANT
4/8/2017          Metro Music Club (Opener: Garret Lebeau)
4/15/2017        Sin City Soul
4/16/2017        Breakfast Klub
3/4/2017          The Zolotones
3/11/2017        Ashlee K Thomas Band
3/18/2017        Ethan Perry & The Remedy
3/25/2017        Crystal Fighters
4/1/2017          Grizzly Goat
4/8/2017          Cry Wolf
4/15/2017        Please Be Human
4/16/2017        Changing Lanes Experience

Additional information can be found at
Family Fun at Canyons - Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chilling out at Brighton Utah

Vibrant Vertical Vista at Brighton Resort - By Simon Hudson
Having experienced Brighton Resort a few years ago during a thin patch, it was absolute bliss to be back during this year's deep winter conditions! Due to 557 inches of sensational snowfall already this season, the entire first floors of the houses surrounding the ski hill were buried, with owners having to chisel tunnels out of the snow to gain access to downstairs doors and windows. 

Relaxing on the quad at Brighton Resort - first time wearing my new Helmet Hugger. It is not a hat! It is a new type of
stylish helmet cover. You can order them in many colours, fabrics and trims!! 
This was day 2 of my Utah ski safari with Dr Simon Hudson, skier, author, professor of tourism, and ski researcher - not to mention a guide with the Ski Club of Great Britain, with many years of alpine guiding experience. Having been to a polished and personable presentation by eminent Olympian Michael Phelps at the Qualtrics Insight Summit that morning, we only had half a day to ski Brighton. But that is the beauty of the array of amazing resorts surrounding Salt Lake City: they are so close you can easily drive (or take the bus), even if you only have a few spare hours for rugged recreation. Brighton is just 31 miles away, a 43-minute meandering motor through Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Corduroy Carpets - Courtesy of Brighton Resort
Doyle's Dive at Brighton Resort - by Simon Hudson
With blazing blue skies, Brighton was a playground paradise that day: we cruised the groomers, conquered a few double diamond glades, dipped into Doyle's Dive, and ripped down the mellow moguls on Pine Marten. I'm sure you know that freedom feeling on warm sunny days: everything is so much easier without worrisome weather and visibility issues to contend with. The run layout is intricate and interesting at 81-year-old Brighton Resort, with trails following the undulating lie of the land, turns, corners and surprises around every corner. We had no guide that day, just the piste map and our own intuition but we never got lost. 

Brighton is another of those 'in-the-know' Utah resorts - no glitzy advertising, limited accommodation onhill, but a radical reputation with locals and fervent fans. I was first attracted there for the simple reason that it is the same name as the town I come from in the UK. Having experienced Brighton by the sea (you can check out my Brighton Rocks article in the Calgary Herald), it was alluring to try out the mountain version and my day there three years ago made me want to come back. 

Courtesy of Brighton Resort
Benefits at Brighton include five high speed quads accessing ALL the terrain over the 1050 acreage which, due to its position at the top of the Big Cottonwood Canyon, averages 500 inches of snow per season (already exceeded this mega year). For those with kids, a significant advantage is the Kids Ski Free policy which extends up to 10-year-olds. There are five terrain parks and there's gnarly night skiing over 200 acres Mon-Sat from 4-9pm. As well as the snowsports school, there's an edgy educational Tour with a Ranger program, which combines guiding around the easy to intermediate slopes with a naturalist's overview of the indigenous wildlife, geology and history. 

Simon Hudson figuring out the route at Brighton Resort
For those who want to be first on snow every day, there's the rustic 20-room Brighton Lodge, (complete with hot tub) a few yards from the Crest Express Lift (kids 10 and under stay free!) and also a variety of luxurious mountain homes for rent with Mount Majestic Properties. Or you can stay 10 mins down the road at the more humble B & B, Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant. We were happy commuting from SLC.
Courtesy of Brighton Resort

For a smaller ski area, there are plenty of eateries - and drinkeries - to choose from. The newest is the Millicent (Milly) Chalet by the base of the Millicent Quad with great views, patio and comfort food - grilled cheese highly recommended! Lower down is the Alpine Rose Cafeteria for all meals, breakfast through dinner, featuring cookouts in spring. Also at the base is Molly Green's full service bar and grill, famous for hand-tossed pizza, nachos and beer. In the Brighton Centre, the Blind Miner serves coffee, waffles, brats and snacks and there are lots of places around the hill for picnicking. There may be nothing fancy at Brighton but the simplicity of the facilities are complemented by the most deluxe downhill descents and amazing million-dollar views. 

2017 SLUG Games at Brighton - Courtesy of Brighton Resort
Social Media Links:

Phone 855 201 SNOW

Upcoming Spring Events:

March 31: Free S'mores Night from 6pm at the Alpine Rose Deck

Beautiful Brighton - Courtesy of Brighton Resort