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Fathomaway Compass

Just Back from Salt Lake & Park City, Utah

by Andrea Bartz

Snaps from the writer's Instagram feed. Photos by Andrea Bartz.

Lifestyle writer and New Yorker Andrea Bartz hit the slopes in Utah for the very first time. It may have ruined East Coast skiing for good.

So, what brought you to Utah? I’ve been terrified of skiing since I tried it as a 13-year-old and had bad experiences with several types of ski lifts. (Don’t ask.) I’d sort of relegated myself to never learning the sport, since I’m 26, very tall, and fairly uncoordinated. When Ski Utah (the marketing wing of the state’s Ski and Snowboard Alliance) invited me on a learn-to-ski trip, I figured this was my one shot.

Was it your first time? Yep!

How did you get there? I took a direct flight from New York City to Salt Lake City. The downtown is basically nestled at the foot of all the mountains, so you could take a cab or bus to your ski resort without having to rent a car. To save money, you could stay in a hotel downtown and do the 30-minute drive into the mountains each morning.

Where did you stay? Alta Lodge and Waldorf Astoria at Canyons, then one night at Club Lespri in Park City. They all had distinct feels: Alta Lodge is retro and rustic and straight outta Mad Men; the Waldorf Astoria was spacious and luxurious, with ice sculptures in the courtyard and free s’mores over the fire pits; Club Lespri was homey and warm, with modern art on the walls and a gas fireplace in every room.

What did you do? Ski lessons every morning and sightseeing every evening, with tons of eating in between.

This was especially great: The mountains of Salt Lake City and Park City. I had no idea they were so varied (Alta’s slopes look like Denver’s, while the hills at Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort are more rolling), and looking out at them from a gondola or the top of a run made me positively giddy.

But this wasn’t: The dry air and altitude flat-out hurt. A friend told me to bring sea salt nasal spray and a bottle of ibuprofen to buffer myself against the incredibly dry air up there. She was right — despite the contents of my portable medicine cabinet, I had bone-dry nasal passages and a slight headache the entire week.

So many choices!

Choices, choices. Photo: Courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort

Let’s talk about stuff.
1. Glad you packed: Legitimate snowpants and a ski jacket. (Sounds obvious, but I actually considered trying to layer under windpants.) I borrowed the top and bottom and didn’t want to buy fleece or long underwear, so I wore running leggings under the pants and an athletic tank and long-sleeve running jersey under my coat. Yay for not buying new gear!

2. Wish you’d packed: Ski goggles. I wore sunglasses, but once the wind picked up and the snow started to fall, I understood the appeal of a sealed eye-cover.

3. Didn’t need: So many dresses. Utahans are a casual lot, and dark jeans would’ve been fine for even a nicer meal.

Speed round of favorites.
1. Meal or meals: I had a great dinner at Squatters, a pub with tasty microbrews, and High West Distillery, a ski-in whiskey saloon. Who says the locals don’t like to drink?

2. Neighborhood to explore: Park City’s historic Main Street feels like the set of a miner-town movie, with original building facades with boutiques, restaurants, and bars.

3. Site/place/thing you did: We wandered around Temple Square, a cluster of Gothic and modern buildings used by the LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and surrounded by pristine sidewalks. So pretty!

High West Distillery & Saloon

A good night for a microbrew. Photo: Courtesy of High West Distillery & Saloon

What’s the local speciality? These mountain folk are big on fondue: cheese fondue, chocolate fondue, butterscotch fondue, you name it. If you see it on a menu, go for it.

Were you there for the right amount of time? For a first-time skier, four to five days is just about right — the lessons are exhausting, and any longer would make you want to give up. I’m proud to say I did conquer my fear of ski lifts and learn to make my way down green (easy) slopes!

What’s the #1 tip you’d give a friend who wanted to go? Skiing is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be outrageous. Call up ski resorts and ask if they have first-timer gear-and-lesson bundles. Find out if an afternoon lesson is cheaper than a morning one. Ask if they or another local resort has dorm-style housing (where you rent a bed in a shared room, hostel-style). Skiing is kind of a to-do, but it is worth the hassle.

Any surprises? The weather was remarkably inconsistent — 50 and sunny one day, blizzarding the next. Be prepared to add or remove layers during the day. (The people at the info desk can provide a locker — or just be nice and hold on to you things themselves.)â€Â¨

You can’t stop thinking about: The view from the top of the ski lifts — mountains as far as the eye can see! Skiing made me feel small, in that quiet, awe-filled, big-picture kind of way.

Would you go back? Absolutely, especially since everyone assures me that learning to ski in Utah will ruin me for the so-so slopes in New England.

ski bunny

MAP IT

See all locations mentioned on this trip. (Google Maps)

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Andrea is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor and a concert addict. She travels for the people-watching.

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