By Brian Ewart
On the 13th of March 1999 a small party arrived at Manchester airport for the long haul flight to Salt Lake City. Paul Sharp had withdrawn at the last minute due to a recurring leg problem so Derek Draper became our 'Deputy Dog'. We were all a little disappointed in the travel arrangements which involved a complicated route to Newark (New York) then Houston (Texas?) and finally onto Salt Lake City. Crystal, as usual, were a little economical in the truth when the booking was made, indicating a direct connection from Newark to Salt Lake City.
Having visited Park City before in 1993 my first surprise was that the daily lift pass had risen from $33 to $55. Park West had also been renamed 'The Canyons' and the pass had changed from a mere $19 to $52. This was mainly due to a major investment in new lifts which had opened up new areas. By the time that the 2002 Olympics are over the Park City resort will be a world leader in terms of variety of runs and lift system.
There was a good snow base present in the resort, but not the fresh powder for which we had all hoped. On the first day, I found myself struggling down McKonky's Bowl trying to keep up with Derek Draper and Steve Wardle. On the following day most of the party went to Deer Valley which has also improved its ski facilities. We decided to have a go with the local Ski Hosts who will take you skiing for no charge. Having enjoyed the morning session, we returned for the afternoon Advanced Bumps trip. Although I enjoyed the experience, the pace was a little too fast. I found out afterwards that Chris, our host, takes no prisoners on his tours. Later in the week, we returned for 'lesser' bumps and this time had a host call Cheryl who was an ex member of the American Ski Team - much more pleasant.
The first visit to 'The Canyons' showed what $32 million can do to a ski-resort. Gone were the old 2-man rickety chair lifts and instead was a fast 8 man gondola and fast 3-6 man chairs as well as a new system to open up the 9900 mountain area.
St. Patrick's Day was not a good day for me. I fell while trying to step round a rocky face in the trees on Jupiter Bowl, Park City. Although I survived with no injuries, one of my skis was badly damaged in 3 places so I had to finish early and hire skis for the rest of the holiday. This turned out to be a blessing as I switched from 195 - K2 to 177-Volkl carvers which make skiing in 'old' powder so much easier.
The next day we went for a day trip to Snow Bird which has plenty of black runs and off-piste galore. The best day trip was to Alta when we found that 2" of fresh snow had fallen overnight and thankfully most of it had not been flattened by the piste-bashers. In the afternoon, Trudy Lymer and myself took a wrong turn on one off-piste run and did not see the rest of the party until the end of the day. On the following day we went to Solitude. I found this disappointing after the Alta trip. There was no new snow and the pistes were 'crunchy' in the morning and porridge in the afternoon.
Some of the party went on a day trip to Sundance, which is owned by Robert Redford. The resort is picturesque but the skiing is limited. John and Trudy Lymer had a good trip to Brighton which had just had fresh snow.
On Thursday nights - or all day if you need a break - some of the party went to Salt Lake City to visit the Mormon Tabernacle and listen to the choir practise - well worth a visit.
The accommodation at the Yarrow was very good. It also has a happy hour where the beer was $1 a pint. Park City also has a regular free bus service which is very convenient for the various ski areas and the night life on Main Street. As far as dining is concerned about half the party favoured the Yarrow while the rest - including myself - toured the local restaurants. In America you can eat for as little as $5 (Burger King) or $70 (Chez Bettys - full a la carte + 2 bottles of wine). When eating in a restaurant you need to mentally add about 22% to the listed prices. This is because there is a local tax of about 7% and you are expected to tip at 15%. Most of the time we averaged about $30 including wine/beer.
The shopping in Park City is incredible. It was rumoured that Matt Barr injured his knee carrying Finola's shopping bag. I visited the Factory Outlets complex with Lionel Greenslade and Ken Fyles while Derek confused us by wearing a yellow ski-jacket then a new blue ski-jacket on alternate days.
Although the forecast threatened, there was no new snow until the morning of our departure and so the conditions deteriorated towards the end of the holiday. If I had been asked, I would have gone 2 weeks earlier when you are more likely to get a good mix of snow and sunshine. This time we got too much sunshine.
Finally, to prove bad luck comes in 3s I broke a bottle of rum while checking in at Salt Lake City airport (lovely smell ? those sitting near Brian were high all the way home! ?Ed.) and lost my wallet at Manchester Airport. Thankfully it was handed in with nothing missing - thank you God. I am dreading to see my Access bill for March!
Congratulations to Lionel, a new member, who has taken up skiing as a pensioner. He was very surprised and pleased when we told him he had just gone down a black run.
Used Solomon 897 Step-In Bindings available. Any reasonable offers. B. Ewart 01925-838916.