By JANE STEVENSON, QMI Agency
PARK CITY, Utah -- You can't teach an old dog new tricks but apparently you can ski again after a self-imposed 20-year hiatus from the outdoor sport.
This revelation came after I travelled to this small mountain town (population 7,500), which hosts three diverse mountains within 15 minutes of each other.
There's the top-rated, upscale and extremely well groomed Deer Valley -- named the No. 1 ski hill five years in a row by the readers of Ski Magazine (snowboarders not allowed) -- the vast and varied Canyons, the largest ski resort in Utah, and the family and kid-friendly Park City Mountain Resort (snowboarders very welcome).
The reason for my slope moratorium? As a one-time Vancouverite, who skiied from age six onwards on that other top-rated North American mountain -- namely Whistler, B.C., Deer Valley's closest rival -- I was always advised not to bother with the local Ontario mountains, er, hills when I moved to Toronto 20 years ago.
So what if it took me two decades to ski again?
As luck would have it, I would hurtle down the slopes once more -- and in major style -- on mountains comparable to the Whistler experience.
Here's an overview of four glorious days at three recently opened deluxe hotels. During my stay it snowed for three days straight -- accumulation total 30 inches. The fourth day is was what one local called "a bluebird day," with a blue sky above us and amazing powder below our skis.
And I didn't fall down once!
Having arrived at the Salt Lake City airport, I was driven the half-hour to Park City but there are very affordable shuttles even if you have to make a few stops. En route to my first hotel, I passed the Utah Olympic Park -- built for the 2002 Olympics -- before arriving at the cozy Waldorf Astoria at the base of Canyons, the first mountain I would ski.
Guys on guitars entertain outside the hotel while a warm fire glows inside the lobby. My room is equally inviting with its own fireplace and a view out onto a large heated pool and several hot tubs. As snowflakes fall on my face, I take a quick revitalizing dip before heading to Talisker on Park City's main drag for a first-rate dinner (prepared by a chef voted No. 1 in Utah by Salt Lake City magazine) and an informative chat with some of the locals-in-the-know.
Even more impressive: Minutes after checking in, Rusty from Ski Butlers has arrived at my room with boots, skis and poles, for me to try on, explaining
this is how they roll in Park City. (See skibutlers.com).
I love this place already and I haven't even hit a single mogul yet.
Starting to get nervous this morning as I struggle alone in my room to get my ski boots on. But I relax ater hooking up with my skiiing companions -- including the super friendly and extremely calming Craig McCarthy, communications manager for the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau -- in the lobby.
They whisk me off on a golf cart to the gondola, with orange bubble covers and heated seats, that will take us up to the base of Canyons.
Turns out skiiing is just like riding a bike. I make it down several runs, each better than the last, before we break for noon lunch at Lookout Cabin. Three-quarters of the way up the mountain, the eatery serves comfort food (mac and cheese) along with local delacies (Utah Trout Salad) and sinful desserts such as creme brulee.
My companions tell me "nature is the other religion" in Utah, a place known as much for Mormons as mountains, and I don't disagree.
However, the heavenly 110-minute Lymphatic Detoxifying Body Wrap -- which includes body brushing, a herbal body wrap and lymphaic face-neck-and-body massage -- at the Waldorf Astoria's award-winning Golden Door Spa almost makes me want to stay in my curved, heated chaise lounge for the next three days. Almost.
After checking into my next hotel, the recently opened and impressively large Montage Deer Valley -- reminiscent of a grand alpine lodge -- me and my companions chow down in the pub on chicken pot pie (although there's a bowling alley tempting us nearby).
I take in the hotel's huge public spaces, although my room alone is impressive enough with a fireplace, heated tile bathroom floor, balcony piled high with snow, and views of Deer Valley ski trails. Another bonus: The hotel spa, where I'm treated to a decadent 90-minute Aroma Drainage Facial.
After, my new pal Craig and his lovely girlfriend Karen pick me up for a delicious seafood buffet dinner in Snow Park Lodge. which will transform back into a breakfast and lunch place by the morning.
Later, I brave the sideways-blowing snow to sit in the hot tub outside, one of several, before scuttling back to the warmth of my room, suitably sated and sleepy.
Saving the best for last apparently, I arrive at the St. Regis Deer Valley. I take a funicular (the only other one I've ever seen is in Quebec City) from the parking lot up to the unbelievably gorgeous resort, which makes me feel as if I'm Audrey Hepburn at the beginning of Charade.
Like the Montage, you can ski in, ski out from the hotel to the Deer Valley runs, but the St. Regis has an outdoor terrace facing the mountain, where I plunk myself down at the end of a glorious day of skiing in the sun with perfect powder conditions.
I order a Bloody Mary (created at Harry's Bar in Paris, the New York St. Regis claims to have improved on the original by adding tabasco), meet a friendly fellow skier and take it all in, wanting to pinch myself.
The hotel's outdoor heated pools, hot tubs, and seating, are all designed to give you the best Alpine experience -- even the workout room has amazing views. There is high tea on weekends and a huge Remede Spa, where I check out the soothing whirlpool after a day on the slopes. Deer Valley only allows 7,500 lift tickets to be sold so it's never overcrowded.
By the end of the trip, I'm starting to feel like a real skier among "the church of the tall pines," as my new BFF Craig so eloquently calls the area.
My only unresolved issue: When can I come back?
IF YOU GO TO PARK CITY, UTAH
Air Canada has flights from Toronto to Salt Lake City with connections in either in Denver or Chicago. Once you arrive in Salt Lake City, it's about a 50 km or 30 minute drive to Park City. (In some parts of Canada, there are direct flights to Salt Lake City.)
PLACES TO STAY
-- Waldorf Astoria, parkcitywaldorfastoria.com.
-- Montage, montagedeervalley.com.
-- St. Regis, stregis.com/ParkCity.
For details on the area, visit the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau at visitparkcity.com.
This story was posted on Sun, January 15, 2012
More HeadlinesSecrets of Smuggler's Notch
Vermont caters to skiers
Winter thrills in the Alps
Swiss resorts deal with no snow
Strike one off the bucket list