Tuesday, September 2, 2008



Wors, Images Judith Ecochard and from respective websites

When we got an evite to visit the famed and fabulous snow meccas-in Little/Big Cottonwood Canyons, just outside of SLC- for a summer’s eve, meals, and a mountain hike with wildflowers all a’bloom-we felt like we hit some sort of press junket jackpot.

Hands down, there is no place else ON EARTH - starting from many USA locales- where one can hop on an AM plane, land, take a short drive – and be riding the slopes in the champagne powder snow junkies dream about. By 1PM.

We’ve never been to the unpretentious ‘resort’ Alta (we snowboard)- and haven’t been to Snowbird or Solitude, two other Utah destinations across the Wasatch mountain range from each other…in years. A sign it’s time.

Our journey began with very clear driving directions to Alta from the Salt Palace Convention in downtown SLC-that we managed to screw up anyway. The high altitude!

A bit embarrassed (it really is like three major turns tops) we felt like we were home as soon as we pulled into the ‘have everything you need’ Alta Lodge. The gracious manager Joni Dykstra was so welcoming- we not only felt like we were at some super nice relative’s home, we also almost managed to forget that everybody else was waiting for us.

Not that we were worth the wait…but the view from the top of next door Snowbird’s mountain reached by the Tram…was. A picture perfect sunny day, we had 100 mile vistas and even got an eyeful of the Great Salt Lake. Yup, the name was not pulled out of a hat.

We also got the back story on the Lodge and the new ski facilities that adds extra wows to the strong pull these resorts already have -for outdoor enthusiasts, families, and anyone else looking to relax without the pressures of must-do destinations.

Alta Lodge is a refreshed classic that’s been family owned since 1959. With 57 rooms that’s small enough to be intimate, but large enough for groups, this traditional mountain charmer is also noted for its fresh food, free kid’s programs, special weekends (early season tune-ups, wine pairings, yoga retreats etc), and of course can’t beat it locale by the chair lifts.

The original building (dated 1933) also serves it up with a private club-the Sitzmark Club- that attracts congenial, low key types devoted to the all things snow, nature and Alta. (Translation-guests, even newbies will feel right at home while sipping alcoholic beverages -in a cozy setting coined “the best après-ski nook.”).

Saunas, and enclosed hot pools WITH THOSE VIEWS are ideal water options for winding down a day of activities.

Plus, the Lodge can be booked for weddings and special events-the staff is that accommodating …and the setting regal and romantic.

Our room was spotlessly spacious with nice touches like ski boots warmer/ dryers, Aveeda toiletries and an awesome view of the mountains. There was free wi-fi –though we were perfectly happy to be off the information superhighway.



Snowbird, a full scale resort with rentable condos, and an upscale service laden hotel- the Cliff Lodge- offers fun at its Activity Center and surroundings (alpine slide, mountain biking, fly fishing, horseback/ATV tours etc) for families and the child-free…during the months when the legendary knee-deep powdery fluff has finally melted away.

We haven’t been to Snowbird in years so we were awed- completely-by the in the mountain tunnel/people mover right off the speedy Peruvian lift- that whisks skiers and boarders to the back bowls. Nice.

And as mentioned, the view off the top of the Tram is amazing.

Afterwards, we were treated to a gourmet feast at the Steak Pit, Snowbird’s oldest restaurant that is an excellent combo of laid back/ luxe. We felt appropriately attired in our hiking gear…but were treated to top notch, service and food…that totally hit the spot. Yummy…and the epitome of the easy grandeur - healthy environment - we’ll keep coming back to.



Thanks to our super nice and organized leader, Adam Barker who is a team member of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, we took a guided hike across the mountain range to Solitude, a burgeoning resort that boasts the same snow and glorious setting Utah is famous for.

When we arrived, architectural-wise, we were reminded of a pleasant alpine European village, with everything travelers need within walking distance.

Hungry types (we were) will be more than happy eating at the Creekside Restaurant. Matt Anderson, the talented chef –grilled up tasty burgers and a fresh off the farm salad that fused gourmet ingredients with American sized portions.

And though we didn’t have time for a game of high altitude, 18 hole Frisbee golf, or a heart pounding mountain bike or Diggler scooter ride down the single track trails, we did learn about-and made a mental note to check out- the no lift line layout of the resort-that allows the more advanced skiers/boarders to avoid the beginner and intermediate areas.
To the probable relief of everyone.


SPECIAL THANKS: KEEN-for those comfy Hybrid kickers, SMITH OPTICS-for sunglasses with twist and lock- interchangeable lenses that work and look fierce, PROBAR®'s unprocessed nuts/fruit bar that were delicious, and CLOUDVEIL- for a much needed performance top (in a lovely pale turquoise-our fav color) ...we will make a point to check out the whole line of tech clothing at next year's OR.