Whistler alternative

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Saturday, March 5, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

It took about 30 minutes to get from the airport to the ski resort.

Lifts leading to 3,300 acres of pristine powder were four blocks away in one direction from the A-frame rental home.

A short walk the other way led to an old mining town, now an international destination for skiers, sn

owboarders and even movie stars.

The place is Park City, Utah, gateway to three giant mountain resorts and home base for the annual Sundance Film Festival.

Utah ski resorts are closer to Snohomish County than you might think.

Flights to Salt Lake are abundant, and many offer bargains. Add in deals on lift tickets and lodging, and a weekend getaway to the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains can be simpler and cheaper than a trip to Whistler.

Leave behind the infamous Pacific Northwest concrete snow found at its ski areas. Instead, find short lift lines, terrific weather and long runs that stretch thousands of feet.

Three huge resorts circle the town. Deer Valley is reserved for skiers only and is known worldwide for luxurious amenities, including a ski valet.

The Canyons‘ claim to fame is a chair lift that features heated seats.

I spent all my time at the Park City Mountain Resort because I found a great deal on lift tickets at Liftopia.com and saved 35 percent on a three-day pass ($174 instead of $267). (Another two famous ski resorts, Snowbird and Alta, are equally close to Salt Lake City, but not in Park City.)

I chose to rent skis to save the hassle of schlepping my skis on the airplane and paying oversized baggage fees, $55 each way on Delta. A basic rental package for skis and poles from the resort was $45 for the entire long weekend, saving me $65.

A friend of mine found a bargain fare to Salt Lake City from Seattle for $90 each way on Southwest Airlines. She saved even more because Southwest doesn’t charge baggage fees, so she did bring her skis.

The Park City Chamber of Commerce also offers a special program called Quick Start. People who fly into Salt Lake City in the morning receive free lift passes that afternoon. Register online and be sure to bring proper documentation.

Park City Mountain has lots to offer families including daylong snow schools; the Alpine Coaster, a roller coaster that provides an on-the-mountain experience for nonskiers; and www.snomamas.com, a website that provides family travel tips from real moms.

There’s even a lift that picks up skiers in the middle of the old town.

Overall, I found Park City Mountain well run. The staff was friendly, and short lift lines offered quick and fast access to the best trails.

A collection of fun sculptures dotted the mountain landscape. Sometimes they were decoration, other times they marked where kids could find the best trails through the woods.

My biggest complaint was the lack of healthy lunch options at the various mountain lodges.

If it was hard to find quality food on the mountain, it was easy to find plenty of dining options in Park City.

The old Main Street has all kinds of restaurants. We found fine cuisine at the Purple Sage, an American Western restaurant in the 1895 Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Building.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

If you go

Airfares begin about $200 round trip. Transfers to the airport run around $40 one way. Lodging varies. Condos and rental homes make it easier to bring the family (and eat meals in).

For more information, check out these websites:

•Park City: www.parkcity info.com

Park City Mountain Resort: www.parkcity mountain.com/winter

Deer Valley: www.deervalley.com

The Canyons: thecanyons.com

Alta: www.alta.com

Snowbird: www.snowbird.com

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