Ray Grass: What's new, improved at Utah's 14 ski resorts

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27 2013 4:25 p.m. MST

This Nov. 23, 2013, photo, shows an adult skiing with a child at Park City Mountain Resort, in Park City, Utah. About half of Utah’s 14 resorts are up and running on snow that piled up during November. Officials say season-pass sales are strong. Park City has booked 28 percent of the season for lodging already.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

As summers go around ski areas, this past one was rather calm. The focus, in most cases, was on making terrain more skier/snowboarder friendly … wider runs, smoother ground, easier access.

There were exceptions — one new lift, a terrain park for females only, a big birthday party, quicker access to lifts and more snow with less energy.

The only new lift went into Snowbird. Actually, it replaced a very old lift. The original Gad 2 lift, installed in 1971, was by today’s standards slow and uncomfortable. The double-chair lift was taken out and a new Gad 2 detachable high-speed quad was put in its place. Ride time on the new lift will be half what it was, which translates to more minutes on the runs.

The big news at Park City Mountain Resort is it’s 50 years old. Plans are in motion for a season-long birthday party, says Andy Miller, communications manager.

He adds the focus over the summer was on the historic celebration.

“We have a lot of activities planned, like a weekly birthday party with giveaways and resort specials in order to give people the opportunity to help us celebrate,’’ he says.

The big day will be Dec. 21, the official opening day of Treasure Mountain back in 1963, which later became Park City and then Park City Mountain Resort. Festivities that day will include speakers reflecting back on old times, along with music and fireworks.

In the canyon just over the mountain, Brighton and Solitude got a little closer together. The SolBright Trail between the two resorts was widened and groomed to make getting between the two much easier and faster this winter, notes Jared Winkler, Brighton public relations director. In the past, the trail was often rutted and bumpy and not always easy to traverse.

That didn’t always make it easy for those buying the Big Cottonwood Pass, which allows skiing and snowboarding at both resorts on the same day.

To make things even easier, Brighton put in a new ticket system to match Solitude’s that allows for direct-lift access. Skiers and snowboarders buying a lift ticket off-site will now be able to go directly from their vehicle to the lift without making a stop at the ticket window.

The system also makes it possible to get a card that allows an individual to activate it on a home computer prior to heading to the resort.

Brighton also became the first resort in Utah to have a female-only terrain park.

“We had a number of girls tell us they felt intimidated when they tried new tricks with boys around,’’ said Winkler. “We’ll try it and see how it works out.’’

Snowbasin will introduce young skiers and snowboarders to dinosaurs this winter in its Riglet Terrain Park. Kids between 3 and 6 will be greeted by Dino the Brontosaurus and Terry the Triceratops.

“Our park will be one of only 13 theme parks in the country. We chose the dinosaur because Utah has a history of dinosaurs,’’ says Jason Dyer, marketing manager.

And, joining Deer Valley and other resorts, Snowbasin invested in energy-efficient Snow Logic snow guns. The new snow guns produce more snow with much less energy.

The Snow Logic system produces the lowest cost per acre foot of man-made snow in the marketplace.

Also:

• Deer Valley will have a new ski run off Little Baldy Mountain for beginning-level skiers. It also invested $4.5 million to upgrade its snow-making system, purchasing ultra-low-energy-efficient Snow Logic tower guns. It also added three new snowcats to keep its reputation as one of the best groomed ski areas in the country.

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