Eleven resorts in a day, why not ski 13? Why not? Only in Utah. In January 2005, five skiers skied 11 of Utah's 13 resorts in a single day. The obvious question then was: Why not 13? Now, four years later, nine skiers skied all 13 of Utah's ski resorts in a single day — 16 hours, 554 miles, three quick meals on the go, 15 great runs (to celebrate, the group skied three final runs at Beaver Mountain), stepped into and out of the bindings 26 times, and made who knows how many turns, climbed in and out of a packed van 26 times … and made history.
Where else in the world can a skier, or, in this case, nine, ski 13 different resorts in a single day — 13 different mountains, 13 different base centers, 13 different lift passes, 13 different area personalities, 13 different runs. They started at Brian Head Resort, 254 miles to the south of Salt Lake City, and finished in the evening hours at Beaver Mountain Ski Area, 115 miles to the north. And, in between, they skied the 11 — Sundance Resort first, then Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Alta Ski Area, Brighton Ski Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Snowbasin Resort, Wolf Creek Utah Ski Resort and Powder Mountain Winter Resort. Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, led the group of five staffers from the Deseret News, which included photographer Ravell Call, back in January 2005 for the 11 resorts.
Jessica Kunzer, communications director of Ski Utah, led the latest party, which included Deseret News photographer Ravell Call. Both events were, Call said, "A challenge, but were well worth the effort … nowhere else but here in Utah could this happen."
The nine skiers included Call, Kunzer, Amy Anderson, Bill Weidner, Andy Bauman, Jake Bogoch, Kendall Card, Adam Barker and Brian Schott. Chris Pearson of Ski Utah was the team's van driver.
Rafferty has been extolling the ease at which skiers can reach Utah's resorts for years. Within 35 minutes, visiting skiers can go from the Salt Lake International Airport to the base of any one of seven world-class resorts. The nine skiers drove by van to Brian Head in the afternoon on Jan. 12, spent the night and were up at 4 a.m. to make their first run.
"We drove up the mountain to a place where we could access a run," said Kunzer, "and made one of the most incredible moonlight runs over a corduroy-smooth surface. It was a perfect start. … There was a real magical feeling about this run." The day went like this:
4:37 a.m. — They drove to an area above the Giant Steps run, then skied under moonlight. This run, said Call, is "something I'd liked to do again. It was really incredible."
8:36 a.m. — Arrived at Sundance, and with the morning light bouncing off Mount Timpanogos, the group made a run down the Top Gun run.
9:38 a.m. — Drove by way of Heber to the Deer Valley gondola at Deer Crest, rode to the top and skied Little Stick for a run that was "over too quickly."
10:13 a.m. — It was a short drive to Park City Mountain Resort for a ride up the PayDay lift and down the PayDay run — the resort's signature run.
11:01 a.m. — The next stop was next door at The Canyons for a ride up the gondola, followed by a lift ride and a run to the base.
12:16 p.m. — This was followed by a ride down into the valley and up Little Cottonwood to Snowbird, where there was a change of plans. Originally, the plan called for a tram ride, a run down Mineral Basin and a lift ride to the Alta saddle. High winds, however, had docked the tram. So the group took the Peruvian lift to the Mine Tunnel and skied down Silver Fox.
12:40 p.m. — Rather than ski to Alta, the group rode by van. There they stepped into the skis, rode the Collins lift and skied one of the more famous runs — Sunspot.
1:48 p.m. — It was down Little Cottonwood and up Big Cottonwood to Brighton and the Millicent lift. This involved half a run. From the summit they skied to the SolBright trail, a route between Brighton and Solitude.
2 p.m. — This is the only resort where a lift ride wasn't involved. Skiers came off the trail and picked up the bottom of a Solitude run.
4:05 p.m. — This was the critical connection. The lifts shut down at 4:30 p.m., but the group arrived slightly ahead of schedule. The same was true of the 2005 run. Back then, skiers arrived early and made two instead of one run. This time the group took the gondola to the top of the Olympic women's downhill run, which made for a long, high-speed run.
4:58 p.m. — The route went down the mountain, over the Pineview Dam to Wolf Creek. Here a young ski racer, on the mountain training, served as guide on a run under the lift.
5:58 p.m. — The timing was perfect, as it was in 2005. The sun was setting over the Great Salt Lake, which is in view from the summit at Powder Mountain. "Once again," Call said, "I was there for one of the most beautiful sunsets imaginable."
8:30 p.m. — Under the lights, the group made three runs under the Little Bev lift amid handshakes, congratulations and sighs of relief at having made history.
"We did this without use of helicopters or snowmobiles or snowcats or having to ski out-of-bounds. It was all done by driving and taking lifts. … It's nothing that couldn't be done by any skiers, given proper planning and the expense of buying a lift ticket at each resort," said Kunzer. "Our purpose was to show the world just how accessible skiing can be in Utah … and we did just that." Talk started about the 13-in-a-day run after the 11-in-a-day. Kunzer said it was decided this was the year and "I began planning back in October. Everything worked out perfectly. The weather cooperated and the skiing was excellent."
The next step could be 14 resorts if Elk Meadows ever enters the market again. For now, the record stands at 13 in one day.