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Trip Report: 2022-03 Park City Mountain, UT

Park City Mountain is the largest lift-served (downhill) ski resort in the United States. Located less than an hour from Salt Lake City, UT, Park City Mountain hosted ski and snowboarding events for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The resort sits between 7,000 and 10,000 ft in elevation, offering slightly easier breathing over the big Colorado resorts.

Date(s)2022-03-17 to 21
TypeExtended Weekend Trip
ActivitiesSightseeing, Skiing
TransportWithin 1 hour by Car (from Salt Lake City)
ConditionsVaried from Snow to Sunny, 22° to 60°
DoggoLeft Behind with the Sitter
GearRented Ski Equipment
Repeatability5/10
Overall7/10

The Trip

I was debating writing up this trip as it doesn’t fit in with my usual hop-in-the-car and sleep outside with your dog thing that I mostly do on this blog. Heck, I left the mud doggo behind to play with her sitter. A good friend invited me to join her group trip to Park City about a week and a half before the first night they had rented the vacation home and I couldn’t pass up the dream of a spring break ski trip out west. I was forced to give up downhill skiing for years after I nearly died in 2015 and I honestly should still consider alternative activities. But I finally got back into my ski boots for a couple half-days in 2021 and it’s still exciting to think about having a real ski day, much less an extended weekend on a big mountain.

Driving Into the Mountains

Day One

I took the day I arrived to try to adjust to the elevation. The vacation home sat at about 6,400′ and the drive up into the mountains gave me a fairly strong headache. My average heartrate rose about 15%, which was somewhat alarming, but I was hoping a good night’s sleep would help. It’s been a couple years since I needed a CPAP to ward off sleep apnea, but I brought along the machine anyway since it can provide pressurized air roughly equivalent to 1,000′ lower elevation. I also switched off my very low carb diet to a high carb diet as metabolizing carbohydrates requires less oxygen than protein and fat. Just walking up a few steps would rapidly spin up my heartbeat and breathing. I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t adapt well enough to be active and ski the next day.

Day Two

Woke up feeling better, although my Garmin body battery score remained in the single digits (and would stay this way for the whole trip). Today was a ski day – the trails were groomed and mashed potatoes in many places with temperatures right around and slightly above freezing. I had a Clif bar for the first time in like three years and it was incredibly delicious. Like, tears delicious. Oh carbs, I love you. I managed to put in four hours of skiing before I made the call to slide down the mountain and wait for the rest of the group to finish the day.

Instagrammers in Their Natural Habitat
Here

Day Three

Forecast called for snow on Sunday (Day Four) so most of the group decided to dash off to the Bonneville Salt Flats and to take a look around downtown Salt Lake City. I went with to recharge at a lower elevation. Had some cold chicken nuggets that nobody ordered after they sat in the bag for nearly an hour. The salt flats were wet so we didn’t get a chance to thunder down them at 90 mph in the rental vehicle, but it was a cool location nonetheless. Walked around Salt Lake City to find the temple in Temple Square to be closed off for renovation. Visited the museum of church history and art, as well as the family history library, where the Mormon church has been collecting genealogy data and organizing it for research. Hoofed it back to Park City for dinner at Tekila Mexican Grill & Cantina, which had surprisingly decent food for a resort town.

Post-Mogul Nap

Day Four

The big snow day arrived – we lit out early and ended up in the first group of chairs headed for the summit. Trail conditions varied wildly from fluffy to mashed potatoes, peanut butter, icy, and fluffy again. Occasionally those little frozen pebbles that I like to call “rocky road.” I was on the slopes the entire day, ranging across the resort, mostly sticking to the intermediate trails for a very relaxing ski trip. Our group did accidentally pick one very moguled trail that really hammered it out of my quads – it didn’t help that temperatures had nearly reached 50 the day before and turned some of the moguls to heavy piles of slush. Took about twenty minutes to work our way down to the lodge where we pretty much immediately broke for lunch. What a great ski day. The featured picture of this post was also from Day Four – beautiful conditions. Also, it’s really strange going downhill on a ski lift, even if we are just going across to another mountain. Closed out the evening at Utah Crater, floating around in the hot spring cavern to unwind and relax those muscles.

Day Five

Packed it in – I spent this entire day in transit. My first flight was to SFO. The only bright spot was that big 787 bird that flew me all the way home with the tray of shrimp fried rice I picked up in the airport terminal.

Expenses

Ok, so let’s talk money. I don’t usually discuss costs because most of my trips hardly cost a thing, but those of you that came across this post are probably interested in knowing ahead of time what to expect for at trip like this.

Flights – since I was invited a week and a half before the trip, I just burned up some frequent flyer miles – exchanging 40k miles for the equivalent of $1,300 I consider to be a solid exchange. If you plan ahead, flights to Salt Lake City aren’t too expensive, even without a direct flight. Note: only Delta has lounges at SLC.

Lodging – my group put at least one person in each bed at a rented house that was about 10 minutes away from the resort, our cost was about $100 per person per night (four nights so about $400).

Food – restaurant and convenience store pricing is what you’d expect in an expensive city. I’d say about $40 per day will take care of this.

Alcohol – I don’t drink, but I think you’ll find that a majority of the people doing these types of trips do. Utah is fairly restrictive with alcohol – liquor has to be obtained from a state controlled ABC. Laws restrict the amount of alcohol in beer – so your brand may not strictly be available or may be different in Utah. It didn’t seem to be unusually expensive – similar to the food.

Rental Car – my group all squeezed into one vehicle and shared the expense, which ended up being something like $80 including gas.

Ski Expenses – I did not get an Epic Pass this year (should have considering this trip), but I have one for next year now. Lift tickets for spring break ended up being the max price right around $200/day. Ski rental shops right next to the mountain offered fantastic deals with the daily rental being less than $40.

Uber between SLC and Park City is about $50-60.

All told I dropped about $1,200 for this trip.

What Went Right

I’m actually very upbeat and optimistic about this trip. Mostly because I think I was the weakest link here.

  • The group had a good communication plan and knew where and when to meetup.
  • We went shopping for groceries the first night and apparently brought along a cook.
  • I brought along hot hands, which I used none of, but were all stolen by the girls.

What Went Wrong

  • The croissants and bagels were done pretty much after day two. Don’t underestimate carbs at altitude, you’ll want them.
  • Don’t skip leg day.
  • My Garmin body battery score never rose over a single digit. Sleep quality wasn’t great and my average heart rate remained quite high. I also clocked in about 600 Garmin intensity minutes just over the weekend. I probably worked it a little too hard for not having worked out much over the winter.
Bag of Chips at Altitude

Closing Thoughts

I wasn’t prepared for this trip, physically. I really needed to be more active and my activity level has really fallen off while I’m waiting to have this tooth pulled from my jaw. Still, I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to ski with a friend at Park City. It’s a nice resort, everything was pretty easy and laid back. It was more affordable than the Colorado resorts and a little easier to breathe in as well. I’m looking forward to say, Whistler Blackcomb next year. But I certainly wouldn’t mind skiing Park City again.

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