“Another pint of Polygamy Porter please,” I tell a pretty bartender at The Wasatch Brew Pub. “Finish your drink first sir,” she rebukes. “You’re only allowed one at a time. State Law. Welcome to Utah!”

“Now there’s discrimination for you” I add cheekily, with my nose obediently shoved into the upturned glass like a periscope scanning for telltale suds. “One rule for wives and another for beer eh!”

OK –As a skier, I’m a lifer at Whistler/Blackcomb. Long and happily imprisoned by familiarity, convenience, and a low loonie. With the world set to wing its way to my mountain, just a couple of easy listening CD’s up the highway, why change my curmudgeonly habits?

The answer is simple. Despite a loonie on the lose, it’s time to break out. Parole or day pass? Just do it - right?!

Besides, didn’t Utah have the Olympic blues way back in 2002? – And now the bartender can’t stop enthusing about it.

“Wow, you’re from Vancouver. Do you guys need help? Don’t forget to take in The Olympic Park. They closed the luge and bobsled runs last week. You’ve gotta come back – Such a rush. “Hey Hal, he’s from Vancouver” she informs my neighbour. We’ve got to book a flight. Can’t miss that party!

In mid January, the old silver mining town of Park City hosts The Sundance Film Festival. A steamy past of brawls and brothels is long forgotten. It’s all Champagne and chique. All lights cameras and hedonistic action. All sequins, stilettos, and starry eyes - with nary a skier in sight!

This is not a good time to find a room, unless of course, granny runs a guesthouse among the immaculately preserved facades of historic Main Street. It is, however, a bonus time for locals who get to enjoy feet of untrammelled powder at three of North America’s finest ski resorts. Each a mere snowball’s toss from 100 downtown bars, clubs and restaurants!

I arrive at the end of March.. The eagle-eyed security guard becomes my unexpected “new best friend” - for a moment anyway. Shoeless/beltless/ changeless/watchless/phoneless and with my reading glasses detached from their “idiot” neck band and added to the pile, I know I am home free?

When the guard finishes wanding me without eliciting even a muffled chirp he leans over and shares “Your zip’s open sir!” My seamless Delta flight from Vancouver to Salt Lake City takes 2 hours.

The ground staff is already in shorts and t-shirts. I’m here with skis and sweaters dammit - not golf clubs! Am I too late?

I settle in for an early night and awaken to 10 centimetres of fresh powder on the hot tub cover. The sun is beginning to break through. All is looking good in my world!

“Start with THE CANYONS,” advised my airport limo driver. “Tomorrow is Pond Skimming day.” Being an obedient soul I hike the 1 1/2 blocks to a free bus on Main Street. Four miles down the road I am soon riding an open gondola with walls reaching half the height of a Parisian urinal!

This is the largest ski area in Utah and the fifth largest in The US. The upper “Ninety Nine Ninety” lift is not for sissies. At a shade under 10,000 feet or 3000 metres, it attracts young bucks to the steep and deep. I feign a bum knee! This is only day one and there are 17 lifts servicing lots of intermediate stuff.

Mansions, the size of boutique hotels, sit empty among the aspens. “I only need a closet,” laments my young guide, an about to be homeless local, who has fallen foul of her roommates!

“Pond skimming” is an evolution of the wet t-shirt contest. All comers wear outrageous outfits to ski or board down hill – thru the arch and over a pond. A handful actually makes it! Must be a good day for the brewers of Polygamy Porter and Bobsled Brown?

I’m on a mission to find coffee for the morning. “Where do people buy supplies in Park City?” I ask Jean Louis, a delightful Frenchman who is busy slicing and dicing for tonight’s diners at his fine restaurant of the same name.

“You ‘ave choices mon ami.” he replies. “You can catch the bus to the edge of town. Or, you can call management and they will deliver everything to your house. Or, I can give you some!” I stay for dinner and eat a delicious Cioppino!

The Ski lift to PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT rises from the centre of town. Now that’s really easy. I can actually ski home. The first skiers were miners and their families. They took underground trains through the extensive tunnel system, then “popped up” by elevator through various mineshafts around the mountain, and skied to the bottom.

Arguably a perfect system? – Until the owner of a Bognor ski jacket, besmirched by oil, cried foul! 14 lifts have been added to spare the dry-cleaning and legal bills! Mine workings still dot the slopes. A reminder that 23 millionaires were created here, including newspaper baron George Hearst.

Since DEER VALLEY RESORT opened in 1981 it has been rated #1 overall in North America by Ski Magazine for the third time this year.

With no real estate arm to prop up the bottom line, it relies solely on the ski business and a level of service second to none. Arrive in the parking lot and your equipment is whisked away by valets to a private locker in the lodge.

Arrive too late on a busy day and risk being told – “Sorry but we’ve already sold our limit of 6500 tickets. Come back tomorrow!”

OK – It’s Ivy League. For people in the know – Oh and those like me who just stumbled upon it!

Who skis here? The management is very closed mouthed but I discover that Britney Spear’s recently fired lawyer has a pad on the hill and found time for an $800 private lesson on the day I arrived!

Who is not welcome here? Snow boarders! Deer Valley is one of a handful of resorts still restricted to skiers. Heck - with only 6500 lift tickets to sell, they can afford to be picky!

You might recognise a few faces circling the $60 a head seafood buffet at The Snow Park Lodge – Book in advance! Or sampling wondrous hand-made chocolates at Stein Ericksen’s 5 star place on the mountain, muttering “I know I shouldn’t but…..!”

Spare a morning to visit nearby Olympic Park. You won’t find naysayers here and you might fulfil your dreams with a hair-raising ride on a bobsled! Hey they actually made a profit with the 2002 Olympics and the bucks are still rolling in!

OK – For all the glitz, this is an affordable area specializing in family ski holidays. Lift tickets run around $80 a day. Take a red-eye, show your boarding-pass and ski free on your day of arrival. Now there’s a deal! Book your accommodation through a local agency www.parkcityinfo.com and get a “Silver Passport” to all 3 resorts at special rates

Whoever heard of free transportation from one lively town to three fabulous ski areas with 53 lifts? “Just do it. OK!”




Copyright © 2009 Andrew G.P. Renton All rights reserved.