Ski Trip Part Two: Logistics and Itinerary

by Wendy
If you read ski trip post #1, you know what I packed. This post covers the hotels, the skiing, and various notes on the area and activities. Spoiler: I fell down quite a lot but had a GREAT time in this beautiful place! 

My husband and I flew into Salt Lake City on a Wednesday evening, so we could get a jump start on skiing the next day. We stayed at the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City Airport, a simple, clean and comfy room. The hotel offered casual dining options 24/7, so we sat at a little bar and chatted with the friendly and helpful staff. We had a decent spinach salad, chicken quesadilla, and chili, with a couple of beers. Jack ordered a beer and shot of tequila since his back felt stiff after the plane trip from the East coast – but he had to down the shot before receiving any beer. The state laws apparently prohibit the ol’ shot and beer combo (apparently locals refer to this as the “Utah turnaround”). We got some sleep and woke up early Thursday morning to go back to the airport to pick up our rental car. Hyatt offered a free breakfast and shuttle both to and from the airport – only about five minutes away.

As we drove up higher in the mountains, I began to feel a little nervous about the skiing. Would there truly be ski runs for beginners, or would everything be more advanced? I tried to put my qualms aside and focus on the majestic, snowy scenery.

For the rest of the trip (Thursday – Sunday), we stayed at the Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City. This place was gorgeous and totally set up for guests to enjoy winter sports. We skied at Canyons, which was the closest to the resort. Park City slopes were also nearby. Each day, we could check our skis and poles with the complimentary ski valet at the front of the hotel instead of dragging all the equipment back to our room. When we were ready to hit the slopes again, it never took more than a few minutes to request and receive the equipment. There were lifts and a gondola within walking distance from the hotel – and Hyatt also ran a free shuttle service to get you and your equipment a little closer to both.

Our room had a balcony, fireplace, microwave and mini-fridge, a nice big bathroom and comfy bed. The cozy lobby had a complimentary DVD rental kiosk and sundry shop that sold coffee and some a la carte meal items. We bought breakfast there one morning and it was kind of expensive, but the quality was good. One of my favorite things was going for a relaxing soak in the outdoor jacuzzi after getting back from the slopes – Jack even braved a swim in the pool. We went to the hotel restaurant twice, sitting at the bar and talking with the jovial bartenders, who were of course ski/snowboarding enthusiasts. One night we treated ourselves to the hotel’s special apres ski menu for dinner – the short rib poutine, fried chicken, and crab macaroni and cheese was soooooo good. I felt like I had burned hundreds of calories after skiing and could eat whatever I wanted.

Hyatt Escala Lodge

Note: I write about Hyatt a lot, but this is not a sponsored post. Jack is a member of their rewards program and we sincerely enjoy staying at their properties. We don’t always stay at a Hyatt, but are fans of many of the hotels in their portfolio.

There are several bars and restaurants within walking distance, and you can also catch a free shuttle to Park City village right in front of the Hyatt Escala. Cute little town lined with shops, bars and trendy restaurants. The Sundance festival is here. We had great margaritas and Mexican food at Blue Iguana, and then drinks and pinball at the cool dive bar O’ Shucks.

So, a few words about the skiing. It took me awhile to get my ski legs. There was a “beginner” hill near the hotel that we decided to try shortly after we rented our ski equipment. Here’s a quick summary of what happened: I was still feeling nervous and having an initial annoyance getting reacquainted with the bulky, awkward, expensive equipment you must deal with to go skiing. Helmet, goggles, heavy boots, poles, skis – at first it seems like a lot of baggage. I hadn’t practiced in about a year, so I promptly fell when debarking the chair lift. Embarrassed, I turned the corner, saw some narrow turns next to a drop-off and proceeded to panic/fall/try to get up/slide/cling to the side furthest from the cliff/finally get up/fall/wipe away a few stray tears/take off my boots and walk down the narrowest part/put my boots back on and try to control my fear and scoot down a steeper hill than I would have prefered right off the bat (and of course falling a few more times in the process). It was exhausting, I was overheated and my confidence was shot.

But this was a ski vacation, so I had to ski. I swallowed my pride and headed to the “Sweet Pea” bunny slope that people (ok, mostly kids) were using to practice after their first lesson. Jack, a more experienced skier, checked out some of the more challenging runs while I got back to basics and reminded myself that I knew how to balance, turn and stop.

We tried another beginner run in High Meadow. It took a lot of patience and effort. I crashed and a kind employee stopped to help me up, innocently asking “do you know about Sweet Pea?” My confidence was almost crushed again but I brushed it off. With practice and my husband cheering me on and offering guidance, I could ski down my favorite High Meadow path without falling once by the end of the trip. I was glad I kept trying and realized I did enjoy the challenge and benefits of a sports-centered vacation. My muscles were sore but it was a good tiredness. We woke up earlier and went to sleep earlier. We probably drank a little less.

Jack noted that the Red Pine gondola led to great paths for beginner and advanced skiers/snowboarders alike, getting everyone high up in the mountains to enjoy the scenery regardless of their skill level. The extensive lifts and trails are integrated nicely and allow skiers to access various types of terrain.

My darling insightful husband also commented that part of the beauty of skiing is that it demands you focus exclusively on skiing. He’s right. Your concentration is pure and strong. It’s almost like a meditation. Everyday worries dissipate as you test your skill and bravery, trying to gracefully glide down the hill, monitoring your speed, hopefully avoiding a total wipeout. Yes, sometimes you are a bit terrified, but you’re completely caught up in where you are and how your body is moving. If you have room to consider anything else, it’s the incredibly fresh air and beautiful scenery. You feel very alive, very in-the-moment. This mental state is often rare as we multi-task and juggle various priorities at once, spreading our attention thin and trudging through daily tasks. I realized this state of clarity is a big part of the reward of this tough sport.

Any of you avid skiers? Or are you tentative but determined beginners, like me? Would love to hear your stories and tips. I would definitely be up for going back to Canyons/Park City one day, but wondered if any of you have suggestions for mountains with excellent beginner hills?