Call me a ski nut. I try to get in as many downhill days as possible and to rip as many runs as I can before lunch. I’m first in line on a powder day, and I like to hit the terrain parks to catch a little air. Life doesn’t get much better than a day on the slopes. Except when the temperature is below zero, and you freeze your tail off sitting on the chairlift, and have to go into the lodge to warm up. Boring! Which is why I was intrigued to hear that Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah, installed North America’s first chairlift with heated seats and a bubble to block the wind. As far as I’m concerned, this invention is long overdue.
The odd thing, however, was that I hadn’t heard of Canyons, even though I have skied most of the best resorts in California, Colorado, and Utah. I was a little skeptical that this could be the resort of my dreams. I had to check it out.
Now, truth be told, if you are a hard-core skier who rocks KT-22 at Squaw, you’ll probably be happier on Utah’s world-renowned steeps at Alta and Snowbird. But if you like fresh-cut corduroy and a mix of terrain, including tree skiing, terrain parks, and some expert double blacks, Canyons will not disappoint.
The main thing to know is that Canyons is huge: 4,000 acres of skiable terrain. That’s nearly twice the size of Kirkwood. The other thing is that it is delightfully deluxe. Originally called Park City West, the resort opened in 1968, and has changed hands several times, each time with major new improvements. Talisker, a residential development company, bought Canyons in 2008 and has pumped more than $50 million into the resort to make it a destination. It seems to have had an effect: Canyons just cracked the top-10 list in Ski magazine’s readers’ poll for the first time.
I can see why. The heated Orange Bubble Express represents the type of experience you’ll have here. I stuck my skis on a rolling rack, rather than carry them through the village. (Love that!) And there were none of those long lift lines I’m used to at Northstar. The food is not Tahoe grub; it rivals Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. While I’d always rather be skiing, even I could hang for a bit at the resort’s Lookout Cabin and enjoy a smoked Utah trout salad with grapefruit and arugula, along with the killer views of the Wasatch Mountains. All the meals at Canyons were consistently creative, delicious, and healthy. And who would expect fine, fresh cuisine on the top of a mountain in Utah in the middle of winter?
Really, I wish I’d had a few more days at Canyons, and not just so I could get to all that great terrain, or so I could soak up more of that sublime service: This winter paradise thinks it’s a Carnival Cruise on snow. You can soar above the trees on a zip line between two canyons. Or if you are afraid of heights, like me, opt for snowshoes, and hike the deserted and peaceful canyon between ski ridges.