Talk about infinitely expanding ski areas! The Canyons resort (4000 The Canyons Dr., 435/649-5400 or 435/615-3456 snow report, 888/226-9667 reservations, www.thecanyons.com, lift tickets $89 adult, $53 seniors and ages 7-12), Utah's largest and fastest-growing resort, sports an entire city's worth of buildings near the bottom of the lifts. More high-speed lifts (including one with heated seats) than any other Utah resort reach eight separate peaks along the Wasatch Mountains, serving 4,000 skiable acres, making the Canyons one of the five largest ski areas in the United States. At the base of the slopes are three large lodge hotels. It's no surprise that, given all this development, ticket prices are pretty high.
From a fairly small local resort called Park West, this area morphed into Wolf Mountain, and then, in 1997, became the Canyons. The Canyons is owned and operated by the Talisker Corporation.
Terrain and Lifts
The Canyons (lifts run 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov.-Apr., lift tickets $89 adults, $53 seniors and ages 7-12 ) save a few dollars by purchasing online at least 14 days in advance) is the first Park City ski area you'll reach coming from Salt Lake City. Not counting the Cabriolet gondola from the day-use parking area, the Frostwood gondola from housing to the base, and a couple of surface tows, the resort has 16 lifts, including an eight-passenger gondola, a detachable six-pack, and four high-speed quads. The 167 ski trails are rated 10 percent beginner, 44 percent intermediate, and 46 percent advanced and expert. The longest run is 2.5 miles and drops 3,190 feet. For snowboarders, there are six natural half-pipes and two terrain parks. Many locals who once skied at Park City Resort have shifted allegiances to the Canyons, mostly because of the less-crowded slopes here. However, if the snow is iffy, it's usually better to head over to the Cottonwood canyons; when conditions aren't absolutely favorable, the Canyons seems to have the worst snow of any of the Wasatch resorts. A big expansion preceded the opening of the 2010/2011 season, with new lifts, including an orange-bubble-covered quad with heated seats running from the Grand Summit Hotel to Lookout Peak.
To begin a day at the Canyons, ride the cabriolet from the parking area to the resort base. From the base, you'll have to wait in line for the Flight of the Canyons gondola, which soars over mountains, valleys, and terrain parks to the Red Pine Lodge, the mid-mountain base. From here, ski down to the Tombstone Express, ride that lift, and from there continue working your way south (left on the trail map) to the top of the Dreamscape lift, which lets out onto a mountainside full of nice blue runs.
Expert skiers and boarders can go from Tombstone to Ninety Nine 90, a high-speed quad serving expert runs. The views from the top are breathtaking, and the trails there send you meandering through gladed steeps, open bowls, and narrow chutes. You could spend a whole day there, especially after a big snowfall. Also, from there, you can access backcountry skiing on huge bowls way above the tree line. There is a short hike, but it's well worth it.
At the end of the day, ride up on the Super Condor Express, then head home on Upper Boa to Willow Drain, a long easy cruise marred only by an uphill walk at the end. (If you can't bear to walk, just ride the gondola back down to the base.)
The resort offers day care, supervised lunches, ski lessons, and rentals for the younger set. The Canyons includes a ski school, a rental and sales shop, a half-dozen restaurants (three mid-slope), and a free shuttle service from lodges and hotels in Park City.
The Flight of the Canyons Gondola (10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily late June-late Aug., $15 adults, $10 seniors and children 7-12) lifts you up to the Red Pine Lodge, where you can eat lunch or embark on a day hike or mountain bike ride (bikes are permitted on the gondola, but dogs aren't). There's also a disc golf course (free) near the top of the gondola.
The resort can also arrange backcountry horseback rides and hot air balloon rides.
Locals swing by the Cabriolet parking lot every Wednesday afternoon during the summer (2-7 p.m.) for a farmers market.
The Grand Summit Hotel, Sundial Lodge, and Silverado Lodge (888/226-9667 central reservation line, www.thecanyons.com) sit at the base of the ski slopes. Facilities at the Grand Summit, which fronts directly onto the gondola loading platform, include a full-service health club and spa, including indoor/outdoor pool, three on-site restaurants, and bar and brewpub. The Sundial Lodge, about 100 yards from the gondola, has an outdoor heated pool, hot tub, and on-site exercise facility. The Silverado is a few steps farther downhill, and it is the least expensive place at the resort. It has the requisite outdoor heated pool, hot tub, and exercise room. The Escala Lodges are near the base of the Sunrise lift.
Just a little ways downslope, and served by the Frostwood gondola, is the Waldorf Astoria Park City (2100 W. Frostwood Blvd., 435/647-5500, www.parkcitywaldorfastoria.com, $599 and up), the only lodge that's not booked through the Canyons.
These enormous hotels are built on a scale unlike any other lodgings in Park City and vie with Canadian national park resorts in terms of grandness and scope. All of the lodges have a mix of hotel rooms and condos; expect to pay upwards of $250 for the most basic (though luxurious by most travelers' standards) rooms during ski season. Be sure to book in advance for these "less expensive" hotel rooms. Condos can get quite elaborate and expensive, topping out at more than $1,000 per night.
Although the resort lodgings are prohibitively expensive for many travelers, two of Park City's least expensive hotels, the Best Western Landmark (6560 N. Landmark Dr., 800/548-8824, www.bwlandmarkinn.com, $139 and up) and the Holiday Inn Express (1501 West Ute Blvd., 435/658-1600, www.holidayinn.com, $179 and up), are near Kimball Junction, about a mile from the Canyons.
Mid-mountain, at the top of the gondola, the Red Pine Lodge (435/615-2888, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, $6-10) is a good place to grab lunch without having to disrupt a day on the slopes. It serves the typical pizza, burgers, soup, and salad. Better food is served at the Lookout Cabin (435/615-2892, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, $10-20, reservations suggested) a sit-down restaurant at the top of the Lookout lift.
In the Grand Summit Hotel, The Cabin (435/615-8060, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. daily, $30-40) is the elegant dinner restaurant.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition