This Must Be the Place

Bound for Utah? Beyond the Olympic venues, here's what to do—indoors and out—in one of the nation's greatest backcountry playgrounds.

Jan 2, 2002
Outside Magazine

Best Guide Utah Underground: Guide to Real Fun, the new book that proves the state does have a nightlife

SLC l to do:

Skin up Grizzly Gulch near Alta, or anywhere in Big Cottonwood Canyon with a deep accumulation of snow. Build a ski jump. Try your first front and back flips into the powder.

Sleigh ride to 8,000 feet at The Canyons, a few miles north of Park City off Utah 224, and then cross-country ski or snowshoe for 20 minutes. Finish with a gourmet supper at The Viking Dinner Yurt (435-615-9878; Propose marriage over banana-bourbon bread pudding.

Rent a mountain bike from Highlander Bike (801-487-3508) and take it out to Antelope Island, a state park just north of Salt Lake in Davis County (from I-15 take exit 335 and head west). There it'll be just you, 40 miles of trail, and a herd of 550 bison.

Rockreaction, Salt Lake City's indoor climbing gym, offers routes all the way up to 5.13. The Black Diamond Equipment factory and store is right next door. (2074 East 3900 South, 801-278-7473). Pick through the racks for deals on fleece at the only Patagonia Outlet within 300 miles. (3267 South Highland Drive, 801-466-2226).

Paragliding in winter? You bet. A good wind is almost always blowing at The Point of the Mountain, a hillside just south of Salt Lake City in Draper. Call Steve Mayer at The Cloud 9 Soaring Center (801-576-6460;

Go heli-skiing with Wasatch Powderbird Guides (800-974-4354). If the conditions are right, you might talk them into taking you to Provo North—a heart-pounding, 50-degree, 3,300-vertical-foot powder chute.

For an American twist on the Scandinavian tradition of camping alongside nordic-skiing courses, pitch a tent at Jordanelle State Park, 45 minutes south of SLC, and practice your Norwegian and Danish with the visiting fans. Bring herring.

Go ice fishing one hour southeast of Salt Lake City at Deer Creek State Park or one hour east at Rockport State Park (for permits call Wildlife Resources at 801-538-4700). Visualize perch and wear thick skivvies.

Attempt The Great White Icicle in Little Cottonwood Canyon: 650 vertical feet, rated WI3.

Take your altimeter watch and sticks to The Canyons and lap all day on the Ninety Nine 90 chair. With 1,500 feet of vertical for every six-minute ride, you could conceivably log 54,000 feet of of trees, moguls, and steeps in one day.

Bag five of the country's top ski resorts—Park City, Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude—in one day on a lift-served, interconnected tour of the Wasatch Mountains. (801-534-1907).

SLC l eats:

[Chic] Metropolitan, 173 West Broadway, 801-364-3472
[Italian] Lugano, 3364 South 2300 East, 801-412-9994
[Sunday Breakfast] Ruth's Diner, 2100 East Emigration Canyon, 801-582-5807
[Comfort Food] The Blue Plate Diner, 2041 South 2100 East, 801-463-1151
[Greasy Spoon] The Cotton Bottom, 2820 East 6200 South, 801-273-9830
[Thai] Bangkok Thai, 1400 South Foothill, 801-582-8424
[Winter Picnic Fixings] Liberty Heights Fresh, 1242 South 1100 East, 801-583-7374

SLC l drinks:

[Pub] Wasatch Brew Pub, 250 Main Street, 435-649-0900
[JumboTron] The Fiddler's Elbow, 2100 South 1063 East, 801-463-9393
[Meat Market] Port O'Call, 400 South 78 West, 801-521-0589
[Internet Hub] Orbit Café, 540 West 200 South, 801-322-3808
[Olympian-Spotting] Harry O's, 427 Main Street, Park City, 435-647-9494

Local Lingo
[ A Glossary of UTAH SLANG ]

"Oh my heck!" Expression of either delight or disgust, as in "Oh my heck, I spilled chowder all over my ski chaps."

"Wanna sponsor me?" What you must call out to the patron sitting closest to the door at a Salt Lake City "social club" (that is, a bar serving hard alcohol) in order to obtain the legally necessary referral that gets you in. Sponsorship also involves a $5 to $12 "membership fee."

"Heavy beer" Full-strength suds, available only at government-run retail stores or social clubs. Beer with 3.2 percent alcohol is widely available in grocery stores, restaurants, and brewpubs.

GO WHERE THE PROS GO Three Favorite Backcountry Playgrounds From Those Who Know

Andrew McLean, ski guru and author of the backcountry-skiing guide The Chuting Gallery
Take a day trip into the Wasatch Mountains for some of the best backcountry skiing in the world. "The south face of Mount Superior has it all,"he says. "It starts at 11,200 feet, and you can ski right from the summit."

Peter Metcalf, president of Salt Lake City-based Black Diamond Equipment
Head to Park City's White Pine XC Area for nordic track skiing and "a great aerobic pump with grace and speed that's perfect if you only have an hour or so."

Conrad Anker, climber
The Utah climate is typically dry and mild, so if the sun's out, Anker—a former Salt Lake City resident, at left—recommends "the south-facing rocks of Little Cottonwood Canyon,"anywhere from the base of the canyon to Lisa Falls, 2.8 miles up the gorge.