Salt Lake City–area resorts are pumped for the Games. But for non-Olympians, this is the uncrowded time to go
|Park City, by blue-sky day
WHY WAIT FOR 2002? SKI UTAH this winter and you'll find the state's key Olympic resorts are well on their way to having their Games faces on. While you will see some ongoing construction at mountain base areas, most of the competition venues are good to go. This means that in many cases you can ski, ride, jump, and slide the same slopes and tracks that
will host Olympic athletes from 80 countries February 8–24, 2002. And don't worry about fighting crowds generated by early Olympic hype this winter or next. Studies show that in the year or two before and after Olympic Games, business drops by as much as 50 percent at host resorts.
You may want to base your own personal Tour de Games in the Park City area. Just 35 minutes from the Salt Lake International Airport, the former mining town will be central to most of the 2002 Olympic gravity events—including alpine and freestyle skiing, snowboarding, jumping, luge, and bobsled.
Park City Mountain Resort (435-649-8111), just a few blocks from the town's hopping restored Main Street, will host the Olympic snowboarding events as well as the men's and women's giant slalom. Lately, most of the resort's energy and capital have been focused on upgrading base facilities and services. In spring 1999, the tired 35-year-old Steeps base
lodge was torn down to make way for its $11 million, 54,000-square-foot successor, to be completed by December 1999. It will open with a food-court–style restaurant and a high-end equipment rental center that will feature skis made exclusively for the resort. Also scheduled to open in December 1999 is the Marriott MountainSide Resort, a 182-unit ski
in–ski out vacation club complex located at the base near the PayDay lift.
On the mountain, you'll have the run of 3,300 acres, including the glorious McConkey's Bowl, a former hike-to cirque that became lift-served last season. Olympic competition will be held on C.B.'s Run, in the Eagle Race Arena. Though the trail is officially open this winter, ski teams use it almost constantly, so don't count on skiing it. A halfpipe on
PayDay will be open to the public and will also host several competitions this season. By 2002, another halfpipe at the base of C.B.'s Run will be added exclusively for Olympic snowboarding events.
Just a mile south of Park City is Deer Valley Resort (800-424-3337), where cell phones seem as much a standard skier accessory as lip balm. Long regarded as an overgroomed playground for high-maintenance intermediate skiers, Deer Valley has been tweaking that image the past few years. Last winter it opened up challenging backcountry-type terrain in
wide-open Empire Canyon. And in 2002 it will host four Olympic alpine skiing events: the combined slalom on Big Stick, the slalom on Know You Don't, the moguls competition on Champion, and the aerials on White Owl. All but the aerials hill will be open to visiting skiers this season.
You'll find some $5 million in improvements at Deer Valley this winter, including a new triple chairlift in the meadow south of the Red Cloud chairlift on Flagstaff Mountain, which will serve a newly designated family skiing area. The Silver Lake Express high-speed quad has replaced the Clipper chair, and a new quad chair takes over for the old Homestake
triple. Meanwhile, construction continues on a new day lodge at the base of the Empire Express and Ruby chairlifts, slated to be ready for the 2000–2001 ski season.
Though not an official Olympic venue, The Canyons (435-649-5400)—just a few miles north of Park City and adjacent to the Utah Winter Sports Park—will undoubtedly figure prominently in the Olympic scene. This massive, underachieving resort has been buzzing with construction crews. In December 1999, the 360-unit Grand Summit Resort Hotel and
Conference Center and the 149-unit Sundial Lodge will open for business, marking the completion of Phase One of an ambitious development plan. In the next few years, The Canyons plans to build its own pedestrian village with a 2,000-seat amphitheater, an outdoor skating oval, a commercial "main street," and some 6,000 lodging units. On the slopes, look for
the opening this season of The Canyon's seventh mountain peak, Peak Five, which adds 300 acres of challenging bowl, glade, and chute skiing.
Snowbasin Ski Area (801-399-1135), an unsung locals' mountain 17 miles east of Ogden in the high peaks of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, is about to become famous. Since receiving word that it will host the men's and women's Olympic downhill and super G races, the area has been on a major building jag. Last year it installed four new lifts: two
eight-passenger gondolas, one high-speed quad, and one 15-passenger tram. Work started this past summer on a new day lodge near the finish line, which will house shops, restaurants, and all skier services.
The Snowbasin racecourses, designed by Olympic gold medalist Bernhard Russi, are open for skiing this season. Visible top-to-bottom from the base area, the men's course is rated among the top three in the world; its vertical drop of nearly 3,000 feet can generate skier speeds of up to 90 miles an hour. There's no lodging at Snowbasin, so you'll want to
stay in Ogden or make the hour drive to Salt Lake City. A connector highway now under construction will shave 20 minutes off that trip next year.
The Utah Winter Sports Park (435-658-4200) in Park City will be the site for luge, bobsled, Nordic ski jumping, and the ski-jumping portion of the Nordic-combined competition. The park continues to offer luge rides and bobsledlike "rocket rides" on the Olympic tracks. Two-hour skijumping lessons (you use your own alpine ski gear) are also available.
Those who show promise may work their way up to launching themselves off a 40-meter jump. Meanwhile, construction continues on the last of the Olympic jumps—the towering 90- and 120-meters. Nah...don't even think about it. —Meg Lukens Noonan