Monday, December 10, 2012

Ski six of the best resorts in Utah

A glorious but demanding traverse of 1.9 miles up in Utah's Wasatch Mountains forms the most testing part of the Utah Interconnect, a 27-mile ski route between the state's six best resorts.

Utah prides itself on having "the greatest snow on earth", and however hyperbolic that may be, this guided adventure is one of North America's greatest days out on skis. It's a thrilling ski journey that uses a combination of lifts and easy backcountry skiing that any decent intermediate skier could manage and visits, in around six hours, Deer Valley, Park City, Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird. You are taken back to the start point in a minibus at the end of the day.

If they were linked, these resorts would easily make up the largest ski area in North America. The Interconnect offered a chance for a little backcountry expedition and a way to avoid any crowds as we skied from one hill to the other.

Greeting our mixed group of British, Texan, Canadian and Swedish skiers at the start point in Deer Valley, our guides Bob and Calvin told the nine of us that we'd need no special ski touring gear to complete the Interconnect and we should look upon it as much as a chance to ski Utah's best resorts, as a backcountry adventure.

When I booked the Interconnect I was given a ski pass that covers all the resorts to be visited – plus avalanche transceivers and a brief lesson in how to use them. In theory there's nothing to stop you doing the Interconnect independently, but I was glad to have the knowledge of a qualified guide. (And there could be legal implications should you get into trouble beyond the resorts' boundary ropes – this is the US after all).
Alta and Snowbird are linked by ski lift so it's easy getting from one to the other. It's hard for any keen skier not to love these two quintessential Utah resorts. They offer lots of steep, very challenging off-piste terrain plastered in dry chalky snow, fast and furious groomers and a friendly, old- school feel. Alta is so old-school that snowboarding is still banned there.

As we stood on the summit of Snowbird's 3,353m Hidden Peak ready for the last run of the day, my fellow traveller Lewis said, almost as if to himself: "Imagine this in powder …"

Whether he was talking about our last run, Snowbird or the entire Interconnect I'm not sure, but having experienced all three in far from ideal conditions and still had a ball I knew that like me, he was already talking himself into returning. Alf Anderson of The Guardian