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Three's a charm in Park City

The Orange Bubble heated quad chairlift at Canyons Ski Resort
The Orange Bubble heated quad chairlift at Canyons Ski Resort
Photos courtesy Canyons Ski Resort

Some say three’s a crowd. But in Park City, Utah, three’s company, at least when you are talking about the three heavyweight ski areas found side-by-side here. Collectively, Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort, and Deer Valley comprise one of the most exciting ski destinations in the West and offer skiers and riders one-stop shopping for that rarified, exclusive Wasatch mountain commodity: Utah powder snow. This first of three articles on Park City skiing takes a closer look at one of the largest resorts in the ski-obsessed state of Utah: Canyons.

Fresh Wasatch Mountain Powder at Canyons Resort, Utah
Fresh Wasatch Mountain Powder at Canyons Resort, Utah
Photo courtesy Canyons Ski Resort

We arrived in Park City in early February shortly after a very welcome snowstorm blanketed the region, providing ample coverage for mountain runs. After settling into the no-frills but comfortable and conveniently-located Yarrow hotel at the south end of town, we headed in short order to Canyons, the first bet of our skiing and snowboarding trifecta for the week.

After a short ride on the free Park City transit bus from the stop in front of our hotel, we got in the mountain mood on the open air Cabriolet gondola that gives a Disney-like ride to the base village. Rising up to the resort, we had to pinch ourselves a bit: We were just 32 miles from the tarmac at Salt Lake International Airport and before us a massive, mountainous ski resort unveiled itself. Canyons, in fact, claims to be the largest single ski and snowboard resort in Utah (Powder Mountain in the Ogden Valley may also be a contender for this title) and one of the five largest resorts in the U.S. There’s truly something for every skier and snowboarder here.

The resort’s diverse terrain collects an average annual 355-inch bounty of snow. Whether you visit as a family, a group or a single skier or snowboarder, you'll find endless terrain for every style and ability at Canyons. Runs range from long and gentle, big and bowled, steep and gladed with aspen and pine. The mountain has a base elevation of 6,800 feet and the summit region rises to 9,990 feet, a whopping vertical rise of 3,190 feet. There are nine mountain peaks and five bowls with six natural half pipes supplement the three terrain parks. In all, there are 4,000 skiable acres and 182 trails (mostly intermediate and black diamond) accessed by 21 lifts. That’s a lot of gravity pull terrain.

After arriving at the base area, we clicked on our skis and rode the Orange Bubble Express high speed quad chairlift with its funkadelic orange windscreen and wonderful heated seats up the mountainside to warm up runs on the Echo and Boomer runs before heading out for a day of exploring Canyons’ many hidden treasures.

Some of the resort’s most challenging runs are found at the summit, at the top of the Ninety-Nine 90 chair and the Ninety Nine 90 Bowl. Here you will find the double black diamond thrills of the Red Pine Bowl and Red Pine Chutes, and aptly named Fright Gully.

Canyons provides plenty of diversity for all ability levels, but it has a bias towards the advanced and expert skiers and riders. There’s easily accessed out-of-bounds skiing, but enough in-bounds terrain that you don’t need to ski the same run twice. Highlights of the terrain include the great fall-line cruisers of varying pitch, and impressive tree skiing in the well-gladed areas. Snowboarders are definitely welcome at Canyons, and with many natural half-pipes and two terrain parks, there’s plenty on the plate for shredders.

Canyons has a number of lodging options in the relatively compact base area, from the Waldorf Astoria Park City to the ski-in-ski out Grand Summit Lodge and several others. Eateries are numerous at the base and on the hill. For lunch, we tried the deckside Rocky Mountain cuisine at the Lookout cabin, a genuine Wasatch mountain experience high on the slopes of the Canyons.

That night we enjoyed dinner at the resort’s renowned and relatively new The Farm restaurant in the base area. Named Best New Restaurant in Utah in 2012 by Salt Lake City Magazine in 2012, The Farm sources all their food from farms within 200 miles of the resort. The other fine dining option is the Bistro, the latest addition to the culinary family at Canyons. Their claim to fame: the first certified glatt kosher restaurant open all winter at any ski resort in the nation.

Next up: The Last Chance Yard Art run at Deer Valley