By Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Mention Utah to anyone and thoughts immediately go to the great Mormon religion and Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival.
But there is more…oh so much more.
Flying out of JFK via Delta Airlines was easy. It was an opportunity to test-fly our new Delta Skymiles/American Express Gold Card. The lure of 40,000 bonus miles for signing up and other perks was too much to pass up. Other New York area airports also serve Salt Lake City, but Delta offered non-stop as opposed to flights out of Newark by other lines that took as long as it does to fly to London and included stopovers.
Since skiing was going to be a main focal point of this trip being able to take along a checked bag was of critical importance. The new card not only offers priority boarding, but provides one free checked bag for the holder and up to eight others traveling on the same reservation. That’s quite a saving. With ski jackets, pants and other gear, it was an impossibility to use only a carry-on. The Delta Lounge in SLC was also available for a small fee that was well worth it, providing a comfortable place to wait and have a drink or snack while waiting for a flight.
The sight of a snow covered Salt Lake City from the air is spectacular. The city is ringed by mountains and is an awesome welcome. The airport itself is traveler-friendly and rental cars are easily accessible and ready to go. The temptation to stay in Salt Lake for a tour is strong with the beautiful Mormon Temple and the hall where the Tabernacle Choir sings is one of the most amazing venues in the world. But save all that for the return or another visit.
Utah is arguably one of the most visitor-friendly destinations in the world. That may be a strong statement but not when you note that the majority of ski areas and vacation resorts lie within an hour’s drive of the airport. Many, such as Park City-Deer Valley are just a bit more than a half hour drive. That’s more time to relax and enjoy a vacation.
Although the drive to Midway in the Heber Valley was about 45 minutes, we almost wished it was longer. The Wasatch Mountains, especially when snow-covered, are an awe-inspiring sight and something that should be taken in slowly with time to appreciate and enjoy.
The Zermatt Resort in Midway is something straight out of the Swiss Alps. The music that greets visitors could have been bouncing off the Matterhorn. Personnel are on the spot to help and could win an award for personality.
The view from the room is a killer with snow-capped peaks surrounding the valley. Directly across the road from the resort is one of the more unique spots that should be on a “must see” list; the Homestead Crater. The crater sits under a huge, natural dome and is hollow. Inside is a natural hot spring that fills the crater with a humid fog. Swimmers loll around even though outside temperatures hover just below freezing. Add to that the opportunity to scuba dive in the middle of a field and you’ve come up with one of the most unusual vacation opportunities anywhere.
If you are intent on skiing, there is a bit of a drive from Zermatt to the areas of Park City, Deer Valley and The Canyons. These three rival anything the Alps can offer and are a lot closer and less expensive to get to. One run at Deer Valley is some five miles long with easy turns and a view that goes on forever. Although it is an intermediate (blue) run, the trail is wide enough and turns gentle enough that any ability can enjoy it. While Zermatt and the Park City area are wide open, Redford’s Sundance Resort is tucked away into a small valley tat could easily pass for the old outlaw, the Sundance Kid’s Hole in the Wall hideout. There is a narrow road off the main highway leading directly to Sundance, bordered by steep mountains on both sides.
Redford has crafted one of the most ecof-riendly resorts in the world. The accommodations fit neatly into the natural surroundings and virtually everything is either recycled or made on premises to minimize the footprint. The ski area covers some 500 acres out of about 5,000 acres owned by the actor. He has taken great pains to ensure that development in the majority of the property is a non-starter and that it remains in a natural state.
For skiers this is as much a Nirvana as Park City. Lifts seem to go on forever, giving downhillers long, gentle runs. Advanced skiers are not forgotten with Black Diamond runs that will challenge those who prefer extreme skiing.
Dining at Sundance is an experience with a variety of wild game offered, prepared by the hands of expert chefs. While the restaurants are toward the bottom of the mountain, there is no need to drive back and forth to your accommodations. Sundance offers a shuttle service that is literally at your beck and call. Just pick up the phone in your room and the van is there in minutes. The drivers also act as bellmen and will haul your luggage to and from your cabins.
As spring beings to approach and the snow creeps slowly up the mountains, Utah takes on a new role for vacationers. The sign is out “Families Welcome” as well as adults only. •
For more information, check out www.visitutah.com