Sundance Film Festival

Not just any snow either. This is the best white stuff in North America. They call it "Utah champagne," the driest, lightest powder on the continent. It's one of the reasons the Winter Olympics were held here. Even the license plates here advertise it as the "Greatest Snow on Earth."

And the best news of all is that PIBs, or at least most PIBs, don't ski or snowboard. So, all that terrain is wide open and waiting for you. It is one of the best kept secrets in the ski business. At Deer Valley, they limit the number of skiers per day to 5,500. I skied on a day when more than 4,000 lift tickets were sold and it still seemed pretty non-crowded.

Sampling the Ski Terrain

If you do come up to sample the terrain, here's a guide to the resorts and what to expect.

Deer Valley is known for groomed, manicured runs. Because the resort features runs cut on the fall line, this can be a very fast place to ski. Groomed packed powder also adds to the speed. Deer Valley is renowned for its service and perhaps the best day lodge food in the industry. Deer Valley also has an excellent ski school for kids.

Park City Mountain Resort is best for snowboarding and wide open cruisers. The dining is not as spectacular as that found at Deer Valley but it's a lot more affordable. The Canyons, which is the largest ski resort in Utah is known for powder, trees, and more varied terrain. Try skiing off the top of the 9,990-foot lift. It has good moguls too.

Head 30 minutes down the freeway to Snowbird and Alta for even more challenges. The back bowl at Snowbird which opened only a few years ago is sensational.

Alta is great for powder and a more laid back attitude. It's just up the road from Snowbird. All of the resorts have Web sites and can provide you with up to date snow conditions and lift ticket prices (see below).

Best and most expensive lodging is probably Stein Erickson's Lodge in Deer Valley, although a lot of folks prefer Stag Lodge, also in Deer Valley, which is right on Success Run and roomier than Stein's. Also good is the new Hotel Park City and any of the Marriott properties (there are three), including the new one at Park City Mountain Resort. Not to be overlooked is the Sundial Lodge at The Canyons.

Snowboarders Welcome

And finally, feel free to bring your snowboard. With the exception of Deer Valley, "single trackers" are welcomed everywhere. The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort feature "Superpipes" that are considered world class. There are also Winter Olympic facilities left over from the 2002 games for those who want to try bob sledding and ski jumping. Cross country skiing is also big in Park City and in Soldier Hollow near Heber, Utah.

Come to think of it, I've never seen any PIBs at those facilities, either. They mostly hang out on Main Street. In fact, there are so many "Sundancers" in town this year that 'cattle guards' line the sidewalks. I spotted five television crews in two blocks, witnessed the arrest of an unlicensed pan handler, and rolled up the window driving past a noisy protest by animal rights activists upset about the fur trade though there was no fur in sight. Guess they were more interested in the TV crews.

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