Where the snow is perfect, the hills are fabulous and the après ski fun is as hot as the snow is cold: Park City, Utah; Lake Tahoe, Nevada; and Whistler, British Columbia.
Park City Perfection
IF YOU LOVE SKIING but don’t want to lug your gear, Deer Valley resort in the charming ski town of Park City, Utah has the solution. It’s pricey, but brilliant.
As a guest of the ultra-luxe Stein Eriksen Lodge, I discovered the joys of ‘ski valet’ service, simply putting on my ski suit, and strolling to the slope side locker area where both my gear and a charming valet were waiting for me. While I ordered my morning latte at the nearby coffee shop, my unbuckled boots appeared, ready to slip into, and my skis and poles were placed outside. I just hopped on the gondola and started my day.
The ultra-luxe Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Stein Eriksen Lodge)
I was enjoying a wealth of groomed trails when I paused. What was missing? Snowboarders. In creating a five-star guest experience, the Deer Valley designers reserved their well-manicured slopes for skiers only – the snowboarders enjoy the hills at nearby Park City Mountain Resort.
Equally first-class are the slope-side culinary offerings. No sad, soggy burgers from a steam rack. The chefs at the Royal Street Café put a gourmet spin on deluxe burgers, spicy, delicious white bean chili and more – you just ski harder after lunch to burn the calories!
The true magic of the Deer Valley system came at day’s end. I snapped out of my bindings, leaving my skis to be collected, dried and stored in my locker by the helpful valet. My shoes appeared magically, so I simply unbuckled my wet ski boots and let them be spirited away too. This is the way royalty skis – and really, shouldn’t we all?
Taking on Tahoe
Said my Lake Tahoe ski guide: “There are no friends on soft snow days.”
That meant he wouldn’t wait around if I went to the bathroom, adjusted my boots or was slow. The joy of skiing on the kind of perfectly dry, white ‘pow’ for which Lake Tahoe resorts are famous is so addictive, passionate skiers dive in. Given the number of runs I needed to explore – with that guide – I kept up, no matter what!
Heavenly Resort, Lake Tahoe. (Photo courtesy of Heavenly Mountain Resort)
Though the Lake Tahoe region has many resorts from which to choose, my favourite is Heavenly, the second largest. At 3,068 metres it’s by far the highest and boasts the biggest vertical drop, stretching 1,070 metres. Best of all, Heavenly embodies its name, with a huge selection of perfectly pitched, steep-enough-to-be-fast-but-broad-enough-for-giant-slalom-turning groomed hills. What’s most outstanding is the quality of snow – dry and crisp. Because Heavenly is located on the east side of Lake Tahoe, the snow is generally lighter and drier than at the resorts on the west, under the ridge of the Sierra Nevada.
And then there’s the Lake Tahoe après ski. Though I’m not a gambler by nature, it was fun to head straight off the hills into Tahoe’s glitzy casinos. A far cry from beer and a bowl of chili, this après ski is a whole different kind of fun.
Whistler – Beyond the Slopes
British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb is one of the world’s finest ski resorts, with 3,306 hectares of glorious mountain, an average snowfall of almost 12.2 metres, 1,609 vertical metres and more than 200 gorgeous trails. Ski it for a few days and unless you’re an Olympian, you might need to give your body a little break.
After several days of non-stop skiing, with my knees screaming in protest, I discovered Whistler offers as much fun off the slopes as on. The Nita Lake Lodge – our mountain home – offered casually elegant coziness, fab food and a fantastic in-house spa. After dragging our tired bodies to the spa for a spine-pampering Kundalini treatment, we settled into the lodge’s Aura Restaurant for a feast of BC Kuterra salmon.
Zip-lining in Whistler's winter wonderland.
Later, relaxed and full of fantastic food, we found our lakeview suite featured not only a glowing gas fireplace, but also decadent specialty sleep amenities including lavender bath suds for our soaker tub, a lavender essential oil roller ball and a Nordic ‘sleep pillow’, stuffed with pine and balsam for sweet dreams of the forest.
Morning came too early at our cozy nest but we had plans to start our off-hill day with a Blackcomb Helicopters adventure over Whistler Village and beyond. Every hour of sleep missed was made up for by the glories of soaring over that holiday-card landscape, marvelling at toy-like Whistler Village, and drinking in the mountain peaks.
Exhilarated but chilly, our next stop was the ultimate winter warm-up – the Scandinave Spa. We relished the silence as we baked in the sauna, basked in the steam room and bobbed in the jacuzzi, plunged under icy waterfalls and into frigid pools and finally reclined, swathed in warm robes, by the crackling outdoor fire. We were more relaxed than we’d ever been on a ski trip – but the day wasn’t over yet. Sunset was coming – and a zip lining tour.
We suited up in our harnesses and helmets, then headed out to the Superfly Ziplines course just as the sun was setting. Zipping straight into the brilliance of the twilight sky was stunning but we had many lines to finish, and very little sunset left. Suddenly, the trees at each platform began to shimmer with thousands of tiny white lights strung through the branches. We leapt into the shimmer, then soared through the darkness, into the welcoming embrace of the next collection of lights. It was pure Whistler magic.
Magical Whistler Village at night.
Written by Liz Fleming for Cruise & Travel Lifestyles (Winter/Spring 2020).