Re­sorts

UR­BAN BUZZ + POW­DER TURNS COM­BINE FOR A RE­FRESH­INGLY HIGH-EN­ERGY SKI VA­CA­TION.

SKI - - CONTENTS - By Su­san Reifer Ryan

Salt Lake City ped­dles ur­ban buzz and easy moun­tain ac­cess for a city-based ski trip that’s re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent.

The Wasatch Range jags sky­ward im­me­di­ately east of Salt Lake City. Its up­land faces, nar­row canyons, and rugged beauty are pure Wild West. Its west­ward slopes, which face the city and are known as the Wasatch Front, have been a Mecca for skiers since Brighton and Alta opened in Big and Lit­tle Cot­ton­wood Canyon in the 1930s. To­day, the Cot­ton­wood Canyons’ four very dif­fer­ent ski ar­eas and 7,000 lift-served acres re­main a true skier’s haven, a place where ski­ing, snow, and the moun­tains them­selves still come first.

Just 30 min­utes away, down­town Salt Lake buzzes with ur­ban vi­tal­ity. It's a city in the midst of dy­namic change, a once ho-hum place now surg­ing with com­merce, cul­ture, and en­ter­tain­ment. Mor­monism is a pres­ence, but so are cof­fee roast­ers and high-tech start-ups, odd­ball street art, and a se­ri­ously groovy cock­tail scene. By day, down­town hums with

Wall Street trans­plants, tat­tooed mil­len­ni­als, shop­pers, and con­ven­tion­eers. By night, it’s all about en­ter­tain­ment, in­clud­ing NBA games, Broad­way shows, su­perb eats, and live mu­sic from blue­grass to opera to punk. In fact, noth­ing about to­day’s Salt Lake City save easy ac­cess to ex­cep­tional ski­ing smacks of a typ­i­cal ski town. But for a va­ca­tion that mar­ries big moun­tain ski­ing with big city di­ver­sions, there’s no des­ti­na­tion more con­ve­nient, nor—sur­pris­ingly—more fun.

“I call it streets to peaks,” says Nick Como, 37, a na­tive New Yorker and avid skier who has lived in Utah since 2004. Como and I are catch­ing our breath af­ter goat­ing along a ridge­line at Soli­tude Moun­tain Re­sort. It’s a pow­der day. The evening be­fore, we were catch­ing up with friends at a down­town bar with 100-year-old walls, 130 va­ri­eties of whiskey, and a shoul­der-to-shoul­der crowd. Now there’s no crowd at all—only our three ski pals huff­ing to catch up and the gnarled arms of 1,000-year-old lim­ber pines mark­ing time.

We all tip off the ridge­line. The snow is boot deep and un­tracked, with a springy, easy bounce. It parts with a feath­ery whis­per as we bound and weave down the long, forested draw, ev­ery­one laugh­ing and hoot­ing as we go.

A few hours later, I’m 30 min­utes away and 5,500 feet lower, al­ready hav­ing had a cock­tail (a Corpse Re­viver, ap­pro­pri­ately) and a de­li­cious down­town din­ner (Mediter­raneanin­spired bites of pork belly, duck, and po­lenta), and now tak­ing my seat in the sparkling new Ec­cles Theater for open- ing night of the na­tional tour­ing edi­tion of Broad­way’s The

Lion King. Rafiki, Simba, Nala, Scar, and the dancing hordes of wild things daz­zle the sold-out crowd of 2,500. It’s just an­other week­night in Salt Lake City.

A decade ago, this ur­ban core was a dif­fer­ent place. Store­fronts were boarded shut. Busi­ness tow­ers were empty. The sub­urbs were grow­ing, but down­town was get­ting grit­tier and more de­serted by the day.

Como, who works at an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion called Down­town Al­liance, says to­day’s vi­tal­ity is no ac- FOR A VA­CA­TION THAT MAR­RIES BIG MOUN­TAIN SKI­ING WITH BIG CITY DI­VER­SIONS, THERE'S NO DES­TI­NA­TION MORE CON­VE­NIENT—NOR MORE FUN. cident. “Utah’s se­cret sauce is col­lab­o­ra­tion. Politi­cians, the busi­ness com­mu­nity, church lead­ers, com­mu­nity groups, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups … ev­ery­one gets into a room and works things out to­gether.” In 2007, that col­lab­o­ra­tion yielded a strate­gic blue­print called Down­town Ris­ing, which has since brought $100 mil­lion to a multi-faceted ur­ban makeover, with more to come. Goldman Sachs now has 1,800 em­ploy­ees here—its largest North Amer­i­can of­fice out­side Man­hat­tan. Yet en­trepreneurs can still af­ford to launch one-of-akind bak­eries, bars, and bou­tiques, bring­ing his­toric spa­ces back to life. “Salt Lake City is at that per­fect point in the tra­jec­tory where we have all of the big city ad­van­tages but very few of the prob­lems,” Como says.

“Salt Lake City is a lot more cos­mopoli­tan than it used to be,” says David Porter, who has called the city home since 1995. “It’s a great place to live.” We are ski­ing laps at Alta on a wind-whipped, sun-kissed, week­day morn­ing. Porter, 45, is a sin­gle fa­ther, a full-time vi­o­lin­ist with the Utah Sym­phony, and a solid all-moun­tain skier. While his ca­reer is de­mand-

ing—four to five hours per day on vi­o­lin (re­hears­ing, prac­tic­ing, and teach­ing) plus per­for­mances three to five times per week—he man­ages to ski 30 to 60 days each win­ter. “Closer to 60,” he says with a smile. “It’s a highly vari­able sched­ule, which has its dif­fi­cul­ties if you’re a par­ent but also has its ben­e­fits if you’re a skier.”

The ben­e­fits play both ways. From the top of Alta’s Collins lift, we glide across the Ballroom Tra­verse, un­der Mt. Baldy’s 11,068-foot sum­mit. The sur­round­ing land­scape is all snow­capped peaks and wind-washed sky, like a clar­i­fy­ing rinse for the mind. I carve down a pitched para­pet in the Ballroom, and feel, at ev­ery turn, com­pletely alive. A few hours later and some 6,000 feet lower, I take my seat in Abra­vanel Hall to hear the Utah Sym­phony in con­cert with jazzy world lounge en­sem­ble Pink Mar­tini, who in turn bring on a tas­seled march­ing band for the fi­nale, all of whom daz­zle the sold-out crowd of 2,800. It’s just an­other week­night in Salt Lake City—which now gets my foot-stomp­ing, de­lighted, hand-clap­ping, ski-sated vote for Amer­ica’s most un­ex­pect­edly en­ter­tain­ing ski town.

Su­san Reifer Ryan lives out­side of Whistler, B.C., where she gets her ur­ban fix in nearby Vancouver at John Fleu­vog's shoe de­sign ate­lier, Boule­vard Kitchen, and the Fair­mont Pa­cific Rim.

Down­town Salt Lake City, a lock for ur­ban vibes and easy-ac­cess big-moun­tain turns.

Left: joy­ing Hans some Har­ris alone en- time at Soli­tude Moun­tain Re­sort. Right: Ec­cles Hall lights up its down­town street cor­ner on the eve of a show.

Top Water­sideto bottom: views in Down­town Vancouver; Port­land-based Pink Mar­tini band per­forms with the Utah Sym­phony at down­town Salt Lake's Abra­vanel Hall; Eric Balken paves the way near Flagstaff Ridge, in Alta's back­coun­try.

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