Heliskiing, dogsledding and staying in yurts — there’s no way you can be bored in Park City
January 9, 2018
HELISKIING & SNOWCATS
Imagine having your own ski lift. One that picks you up and whisks you back up to a new field of fresh powder. You can, for the right pass, with the local heliski and snowcat skiing operations.
Park City Powder Cats & Heliski
Take a chopper or a cat into the wild, natural mountains. This is not for beginners, but if you can handle most terrain on the resorts, you'll do fine.
Park City Powder Cats operates on the 43,000-acre private Thousand Peaks Ranch near Oakley, and you'll ski the Western Uinta Mountains from early morning until the sun starts to drop. Prices run $489 during the peak season (January 23 – March 20), or the regular season $459 (January 22 – March 21).
For more information visit PCCats.com, or call 435.649.6596.
The Powderbirds have been flying skiers around the Wasatch for 40 years now, and they've gotten quite good at it. You'll find some magnificent powder lines, wide open bowls, and snowy glades. Your heart will race you to the bottom of a white mountain and then get a magic carpet back to the top.
It's pricey, but you'll remember it forever. Rates run from $1,260 to $1,540 per person or take a private tour for $6,900 per group. Powderbird operates from the Canyons Village base area of Park City Mountain.
For more information visit PowderBird.com, or call 801.742.2800.
Ski Utah Interconnect Adventure Tour
Good skiers can ski as many as six resorts in a day with expert guides. You will take runs down resort runs and backcountry terrain. For $325 per person, you'll have lunch, two guides, lift passes and transportation back to town. For more information visit SkiUtah.com.
Work up a sweat and explore Summit County on cross-country skis
If you'd like to get away from the lift lines and take time away to stop and smell the snowflakes, then grab some cross-country skis, or snowshoes and get out on the snow. It's quiet, inexpensive and you'll reconnect with nature. It's also a good workout.
Basin Recreation Trails
There are a lot of trails to choose from around Park City. Basin Recreation maintains more than 25 kilometers of winter trails, stretching from Kimball Junction to Park City.
For more information visit BasinRecreation.org.
Beaver Creek Ski Trail
Just fifteen miles east of Park City in the Uinta Mountains, this six-mile-long cross-country ski trail is groomed through an aspen and pine forest. It's a great place for families and beginners, with a number of side trails. It's restricted to non-motorized travel, and dogs are welcome on odd-numbered days only. While the trail itself is free to use, there is a three-day, $6 pass to allow parking along the Mirror Lake Highway at the access points.
For more information call the Kamas Ranger District at 435.783.4338 for more information.
North Fork Provo River Trail
At the eastern end of the Beaver Creek trail along the Mirror Lake Highway (S.R. 150), a large U.S. Forest Service parking lot serves snowmobilers and skiers. The North Fork trail is generally flat and easy and enters a canyon a few miles up the trail. You can opt to loop back on the opposite side of the river, and ski back down the west side to the highway. You will need a forest pass, described in the Beaver Creek Ski Trail above.
The Mountain Dell ski track at Mountain Dell Golf Course is in Parley's Canyon, between Salt Lake City and Park City. There are five loops, and trails range from challenging to easy. Day use fees are $7, and season passes are available. Since this is a watershed, no dogs are allowed.
For more information visit UtahNordic.com.
Mountain Trails Foundation
The nonprofit Mountain Trails Foundation frequently grooms about 25 kilometers of trails in Round Valley (on the northeast border of Park City), and between 10 and 20 kilometers of the iconic Rail Trail, beginning off of Bonanza Drive and eventually connecting to the Round Valley trails.
Online maps and more information can be found at MountainTrails.org.
White Pine Touring Nordic Center
White Pine Touring operates a 20+ km cross-country ski center in the heart of Park City. Enjoy the spectacular mountain views along one of three groomed loops. With 3k, 5k and 10k+ loops, they are perfect for the beginner, intermediate and advanced classic or skate skier. Heated underground parking, passes, equipment and lessons are all offered on site. Nordic Center hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and the center is at Park Ave. & Thaynes Canyon Drive.
For more information visit WhitePineTouring.com or call 435.649.6249.
Make some new furry friends on a dogsledding adventure
And for a totally different adventure, book a ride on a dogsled in the snowy mountains behind a pack of running dogs. You'll stay warm as you zip up trails, through the woods, and back again. Here are a number of ways to do just that:
All Seasons Adventures
Go for an hour or more with Maren and Racer Gibson, with their rescued sled dogs. For more information visit AllSeasonsAdventures.com or call 888.649.9619.
Luna Lobos Dog Sledding
These Iditarod and rescue dogs will take you on a breath-taking adventure. Go for an hour or half a day with these experienced mushers. For more information, visit LunaLobos.com or call 435.783.3473. This is a local dog sled operation with Fernando Ramirez, who has been racing sled dogs since he was a kid.
Rocky Mountain Dog Sledding
Warm yourselves around a toasty campfire and sip hot drinks in a heated tent before you head out along a 9,000-acre playground along the Weber River.
For more information visit RockyMtnRec.com or call 800.303.7256.
Try out a yurt in the backcountry
If you want to get away into the solitude of winter, then head into the mountains for a stay in a Mongolian-style yurt. These round tents are warm and rustic, but with the amenities you need. Whether you arrived by ski, snowshoe, split board, foot, or snowmobile, many local yurts are in the Uinta Mountains, about 30 miles east of Park City. The Uintas are the only east-to-west trending mountain range in America, rising to nearly 14,000 feet. And you won't believe the night skies; the stars are phenomenal.
Here's a quick list of a few yurts available:
Boulder Creek Yurt
This low altitude yurt sits at 7,360 feet and is only 1.1 miles from Highway 150 east of Kamas. There are lanterns, propane, sleeping bags, wood stoves and firewood, and a rustic outhouse. It's a great place to take kids. The fee is $120 Friday & Saturday, $100 Sunday thru Thursday.
For more information visit YurtsOfUtah.com
Castle Peak Yurt
At an elevation of 9,800 feet, it's a six-mile, one-way trip along an old logging road, just a few miles east of Kamas along Highway 150. There's good skiing and epic views of the Wasatch Mountains as well. The yurt is managed by White Pine Touring 435.649.8710, and costs from $99-120 per night.
Mill Hollow Yurt
From the Nobletts trailhead on S.R. 35, at 7,500 feet, the yurt is at 8,950 feet, and it's six miles one-way, but with all of the amenities. Fee is $100 per night.
For more information visit GranitePeaks.org.
Norway Flats Yurt
At an elevation of 8,530 feet, it's three miles one-way and is an easy ski/snowshoe. Cost is $110 per night weekends, $55 weeknights. It's operated by TUNA (The Utah Nordic Alliance).
For more information visit UtahNordic.com.
Lilly Lake Yurt System
Located on the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains, these five yurts are accessed via Evanston, Wyoming, along Highway 150. They are managed by the Wasatch National Forest in partnership with the Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance (BRORA), and the Evanston Recreation Center. All five yurts use the same trailhead, with four of them connected by good, groomed ski trails. They're equipped with a propane stove, wood stove and firewood, and kitchen utensils. The East Fork Yurt is at 8,500 feet, the Bear Claw Yurt is at 8,700 feet, and the Lily Lake Yurt is at 8,300 feet; lower elevations with good trails, and great for families. The Ridge Yurt (9,350 feet) and the Boundary Creek Yurt (9,550 feet) are off the main trail, without amenities. Nightly rentals range from $50 to $75.
For more information visit BroraYurts.org and YurtsofUtah.com.
Jump, spin and slide your way across the ice
Glide across the ice with the greatest of ease, spin and jump with grace or try and push a puck past a goalie for the score. Or maybe just try standing up on skates. There's nothing quite like ice skating, and there are a couple of skating rinks nearby. It's a great family activity – especially for the kids – and it won't break the bank.
Resort Center Ice Rink
The Resort Center Ice Rink is small, but it's right in the middle of the action at Park City Mountain, and it's Park City's only outdoor rink. Skating admission is $9, and there are rentals available from $5 to $7. Hours are traditionally from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., depending upon conditions. It's the perfect thing to do with the kids.
For more information visit ResortCenterIceRink.com or call 435.615.8165.
The Park City Ice Arena
The Park City Ice Arena is an indoor skating center, at Quinn's Junction. You can free skate, or sign up for instruction at its skating and hockey academy. There's even a hockey league if you're into that sort of thing. You can show up for the Drop-in Hockey Sessions too.
For more information visit ParkCityIce.org or call 435.615.5707.
Midway City Ice Rink
Remember the ice rink at the park when you were young? Well, in Midway that still exists. Beneath the towering Wasatch in this quaint Swiss town just over the hill from Park City, you'll skate outdoors at the park as the music, and cold, keep everyone moving. It's open most nights until at least 9 p.m. under the lights with rentals and treats.
For more information visit MidwayCityut.org.
Support athletes of all abilities
The National Ability Center gives people with physical disabilities freedom and creates possibilities. It is a nonprofit committed to helping people of all ages and limited abilities enjoy outdoor sports and recreation. Many of the programs have special adaptive equipment available, as the National Ability Center caters to people with orthopedic, spinal cord, neuromuscular, visual and hearing impairments, as well as those with cognitive and developmental disabilities.
On any given day you may see athletes alpine skiing, snowshoeing and rock climbing, among other things. Their 26-acre campus includes a complete equestrian facility, including a heated area, plus they border 700 acres of open space with 30 miles of public trails, for skiing, hiking, and riding.
Perhaps the highlight of the NAC's year is its annual fundraiser, the Red, White and Snow event, scheduled to be held from March 1-3 in 2018, at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, Montage Deer Valley, and St. Regis Deer Valley. This event features wine, food, and skiing, all for a great cause, providing over 70 percent of the NAC's operating budget for the year. Participate in the wine seminars and workshops, vintner dinners and slope-side tastings, ending with the auction and gala dinner on March 3. Have fun, and support the NAC's mission.
- January 7-11: Military Ski/Snowboard Camp at Park City Mountain, with on-mountain lodging and evening activities
- February 15-19: Winter Action Camp Ages 12-17 with physical disability
- March 1-3: Red, White and Snow fundraiser, with wine tasting, activities, dining and entertainment
- March 9-18: Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea
Find a powder stash outside the resorts on a snowmobile
It's exhilarating, fast and beautiful: take a ride on a snowmobile. You'll experience groomed trails, river bottoms and powder-filled valleys. It's one of the easiest ways to access the backcountry once the snow falls. There are a number of groomed trails in the Uinta Mountains, the only range in America that runs east to west. These high-powered snow machines will get you there and back again.
Wear warm clothes, gloves and a helmet, and drive safely. Be careful going around blind corners, don't park on a trail, and be courteous when you pass others. As with any winter mountain travel, be educated about the risks of avalanches, and always travel in pairs. If you want some guided help, then take a tour with one of these outfitters:
Adventures at Thousand Peaks
The towering peaks, deep forests, and broad meadows of Weber Canyon make this an ideal spot for a snowmobile tour. Take your machine up to 11,000 feet for a view of a lifetime on this 60,000-acre ranch. For more information visit PowderUtah.com or call 888.304.7669.
These are touted to be the least crowded tours in northern Utah, all on this 40,000-acre private ranch. For more information visit BackCountrySnow.com, or call 435.336.7669.
Lofty Peaks Adventures
Rocket your way across the flats, carve some turns in the powder or try and climb a steep bowl. Lofty Peak Adventures has some of the most spectacular snowmobile trails in Utah. From its Midway base, rent a machine for an unguided tour, or have a guide show you the secret stashes. For more information visit LoftyPeaks.com or call 435.654.5810.
North Forty Escapes
Twenty minutes away from Park City, it's a different world, and in the winter, a snowmobile is a way to explore it. Located on a private ranch in Weber Canyon, North Forty will fix a grin on your face and fix memories in your mind. For more information visit NorthFortyescapes.com.
Red Pine Adventures
On a private mountain next to Canyons Village at Park City Mountain, Red Pine Adventures is right in town. Hold on as your guides take you up groomed trails, through heavy forests, into deep powder terrain. You'll be breathless. For more information visit RedPineTours.com or call 435.649.9445.
Rocky Mountain Outfitters
High in the Strawberry Valley, you can snowmobile away from the crowds. For more information visit RockyMtnOutfitters.com or call 435.654.1655.
Summit Meadows Adventures
Just a few minutes east of Park City at the Garff Ranches, Summit Meadows Adventures (operated by Deer Valley) has room to roam, with over 7,000 acres of private land. Take off for an hour, or three, or take a private tour. And, kids under 9 ride free with an adult. If they're over 16, they can drive themselves. They provide all of the equipment, just bring a smile. For more information visit DeerValley.com or call 888.896.7996.
Learn more about avalanches and how to stay safe
The mountains are beautiful, but there are some dangers that can lurk in the snowpack. Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain have highly trained ski patrols who ensure that there is no danger on their runs. That bombardments you hear on a snowy morning high above town are the hand charges and long guns that are shaking it now, so it won't roll later. But out-of-bounds, it's a different story.
When conditions are right (or wrong) the snow can thunder down a mountain, snapping trees, rolling over cliffs, and knocking you off of your skis. If you're lucky, you're on top of the avalanche when it stops; if not, hope that one of your pals has a snow shovel and radio beacon to find you ASAP, or sooner.
As more people head away from the controlled resorts, you really need to educate yourself as to the risks and danger, whether you're on skis, snowboards or snowmobiles. Plus, releasing a slide might not endanger you, but it certainly can put the people below you in harm's way, not to mention the rescue personnel who risk their lives trying to save lives. So, before you launch yourself off of that cornice into that deep powder pillow, think about what may lay beneath.
The most basic tool is to stay informed about the snowpack. There are professionals on the job to help. The forecasters at Utah Avalanche Center, a nonprofit that makes forecasts and educates backcountry users, keeps track of the snow, how it's changed by temperature and wind and what the chances that a certain exposure might slide. If it's been sunny for a long time and it just dumped, chances are that the bottom layers of snow are a bit weak, and unable to support the new weight. This usually sorts itself out within a day or so after a storm cycle, but sometimes not.
If you want to know even more, then take an avalanche class and learn to read the snowpack, which involves digging pits in the snow, and actually looking at the layers, the bonding, and even the structure of the snow crystals. And avalanches can happen anytime of the year: Beware the Slides of March. So be safe, and check the forecast before you go, and understand what it means by calling the UAFC at 801.524.5304 or go online at UtahAvalancheCenter.org.
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There are a couple of basic tools you should have with you if you're in the backcountry. These include a metal snow shovel, a radio beacon that can help locate you beneath the white chunks, and avalanche probes, or convertible ski poles to find buried skiers. A cell phone is always handy as well, but you won't have a lot of time to dig up your pal, so you need to learn how to self-rescue.
When things go wrong, rescue teams arrive quickly by helicopters, snowmobiles and skis. Your best friend will have four legs instead of two and a nose so sensitive they can detect buried skiers.
Wasatch Backcountry Rescue trains local rescue dog teams (a handler and their dog). Members include Park City Mountain, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, Snowbasin, the Wasatch Powderbird Guides, Sundance, the U.S. Forest Service, AirMed, Life Flight, and the Utah Department of Transportation. They are all there for you if you mess up and take a chance that doesn't work out as planned. You can meet the avalanche dogs every Friday at Canyons Village Ski Beach at 4:30 p.m.
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