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Tom Kelly: A mountain tour at home

Tom Kelly
Ridgelines
The High Uintas are front and center on the run down Upper Crowning Glory off the Peak 5 lift at Park City Mountain Resort
Photo by Tom Kelly

I looked longingly at the image on my computer screen of powdery white pillows below the sunset glow on the red rock of Sassolungo, high in the Italian Dolomites. You can fall in love with mountains anywhere. But, to me, the Dolomites are special with craggy granite rock outcroppings, awe-inspiring views from tiny mountain passes, and flowing fields of snow off the flanks of ancient rock spilling out onto farmers’ fields.

This is the week I was supposed to be back in the Dolomites, looking to access 500-plus ski lifts from my hotel door and taking a guided tour skiing around the huge massif of Sella Ronda. Nine years ago we skied from village to village, riding 27 lifts (never one twice) and completing the circular route in eight hours.

It was a day filled with fun and friends, enjoying schlutzkrapfen and apfelstrudel at century-old rifugios on the mountainside along the way. Alas, it was not to be this year, as COVID reared its head and grounded me back home. Though Park City is not a bad place to be grounded.



With Italy still weighing on my mind, I slid up to the orange bubble on the Canyons side of Park City Mountain Resort, ready to create my own adventurous day in the mountains — this one just 10 minutes from home.

It was an enjoyable ride up over the snow-covered landscape with a friendly family from California, enjoying the holiday weekend and wondering if there were any fish in the snowmaking pond. I tipped my hat to Murdock Peak and headed down for a warm-up run through High Meadow. I love the view coming off Saddleback, sliding out to a stunning view of Square Top straight ahead.



Every peak at Canyons has a different vista, each unique in its own way. The peak of Tombstone affords yet another dramatic look at Square Top. The top of Dreamcatcher and Dreamscape at Cloud Dine presents one of the most dramatic viewpoints on the mountain, showcasing the sprawling Park City ridgeline from Murdock Peak to Square Top and on to Monitor and Pine Cone Ridge.

But my favorite views are the ones looking eastward to the High Uintas. The top terminal of the Peak 5 is nestled in the trees, including some towering white pines. It has this boutique feeling, with trees blocking much of the ridgeline views to the west and giving you this sense of being in a very special place all to yourself.

Park Record columnist Tom Kelly.
Photo by Blake Peterson

But as you point your skis down the fall line on Upper Crowning Glory, you are treated to one of the most spectacular experiences on the mountain. As I carved turns down the pitch, I gazed forward to an impressive view of the High Uintas from Grandaddy Mountain to Moffit Peak some 40 miles in the distance.

Dropping off Iron Mountain, I clicked out of my skis for the quick journey over Pine Cone Ridge on the Quicksilver Express. To me, the addition of the gondola in 2015 was transformational to our community ski experience. It connected what we previously knew as Park West and the terrain we used to mountain bike in White Pine Canyon, with the legendary ski runs of PCMR. It became our own little European village-to-village experience.

Over on the Park City side, the scenery changed as our 19th century mining heritage came into view with old mine dumps and towering historic structures. At the top of McConkey’s, I gazed along the ridgeline up to Jupiter Peak, down to Guardsman and on to Clayton Peak above Brighton. Below me was the vast expanse of Bonanza Flat, framed on the east by yet another ridgeline dotted with mountain peaks that will be the new Mayflower resort, now under construction.

Skiing down Georgeanna I glanced at the rope line that separated me from Supreme off Deer Valley’s Empire lift, and the vast open expanse of Lady Morgan Bowl. Heading down Creole past the old tramway towers, I felt a bit like a 19th century miner carving a path through the forest back down to town.

To rekindle those memories of Italy, I took off my skis and walked across the street to Davanza’s, a Park City institution. And who can turn down a slice and a beer after a hard morning skiing? OK, maybe it’s not quite the same as a century old mountain hut underneath Sassolungo.

It may not have been the Dolomites, but it’s always good to ski at home. And each outing is yet a new adventure.

Wisconsin native Tom Kelly landed in Park City in 1988 (still working on becoming an official local). Inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2019, he is most known for his role as lead spokesperson for Olympic skiing and snowboarding for over 30 years until his retirement in 2018. This is his 52nd season on skis.


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