Tom Kelly: Last run — we made it!
It was a gorgeous morning as I slid off the chairlift and skied down the ridgeline to an overlook. Despite soaking in that scene hundreds of times, it never gets old. Standing atop the mountain offered me a wide-ranging view from Sunset Peak at Alta to Clayton at Brighton, on to Jupiter and all the way to Murdock. It is the epicenter of one of the world’s spectacular ski regions.
This past weekend we closed the books on one of the most anticipated ski seasons in our community’s history. It was six months filled with changes and apprehension. But we skied.
We’ve all thought back a lot to the trauma we faced a year ago, with our resorts closing down on March 14 — a small piece of the greater hardships we would endure. It was a time of great uncertainty as we were swept up in the early stages of the pandemic, unsure where it would lead us. We all lived a long summer and fall in Park City looking forward to getting back on the slopes — outdoors and free.
It seems a bit odd to think back to PCMR opening last November. My day began in the singles line for the Red Pine gondola, all by myself. There was no pairing up as I slid onto the Saddleback chair. I pondered for a few moments at the top, soaking in the mountain scene before I skated off, pointing my skis down the mountain. The feeling of sliding down Kokopelli was just so refreshing.
I remember my nervousness as someone tried to single up with me at Alta in late November. I let him go ahead. As time went on, we gained more comfort in riding with others. That wall of silence as lift lines merged in the queue eventually gave way to friendly nods and actual conversations with fellow skiers on chairlifts.
We all became keenly aware that the length of our season was really dependent on us.
Most of us treated lifties with more respect, sympathetic to their ever-present reminders to pull our masks up over our noses. For their sake, let’s hope that job goes away.
Our SUVs became our base lodges, with tables, chairs and ground mats. Some of us brought breakfast or grills for lunch. I enjoyed time sitting on the tailgate of my Jeep just soaking in the atmosphere after a great morning of skiing.
We had to change our own personal paradigms. Saturday ski groups didn’t work this year. We waited longer in lift lines, often silently. More people discovered our personal secret access points. But we survived. And we skied.
Mother nature wasn’t as kind to us in the past, but she made up for it as January and February moved along. Powder days became very special, taking our minds off the pandemic restrictions. Sadly, the lure of the backcountry claimed far too many lives in the Wasatch this season.
But those final runs last weekend were about as good as it gets for spring skiing. At the opening lift you had solid hardpack to carve high speed lines down the corduroy. As you followed the warmth of the sun it slowly softened, giving you time for some glory runs for precision arcs in the forgiving snow. And as noon time came ever nearer, those easterly and southerly slopes turned to corn.
To all of you who followed Ridgelines in The Park Record this year, thank you. I hope you enjoyed the journey as we met fascinating figures and explored new territory on our mountains. This year we met fascinating skiers, took a few runs with Santa, learned a bit about the backcountry, wandered through mining history and skied some powder runs together.
I began Ridgelines three years ago to bring a more positive perspective to life in our resort town. Throughout the season I reflected back on how fortunate we all are to live here. There aren’t many ski towns that can offer its residents nearly 10,000 skiable acres just minutes from home!
It was a hard year for our two resorts. It meant formulating new protocols, modifying operations, limiting restaurants. Still, they got open for us and stayed open until the very end. They provided an outdoor recreation playground for us amid a pandemic that helped to keep us sane.
I had a great ski season! Thank you to all the employees at Park City Mountain and Deer Valley Resort who worked together to keep us safe and give us the opportunity.
See you next year. We made it!
Wisconsin native Tom Kelly landed in Park City in 1988 (still working on becoming an official local). A recently inducted member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, 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 51st season on skis, typically logging 60 days in recent years.
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“There are times when the universe just sets you spinning and last weekend was one of those,” writes Teri Orr.