Another great ski season
As often happens around here, the closing days of ski season have delivered some pretty interesting skiing. The big storm was wet. No mistaking it for Utah powder. But it freshened things up as only a big storm can do. After far too long with nothing of substance, a real winter storm was beautiful to see. Of course things are now firmly back into mud season, but I knew that would happen.
It’s been an interesting season. For the last few years, I’ve subjected you to crazed rants about the traffic on SR248 in the morning. It was regularly backing up all the way under the Highway 40 interchange, leaving people in the off-ramps at a dead stop with 65mph traffic coming at them from behind. It was life-threatening. Getting into town was a clutch-frying experience.
Something is different this year. I’ve tried to study it, and given the slow-and-go pace of traffic, there is still ample time for research. The parade of dump trucks and cement mixers merging with (or over) the Subarus and Audis seems about the same as last year. But the morning rush is definitely working better. It’s slow, but seldom completely stopped. My guess is that UDOT or the City has tweaked the light at Comstock slightly, and it has made a real difference.
It’s not like they actually took the bold step of restriping the road to four lanes. That would cost $500 and not require any consultants, grants, or 30-year plans. If the City is going to tackle a problem, they will always go for the $10 million price tag and the most baroque option possible. But S.R. 248 actually more or less worked this winter. That alone was an improvement to the ski season.
The big changes were the physical connection of Park City and Canyons, with the new lifts, new restaurants, and new branding. Over lunch the other day, we tried to sort out what difference that ballyhooed $50 million had made to the local ski experience. The conclusion was, "not much." The restaurant space was absolutely necessary and long overdue, but my group normally doesn’t eat on the mountain when we ski Park City. The discussion occurred over the lemon caper shrimp pasta and chocolate cake at Deer Valley. Decades of dealing with the old on-mountain options at PC have trained us all to ski until 2 o’clock and go home, or drive over to Deer Valley for lunch.
I did the gondola interconnect a half dozen times, and enjoy skiing the Dreamscape and Iron Mountain areas. But it feels like a long time getting there, even though it’s not. Unless I was skiing alone, I didn’t have much luck steering the group there. We skied the same stuff we always do, which I guess shows a disappointing lack of adventure. But a favorite spot is a favorite for a reason. Visitors all seemed to make the trip.
For next year, PC will offer a new app that will give you an estimate of the wait time at the major lift lines. They use it at other resorts, and seem quite excited about it. I suppose, like fiddling with the timing on the Comstock traffic light, a little adjustment can make a big difference. But my reaction was that I’ve never felt like I needed that before. At least not since they installed the 6-pack chairs years ago. As a kid, when the Silverlode chair was a slow double, the lines were terrible on weekends. In the last 15 years, I really don’t remember wishing I had an app to tell me how long the lines were. Except on the busiest weekends, and powder days in Jupiter, lift lines have been irrelevant here. I’m sure the goal is to improve the skiing experience. But the fact that they think the app is something guests will find useful confirms that the skiing experience is quite different from what we have grown used to, and come to expect.
It’s hard to complain about success. The increased skier traffic — and "traffic" traffic that comes with it — is something the community has spent years and millions of dollars to accomplish. I’ve seen enough really bad years around here that I have to feel good about the apparent prosperity, even though I’m not directly enjoying a piece of the action.
The good thing is that as long as there is snow, there are still those relatively secret places on the mountain where nobody needs an app to tell them they are having fun. Thank you to all the lifties and patrollers and everybody else who got up early and worked in all kinds of conditions to make it happen. Thanks for another great ski season. Hope to see you all next year.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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