Tom Kelly: Telling the story of Park City through skiing
Park Record columnist
Thanksgiving weekend 1970. Freshman in college. I grabbed a winter jacket and gloves, then drove 90 minutes to Alpine Valley in southeastern Wisconsin. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I rented skis, boots and poles, took a four-minute chairlift ride up a 388-foot hill and skied down a narrow 100-foot wide swath of man made snow.
I was hooked.
Skiing has shaped my life. A few weeks ago I wrapped up my 50th winter on skis with a run down Solid Muldoon capped off with a beer and blueberry pie in Snow Park Lodge. It wasn’t exactly the ending any of us had in mind. But each of my 50 days on snow this winter brought me a sense of freedom and perspective. And the view was never the same as it was the day before.
It began each day meeting new friends on the Red Pine Gondola in the early morning hours, helping tourists navigate the mountain. Or it may have been a bus ride up to Montage Deer Valley to get a few private laps on Empire before the crowds arrived.
You know you live in a great ski town when the biggest decision of the morning is to turn left to Deer Valley or turn right to Canyons — 12 minute drives to some of the best skiing in the world.
My ski days were filled with adventure, ripping big GS turns down Stein’s or feeling my stomach rise up in compressions under the bridges along Harmony.
You get perspective of where we live in the Wasatch from the ridgelines, taking friends on the short hike up to the patrol shack on Bald Mountain to peer down into Bonanza Flat below — land ever protected by our city. Gazing out from Cloud Dine you can literally feel the power of our mountains as your eyes scan from Ninety Nine 90 to Square Top to Murdocks.
As a local, you know your powder hits. For me, I love ducking off North Star into Sunset Trees, or dropping into the chutes of Elk Ridge off Saddleback Express. And, if the storm’s right, you can point your tips into Silverado Bowl while everyone else cruises up the mountain on the Orange Bubble.
Main Street is quiet now, taking a short rest. But it will be back. Next season we’ll enjoy a beer at Wasatch and sip whiskey at High West. It’s all a part of the culture of sport and the legend that has grown here in our western ski town.
From my early-season outing at Park City Mountain to nighttime grooming at Deer Valley Resort, Ridgelines has taken me around our mountains to bring you the story of our little resort town. I’ve sipped hot chocolate on the deck at St. Regis and had a few brews across the mountain for that beer review that didn’t quite make it out this season.
My 50 years skiing have taken me around the globe. In each place, I have brought back memories of mountains and culture. Just a month ago I stood atop Mount Karamatsu at Happo One in Japan with the cragged alpine peaks of Ushirotateyama Range in the background, reminiscing back to Picabo Street’s gold medal there 22 years ago. Later I enjoyed a bowl of ramen and a Sapporo beer down in town.
My mind is often drawn back to the day a Finnish friend and I circumnavigated Sella Ronde in the Italian Dolomites. The skiing was dramatic, but the memories of stopping for a tea or having a hearty Tiroler Gröstl with an Italian friend at a mountain top restaurant come to mind, as well.
Skiing is about friendship. Years ago I led a group of Americans to a cross-country ski race in Murmansk, high above the Arctic Circle. Our Soviet tour leaders told us not to engage with the people. But we did, and we made lasting friendships through skiing that our respective country’s leaders could never forge.
I firmly believe that there is no sport like skiing to bring people and cultures together. In the week of skiing we had with coronavirus protective measures, what I most missed was the people — the conversations on chairlifts. I’m proud to be a local and I delight in welcoming others to our century-old mining town that I’ve called home for 32 years.
Like a ride up a chairlift, I hope that you’ve enjoyed your conversation with me this season. I’ve been proud to have people walk up to me at Smith’s to tell me they read my column that week or to get private messages.
After all, these are your stories, too. Me — I’m just the storyteller. See you next November.
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 will be his 50th season on skis, typically logging 60 days in recent years.
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