We just got back from a fabulous weekend skiing in Utah. This year we only expected to ski at Christmas, which we spent in Whistler. But while eating breakfast on boxing day I got wind of the now infamous Delta mistake fare, and after many failed attempts using the Priceline app on my phone I managed to get us a booking for four from Raleigh to Salt Lake City for $100 for all of us. Woohoo! I booked it for MLK weekend without realizing at the time it coincides with the SunDance festival in Park City, so finding a hotel proved more than a little challenging – but in the end I cashed in a bunch of Citi ThankYou points to book a 1 bedroom suite at the Hilton Sunrise Lodge at Canyons Resort.
Our trip had us arriving around 11am on Friday and leaving at 5pm on Friday and our plan was to ski four different resorts during the trip – a pretty tall order in what was really 3 1/2 days! But we were up for the challenge. Our first stop was to drive to the hotel at the Canyons in the Park City area. We got there and were able to check in early so we dumped our luggage, freshened up, and headed for our first resort.
We picked Brighton Resort, even though it’s a good hour’s drive from Park City, because of it’s extensive night skiing. We knew we’d be arriving at the resort late and wanted to be able to keep skiing beyond the usual 3-4pm closure. Brighton has the most extensive night skiing in the area so figured we’d give it a try. It did not disappoint. It is a bit less accessible than the big Park City resorts and requires a drive through a twisting road through the Cottonwood Canyons, but it’s worth the effort.
We managed several nice runs before taking a break and then starting again under the lights. The night-lit runs are relatively extensive and good long runs that were fun.
While it was good fun to ski at night, the temperature was dropping very rapidly. After a warm afternoon in the sunshine we found ourselves quickly getting seriously cold, so we wrapped up around 6pm and made the hour drive back to our Park City hotel.
Our Take on Brighton
Brighton Resort is a smaller but not small ski resort a little more off the beaten path than many of it’s peers. If you just looking for skiing it’s a great place to go, and I would say an excellent place to go if you are new to skiing. The ski school looked great and the prices very reasonably, and the mountain had plenty of easy going, wide open runs. But if you are looking for more night-life and things to do off the slopes, you might find yourself with a bit of cabin fever here.
Where to Stay with Points
There are no hotels at Brighton Resort itself, but there are some nearby options
There is a Hyatt Place about 25 minutes away at the junction of the 190 and 210 highways and will set you back 8,000 points per night, although with cash rates only around $100-150 per night this may not be the best use of Hyatt points.
This hotel at the neighboring Solitude Resort can be booked with Citi ThankYou points at a value of 1 cent per point, or with Chase Ultimate Rewards at a value of 1.25 cents per point. Rates are typically in the $200-400 per night range.
Park City Mountain Resort
Park City has three different ski resorts, but Park City Mountain Resort is the eponymous resort that is based in the heart of the city. We had a fantastic time here last season with three fun filled days, and this year again we had a very enjoyable day.
Park City Mountain Resort is a big ski resort with a lot of varied terrain. The trail map splits the mountain into various zones suited for different abilities and styles. We spent most of our day on this trip in the McConckey’s zone – which has some beautiful views and fun in the trees skiing – and the quiet Thaynes / Motherload Mountain Zone where we pretty much had the place to ourselves. This is a really nice part of the area filled with relics of Park City’s mining past, as well as the somewhat fun and scary Thaynes lift, the only chair-lift I know of that doesn’t have any barriers!
Our Take on Park City Mountain Resort
Park City Mountain Resort is an excellent ski resort with terrain to suit all tastes and abilities. It is worth taking one of the free mountain tours to learn more about the history of the resort and it’s mining heritage. And if you are with kids there is a lot of fun to be had looking out for those bugs in amongst the trees!
Where to Stay with Points
Marriott Mountain Side and Park City Marriott
Marriott has two properties here, the Mountain Side resort is right at the main resort base, and the Park City Marriott is in the main town but connected via the Town lift to the resort. As category 7 properties they are theoretically 35k points a night, but I find availability of either of these hard to come by in ski season.
Deer Valley Resort
This was our first time at Deer Valley and I was very anxious to try it out given how it bills itself as a very luxurious ski resort. Expectation was very high and I have got to say it did not disappoint! We had an awesome day skiing.
We started off by heading to the most easterly point at the peak of Empire Canyon. The above picture was taken just off of that lift and Park City Mountain Resort touches right next to this point. We had some fabulous skiing in this area with very little crowds. At the base of this area next to the Empire Lodge is the very impressive looking Montage Deer Valley – sadly no points options to get that place at a bargain!
There were a few things that stood out about Deer Valley that made it stand out against other resorts:
- It’s skiers only, now snowboarders. This is good for keeping the snow intact, and frankly skiers just have better manners!
- The resort layout is exceptional. At almost every other resort you are going to spend time taking multiple lifts or pushing yourself along cat-tracks. But Deer Valley just has well placed lifts everywhere. At the end of every run, there was always like two or three lifts to take you somewhere else. We had never been before but managed to ski just about every single peak at the resort in one day without getting lost or fumbling around.
- The food at the Empire Lodge was superb. It was a little bit more expensive than your average resort, but frankly what you get for around $50 for four people at Deer Valley is just light years ahead of the slop you pay $40 for four at just about any other resort. I am going to assume the other lodges have equally good dining options.
Our Take on Deer Valley
Deer Valley is definitely an excellent high end ski resort with superb facilities and a great mountain layout with beautifully groomed run after beautifully groomed run. The only downside is it is much harder to get good discounts on lift tickets – Deer Valley aim for a high end market and don’t feel the need to offer attractive discounts. But if you are ok with paying the prices, the skiing is hard to beat.
Where to Stay with Points
St Regis Deer Valley
The St Regis Deer Valley looks to be a great option for a luxury ski stay. While the pricing is not cheap at 30-35k per night, if you utilize the SPG fifth night free option I do not think using 120k for a five night stay here would be a bad use of SPG points. The only downside is the rooms appear to be for two people only with no good options for family rooms. But I hope to stay here sometime in the not too distant future and spend some time getting more acquainted with the Deer Valley slopes
The Canyons Resort
Our last day we spent at Canyons Resort which makes claim to be Utah’s largest ski resort. We had spent three days here on our trip last year so it was good to come back. This year though the resort had been taken over by Vail Resorts and I was curious to see the impact they have made. And from what I can tell they are having a positive impact.
The Canyons is a big resort but it is spread out over a large area and getting from one area to the next can be confusing and time consuming. More than any other resort I highly recommend taking one of the free tours here. We chose to do this again even though we had been before, and got an excellent tour from the Canyons staff. It was interesting as there was definitely a bit of a “hard sell” on how wonderful Vail Resorts, but the tour guides were fun, knowledgeable, and got us across a number of the different peaks efficiently.
I did manage to put together a little bit of footage from my newly acquired GoPro here. I got it at Christmas but have been struggling to put together any good footage. Now I am not claiming this is “good”, but it is not as “bad” as most of the other crap I have taken with it so far:
Our Take on The Canyons
The Canyons is a big resort but made up of numerous smaller areas that are not connected together as smoothly as the other Park City resorts. However it has some fabulous runs and I think the new management of Vail Resorts know exactly what it takes to make a great ski resort. Once you work out the lay of the land it’s an excellent place to ski.
Where to Stay with Points
Waldorf Astoria Park City
This is where we stayed last year before the great Hilton devaluation. Now this will cost 80k per night in ski season, but is definitely the most luxurious, full-service option with points at The Canyons.
Hilton Sunrise Lodge
This is where we stayed this year and is a good option if you can find availability with Hilton points.
Hyatt Escala Lodge
This is where we are going to be staying on an upcoming weekend trip in March so I will let you know how we enjoy it. It looks nice, being next door to the Sunrise Lodge above. At 15,000 Hyatt points per night this looks a real bargain particularly at peak times.
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