Best of Utah 2011: The Canyons | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City

Best of Utah 2011: The Canyons 

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click to enlarge Dave Powers - ERIK DAENITZ
  • Erik Daenitz
  • Dave Powers
Truly what is best about living in Salt Lake City is having ready access to seven majestic canyons—City Creek, Red Butte, Emigration, Parley’s, Millcreek, Little and Big Cottonwood canyons—each canyon accessing terrain that stirs the soul. The Cottonwood canyons, in particular, are well-equipped to offer amazing summer and winter adventures. Check out City Weekly’s Best of the Canyons below.

Best Snow Guru Blog
Dave Powers

“Powder to the people,” Dave Powers, the ultimate ski bum, is fond of saying. He’s been navigating Snowbird Ski Resort’s deep powder and uncompromising terrain for 35 years, averaging 130 days yearly. Jealous? You can feel like part of the action because, daily, he shares his firsthand ski experiences, slope conditions, weather prognostications and anything else that enters his helmet. Whether sun-affected northwest facets of the Cirque or general musing and rambling, it’s all on Guru Dave’s blog.


Best Rooftop Dance Party
Our Lady of the Snows Center

Alta Community Enrichment knows how to rock a party. It might seem a little weird swigging PBRs in Our Lady of the Snows, but it’s a Catholic church, where alcohol can be enjoyed. After Mass, skiers and boarders and soon-to-be dancers lose their ski layers, get into costumes and shake it loose. There are several themed parties yearly. One such recent bash was the “Welcome to the Jungle” party, which included a mix of Guns N’ Roses attire and, of course, sexy animals.
10189 E Highway 210, Alta, 801-742-9712

click to enlarge clickbelow.jpg

Best Zen-Out Ski to Live By
Kristen Ulmer

Everything a skier needs to know about skiing, they already know. But the human condition can often lack self-awareness. That’s where Kristen Ulmer steps in. The former U.S. Ski Team Mogul Specialist and internationally known extreme skier—as a facilitator, not a teacher—helps unlock anyone’s inner ski beast. As a student of Zen, Ulmer developed her brand of athletic coaching with an emphasis on voice dialogue. Her Ski to Live workshop, now in its eighth year, takes an Eastern-philosophy-meets-Western-psychology approach to the sport. Skiers learn to honor fear and arrogance, which are one and the same, to shred the pow with gusto and joy.

Best Steeze
Discrete Headwear

Local headwear and hoodie company Discrete is one of a kind. At least that’s what the name, taken from a mathematical reference, implies. Separation from the pack and avoiding continuity are the design trends that pro freeskier Julian Carr founded the company on. And his unique steeze garners attention from hip skiers and boarders, who adorn their noggins with his brightly colored and sometimes pompom-ed beanies. Wearing such a steeze while at the bar, PBR in hand, compliments will roll in, whether or not you hit the slopes that day.

Best Cross-Canyon Adventure
Ski Utah Interconnect Adventure Tour

There are few places in the world where a skier can hit as many different ski resorts and terrain as in the Wasatch Mountains. Can’t decide which resort to ski? Why not ski them all? The Interconnect Adventure Tour takes intermediate to advanced skiers on a tour of four to six resorts, depending on the day. Expert guides lead groups daily to remote powder stashes, off-piste turns and summits with unforgettable views, using backcountry lines to ski to and through these resorts. Sorry, snowboarders—because of the traversing and side-stepping, you get to sit this one out. Reservations are required.


Best Sticks
Bluehouse Skis
It’s hard to find a better deal than Bluehouse Skis—or better customer service. Since 2007, co-owners Dan Nebeker and Jared Richards have made sure of that, proving how far transparency goes in business. Their manufacturing partner botched a run of a backcountry ski in 2008-09. Bluehouse ‘fessed up and let customers return the skis. Although the skis still worked, that just added to the loyal base of customers who buy Bluehouse’s quality skis in a consumer-direct model from, Bluehouse’s online storefront. Ski prices generally range from $300-$400, but ski like more expensive models.
998 S. 700 West, Suite 1, Salt Lake City, 801-867-0313,

Best Way to Stay on Top
Utah Avalanche Center

Before heading to the backcountry, the Utah Avalanche Center Website should be your first stop. The center’s resources—snow reports, charts, advisories, general announcements, and notices on classes and workshops—are designed to keep you on top. Even if you’re not going skiing, it’s still fun to geek out with the abundant wintery information. Under the direction of snow-science legend Bruce Tremper, the center exists to enable enthusiasts to hit the slopes another day.

Best High Altitude Caffeine Rush
Alta Java

Some coffee shops offer drive-thru service. Some offer a strong brew. Few offer ski-thru service—or allow folks to check baggage and skis at the store. Spending a second at Alta Java, it’s obvious that owner Lou Moore thinks Alta is a locals’ mountain as he banters about babies and snow conditions between sips. And then he’ll whip up a helluva caffeine rush with The Susie Special—a double shot of espresso and steamed chai—to prep for powder turns at the day’s dawning or as a mid-day perk-up.
Albion Day Lodge, 10520 E. Day Lodge Road, 801-742-2614,

Best Hiking


Millcreek Canyon

Millcreek Canyon offers something for every two-footed traveler, no matter the season. The proximity to downtown offers quick excursions up and away from the city. Even short, hour-length loop trails offer immaculate views. Farther up the canyon, longer, more strenuous, hikes challenge advanced hikers. Four-legged friends are equally satisfied with all of the above, especially on odd-numbered days when they can run off leash. Scenic picnic areas along Millcreek are perfect for a date or barbecue with friends before or after ambling in the woods.
2. Big Cottonwood Canyon
3. Little Cottonwood Canyon

Best Canine Party
Dog Lake, Millcreek Canyon

If dogs threw raves, Dog Lake might be where they’d set up the DJ booth. At just 6 miles round trip and only about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the Big Water trail to Dog Lake is a rigorous hike for the first-timer, but also totally do-able for most fitness levels, even children and puppies. Many of the wilderness opportunities in Salt Lake County forbid dogs due to watershed protections, making Millcreek a popular place for off-leash pooches. For a shorter, but more rigorous, more serene and quieter trek to the same destination, take the Little Water trail. Finding those trailheads is easy—go to the very last parking lot in the canyon. It’s best to go on odd-number days, since mountain bikers monopolize the route on even-number days when they’re allowed on the trail.
3800 South and 3500 East, Salt Lake City, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, 801-236-3400,

Best Skiing


Alta Ski Area

“Best skiing” is more than just gliding downhill on snow; it’s about the ski experience. With its local charm, Alta is a throwback to simpler times, yet it offers all the amenities of its competitors. Here, you have a skiers’ mountain; locals wearing vintage onesies and telemark skiers droppin’ picturesque turns. Once you experience Alta’s raw, unspoiled environment and the gnarly, rugged terrain, you’ll be forever changed. Those with powder-munching desires love classic areas like High Rustler or Devil’s Castle. Apres-ski at the Sitzmark Club or Alta Peruvian Lounge allow you to relive the best ski day of your life.
Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta, 801-359-1078,
2. Snowbird Ski Resort
3. Brighton Ski Resort

Best Walk Around the Lake
Silver Lake, Brighton Ski Resort

Tucked at the base of Brighton’s ski village, Silver Lake offers an alpine adventure that can accommodate hikers of all ages and skill levels. A boardwalk path follows part of the shore, and a flat dirt path circles the rest of the lake, providing a hike that will entertain younger children while still giving adults a decent workout. It’s also an accessible hike for the disabled.
14 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon,

Best Disc Golf Course With a View
Solitude Mountain Resort

For its adherents—including those who play professionally—disc golf is just as challenging and invigorating a sport as its club-swinging counterpart. Utah is home to dozens of disc golf courses, but Solitude is home to one of the best, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2011 and featuring complex mountain and forest terrain over its full 18 holes. The course is free for players who opt to hike, but first-timers can try out a special $20 package that includes lift tickets, instructions, two discs and a scorecard, with a $5 refund available for each disc you can avoid losing.
12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude, 800-748-4754,

Best Snowboarding


Brighton Ski Resort

Steeze, when applied to snowboarding, means more than flashy duds and the latest board. It’s an attitude, and one that is alive and well at Brighton. You can see it in many riders—who, at this resort, are not the minority—as they trick off of jibs on groomers or launch well-crafted and practiced tricks from the halfpipe. In addition to face shots of powder late in the afternoon, Brighton also offers four dynamic, artfully designed terrain parks. Steezy: fer sher, bra.
12601 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road,
Brighton, 801-532-4731,
2. Snowbird Ski Resort
3. Alta Ski Area
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