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Destinations

Grandeur Peak: A Grand Adventure Year-Round

Winter in the Wasatch brings crisp mornings glinting from a fresh layer of frost. It’s dark and sunless until close to 8 a.m., making the brisk air sharp in your lungs without the tempering warmth of the sun. If you are anything like me, your summer is filled with hiking, biking, and climbing. Then, at sign of first snow you immediately retreat into hibernation mode. Mornings and weekends once filled with adventure are now spent indoors binge watching Netflix and eating an assortment of Holiday-themed comfort foods. However, winter hiking is a great way to get through the winter blues and has many perks that summer hiking doesn’t provide: no bugs, no crowds, and no smog. Grandeur Peak is the ideal snowshoe or hike if you like a challenging trail with spectacular views of the valley and neighboring mountain ranges, without the near death experience. While this trail isn’t the most difficult or treacherous, it’s still no walk in the park. With an elevation gain of roughly 2,600 feet and approximately five miles round trip, the hike finishes at 8,299 feet.

There are two ways to approach this hike: from the steeper west face, accessed from Wasatch Boulevard at about 2900 South on Cascade Way via Frontage Road, or from Mill Creek Canyon beginning at the Church Fork picnic area via 3800 South in East Mill Creek. There is a small toll fee of $3 if you are entering Mill Creek Canyon, so keep this in mind.

The west face hikes begin just out of the parking lot. Walk up the dirt road and take the first right fork. This trail is a little less marked than the Church Fork trail, but the rule of thumb is “just stay right”. The trail begins on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and (depending on snow levels) is a bit icy and rocky for the first mile. Wear waterproof hiking boots and bring trekking poles. You’ll spot scrub oak, sage brush, snow, more snow and a deer or two. Grandeur Peak is a dog-friendly trail, so feel free to bring your four-legged friend with you. You’ll indefinitely meet a few other furry friends along the way.

About a mile in, the trail gets significantly steeper. If you are snowshoeing, wear rolling or mountain terrain snowshoes. These have larger decks and more traction, which makes them better suited for icy, steep terrain and deep powdery snow. About two miles in, the mountain becomes a true winter wonderland. Nothing but bright white, glistening snow for miles around. From the false summit, look down at a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley. It’s tempting to stop here, but don’t. The trail becomes very steep and one final quarter-mile push gets you to its peak. Here you can stop, pat yourself on the back and have lunch while taking in 360 degree views of surrounding peaks, such as the majestic Mount Olympus to the south. To descend, simply follow the trail back down the way you came. Remember to bring plenty of water and don’t forget your thermos.

a.winter@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Alaynia Winter

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Discover a Warm and Groovy Place for a Soak in Monroe

One thing to know about me: I hate being cold. I absolutely loathe it. If I could be wrapped in a heated blanket all through winter I wouldn’t object. Unfortunately, this is not an option, so instead of becoming a hermit all winter long I’ve found that visiting one of the many hot springs in Utah is a much better way to stay warm and have fun.

When I moved here from Pennsylvania five years ago I was determined to take advantage of as many hot springs as I could. One of my favorite springs in Utah, and one that I love returning to, is Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe.

The first thing that sets Mystic apart from other hot springs is its accommodations. Along with tent camping spots and cabins, the resort has some very funky, and very cool, vintage converted buses to spend the night in. Each bus is different; some are set up with bunks to be party buses, and others are cozy for two.

My boyfriend and I stayed in the Ripple bus and spent most of the day soaking, napping, and eating. Mystic is a well-kept secret. It’s never ridiculously crowded and there are so many different pools you never have to wait around to get a tub all to yourself.

The heart of this small town feels like a bubble of calm. There are no loud noises or lights to intrude on the tranquility of the campsite. There’s nothing better than getting into a hot pool at 12 a.m. after relaxing by the fire after dinner. Above, the stars shine brightly due to the lack of light pollution.

It’s not a typical resort with fresh towels and room service, but for what it lacks in modern amenities, it makes up for in atmosphere. The resort has been around for a long time, and when “Mystic Mike” Ginsburg purchased the place back in 1996, he was able to keep the 70’s charm of the resort despite new cabin builds and renovations.

Mystic Hot Springs attracts a diverse group of outdoorsmen and women. It’s a place that invites musicians, artists, story-tellers, hippies, and soul searchers to come and relax. The owners leave personal touches such as chocolate mints, incense, and handwritten welcome letters for each new guest. It’s little things like this that make visiting Mystic worth the drive every time.

 

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Esther Aboussou

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Get ready for POW Day

If you’ve ever skied or boarded Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon on a Saturday, you know the frustration of the Disneyland-esque lines up to the resorts: Never-ending, and sometimes longer than the actual time spent having fun.
Protect Our Winters (POW) and Ski Utah have come up with a solution that they call POW Day. On Friday, Jan. 13 (the snowiest day in Utah according to 50 years of data) anyone carpooling with three or more skiers/riders per vehicle or anyone riding a UTA bus to the resort will be rewarded. They can expect priority parking, POW Day beanies from Discrete, and an opportunity to ski or snowboard with a POW athlete such as Caroline Gleich, Forrest Shearer and Brody Leven. The event will take place at Alta, Snowbird, Powder Mountain, and Sundance beginning at 8 a.m. The POW Tent, at the base of each participating ski area, will give out raffle tickets and check in carpoolers and UTA riders. From 2:30 to 4 p.m., there will be a party with giveaways, DJs, and speeches about climate change.
Paul Marshall, spokesperson for Ski Utah, said this event which began last year was created to address problems such as congestion in the canyons and inversion from carbon emissions.
“We’re trying to increase tourism but also protect this pristine product that we have,” he said. “We think taking these kind of steps and helping change habits by incentivizing people will help change their habits for the future.”
Plus, POW and Ski Utah want everyone to know how easy it is to use public transportation, considering everyone with a season pass in the Cottonwoods also has a free UTA pass. UTA has improved their bus service this year, meaning all day service to resorts from Powder Mountain to Sundance.
Also this year, POW Day teamed up with SNOCRU, a snowsports app that connects you to your friends while on the mountain. At the check-in tent, Ski Utah will help check people into the app to see just how many carbon emissions they will have reduced that day.
“This will give us a true number and something we can build off for years to come,” Marshall said.
While they did not track everyone who participated last year, Marshall said all 500 beanies were distributed, and they have doubled that amount this year.

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Ski Utah

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Weekend escape: Bridger Bowl, MT

For the last six years, I’ve had a low-priority objective of trying out new ski areas in Montana. After people filled my ear with good things about Bridger Bowl just north of Bozeman, I figured it was time to explore a new hill.

Bridger is only a 20 minute drive from Bozeman. The mellow paved road is a plus for those of us without four-wheel drive vehicles, or with a minivan like yours truly. Bridger Bowl is often overlooked by the larger Big Sky Ski Resort further southwest, but the short drive and cheap price beat out Big Sky in my mind. The key is the little ski area vibe. While little resort gems dot Montana, Bridger Bowl offers that same feeling, plus big slopes. As expected, there are rarely lift lines, but it has a few resort-like amenities with reasonably fast lifts and nice day lodges for eating and resting.

The big terrain I was told about did not let down, and it’s immediately obvious why Bridger is known for its ridge terrain. Booting up just a little from the top of the lifts gives access to almost always untracked snow in steep cliff areas, trees, and couloirs. This ridge terrain is technically backcountry, but it’s easily accessible. An entire lift at Bridger requires that skiers wear a beacon because of increased avalanche danger.

The wide swath of terrain to explore and frequent good snow, or “Cold Smoke” as they call it there, will keep me coming back for more to explore. If you’re ever in the area, ski Bridger Bowl for a relatively cheap $57 (compared to SLC resorts around $80).

Going to a new ski area for the first time is a fun mini adventure in itself. It’s always enjoyable to explore a new place and try to discover little moments of gold in between runs. The views of the Absaroka Range towards Yellowstone National Park and the Crazy Mountains towards Central Montana were amazing. At the end of the day, skiing Bridger Bowl marked skiing eight of the 16 bigger ski areas in Montana, a nice halfway point for an objective I hope to finish some day.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Chris Hammock

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winter cooking in the backcountry

You have just finished a seemingly endless day of snowshoeing up to Lake Blanche. You are cold, exhausted, and starving, but it is 5 p.m. already and the sun has just a few rays left peeking over the far side of the valley. What you need is a warm, big bowl of something delicious to spur your camp set-up; but nothing sounds more unappealing than cooking a traditional meal while your hands slowly turn to icicles. Luckily, your friend has come prepared with retort meals to save your stomach (and hands).

Retort is a method of cooking where all food is prepped at home and put in bags to reheat in boiling water. It is by far the easiest and most efficient way of getting a meal out of your backpack and into your mouth. Although fairly simple, here are a few tips to make the process even smoother.

  • The looser the meal, the faster the reheat time. This means soups, chili, sauces, and broths are ideal.
  • Cut up large chunks of food. Big pieces of meat, potatoes, vegetables, etc. take a longer time to reheat. Cutting them down can shave minutes off your cook time.
  • The more surface area the meal has, the faster the cooking time as well. Squishing the food down into a flat pancake will heat more food and will ensure that terrible cold center disaster does not happen.
  • Always double bag foods when transporting. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, is more unpleasant than finding frozen chili strewn throughout your gear six miles into the backcountry.
  • Get a stove that can hold a large pot. Nobody wants to have to cook one meal at a time, and even less people want to be the last person to eat. Also, don’t let the bags touch the sides of the pot. This is sure to melt them.
  • Plan and prep at home. Spending an hour in the warmth of your kitchen cooking and bagging a meal means spending fifteen or twenty minutes in the cold snow before you can eat it.
  • Not every part of your meal has to be reheated. Bring a bag of Fritos, some cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. Add warmed taco meat and you have yourself a nice bag of walking tacos.
  • Use Ziplock or Glad freezer bags. Both these brands don’t use BPA in their products and the freezer bag will hold together better in the boiling water.

From here, the possibilities really are endless. I have seen people reheat whole steaks they grilled at their house, bring all the components of a real ramen out and add the hot broth, even soft boil eggs. Since you are camping in cold temperatures, you need not worry about food spoiling. Bring the milk, meat, and cheese! Be liberated by having a way to cook good food in the beauty of snow-covered mountains. If all else on your trip hits the fan, at least you’ll remember the curry you had sitting next to frozen Lake Blanche.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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Spend the holidays outdoors

It’s the most wonderful time of year, and what could be more wonderful than spending it the great outdoors? Whether you’re looking for an escape from the crowds of Christmas shoppers in the backcountry or join them singing carols on the slopes, we’ve got a few options for you.

Santa and Sunsets at Deer Valley

The man with the cherry red nose andeight reindeer will make a special appearance at Deer Valley on Dec. 24, for photos and wish lists at the Snow Park Lodge area in the morning and Silver Lake Lodge area until 1:30 p.m. There will be a sunset ski down the Homeward Bound run on Bald Mountain from the Sterling Express lift.

Snowbird Traditions

Throughout December, Snowbird is popping with holiday traditions. From Dec. 6-13 Hanukkah candle lighting will take place every night at sundown. On Dec. 18 and 19, there will be a Torchlight Parade and fireworks as well as a ceremony on the Plaza Deck in remembrance of Dick Bass, the former owner of Snowbird Ski resort and also a man who summited the seven peaks. A tree lighting ceremony in honor of veterans will also take place on Dec 19. Christmas Eve will be filled with skiing Santas, as the first 100 Santas enter for free. There will be another Torchlight Parade followed by fireworks, a candlelight service, and Christmas Eve dinner prepared by Snowbird’s finest dining from 5-10 p.m. for those who join. On Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Claus will ride the ‘Bird and attend a Christmas dinner.

Stay in a Yurt

Adventure like the nomads, go off the grid for a few days and enjoy a getaway with your family in a cozy yurt for the holidays. A yurt is a circular tent made up of thick skins or other various materials that has a collapsible frame. These were once used by nomads in Siberia, Mongolia, and Turkey. They are available all over the Wasatch, but the top rated ones are in Goblin Valley, Blue Sky Antelope, and Castle Peak. Yurts are an ideal way to escape the distractions of the world and enjoy a peaceful time with family and friends this holiday.

m.mensinger@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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How to: Hike With Your Pup in the Wasatch

If you enjoy immersing yourself in nature, odds are your dog does too. With four points of contact to the rocky soil and an instinctual connection to all things outside, your dog is a much more effective hiking buddy than you may think. This week, we share with you some helpful guidelines for experiencing nature with your pup safely and responsibly, as well as some opportune, and prohibited, places to embark.

Pack for Two: Dogs exert a great deal of energy while climbing a mountain, and they need plenty of food and water in compensation. Pack double water and enough treats for a subsequent snacks — especially on longer hikes. Rather than relying on your cupped hands or the tiny lid of a water bottle, bring a drinking bowl, ideally a durable one that won’t break in your pack or against a rock.

Be Conscious of Location: While the four-legged form is exceptionally well-equipped for steep and rocky terrain, it’s best to avoid anything too technical, lest you overwhelm or potentially endanger your furry companion. Smaller peaks and regular trails are fine, just avoid anything with serious scrambling or exposure. Many places are explicitly prohibited to dogs- more on that below.

Be Respectful: Be respectful and conscious when in the alpine. Regardless of how warm, kind, and obedient you think your doggy is, bring along a leash in any circumstances, one never knows how their dog will react to certain stimuli and personalities in nature. Bring along a few baggies to collect your dog’s sporatic waste. Yes, it’s gross, but you should carry a larger bag for trash anyway — you won’t even notice a bit of extra, contained cargo.

Also — and this one is important — be sure that your furry friend is in good health and up to the task. Last summer I had to carry Rosco (the smiling border collie above) down two plus miles of hiking trail on the account of an injured dewclaw that I had thought wouldn’t be a problem that day.

Where to Go: A Few of My Favorites and Permitted Areas
Grandeur Peak and Mount Wire are very close to campus and great for both humans and dogs — really, most trails along the foothills, smaller mountains, and Bonneville Shoreline Trail are exceptional.
Neff’s Canyon
East Canyon
Mount Olympus Trail — a bit of technical scrambling after saddle though virtually no exposure.
Mill creek Canyon — a multitude of great dog hikes, off-leash permitted on odd days.

Permanent Prohibitions: No Dogs Allowed, Watershed Areas
Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons
Parleys, Dell, and Lambs Canyons
I strongly recommend not marching your dog up any of the Wasatch’s 11,000ers, even those outside of watershed areas.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Dalton Rees

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Insider’s Guide to Brighton

The 80-year-old resort has more than 1,875 vertical feet of skiable terrain that caters to a wide range of skier abilities. Located at the top of Big Cottonwood, the resort is only 35 minutes from the Salt Lake airport and offers some of the cheapest lift tickets in the Cottonwoods.

Patrick Kolbay, a PhD student in biomedical engineering, is currently going through training to become a part of the Brighton Ski Patrol for this upcoming season.

Q: What kind of people go to this resort?

A: We definitely get a large variety of people ranging from park lovers to families. If you know where to go, Brighton almost always has pockets of powder days after the storm.

Q: What’s it like working there?

A: The employees and management are absolutely awesome. When I first joined the ski patrol I was told I’d be joining a family, and that’s absolutely the case. Everyone has each others’ backs and we’re there to help people. No attitudes, just good times.

Q: So, is the job as good as everyone thinks it is?

A: It has its pros and cons. We do have to be up at the resort hours before they open, and while it may seem like all we do is ski around in our patrol jackets, there are times when we spend hours of manual labor maintaining the resort or alternatively hours of boredom waiting in the patrol shacks. That said, we do get to take a few turns before the public gets access after storms, and helping those who are hurt is always rewarding. It’s a mixed bag, like most things, but all in all I love the job.

Q: Any stereotypes of ski patrol that prove true?

A: We can definitely seem like wet blankets a lot of the time, but that’s because we’re legitimately worried about everyone’s safety. After you see some of the accidents and what can happen when a body hits a tree at 30 miles per hour, you definitely become more cautious.

Q: What are some secrets to the resort?

A: I’ll keep the best runs a secret for myself, but I can say the trees below Snake are definitely underrated. Night skiing is also a great time to get some turns in without much competition when it’s nuking.

Q: Backcountry powder or groomers? Park rat or speed demon?

A: Definitely backcountry powder and speed demon.

Q: And after a long day boarding/skiing, where do you fuel up?

A: The best deal is the Porcupine Grill at the base of BCC. Don’t bother with any of the entrees, just get the nachos from the appetizer menu with added black beans. That thing will feed four people no problem for like $7.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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Insider’s guide to Alta

In the United States there are three skiers-only resorts, two of which are in Utah. Alta Ski Resort is one of the oldest resorts in Utah, beloved by visitors and locals alike. The Alf Engen Ski School at Alta was the first ski school in Utah, and for years its focus has been on teaching people of all ages to ski. Twenty-five percent of the runs are beginner, 40 percent are intermediate and 35 percent are advanced, meaning Alta has great terrain for skiers of all levels. Lismore Nebeker, a junior in health society and policy, worked at Alta last winter as a ski instructor. Here’s what she said about working the mountain.

Q: What kind of people go to Alta? What attracts them to this resort?

L: Having it be an all-skiers resort makes it extremely unique, it keeps the terrain perfect for skiers, and it’s something that sets it apart.

I think something that’s also pretty cool about Alta is that it’s been kept pretty traditional over the years, they do a lot of different maintenance updates but it really feels like an old school resort when you get there…Alta’s biggest focus is the mountain, and the skiing, and good snow and good friends.

Q: And you? What makes Alta your resort?

L: I have been skiing at Alta since I was two years old. I grew up at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and I have a family cabin in Albion Basin. It was the first cabin on the mountain that my grandpa built 60 years ago. My last name is Nebeker and we always say “You’re not a Nebeker if you don’t ski at Alta.” My dad, my granddad, and all my aunts and uncles grew up skiing at Alta. It was a family resort for us.

Q: What are some of the pros of working at Alta?

L: The best part about last year is I was up there four-to-five times a week. I was on the mountain, I was skiing with friends, and I was teaching little kids how to ski which was so fun. It was so unique to be able to see it click in kids’ heads.

Q: What has been one of your favorite days while working at Alta?

L: We had a crazy day last winter. It was a complete blizzard, it was just dumping snow. We were put on interlatch in the lodge. Interlatch means that you can’t leave the buildings while patrol is trying to take care of any avalanche dangers within bounds. All of these kids were asking “When can we go back out to ski? When can we go back out?” All they wanted to do was go back out and ski even though it was a crazy blizzard outside. The kids love it.

Q: Any stereotypes of ski patrol or lift workers that prove true? Or false?

L: I think some people would argue that the atmosphere is too chill. The biggest stereotype is the idea of ski bums smoking weed, drinking and hanging out, skiing all day. I’ve definitely found that that’s not the case, these people have really made a career out of ski instructing. There are plenty of people up there that have been doing this for many years. Some have previously skied professionally, or raced, or have instructed at other resorts and ended up at Alta. It’s definitely something that’s a career-driven place to work.

Q: Where’s the best place to get food at the resort after a long day of skiing?

L: A lot of the ski instructors go to the P-Dog. It’s a bar in the Peruvian lodge at Alta. It’s a hangout spot whether or not you drink. The ski instructors hang out after work, kick their ski boots off and talk about their day.

Q: In the future, would it be a conflict of interest to marry a snowboarder?

L: Yeah, probably. *Laughs* No’ I’m just kidding. I could probably manage a boarder; our kids would definitely need to know how to ski so they could get into the family cabin. So they would have to know skiing first and then if they wanted to pick up snowboarding they could.

Q: Why do you love what you do?

L: I think more than anything, just having [skiing] be a lifelong sport for me. It was a part of growing up. I think the reason why I wanted to work in the ski school was wanting to teach to have fun while skiing. It’s good to remember that it is a recreational sport and that you’re supposed to have fun. It doesn’t really matter how good you are, it can get pretty competitive and aggressive really quickly, but if you remember that it’s something you do for fun, and something you can with friends, it’s something that you can do for life. My grandma skied well into her seventies. It’s something that I’ll be able to do my whole life.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Lismore Nebeker

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Island Biking

Have you ever seen that mountain that seems to sit inside the Great Salt Lake? Ever wondered what it is? Antelope Island, a sagebrush and bison-covered chunk of 42 square miles plopped in the middle of Utah’s biggest lake. Conveniently, it’s only two hours north of the U and a great place to explore different terrain on your mountain bike.

Each of the trails have varying levels of difficulty.  Split Rock Loop (five miles) and White Rock Loop (6.4 miles) are both on the western end of the island near the bison corral.  The popular Split Rock Loop descends very quickly towards Split Rock near the west shore. Once there, continue on the trail up the mountain to the historical horse corral. White Rook Loop is a nice warm-up that will get the blood flowing in your legs. You will definitely want to do this ride first on the island. If you continue south on the island, do the Elephant Head Spur or Split Rock Loop. On the east side of the island is the Mountain View Trail — an 11.8 mile one-way trail which goes along the edge of the shore from north to south, all the while featuring a backdrop of the Wasatch Front.

The trail to the highest point on Antelope Island, Frary Peak, does not allow cyclists due to the difficulty of the trail, but you can hike to the top if you desire.  The east side of the island is still in the development process of mountain biking trails.

Because of the excess of insects, pack bug repellent and go in early spring or late fall when the insect level is decreasing.

Once you make your way to the island, bison will welcome you. William Glassman and John Dooly introduced bison to the island in the late 1800s. Today, there are nearly 700 bison that call Antelope Island home. Depending on the time you head out to ride your bike, you’ll come across these muscular, car-sized beasts grazing in the fields.

To get there, head north on I-15 and take the Antelope Island Dr. exit in Syracuse. Before crossing Farmington Bay, stop at the ranger station and pay the $10 entrance fee.  Head west along the Davis County causeway, the only road accessible to the island.

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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