Snowbird, Utah – New Years Day

Snowbird, Utah – New Years Day

7:45 AM wake up! I was happy and ready to go until I put my feet on the floor and the soreness of skiing the previous day resonated throughout my legs! Ouch! Pushing through the pain, we got ready for the -8 degree ski day ahead of us. We had another yummy bagel breakfast at The Atrium before heading to our locker full of gear. I can’t reiterate enough how amazing a ski-in / ski-out hotel is. We popped our skis on and were immediately on the slopes!

The Chickadee slope goes right down to the mouth of the Creek Road green run which goes the length of the mountain and passes all of the lifts. We skied down the run, taking our time and soaking up every second, to the Mid-Gad lift. The Mid-Gad lift has two stops, one half-way up the mountain which has more green runs and an adventure park, and the second which reaches the top of the mountain’s advanced runs. As we are relatively new skiers, we stuck to the green slopes, our favorite being Second South. Second South leads both back to Mid-Gad and another lift called Baby Thunder. We went between both lifts throughout the morning, getting better and more confident throughout the morning.

Snowbird Mountain Trail Map

We need a snack break around 11. Thankfully, we had Quest bars in our jackets for extra fuel, however, mine froze because I had it in an outside pocket of my jacket! Pro tip: keep chapstick, liquids, lotion, and snacks in the inside of your jacket to prevent freezing!

A few more runs later, we skied to the base of the Mid-Gad lift to the Creekside Grill. Besides hot chocolate, there is nothing better than some warm, yummy, chili on a cold day! It totally hit the spot and some time off of our feet helped us gain our energy back for a few more afternoon runs.

Snowbird, Utah

There were a lot of little ski school groups on the slopes with kids from 4-8 years old! These kids would fly by us on 1.5 foot skis with no poles, in their super puffy ski suits, and I couldn’t get over how cute they were! Since there were more kids than instructors in each group, the kids needed “lift buddies” to help them on and off the lift. We were more than happy to help and I had some adorable conversations with some of these little pros. On the way up the Mid-Gad lift, I helped a 4-year-old girl up to the adventure park so she could go off of the jumps! We were talking about how long she had been skiing and I asked her where she was from. She said “Well, I don’t know where I am from but I DO know what planet we are on. EARTH!”. I totally melted – so cute!

It took us about three runs to get back to the hotel and my legs were skiing like jello when I took my skis off in the locker room! We decided to jump into one of the three hot tubs located right next to the Chickadee slope at the Cliff Lodge. It felt so great on our legs and we were not even 5 feet away from watching the skiers on the slopes. We hung in the hot tub, making new friends from all over the States, for about an hour before heading to the room for a pre-dinner nap.

At the Cliff Lodge in Snowbird, Utah

We opted to go to the Cliff Lodge’s Mexican restaurant, El Chanate, for dinner. We were a little skeptical of how the food would be considering we are used to awesome Mexican food in Texas, but we were pleasantly surprised! We started with some margaritas (of course), chips, & a delicious salsa. I also had some yummy pork tacos and Ryan tried the Pollo En Rajas con Crema (chicken in a spicy cream sauce) which I probably ate 1/3 of. Apparently, the chef, originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, has been working at theEl Chanate for over 10 years and makes very authentic Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex).

Throughout dinner, we got into an interesting conversation with our waiter; a fellow traveler from the North East. He decided to uproot his life with one of his friends and bike / rock climb their way through the USA. They made it all the way to Utah before running out of money, so he decided to stay behind in Utah and work until summer. Apparently, the mountains in Utah are top-notch for rock climbing and hiking in the summer – who knew?

Looking back at this post, I realize that some of my favorite memories of this day were garnered by meeting new people and talking to them about their experiences. You never know what funny thing they are going to say, what travel tips they will have, or how amazing their life has been until you start that conversation. Meeting new people and making new friends is definitely one of my favorite things about traveling.

 

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Snowbird, Utah – New Years Eve

Snowbird, Utah – New Years Eve

On any other day, getting out of bed to -10 degree weather would be hard, but when you have skiing to do, it is “hasta la vista bed”! The excitement kept me up all night so I was ready to wake up, put all on all of my super warm, puffy gear, and head to The Atrium restaurant at the Cliff Lodge for a quick bagel and coffee breakfast. The view from our breakfast table was breathtaking and we watched the pros ski down the black diamond slopes in front of us.

The ski rental, lift ticket, and locker area was right outside of our breakfast spot so I was quickly fitted for my ski gear and then we headed down the Chickadee slope to the Snowbird Ski School. This was my boyfriend Ryan’s first ski experience so we booked lessons for him – mainly because I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I taught him wrong and something happened. I was a little nervous about skiing at Snowbird for this first time since it is such a challenging mountain, but the instructors were awesome! The lessons were on a small slope next to the Chickadee run so I skied down Chickadee about 20 times while waiting. I probably should have adventured down to the other Snowbird slopes while Ryan was learning, but this was only my 3rd time skiing, so I wasn’t super comfortable wandering off alone. I still had a great time getting “back on the bike” though and could watch Ryan in his class periodically on the way down the hill.

One of the coolest things about the slopes at Snowbird are the lift passes. You just put them in your pocket and go through these scanners in line for the lift which automatically scan your pass and let you in. This made the process super quick and easy!

After about two hours, Ryan’s class was finally ready to take the lift up Chickadee to try their luck down a big slope. We got to the top and Ryan thought he was supposed to go for it, so he literally skied in a straight line, gaining lots of speed, down this pretty steep slope! I was skiing behind him yelling “fall over!” and, realizing the “pizza” breaking style wasn’t working for him, he watched someone else stop and mirrored them to slow himself. Phew! The exhilaration went to both of our heads and Ryan’s ski skills got better and better with ever run we did.

We were starving by lunch time and went to the Snowbird center for lunch at Tram Car Pizza. It was warm and delicious. I also un-buckled my ski boots and the feeling came back to my toes – yay! After rehydrating and readjusting my boots to keep the circulation flowing in my feet, we did a few more runs down the slope before heading back to the Cliff Lodge. The lodge is right off of the slope so we skied to the entrance, took off our gear, and walked inside to the hotel locker room. Our locker corresponded with our room number, which I totally forgot, so I accidentally put all of our stuff in someone else’s locker. Oops! Pro travel tip: put your room number in the Notes app of your phone so you can’t forget it!

A hot shower and a nap later, we were getting ready for New Years Eve! The Snowbird Center was having a parade and firework show so we got bundled up and walked down to watch. We nestled up next to a warm fire pit sitting under three giant, twinkle light covered fir trees. Little did we know, the parade was not an average parade! All of a sudden, people around us started pointing to the mountains where red flare lights started popping up! A procession line of about 200 night skiers with red flare lights on their poles started skiing in a snake-like line down the mountain. It was absolutely gorgeous. Immediately after they made it down, a fireworks show started. Not only were they some of the coolest fireworks I have ever seen with all of the different colors and patterns, but every time another one went off, it lit up the mountain-scape behind it with additional glitter off of the snow and ice. Stunningly romantic!

We waited by the fire for the crowds to disperse and then walked down to the first floor of the Snowbird Center to the Tram Club for some wine and live music before dinner. It had a great ski cabin vibe and the jazzy music was perfect. Literally three feet from the Tram Club door was the door to The Steak Pit, our dinner spot. I don’t know how, but we hadn’t thought of calling to make dinner reservations until the day we left, so naturally, everything was completely booked. Somehow, the hotel concierge got us into the Steak Pit for dinner at 8 o’clock sharp. With all of that said, we were expecting it to be a mad house, but strangely, only half of the tables were taken.

We scored a table right on the window with an enchanting snowy-forest view. A few of the trees had a fence around them with a sign saying that the fence protected the trees from the local porcupine named Larry. Despite looking the entire time we were at dinner, we never actually saw Larry, but he definitely caused amusement!

We started dinner with a lemon artichoke appetizer and a giant shared salad. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t presented well so I didn’t take any photos, but it was still delicious! For the main course, I had grilled rainbow trout with rice pilaf. We were super full after our entrees so we decided to forgo a big desert at the restaurant for some Junior Mints and gummy snacks from the Cliff Lodge store. We hopped in bed, surrounded by our snacks, and watched the NYC ball drop at 10 PM Utah time. While it was not the fanciest way to spend NYE, it was perfect for us, especially considering how exhausted we were after a long day of skiing.

Ski Trip Packing List

Ski Trip Packing List

There are two main components to any ski / snowboard ensemble – a base layer and a top layer. There are also two important rules to both – comfort and style (of course)! Below are some of my favorite items for layering up, as well as a guide to packing for the perfect trip!

Ski Trip Packing Guide

1) Boulder Gear Hepburn Jacket   2) The North Face STH Pant  3) North Face 4) Denali thermal beanie 5) Bolle Volt Ski Goggle, White Dots
6) Spyder Essential Ski Gloves 7) Totes Womens Cam Snow Boot

Ski Trip Base Layers

7) Nike Pro Short Sleeve V-Neck Women’s Top 8) Stance Kora Socks 9) Lululemon jacket 10) Nike Shield Leggings 11) Champion Absolute Cami Sports Bra

A few other packing essentials:

  • Make sure your leggings, like the ones above, have a zipper at the bottom to put over your ski boots. You only want your seamless socks in your boots as any other seams or edges can cut off circulation in your legs causing tingley, cold toes.
  • Bring a stick chapstick and mini-lotion for your ski jacket. Chapstick and lip gloss can freeze if you do not have the stick kind.
  • Advil for soreness.
  • Quest bars or any other bars to snack on while you are on the slopes. Pro tip – keep them in your inner layers so they do not freeze or become hard.
  • Bring a nice pair of gloves and a scarf for going out at night.
  • Ditch the heels – wearing your snow boots everywhere is the best thing ever after a long leg day.
  • Pack comfy sweat pants and fuzzy socks for the hotel room. Walking on cold tile bathroom floors is never fun!
  • Use your ski jacket pockets as your wallet, chapstick, and mini-lotion holder during your time on the slopes. A small side bag will do the trick the rest of the time!
  • Don’t forget sunscreen! The snow reflects the sun and burning is easy.
Skiing in Snowbird, Utah
Outfit look familiar?

 

Getting to Snowbird, Utah

Getting to Snowbird, Utah

After a very hectic first three days of New Year’s week, I finally wrapped up at work, grabbed my keys, and jetted home to embark on our long-weekend getaway to Snowbird, Utah! As we packed the night before, it was a grab the bags, energy drink, and go situation to get out of the house. Expecting holiday rush hour traffic at 4 PM on a Wednesday, we planned for lots of traffic time, but the travel Gods parted the highway seas for us and we arrived at the airport, checked our bad, and passed through security with 2+ hours to spare. Pros of being early – no stress. Cons of being early – spending 2+ hours in an airport…

Anyway, we squeezed into a two-top at the airport Chilis for a quick bite. I spent the majority of that dinner eavesdropping on the two single travelers next to us that serendipitously made a love connection over chips and salsa. Yay, airport entertainment!

Our plane boarded on time and I spent most of the 2.5 hour flight catching up on the gossip magazines and looking out of the window at all of the city lights. Flying over cities at night is pretty, but doing so while people still have their Christmas lights up is a completely different experience. There is something so enchanting about twinkle lights and it was just that much better once we landed, hopped on our Canyon Transportation van, and drove through the city where the twinkle lights combined with the snow’s reflection. Oh to live in a state with snow…

While we did have to wait about 30 minutes for our transport van to show up, our shared ride there was easy and warm, which was especially good because it was 0, yes 0, degrees out! We had some good conversations with the local driver and other fellow Snowbird travelers during the ride, arrived at the Cliff Lodge around 10:30, checked in, and then unpacked for our first day on the slopes!

Utah travel tips:

  • Bring eye drops, lotion, and chapstick as the air is very dry.
  • Hydrate starting the day before your trip and drink lots of water throughout. The elevation and dryness in the air will be much worse if you don’t.
  • Ask your hotel if they have a humidifier in the room. Most hotels have them and it makes a huge difference when you are trying to sleep.
  • Decided if you want to rent a car or get a transport to the hotel. If you feel safe driving in snowy conditions and want to go to multiple slopes / places, renting is a good option! If you are not a snow day driver and / or are only staying on-location, do the transport option.

 

Booking Ski Trips 101

Booking Ski Trips 101

When your travel buddy has 4.5 days of vacation left for the year, it’s basically a crime not to take advantage of them. For that reason, I suggested that we embark on a ski adventure. It took some elbow grease to get the idea set into motion, but one hour on the couch and a great deal on New Year’s travel later, we had a 4 night stay booked at a highly reviewed resort called the Cliff Lodge in Snowbird, Utah!

You know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”? Well that really applies to this trip. Immediately after booking, I clicked into the mountain reviews. They were extremely positive but I started noticing that very advanced skiers were the ones writing the reviews and they were raving about how fantastically challenging the mountain was. That is fine and good but Ryan, my travel buddy boyfriend, was a first time skier and I hadn’t thought to look up things like “best places for first time skiing”. (Duh…) I was basically having an “OMG, what did we do?!” moment on the couch approximately two minutes after booking! After researching more about the amazing ski school at Snowbird and learning that about 30% of the runs are green, I felt better about our decision, considering it was basically non-refundable.

Snowbird Mountain Trail Map

Unfortunately, I then had another thought. “What about the nightlife / other activities outside of skiing?”. Ryan and I planned a 4 day stay over New Years Eve and I wasn’t sure exactly how many days we would actually ski. What if Ryan didn’t like it or one of us got hurt? Snowbird had a spa but outside of that and snowshoeing, it didn’t seem as though there was much else to do for an entire day. Also, while its only 30 minutes to Salt Lake City or an hour to Gorgoza Park for snow tubing, the cost of transport to those places was a few hundred dollars – a big limiting factor. Again, our trip was booked so we couldn’t change the reservation, but this still made me nervous.

Fortunately for us, the Snowbird trails ended up being completely amazing and we were able to find plenty of slopes to fit our skill levels. Ryan’s ski class went exceedingly well and he picked it up like a pro! As you will read in the next round of Snowbird posts, we ended up skiing for 3 of the 4 days, but were also able to find things to do at the resort to fill our time off of the slopes.

Things to consider when booking a ski / snowboarding trip:

  • Proximity of the slopes to the airport – depending on where you choose, the slopes can be hours away, meaning lots of travel time through potentially snowy roads. Utah has a bunch of options within an hour drive of the SLC airport which is why we picked Utah in the first place.
  • Cost of lift tickets and gear rentals – prices vary from place to place so do some research before you book if you are on a budget.
  • Local area nightlife – each ski town has its own personality and size. Some places, like Snowbird, are pretty isolated so you stay on the premise. Other places, like Park City, have a much bigger “scene” with lots of options.
  • Non-ski activity offerings – consider the length of your stay vs. the days you will actually be on the slopes and if all of your party wants to ski / snowboard the entire trip.
  • Ease and cost of travel to other places – if you do want to explore other areas for skiing / snowboarding or for other activities, look up how far the distance between the areas is and call and ask local transport (your hotel will have this information) for costing. Snowbird’s slopes actually have a ski-in, ski-out connection to the neighboring Alta Ski slopes, so for $30 more a day, you have the option to ski either range. An awesome perk for a longer ski trip.

Skis on the lift - Snowbird, Utah