Category Archives: Utah

Vail CEO’s Epic Generosity

Ski company boss writes BIG checks to worthy causes.

Vail-logoVail and Aspen, the most glamorous names in American skiing, are the linchpins of the communities where their ski mountains are located. Rob Katz, the mega-resort operator’s head man, and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, have opened their checkbook with unprecedented generosity.  From Vail Resorts’ press release:

Vail Resorts, Inc. CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, founder of Elana’s Pantry, made personal contributions totaling $2 million to 12 local non-profit organizations in the communities where the company operates, including Eagle, Summit, Denver and Boulder counties in Colorado; Summit County in Utah, South Lake Tahoe in Nevada, North Lake Tahoe in California; the Municipality of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada; Afton in Minnesota; Brighton in Michigan; Kenosha County in Wisconsin (near Wilmot); Cooma in New South Wales, Australia (near Perisher); and Jackson in Wyoming (near Grand Teton Lodge Company). Each of the contributions will be directed toward programs that support the welfare and education of children in these local communities.

“The success of our local communities brings a number of unique challenges that require our focus and attention – none more important than helping kids and families who are most vulnerable. Elana and I feel fortunate to be able to provide this support to these outstanding non-profits to allow them to continue their great work,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

This announcement follows last year’s $1.5 million contribution by Rob and Elana to the Epic Promise Foundation, which provides grants to employees of Vail Resorts who are in need or are looking for additional educational opportunities…[There are] non-profit organizations receiving funds from this $2 million gift and the impact these funds will have on children and families in the local communities they serve. 

Think about this next time you buy VRI resort pass or buy a lift ticket.

Enter to Win a Book About Airstream

Book celebrates America’s iconic travel trailer.

Airstream-cover.j[gI’ve never taken an actual trip that involved riding in a vehicle that was towing an Airstream, but I’ve seen plenty of them on the road. A few years ago, I spent several nights at the Shooting Star Drive-In, a clever resort in Escalante, Utah. Its accommodations are in these iconic travel trailers that are celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. Click here to read my post.

Turns out that Airstream is not only America’s best known manufacturer of trailers but also the oldest. Those retro silver coaches sport an unmistakable in design with distinctive aerodynamic rounded lines and an aluminum outer skin. Airstream: 80 Years of America’s Traveler celebrates the eight decades since the first Airstream graced America’s highways.

The book chronicles the fascinating history of Airstream trailers through a detailed history, stories and of course, beautiful photography. The first Airstream-brand trailers were introduced just as America was emerging from the dark days of the Great Depression. Of the 400 travel-trailer manufacturers of that era, only Airstream has survived.

Dubbed the “Airstream Clipper” after the first trans-Atlantic seaplane, that 1936 Airstream featured a unique lightweight aluminum body that cut down on wind resistance, improved fuel efficiency, and made for easier towing. It slept four, carried its own water supply, was fitted with electric lights and cost $1,200.

Airstream: America’s World Traveler by Patrick Foster is a 192-page hardcover book featuring 300 photos and will cost $45 when it is released in June. But you might not have to buy it, if you are the winner of a Travel-Babel contest with a copy of the book going to the winner. To enter, leave a comment to this post about you and Airstream –– one you’ve traveled with, wanted to travel with, spotted on a special trip or in an unusual situation. Fiction and poetry are welcome. Free your imagination and enter.

Glamping’s Fuzzy Frontiers

Resource for rustic luxury & an example in name, at least.

Summer is coming, and with it, thoughts about where and how to vacation.

GlampingHubGlamping Hub is a photo-rich website with information about and links to all manner of rustic yet luxurious accommodations in the US and other countries. It includes traditional safari tents plus yurts, cabins, extra-comfortable camper-vans and even treehouses.  It also includes weekend getaway suggestions and pet-friendly lodgings.

I’m glad that the site includes maps, because it is somewhat geographically challenged. Every property in Colorado, for instance, is described as being “near Denver.” The Utah page includes “Mountain Cabins Near Boulder,” but the links all are to Colorado sites — confusing since there is a Boulder, Utah, within the Escalate-Grand Staircase National Monument. The website needs work, but I love the concept.

mighty_five_logoMeanwhile, the  Mighty 5 Tour is  a new all-inclusive luxury travel experience to Utah’s five breathtaking national parks.  Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercial touting the parks. The press release calls it “‘Glamping’ in Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks,” but it isn’t at all.  “Glamping” generally means luxury camping in well-appointed tents and attentive staff — not staying in hotels or eating in restaurants. Still, it is an intriguing offering for anyone with a big budget and a yen to experience some of the Southwest’s most spectacular country.

Backcountry guide Mike Coronella created two tours to introduce small groups to Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion national parks. He personally guides each hike, including park locations rarely glimpsed by visitors. An expert outdoorsman and award-winning guide, he is an author, college photography professor and member the Grand County (Utah) Search and Rescue team. Accommodations at the region’s finest hotels and best restaurants.

The Mighty 5 Signature Tour ($7,800 per person) is a ten-night, nine-day journey with twice-montly departures in May, September and October. The six-night, five-day Mighty 5 Summer Tour ($5,200 per person), offered in June, July and August, also visits all five parks and offers similar accommodations and dining experiences.

“Pampered from arrival to departure, guests are attended to by a full-time concierge, travel in a custom Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, have free use of our Osprey back packs and Leki trekking poles – we’ll even supply you with your own National Park pass, good for a full year,” says Coronella.

The departure point is St. George. Utah, which serviced daily by Delta Airlines and United Airlines, and is less than a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.  Book online or FoMoInfo, call 435-259-1565.

Deer Valley’s Stein Eriksen Dies at 88

Norwegian ski champ & American ski legend left his mark.   

SteinEriksen2The passing of Stein Eriksen, 1952 Olympic champion and 1954 three-time world champion from Norway, will be mourned by the entire skiing community. He was part of the growth of skiing in the U.S. in the go-go ’60s. He was ski school director or director of skiing at  Boyne Mountain, Sugarbush, Aspen Highlands, Heavenly Valley, Snowmass, Park City and perhaps others I can’t recall.

In 1981, he joined Deer Valley, a new resort on the outskirts of Park City, Utah. No one will ever know what part his association with the resort played in its success, but it must have been considerable because the two were made for each other. The resort’s namesake Stein Eriksen Lodge is perpetually ranked as one of America’s top hotels for its location, elegance, service and cuisine. Stein remained as classy as the hotel named to honor him. He never wore a hat (and perhaps never a helmet either), and images of his full head of blond hair, Scandinavian sweaters and gracefully angulated, feet-together ski style epitomized his “Nordic god” image. He remained an elegant, gracious and classy icon of the sport.

The Stein style of yesteryear.
The Stein style of yesteryear.

In 2007, a day after celebrating his 80th birthday, he was injured in a collision with a 9-year-old resort visitor who reportedly “popped out of the trees” into Eriksen’s path. After surgeries related to that incident, he grew gaunt, and I frankly don’t know whether he continued to ski. Sadly, in 2013, he was hospitalized with some neurological issues. Even more sadly, Eriksen died on December 27 at the age of 88. He is survived by his wife  Françoise and children Julianna, Ava, Anja, and Bjørn. Stein, Jr. predeceased  his famous father. RIP.

New Utah National Parks Audio App

Audio-guides to five great parks in one scenic state.

JustAhead-logo.pngThe Society of American Travel Writers is holding its 2015 convention in downtown Las Vegas — nostalgic and de-glitzified compared with The Strip. Having grown up in Connecticut, long road trips don’t come easily to me, but still my husband and I thought we’d take a leisurely road trip to Las Vegas, visiting some or most of Utah’s five national parks coming and/or going.

UtahNP-map

I’ve now learned of something we’ll need to take along: “Driving Among Utah’s ‘Mighty Five’ National Parks”, a new GPS-prompted mobile app/audio tour guide from Just Ahead Guides that cover Arches, Canyonlands Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion. We’ve been to Moab and its two nearby parks (Arches, Canyonlands) any number of times, summer and winter. Still, more insights are always welcome. But neither one of us has more than driven through Zion or Bryce, and neither of us has been to Capitol Reef.

The good part  is that Just Ahead guides work without an Internet connection or cell phone service. Drivers or passengers simply download the app, turn it on and enjoy what the company calls “a richly narrated tour.”  Just Ahead utilizes GPS technology to identify exactly where drivers are on the road in order to deliver stories and maps relevant to the exact location. Each app points out not-to-miss features as well as helpful driving directions.

The Just Ahead app is a free download available either through the Apple App Store (iPhone) or via Google Play (Android), and each destination guide is available as an in-app purchase. Guides range from $4.99 to $9.99 and include a free trial and free guide updates.

Alta’s Summer Side Eats

Iconic ski resort a quiet and idyllic summer place with food service.

alta-logoI’ve always thought that there is nothing happening in summer at Alta, Utah’s classic deep-snow mecca for skiers. It seems that while I wasn’t paying attention, this vest-pocket resort at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon has slowly discovered summer. Sure, once the summer road up to Albion Basin opens for the season, there’s

Case in point: The Albion Café on the main level of the Albion Day Lodge is open for the first time in summer serving light lunches, snacks, sandwiches and great views of Albion Basin and Devil’s Castle.  Indoor seating, outdoor seating and to-go food for a hike or a bike ride up this charmed valley — or  refreshment stop afterwards.  Summer hours are 11 a.m.  to 6 p.m. Mondau through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends and holidays. FoMoinfo: 801-832-1710.

Concept for Utah ‘Super-Interconnect’ Revealed

Backcountry adventure skiing could eventually be lift-connected.

Courtesy Utah Ski & Snowboard Association.
Courtesy Utah Ski & Snowboard Association.

A number of years ago, I was the token Northerner among an Atlanta ski club group that had booked an Interconnect Tour, a guided resort-to-resort skis-on adventure organized by Ski Utah. We met up at now-defunct restaurant at the Park City base to receive our avalanche transceivers (required, though there had been no new snow for more than a week) and get instructions. Besides me, there were two other “ladies,” one of whom started crying (I’m serious!) when the guide handed out the transceivers and dropped out before we got started.

We were to ride chairlifts to the top of Jupiter Bowl, cross over the ridge between Parley’s Canyon (where Park City Mountain Resort is located) and Big Cottonwood Canyon (Brighton and Solitude), drop into Solitude, ski the SolBright Trail to Brighton and continue to Alta via a long traverse. Not all of that happened.

Right off the Jupiter chair, I thought a portly Atlantan was going to have a heart attack shuffling across the ridge separating the two canyons. It was slow going as our group picked our way through the trees down toward Solitde on morning-firm snow. When we reached the bottom, the remaining  Atlanta “lady” stood there holding her skis until one of the men offered to carry them across the road.

We stopped in the day lodge for a break and then spent the morning skiing between Solitude and Brighton. Our guide had long since abandoned the notion of continuing to Alta and called for the van to pick us up for the return to Park City.

The ONE Wasatch Concept

Seven sizable ski areas in three parallel canyons are very close together, making European-style connections physically feasible, but the US backcountry culture is vastly different from the European, where enormous interconnected lift networks are common. This might change, and the possible change will vastly change/improve the experience.

OneWasatchSignSki Utah and representatives of Alta, Brighton, Canyons, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), Snowbird and Solitude called a news conference today in Salt Lake City today to announce their support for a concept called ONE Wasatch, a real connection among all seven resorts via chairlifts and ski runs. If approved and built, it would be by far the most ambitious such adventure experience on the continent. A single lift ticket would cover more than 18,000 skiable acres, 100 lifts and more that 750 runs. It has been on skiers’ wish list for a number of years, and the hurdles to realizing the dream remain formidable. But getting as much support as was evidenced today is a giant step that is not to be trivialized. Click on

I wish I could report that ONE Wasatch is plan with a timetable, but it remains a concept. Given the challenges individual ski resorts have expanding their terrain, adding or replacing lifts or doing anything, infrastructure-wise, with America’s crazy quilt of private and public lands, plus consideration of every interest from resort developers to backcountry purists, the process could take a long time.  The required dialog and feedback can be contentious. Currently, Alta and Deer Valley do not permit snowboards, and riders will surely be as eager as skiers to take advantage of ONE Wasatch if and when it is implemented. I think it’s a great idea and just hope I’ll live long enough to see it come to pass.

Utah Shakespeare Festival Season Opens Tonight

Creativity and community reign at this Cedar City summer festival

UtahShakespeareFestival-logoThe figurative curtain goes up this evening on the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 52nd. It will showcase four Shakespearean classics, two hit musicals, an American stage icon about justice and the regional premier of a new play taking place on the campus of the Southern Utah University in Cedar City. The season runs until October 19, so if your travels take you anywhere near southern Utah, I recommend getting tickets to one of their production. Growing up in Connecticut, the American Shakespeare Festival Theater was on my family annual summer schedule, but sadly, the theater has been dark for nearly 20 years. When I moved to Colorado in 1988, I was delighted to discover that the Colorado Shakespeare Festival performances take place on the University of Colorado campus a 20-minute walk from home.

The Adams Shakespearean Theatre, where the Utah Shakespeare Festival performs most of its Shakespeare plays and other period productions. (Photo courtesy Utah Shakespeare Festival)
The open-to-the-sky Adams Shakespearean Theatre, where the Utah Shakespeare Festival performs most of its Shakespeare plays and other period productions. (Photo courtesy Utah Shakespeare Festival)

Still, I heard a lot of wonderful things about the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and last summer, finally got to attend a performance during the Society of American Travel Writers Western Chapter meeting in Cedar City. The most impressive of the festival’s several venues is the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, patterned after is patterned after drawings and research of sixteenth century Tudor stages. Experts say it is one of a few theatres that comes close to the design of the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced. It is so authentic, in fact, that the British Broadcasting Company filmed part of its Shakespeare series there. For the comfort of modern American audiences, there are 819 comfortable seats so that no one has to stand on a dirt floor (though there 66 gallery bench and standing places. Of course, there are electric lights now, but the house is open to the star-studded Utah sky as was the old Globe.

I had the honor of meeting Fred C. Adams, the dapper founder of the festival and still its executive producer emeritus, but did not see a Shakespeare play. Instead, I saw marvelous production of Mary Stuart depicting the last days of Mary, the Queen of Scots, a rival of England’s Queen Elizabeth I who reigned in Shakespeare’s time. The play was written by German playwright Friedrich Schiller and performed in a wonderful translation. It was the basis for Maria Stuarda, a Donizetti opera that I have also seen.

Leslie Brott (left) as Hanna Kennedy and Jacqueline Antaramian as Mary Stuart in Mary Stuart, the 2012 production that I saw (Photo by by Karl Hugh, courtesy Utah Shakespeare Festival.) Photo .)
Leslie Brott (left) as Hanna Kennedy and Jacqueline Antaramian as Mary Stuart in  Schiller’s Mary Stuart, the 2012 production that I saw (Photo by Karl Hugh, courtesy Utah Shakespeare Festival)

Artistic director David Ivers launched a 12-year program to produce Shakespeare’s entire canon of work over a period of twelve years, including completing his entire cycle of history plays in sequential order. It began last year, and this season features King John, Shakespeare’s epic masterpiece The Tempest and the frothy romance Love’s Labour’s Lost, which run from this evening, June 24 to August 31 and the second in Shakespeare’s history cycle, Richard II, from September 18 to October 19 in the indoor Randall L. Jones Theatre.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival involves community supporters and volunteers. I spoke with a couple who had moved from the San Francisco area in pre-retirement, and the festival was the sole reason they selected Cedar City. She has been involved in theater in the Bay Area and sought a place where that was possible. I’m sure she is deeply involved with the festival again this year, but for the rest of us, tickets are available online or by calling 800-PLAYTIX.

Ski Resort News from Salt Lake City Area

Improvements, upgrades and news from the Beevhive State’s buzzing ski resorts

With 11 out of its 14 ski resorts less than an hour from Salt Lake City and 500 annual average inches of  or snow that is proudly promoted as “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” Utah is an accessible winter vacation destination for snowsports lovers — nowhere more so that at the resorts closest to Salt Lake City. Improvements and enhancements for the 2012-13 cap infrastructure improvements over the last two years, including new accommodations, parks and restaurants, and on-mountain improvements and upgrades.

The following is a sample of the latest news, updates and offerings from Utah’s ski resorts.  Beyond the following, a comprehensive list of statewide offerings can be found on www.visitutah.com or www.skiutah.com.

  •  ALTA SKI AREA. Alta celebrates its 75th anniversary this season. Its  improvements are always measured and usually modest, becausess skiers visit this low-key, classic resort for big snow and an absence of snowboarders. There is a new LEED-certified office building at the Wildcat Base housinf a large ticket area for skier interaction with staff, ski shop, meeting room and other non-skier services. Also the Alta Environmental Center updates their outdoor lighting to increase energy efficiency.
  • CANYONS RESORT. After a multi-million dollar renovation project, the four-season Canyons Resort in Park City rings in the 2012-13 ski season with a state-of-the-art “Orange Bubble” quad, North America’s only heated-seat chairlift; a high-speed, year-round zip line circuit; a new Ski Beach après ski gathering area; more lift-served terrain than any resort in Utah, and vastly upgraded snowmaking capabilities. Programwise,  Canyons introduces The Ultimate Mountain Experience, a comprehensive and unique winter sports fantasy camp   under the direction of former U.S. Olympic team coach Phil McNichol and more than a dozen athletes, including six Olympians, are heading skiing and snowboarding adventures.
  • DEER VALLEYAlthough it seems there was no place higher for its guest services to rise, Deer Valley improves service and amenitieswith an $8 million renovation project including the replacement of the Deer Crest chairlift with the Mountaineer Express chairlift, remodeling of Snow Park Restaurant, expanding snowmaking capabilities and the addition of five efficient new Prinoth snowcats.
  • PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT. Park City Mountain Resort joins forces with Neff Headware, a leader in the active lifestyle accessory and apparel market, to create Neff Land, the resort’s newest terrain park. New too is the “I Ride Park City” freestyle camp, which combines terrain park and on-mountain instruction with video shooting and editing for skiers and snowboarders between the ages of 9 to 15.  The three-day camp is designed for intermediate and expert level skiers and snowboarders with all levels of terrain park experience.
  • The Park City Quick S.T.A.R.T. (Ski Today and Ride Today) program enables travelers to ski on the day of arrival by converting their airline boarding pass into a same-day lift ticket to one of the three participating resorts: Deer Valley Resort, Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort.  With this program, visitors can catch a morning flight to Salt Lake City International Airport and head directly to the slopes for a free day of skiing.

SNOWBIRD. Snowbird kicks off a three-year schedule of major capital improvements, including replacing Little Cloud and Gad 2 with high speed quads and adding a revolving restaurant and bar to a new facility atop Hidden Peak.

SUNDANCE. Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort adds a new ski lift to provide immediate access to the ski terrain from the upper parking lot is expanding its snowmaking-covered ski terrain by 40 percent.

SKI SALT LAKE SUPER PASS. The Ski Salt Lake Super Pass is designed for visitors using Salt Lake city as a base for sking/ridingat Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude resorts.  With this pass, guests can purchase one to 10 days of skiing at one resort per day within a seven- or 14-day window at a 20% saving on lift tickets and  ski rentals — plus free transportation on UTA Ski Buses and TRAX light trail.  

Patriotic Town Celebrates the Fourth

Red, white and blue Cedar City, Utah, always honors its vets

When I saw all the flags, all the “I Love America” and “God Bless America” bumper stickers and other signs of overt patriotism in Cedar City, Utah, last week, I was reminded of “The Colbert Report’s” opening sequence. I wondered what more this southern Utah city could possibly do to celebrate Independence Day, especially since there are fireworks restrictions due to the New Harmony Fire just a few miles to the south.

Patriotism is always on full display at the city’s Veteran’s Memorial Park, spearheaded and still respectfully maintained by the local Rotary Club to celebrate the centennial of this outstanding service organization. The park is a very moving tribute to those who served and is part of the fabric of the city’s recreation facilities as.

There are separate memorials to Iron County veterans who served (and especially those who lost their lives) in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom (which think of an ongoing Iraqi mess, but that’s not the issue here). There’s room for a memorial to veterans of the Afghan conflict too. Personally I hope that there will be no more. The world is bleeding, but that does not diminish the Veteran’s Memorial Park’s tribute to those who have served, which really is touching. Today, I am sure the park is decked out in red, white and blue.

World War I memorial, which was moved from another locatoin in town.
Vietnam Memorial, a tribute to the combatants and the fallen in this undeclared southeast Asian conflict that cost more than 58,00 American lives and well over 1 million Vietnamese lives.T

The Veterans Memorial Park also has a peaceful side, with tables and benches, access to Coal Creek Parkway Walking Trail and the local baseball fields.