Another month in Heber City, Utah…
Why we came…
Heber City is a nice town and the surrounding area has plenty of things to do. More than anything, we came to play in the spectacular Wasatch and Uinta Mountains.
You know you are close to a ski resort when you here the echoing “BOOMS” of avalanche control. Each morning the Wasatch Mountains receive a healthy dose of new snow, we hear the “booms” from Snowbird, Brighton, Alta, Park City, and Deer Valley as we eat breakfast.
Mountain Valley RV Resort is outstanding! It was recently built and was clearly designed by folks familiar with RV’ing. Sites vary in size and most have a decent amount of space. The cost, proportional to the size of the site, is a bit high on a nightly basis, but quite reasonable on a monthly rate. The laundry and private bathrooms are well laid out and immaculate. An outdoor hot tub is also available all year long! Satellite reception is great from all sites, but that might change in a few years as the saplings grow. Cable TV is also available, and there are plenty of over-the-air TV channels. The cell phone signal is reliable data and wi-fi is also reliable and usually fast. Cache, Mike, Loni, Judy and the rest of the resort crew do a great job of maintaining everything and keeping everyone happy.
Another spectacular sunset over the Wasatch Mountains and Heber Valley
Heber City, elevation 5,600 feet and population ~13,000, has plenty of conveniences. And if we can’t find something in Heber, then Park City is 15 miles north and Orem/Provo are 26 miles southwest. The Heber Valley is paradise with dramatic 11,000+ feet high peaks, Deer Creek Reservoir, and the trout-filled Provo River. We often gaze at Mount Timpanogos and White Baldy peak from the comfort of our toasty home, and are treated to incredible sunrises and sunsets! Strawberry Reservoir, Utah’s best trout lake, is 24 miles southeast. Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Ski Resort are just 15 miles north and the rugged Uinta Mountains are 35 miles to the east. We could easily settle here!
We were amazed to learn that Park City was a “ghost town” in 1951. “One ski lift was installed in Snow Park (now Deer Valley) in 1946 for downhill skiers, but shortly afterward, the local economy hit a terrible downturn. The price of silver dropped so much that it wasn’t worth keeping the mines going—and thousands of people hit the road looking for opportunity elsewhere.
After rock bottom in 1951, the town was included in a book called "Ghost Towns of the West." But the members of Unified Park City Mines weren’t down for the count quite yet. They studied the feasibility of turning their terrain into a ski resort. Deeming it worth a shot, they applied for a federal loan for the Area Redevelopment Agency and used the funds to build Treasure Mountain Resort.
They replaced mining carts with J-bar ski lifts and a gondola, charging $3.50 per day for a lift pass. They struck gold. Visitors logged 50,000 skier days during the first season. By the mid-60s, the area’s skiing gained increasing notoriety nationally, and people finally started moving to Park City specifically for the outdoor scene.”
Weather summary for February…
Average high temp: 39F Average low temp: 13F Average snow: 15.1 inches
Record high temp: 68F Record low temp: -38F Record snowfall: 58.5 inches
Observed high temperature: 60F on 9 Feb.
Observed low temperature: 1F on 26 Feb. The temperature under the trailer was 28F
Measured snow: 24 inches
NOTES: The first three weeks of February were warmer than average and we got roughly two inches of RAIN in Heber City. The snow level jumped above 9,000 feet a couple of times really making a mess of ski conditions. Typical winter weather returned the last week of February. Heber City got 24 inches of snow and the nearby Wasatch Mountains got 4-6 FEET of famous Utah powder. Snowpack continues to be well above average across much of the western U.S.
Western U.S. snowpack on 24 Jan and 25 Feb (click on either picture for better detail)
On 3 February we went snowshoeing…
We returned to Daniels Summit to snowshoe for the first time in two weeks. We parked at the Lodge again since our preferred park spot was buried under a wall of snow.
The plan was to do the Foreman Trail loop. However, when we got to the intersection with Foreman Trail, all previous tracks were completely filled with fresh and deep snow. No one had broken trail in two weeks.
So, we took a left and followed some tracks up the draw. Those tracks soon turned around. We were breaking trail again and ascended steadily…it was a good workout. As we climbed, the view back to the Uintas got better and better.
We ascended a total of 1,000 feet when we intersected with a snowmobile trail. We took time to appreciate the view before following the snowmobile track two miles back to the Lodge. Fortunately, we saw (and heard and smelled) only a few snowmobiles.
Once at the lodge, we enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate.
Snowshoe route near Daniels Summit / A fantastic day in the Utah mountains!
The hard work was worth it
On 5 February we went snowshoeing…
On a pretty blue bird Sunday, we headed up to the Uintas to snowshoe. We followed Hwy 150 east out of Kamas to the Shingle Creek Trail head.
First, we followed the cross country ski track to the intersection with the Taylor’s Fork Trail. From here, we were breaking trail through deep snow so we took turns in front.
Arleen amazes me when she has the lead. Her legs are seven inches shorter than mine, yet she takes these giant Sasquatch steps that I struggle to match!
There was a nice grove of huge Douglas Fir trees near the top of one of the knobs. Surprisingly, despite the cold temperatures, there was a flock of birds chirping and fluttering about enjoying the sunshine. Otherwise, it was silent and peaceful.
The view from the top was impressive back to the Wasatch. It was so peaceful with virgin untracked snow all around us.
As we made our way back down the Plantation Trail, we met three other couples who all thanked us for breaking trail. Once back to the creek bed, the willows formed big snow bumps that looked like hibernating moose.
Snowshoe route in the Uintas / Hopefully the outhouse has a strong roof!
Being silly in Utah’s Uinta Mountains
You might not want to linger under that tree! / All virgin snow across the top
Life is great!
On 8 February we went skiing…
The weather was unseasonably warm by the second week of February. In fact, the day before, the high temperature across the area was in the mid-50s and about 1" of RAIN (yuck!) fell on our pretty snow.
Still, we headed up to Canyons for a morning of skiing. As we had imagined, the bottom half of the mountain was slushy. It was more like spring skiing.
We took our time grooving big turns in the soft slush.
We stuck to the Orange Bubble and did three runs each on Docs and Look Out. The temperature ended up being in the mid-40s and sunny so it was a pleasant day.
Ski route at Canyons / We had Docs and Lookout Ridge runs to ourselves
Flying high above Park City, Utah
On 9 February we went snowshoeing…
We returned to Daniels Summit on another spring-like day. We didn’t need jackets since the temperature was in the mid-40s and once again, we had to break trail!
The consistency of the snow was very different. After warm, rainy conditions, the snow was like mashed potatoes. We sunk into the heavy slushy snow up to our shins and every step took considerable effort.
Once past the Forman Trail intersection we saw other tracks. We followed those for a bit and then we headed up to the top of a nearby hill to get a view.
The other tracks belonged to a telemark skier, and from our vantage point, we were able to watch him make long graceful turns in the snow. And close behind ran his very happy border collie.
We theorized he was up there making easy turns in the mellow terrain since the avalanche danger in most of the back country was extreme.
Snowshoe route near Daniels Summit / So happy to play in the snow!
On 11 February we went skiing…
Finally, the mountains received almost six inches of fresh snow after a warm and dry week! But it was a Saturday…
We took our chances and showed up at the popular resort a half hour before the Orange Bubble lift opened. Even so, there were a bunch of people ahead of us.
We jumped off the Bubble at mid station and were the first to cruise down Lookout Ridge. We made long soft turns, some of the best of the year. We wanted more! It was not to be.
By the time we returned to the lift, the line was backed up all the way to the gondola…the longest we’ve ever seen. We laughed, unstrapped our equipment, and headed back to the truck. It reminded us again to stay away from the resort on weekends.
We had just a one-run powder day and it was one of our best runs of the year.
Just one ski run at Canyons / Easy turns on five inches of powder
Powder day on the weekend. The line extended from the Orange Bubble to the Gondola…WAY too many people!
On 13 February we went skiing…
We returned to Canyons on Monday to a much quieter resort and perfect weather. After just a couple of days without new snow, the conditions were now packed, hard, and fast.
We made our way from the Orange Bubble west to the new Quick Silver Gondola. That is not easy to do! It takes a minimum of five lift rides to get there.
The Quick Silver gondola was installed the summer of 2015 and is the reason that Park City now has bragging rights to the largest single ski resort in the United States (Whistler-Blackcomb is the largest in North America).
We took Quick Silver to the top where we exited to a phenomenal view of the historic town and the snow-covered Uinta Mountains. From there we skied all the way down to the Tombstone lift as we made our way back.
We ended up doing 17 runs and skiing down 21,000 vertical feet. That’s slightly more than skiing all the way down Denali, North America’s highest mountain.
There was no hazy temperature inversion so we had tremendous views of the surrounding mountain ranges throughout the day. The air was so still, snow and dangling icicles still clung to some trees.
There were quite a few people but they were spread out over the resort and it was never overly crowded. It was a different experience from two days previous to that.
Ski route at Canyons / Look at that form and that smile!
Perfect day in the Wasatch Mountains
On 14 February we went snowshoeing…
We parked at the Daniels Summit Lodge again. However, this time we noticed there were plows clearing side pullouts on the highway. Perhaps next time we’ll be able to park at our gate.
Unfortunately, over the first half mile some ignorant snowmobiler had been up the foot trail. There is a sign that says “No snowmachines beyond this point.” But that sign has been buried in snow for over a month!
Finally, we did not have to break trail. The trail to the Foreman intersection was packed down by previous snowshoers. After that, there had only been one cross country skier but it was easy going on feet of hard packed snow covered by three inches of fresh powder.
We kept a good pace and got a good cardio workout. The great outdoors is always better than the gym! We did the 3.75 mile route in record time.
But we were not going too fast to spot wildlife! We saw a snowshoe bunny, a Sasquatch (?) and more hibernating moose mounds (?).
Snowshoe route near Daniels Summit / We rarely see these guys!
Can you tell that we are sitting on a picnic table?
On 15 February we went skiing…
This was one of the rare days we parked at Park City. It was a beautiful blue bird day!
Our goal was to make it to the Quick Silver Gondola from the Park City side. We only had to take two lifts to get there. The views were incredible. But we had to take the gondola to get back. The Park City side runs from the top of the gondola are extreme expert terrain.
We did a lot of runs near the Motherlode and Silverlode lifts. It was a perfect day to do packed, fast, groomed runs. There are many “blue” (intermediate) runs off of those lifts that are perfect for that.
We ended the day riding 14 lifts and skiing down 17,000 vertical feet. We left with our leg muscles burning.
Ski route at Park City / Maybe we shouldn’t go this way!
Another perfect day in the Wasatch Mountains
On 17 February we went snowshoeing …
Wasatch Mountain State Park is near the quaint Bavarian town of Midway. Snake Creek Road is closed during winter so it’s a perfect for recreating.
We started on a slushy packed trail running next to the paved mountain retreat road. The snow trail was four feet higher than the road! We snowshoed up three miles, climbing 1,200 feet, and were treated to great views of Heber Valley at each switchback turn.
Finally, I detoured off the main trail to explore Snake Creek a bit. Though we had climbed over a 1,000 feet, jagged Wasatch peaks still loomed 2,500 feet higher. As I circled back to the main trail, I carefully crossed a good-sized, recent avalanche field. I was only at 8,000 feet elevation but this was an important reminder to stay alert.
We saw three snowmobiles, two ATVs, and one cross country skier with a border collie. Most of them were headed further up the trail to do some back-country skiing and snowboarding.
Snowshoe route up Snake Creek / Our first time exploring this area
Climbing higher into the Wasatch Mountains / Heber City is more than 2,000 feet below us
On 23 February we went skiing…
Cody and Jen are part of our adopted Heber City family. They are good people with a lovely family.
We were able to tear Cody away from his multiple responsibilities for a day on the slopes. He had never been to the Canyons ski slopes so that is where we began the day’s adventure.
We had received 9” of new snow in 24 hours and 25” in the last 48 hours. It was the perfect recipe for a fun powder day!
We did several runs down Lookout Ridge and Cody loved it! We were the only ones making tracks and the soft easy turns were fun.
Since it was Cody’s first visit, we tried to give him a bit of a tour. Unfortunately, as soon as the Orange Bubble crested the ridge, it was rocked by 30-40 mph winds causing a wind chill of MINUS FIVE degrees.
We made one run off of Sun Peak before we took shelter in the lodge to warm up a bit. Then we did one run off of Condor. I tried to point out my favorite powder runs to Cody through the blowing snow! The lift rides were brutally cold.
The three of us swiftly moved down the mountain to the comfy Orange Bubble for the last runs. While skiing, another five inches of snow fell. Cody thoroughly enjoyed the day and we hope to do it again.
Ski route at Canyons. 9” new snow in 24hrs and 25” in 48hrs. / Cody and I posing near Lookout Cabin
The soft turns were SWEET!
Cody and I shredding classic Utah powder
On 27 February I went snowboarding…
Roughly 48 inches of new snow draped Park City Resort in the last five days. Six more inches fell overnight and another six was expected during the day. Sadly, the forecast pointed to dry and warm weather for the next week or so. Now was the time to make some fresh tracks! Also sadly, Arleen was still nursing a sore back so she stayed home.
The drive was slow but steady. The whiteout conditions were a bit stressful, but it got me excited for the day ahead.
I hopped on the Eagle lift and dropped off the back side towards the King Con lift. I spent the next three hours doing non-stop laps in classic knee deep Utah powder. It was a blast! I had a running conversation with the young lift attendant. He was impressed with my ice beard and reminded me to stay hydrated. “Hydrated”?!? The snow was too good to take a break!
I racked up roughly 19,000 vertical feet on 16 very enjoyable runs. My last couple of runs were a bit sloppy as I got worn out. And yes, I needed to get hydrated!
Snowboard route at Park City…powder day! / How about that ice beard?!?
Future home inspirations…
Since we plan to build a home in a few years, we have been doing a lot of research by reading architect, contractor, and design books. Arleen decided another way to get inspiration would be to visit open houses.
We visited four homes in Park City that ranged in price from $1.7 to $2.5 million and were 4,400 to 6,000 square feet in size. Though our home will be MUCH smaller and cost MUCH less, we found plenty of ideas!
We also visited the Utah Valley Home and Garden Expo. We learned about windows, siding, and jet tubs. Afterwards, we went to Lowes to get more ideas. We are so excited for this process to begin!
We checked out 4 open houses in the Park City area
Just a few things that stood out to us
The Utah Valley Home and Garden Expo in Provo, Utah
Sam and Lucy…
Sam was one of our weather forecasting mentors in Alaska. I also fished and bowled a lot with him. Sam and his sweet wife, Lucy, adopted me like they have so many others. We were very excited when Lucy told us that they were going to be visiting Utah!
We drove over to Orem to meet them for a long lunch. We laughed about old adventures and talked about the 15 years since we saw each other last. We look forward to seeing them next year in Alaska!
We had a wonderful lunch with our special Alaska friends, Sam and Lucy
We will stay in Heber City until the first week of April and then we’ll spend the summer in eastern Oregon and central Idaho. We look forward to some great adventures!
Headed to the ski resort on a powder day / Daniels Summit is very popular for snowmobilers
This moose was hanging out in Heber City’s town park / IS THAT SASQUATCH?!?