The O. Zone

Could Canyons link up with Park City, Ski Utah Interconnect?

Multi-mountain season-pass mania now in full swing in Utah's Wasatch Range

By David O. Williams
Real AspenMay 30, 2013

By adding the 4,000-acre Canyons Resort to its Epic Pass quiver, Vail Resorts can now claim to own or run the three largest single-mountain ski areas in Colorado (Vail), California (Heavenly) and now Utah (The Canyons). But is bigger always better in the ski world?

It’s all a matter of perspective and what you’re into as a snow rider.

I’ve gone on record in the past saying that the annual ski magazine reader surveys are lame because they make lowest-common-denominator conclusions about resorts that in many ways elicit apples-to-oranges comparisons.

Based on my limited experience, perennial No. 1 Deer Valley isn’t even the best ski mountain in the greater Park City area. That distinction has to go to The Canyons, which for my money offers much better terrain than Deer Valley, albeit without all of the posh bells and whistles that SKI Magazine readers seem to value so much.

Skiing the backcountry at The Canyons (Dan Davis photo).

But the best skiing in Utah, in my mind, remains the adjoined Alta/Snowbird complex. So while The Canyons season pass price just dropped from $849 to the Epic Pass price of $689 and now includes unlimited skiing at nine other mountains – three in California, four in Colorado, one in Michigan and one in Minnesota – some of my favorite ski areas around the country are still part of the Mountain Collective.

That pass, which typically goes for $369 but is currently sold out, includes two days each at Alta/Snowbird, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Whistler Blackcomb. I love the first five ski areas, have never skied Mammoth, have heard Squaw/Alpine is the best skiing around Lake Tahoe and have generally been confronted with god-awful coastal weather at Whistler (although it’s a truly impressive mountain terrain-wise).

Thing is, all of the Collective mountains have tougher terrain that a cruiser crowd might not enjoy as much as I do. So the skiing masses that don’t live in ski towns and ski 50-plus days a year tend to gravitate toward bigger mountains with a wide variety of beginner, intermediate and expert terrain.

What’s really intriguing in the whole Canyons deal is that Vail Resorts, in taking over operation of the ski area from Canada-based Talisker, also stepped into a messy bit of litigation between Talisker and Powdr Corp., which owns and operates the adjacent 3,300-acre Park City Mountain Resort. The two have reportedly been locked in a dispute over Park City’s lease since 2011.

Should Vail somehow wind up with Park City, the resulting 7,300-acre interconnected ski complex could rival 8,000-plus-acre Whistler/Blackcomb as the largest in North America. For now, however, all the parties are saying the right things, with Vail officials happy to finally be a player in Utah (they tried in 2007 but wound up losing out to and eventually suing Talisker) and Park City officials at least publicly welcoming Vail to the state.

Several years ago I skied Deer Valley one day, The Canyons the next, and then did Ski Utah’s guided Interconnect Adventure Tour, which on certain days starts in Deer Valley, heads to adjacent Park City and then involves short, fairly easy backcountry sections over to Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird. A shuttle ride gets you back to your starting point.

I remember a Canyons official saying they’d like to be part of the Interconnect but that politics were involved. With Vail Resorts in the picture, maybe the Interconnect is more of a possibility. Regardless, it’s a classic tour – one made possible by the compact nature of the Wasatch Mountains – and well worth checking out next time you’re skiing Utah.

For me, that will definitely be next season given the inclusion of The Canyons on the Epic Pass.

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