5X Ikon Pass Mountains, Great Friends & Urban Living

Hello Utah!

This is the only state all four of us have been to before but we’re skiing four different ski resorts than we have previously and there’s 5 on our Ikon Pass within 45 minutes! We were also super pumped as we have close friends who are also temporarily living in Salt Lake City for the winter that we got to hang out with for six weeks! With each destination, our housing set up has differed; this time we’re in a duplex in downtown SLC. The bonus is the backyard for Tally to run freely in! It’s also a bit different being down in the valley as we didn’t experience snow at our house on a regular basis.

Keeping with the norm of our trip, we have a good routine of school most full Mondays then we do half days the rest of the week and ski in the afternoons. I took my first drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon on our way to Solitude with the kids in tow one afternoon and we navigated the roads and runs just fine. I have felt very accomplished doing things like this when Cory had to work but I equate it to touring around foreign cities by myself when my kids were even younger. Still, it feels good!

When we ski with Cory, I always feel more comfortable challenging ourselves a bit. Our second day at Solitude (which is our unlimited skiing resort while in SLC) was no different; we tried our first double black diamond. The kids were so pumped! Honestly, they just continue to get better, always willing to try new things and challenge me to as well. Doing this cements the fact that we have accomplished already what we were hoping to by the end of March…to be all mountain skiers. I am so proud of my kiddos for pushing themselves and having such adventurous spirits about them!

The five resorts that are included in our Ikon Pass are: Solitude (again, the unlimited one), Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and Deer Valley (they each allow seven days of skiing per season). Each one has their own charm and unique attraction. The kids and I loved getting to call Solitude our “home base” mountain and ski it whenever we wanted. You can park right by the lifts; parking is free past 2pm or you get a discount depending on how many people you have in your vehicle. It has fun moguls and tree runs, which are the kids’ favorites! Also, we saw a meadow vole scurrying across a run at Solitude and it made Teddy’s day!

We decided after crazy crowded weekend days in Colorado, that we would try to avoid skiing Saturdays. However, when it snows, you go to the mountain. I’ll tell you why we try to avoid those days. What should have taken us 45 minutes to get to any of the ski resorts outside of SLC, took us over 2 hours one weekend day because of traffic and snow! We got one of the last parking spots at Solitude. It was worth the hassle because the snow was coming down so good and we got to enjoy this resort like we haven’t previously with some extreme terrain runs.

Snowbird and Alta are now a combined resort and have great terrain to challenge yourself. They also both have porcupines living in the trees; but, unfortunately, we never saw one. Snowbird has a unique “lift” called the Peruvian Tunnel that showcases the miners tunnel and their artifacts about their past. It’s like a history lesson! The carpoolers parking is also a huge bonus as a family of four automatically qualifies. They don’t have a ton of spots, so you need to go early to snag one. Speaking of parking, Alta also has a great setup as you must reserve parking on weekends and holidays. You do pay for it but it’s a guaranteed spot! Both mountains have great runs for all skill levels.

Brighton celebrated its 85th season of being a ski resort this year and is the oldest resort in the area. The charm for Brighton is their night skiing! It also has a lift named Milly Express; how fun is that! Off this lift, there is also a black diamond run called Little Milly. Of course, we had to take it each time we visited! We skied one Saturday at Brighton and came upon the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation. They’re an organization that shares the history of the area and encourages conservation, especially about the watershed…meaning the purity of what happens in the canyons translates to clean water for folks in Salt Lake Valley (they also hold talks at Snowbird, Alta and Solitude). Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the ranger-led talk, learn all about the history of the area and how we can help protect it. Really it was the ermine fur on their table at the lodge area that caught Teddy’s eye! What’s an ermine you say? It’s a small weasel that is red during the summer and white in the winter for camouflaging; Teddy told me that! It was a great tour especially hearing that 65% of the snow melt is used for drinking water in SLC and the trees that stood the same height had been planted just over 100 years ago after the area was almost wiped clean because of logging in the early 1900s. The few trees that stood above the rest that hadn’t been cut down were map markers used by miners to find their way from Park City to Alta. Our longest night skiing day came we got a dumping of snow, so we got to play in it! It was our favorite ski day for the four of us thus far with so many giggles heard while we skied through so much snow. When we left around 7pm, they had already had 16″ of snow that day. The kids rocked through tree runs, powder up to their chests and double black runs. They’re the most adventurous, amazing kids ever!

Last but not least, Deer Valley…Cory’s favorite! Deer Valley is known for their expansive groomed trails, but Bea and Teddy can always find the moguls. Cory also found a double black for us to try. Like I said, I just cannot believe we’re skiing this type of terrain already. We were told that it’s actually easier to just ski black diamond runs as you don’t have to worry about as much traffic with other resort skiers plus skiers don’t do blacks unless they have good confidence in their skills. It was also a great resort to take people that aren’t skiing to enjoy the mountain too. Cory’s mom and stepdad were able to ride the Silver Lake Express lift to The Silver Lake Lodge and watch all the action including the great snow we got the day they were there.

With all the skiing we’ve done, it was perfect timing to capitalize on and watch all the winter Olympic events possible. The kids were into it more this year than they ever have been, but I still think I loved it the most! I may have won them over letting them watch Cool Runnings prior to the Olympics starting. There have been many movie quotes since then!

Most trips aren’t without hiccups but most of the time they’re small and it doesn’t affect you too much. We had one of those hiccups that caused us a bit more trouble this tip. We woke up one morning to head to the mountain only to realize our SUV was not in front of our house… aka it had been stolen! Oh, Urban living! Unfortunately, our skis were in the vehicle…boo! Our friend, Brett in town was going skiing with us so he proceeded to cart us around to brunch and for us to buy new skis. We knew we’d never see our vehicle again. Crazy enough, we got a call the next morning at 6am from the police saying they had found our vehicle. It was wrecked into a parked car, but no one was at the scene. It wasn’t wrecked too bad; but unfortunately, there were biohazardous materials left in there which caused our insurance to “total” the vehicle. The good part is we got our skis back! Now a long story short, we’ll be driving home in a new SUV almost exactly like our other one except a few years younger. Funny enough, Cory had to fly back to CO as this is where he found the best deal and drive it back to SLC in a snowstorm. Thank goodness he knows how to drive well in this weather! After a new roof rack and snow tires, we’re back to normal business.

We mentioned having friends in town so let me explain. One of Cory’s former colleagues turned close friend from Boston is working remotely and his fiancé is a travel nurse. These two people were the highlight of our time in Salt Lake City. Not only did we get two date nights as they asked to babysit our kids, but we also got so many amazing evening hangouts with them. It was such a treat! And just before our time was over, they asked Cory to officiate their wedding. He was so over the moon honored and excited to be part of their special day! So the colleague part is from their time at Dell and also the podcast and blog that Cory and Brett are a part of called Big Data Beard. We got an even bigger bonus when the other member of BDB team, Kyle visited with his wife and daughter so it was a party with all three families together for the first time. Needless to say, it was a blast!

We had a few more visitors on this leg of our trip; we were there for six weeks. Cory had a guys’ trip planned with some close friends from Birmingham. They were so kind to let the kids and I ski with them one day and it tickled Bea and Teddy so much to get to hang out with the dads of their friends from home. We also had Cory’s mom and stepdad visit us; it’s always a treat when grandparents are around!

Being in Salt Lake City for six weeks afforded us lots of time to new restaurants so here’s what we got:

Red Iguana– This place is hopping as the kids and I tried to walk in on a weekday around 5pm and there was a 1 hour and 45 minute wait. What?! We never ate in the restaurant, but we sure enjoyed takeout from there multiple times and it didn’t disappoint!

Blue Iguana– Supposedly the spin off from Red Iguana, it was also a delicious Mexican restaurant located in downtown.

Bruges Belgium Bistro– Waffles plus sausage and eggs equal a super yummy lunch! You can also get sweet waffles that looked equally as delicious. They have two locations…one downtown where you eat outside and one in Sugar House which is a neighborhood on the south side of SLC.

Caputo’s– What a gem of a delicatessen and more! It has homemade pasta, so many meat and cheese options and a huge variety of imported chocolates. You can either peruse the market or order a sandwich and sit down in the restaurant. A must eat in SLC!

Ginger Street– Asian food done right! We tried about one of everything on the menu as we had a bigger group but the veggie dumplings were all of our favorites!

Nomad East– A neighborhood pizza joint with a delicious charcuterie plate too.

Hall Pass– Downtown food hall with lots of options so everyone in your group can chose something different.

Ivy and Varley– Date night for Cory and me so we tried a place we couldn’t take the kids. Utah has different laws that its 21+ years if they serve any liquor. They even take a picture of your license before you sit down for your meal. Solid, simple place.

Christopher’s Steakhouse– We were able to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday with her so Cory picked a fabulous steakhouse. It was exactly what we were hoping for!

Eva’s Bakery– Another must eat in SLC is this quaint bakery with sweet rolls that rival *Ann Sather in Chicago. Everything we ordered was top notch!

Hub and Spoke– When you find delicious food and great service, you go back again. We sure did with this spot. I could’ve tried more options from their menu too!

Other SLC recommendations:

Salt Lake City Public Library– One trip to a local branch of the library turned into a regular occurrence after we found out we could get a library card to check out books while we were in town. This was a highlight of Bea and Teddy’s time here! Not only was it awesome to check out books (they were getting tired of the ones I brought for them) but they also had so many activities for the kids to enjoy. There was always a scavenger hunt, an activity to take home, snacks, and a 3D printer where they could request an object. Of course, they both picked animals! We also were able to visit the main downtown library which was quite expansive, so we came home with many books that day. The kids enjoyed a couple of games of chess using the life-size pieces.

Hogle Zoo– You know we cannot go to a city with a zoo and not visit it. It had a variety of animals we don’t see regularly at our zoo…grizzly bear, red fox, Siberian tiger, silverback gorillas including titi monkeys with a baby born that same day that we got to see riding his momma’s back. The main attraction was the polar bear; he put on a show! He dove into the water then swam straight to the glass where we stood coming up out of the water to see his giant features then pushing back off the glass. He made loop after loop of his exercises and it was mesmerizing to watch. Also, the male lions at the zoo, Vulcan and Baron were actually born at Birmingham Zoo; what a treat to see them in SLC!

Diggity Dog– Tally enjoyed some daycare days and a couple of baths here. It was exactly what you hope for in a dog boarding/bathing facility.

City playgrounds– It is quite nice to try different ones in a big city but our favorite was Rotary Playground in Liberty Park. The weather was not too cold and full sun which made it even more fun! They had two different playground areas depending on the age of your kids plus a musical section with drums and different kinds of xylophones.

Natural History Museum of Utah– What a cool place of history, specifically their dinosaur collection! The even neater part is that most of the fossils had been unearthed from the very sight the museum was on. There was a watering hole that herbivores would go to drink, then the carnivores would come to eat the herbivores. As it turns out, it was tar and they all got stuck so there were 70 dinosaurs found in this one location. They even had different juvenile dinosaurs too!

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium– We’re animal loving people so we had to try the aquarium too. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many creatures including a sloth, binturong and clouded leopard.

Great Salt Lake– Located just outside the city, this lake is the largest sale water lake in the western hemisphere. The craziest fact I saw is that the ocean has 3-4% salt in it and Great Sale Lake has 25%.

Like with our change of vehicles, sometimes things don’t go as planned. When Cory was on his guys’ trip, I took the kids skiing at Brighton one afternoon. We went there since you can night ski. Well, we had a blast doing double blacks, lots of moguls and tree runs. I felt so accomplished with my kids…until I realized there’s only one night you cannot night ski. Wouldn’t you know it, it was the night we were there. Oops! As it turns out, it was a blessing as we had a not so fun task waiting on me when we got home. Tally’s tummy wasn’t good and he had gotten sick. Thank goodness for friends who bring you a mop and dog shampoo. Did I mention we only had a shower with no tub; so that was another comical part to the evening. We all lived to tell about it and now we can laugh about it! Oh, the joys of being a pet owner!

On our last week in Utah, we skied each of the four resorts one last time. The kids and I skied a final time at Solitude and we did everyone’s favorite one last time. There was Rollercoaster, the fun lift line run that was all moguls, many runs of the Eagle lift and finally Homerun three times. They are just the most fun to ski and do any adventures with! We had skied Deer Valley and Snowbird/Alta earlier in the week so we picked Brighton for our final day. This time we chose the night skiing day correctly so we could ski past 4pm. It didn’t really feel like night skiing though since it’s past day light savings time. When you come early in the morning or afternoon, you can usually get a close parking spot. We did just that again this day and also got to meet up with a colleague of Cory’s and her friends. The kids really love meeting any of Cory’s colleagues since he works remote it doesn’t happen very often. It was a perfect bluebird day to end our time in Utah!

Now for the last leg of our trip…Big Sky, MT!

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