Snowbasin, Utah Feb. 21--I went to Utah for the Olympics, but I found myself writing home about the skiing. This is not to say I wasn't swept away by the Olympic spirit, I was. I got chills driving past the Utah Olympic Park with its Goliath-sized ski jumper, I gushed when Janica Kostelic skied past me after her gold medal win in the women's Combined, and I almost stood in a lengthy line to buy a Roots 2002 blue beret after seeing Cheryl Crow in one. But after each racer sped through the finish line at Snowbasin, I found myself gazing wistfully at the mountain itself. So after watching the Olympics on TV that evening, I returned to Snowbasin the next day to make some turns. After passing through security-it's amazing how much metal you wear when you ski-I boarded a near empty bus and hit the near empty slopes.
The Wasatch Range reminds me of the Alps. From atop Middle Basin gondola, the Great Salt Lake stretches out on one side and a sea of mountains on the other. The skiing at Snowbasin is also reminiscent of Europe. Groomed runs of velvet corduroy run top to bottom (600 acres of Snowbasin's 3,200 skiable acres are groomed nightly), while open slopes, cliffs and chutes make up the rest of the terrain.
It hadn't snowed in a week but with a little traversing and hiking, I found stashes of untracked powder. And then there were the new lodges-actually three new lodges and a new skier service building called Grizzly-each with the plushest restroom facilities I've ever walked into with ski boots. Snowbasin owners Earl and Carol Holding built these day-lodges in the same architectural style as Sun Valley, Idaho. They even imported three chandeliers from Italy.
Although I did not get to ski the John Paul area because of the races, that gives me reason enough-plus the soft snow, lack of lift lines and friendly atmosphere-to go back...without an Olympic beret.