March 24, 7:45 a.m., Park City, Utah. The phone rings.
“Hey, it’s Jamie. I’m in the car headed over to the Cottonwoods. You guys want to join me?”
Still in bed, I peer out the window. The snow is coming down in dense sheets, piling up on a hot tub that’s looking more and more like a fresh-baked meringue.
“Nope,” I say without hesitation. “Today’s a Canyons day.”
Park City locals know what that means—the kind of day where you wake up and you know you don’t need a brand name, and you don’t need to be seen. You just want to get your fresh tracks without being bothered. And for that, The Canyons is perfect. It’s a rich man’s cruising haven, a local’s powder stash, a child’s playground. It’s an anything-you-want, any-time-you-want-it center
for instant gratification—a place that has everything a skier could want.
This is both good and bad. Unlike most resorts that have long since been sterilized and commodified, The Canyons—Utah’s largest resort—is all over the map, figuratively as well as literally. The resort’s 3,700 acres are divided by eight canyons and six peaks, each with a different character. It’s as if the hill grew eight personalities but never signed up for therapy.
“It has always been a bit of a junk show,” says former Canyons ski patroller Todd Coleman, “which is exactly what’s endearing about the place.”
Is skiing or riding there a slightly manic experience? Yes, but only if you crave sameness. Is it satisfying? Absolutely. Frustrating? It can be. But now, under new management—its fourth owner in 40 years—The Canyons has set out to embrace its slightly unfocused selves. It has decided to let The Canyons be The Canyons.
“Business people always say, ‘You can’t be everything to everybody,’” says Canyons president Mike Goar. “But when we took a long look at this resort, we said, ‘Well, why not?’ We have the size, we have a huge range of lodging and dining options, and we also have the ability to cater to more affluent guests. We really do believe we can provide something to everybody, across the board. We’re not the only one who can do it, but we’re one of the few.”
In our brand-obsessed culture, Goar’s approach is not without its perils. Everybody knows what “Aspen” means. Everybody knows what kinds of skiers go to, say, Hunter Mountain, N.Y. And we all know you’d better not bring your fancy Bogner one-piece if you want to hang with the locals in Jackson Hole, Wyo. But The Canyons, recently purchased by the Toronto-based Talisker Corporation and now going through a drastic makeover in lodging and other slopeside amenities, is hoping that no matter who you are, there’s a Canyons for you.