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Salt Lake City 10 years on - James Cove, Salt Lake City
Monday February 13, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

It was a decade ago the city hosted the Winter Olympics. Our content editor worked for the BBC at The Games and is now back. How has it changed? Did The Olympics make a difference? Are the Mormon drinking laws in place? How does it now compare to The Alps?

"Highway to Heaven" is perhaps one of the more inappropriately named runs I have skied on.

It is an off piste traverse that takes you from the resort of Solitude to neighbouring Alta. 

However it is neither a highway and nor does it take you to heaven.

It is a right hand 20-minute uphill traverse that comes towards the end of the 27-mile interconnect tour. The tour is the only way to ski the main resorts in a day as the resorts in Utah, even though they are pretty much next to each other, are still not connected by lift.

To European eyes, where we have massive linked ski areas, it seems somewhat ridiculous they are not joined. 

It is more to do with politics and local rivalries than cost or environmental considerations. If the resorts in Utah got their act together they would quite simply have the best ski area in North America.

It would be a fact not a claim.

The Interconnect Tour starts in Deer Valley and you simply duck under a rope to join the pistes in Park City and then it is a simple descent to Solitude and Brighton before finishing in Alta and Snowboard. 

It takes a full day and is within reach of any advanced intermediate skier.

Deer Valley to Park CityDeer Valley to Park City











A decade ago there was talk of linking the areas but still it hasn't happened though at least you can now ski between Alta and Snowbird and a first mechanised step looks like being taken with a connecting gondola between Solitude and Canyons.

For a look at a brief overview of the resorts as they were a decade ago, then see here.

The Interconnect Tour is well worth the effort and gave me the opportunity to see the resorts of Solitude and Brighton that I have never skied in before.

Sadly we didn't have time to do them justice but I made a mental note that I must return as the terrain was interesting, steep and challenging. Best of all there was no-one around. 

I could think of no better place to be on a powder day, but sadly on this trip there was no powder and no time to try the terrain.














A decade ago I wrote this story for the BBC about the differences between skiing in the USA and The Alps and much remains true today.

The Mormon state of Utah also has some rather odd drinking laws, as I wrote at the time for the BBC, but much relaxation has taken place since.

The absurd membership rule has gone where you had to buy a membership to get a drink and I visited a whiskey distillery in Park City where the spirit is made on site.

Not quite what you expect in Utah.

"The key to the unique flavour is that we grow our own yeast from a single cell," said 38 year old Eric Robinson as he heated a test tube over a flame to cultivate the yeast. He used to build ski lifts and now he makes whiskey.

Making the yeastMaking the yeast













It's a complex businessIt's a complex business













In Salt Lake City I dined in a brew pub rub by an Englishman, Peter Cole. The Squatters Pub Brewery sold about 10,000 barrels in 2002.

Now it sells 40,000. 

"The Olympics had a big impact and put us on the map and the people coming to the City want to go out; to eat and to drink," he said as we dined together sampling a range of wonderful beers.

The idea that Utah is a dry state or one where you cannot get a drink is simply not true. Times have moved on since 2002.

So did the Olmpics benefit Salt Lake City?  Peter Cole is not the only one who beleives so.

The answer that I discovered is a resounding, YES.

Back in 2002 I raised some questions about the economic benefits of hosting The Games and re-reading the article ten years on I think I was too sceptical.

Pretty much everywhere the legacy is to be seen and it still feels like an Olympic venue with flags flying and plaques commemorating various events and competitions.

Olympic legacyOlympic legacy













Tourism, business and the economy have grown on the back of the reflected glory of being a Olympic City. 

So much so that the City is taking the first steps to looking at whether to bid for the 2022 Games.

If the XIXth Winter Olympics back in 2002 had been a failure then there would be no second bid.

The state has set up a committee to examine whether another bid is viable.

We reported on the announcement here on PlanetSKI and at the launch event I chatted to the President and  CEO of Ski Utah, Nathan Rafferty and the President of the committee set up to explore whether a bid is viable, Steve Price.

Neither was gushing with the usual American over the top optimism and sometimes misplaced self-belief that they would bid again and win.  There was no hard sell but rather they were going to take a long and detailed look before making a decision.

When they found out I had recently been in Sochi, the venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics, they quizzed me on what it was like, how the construction phase was going and were interested in the links to the stories on PlanetSKI.

Park CityPark City













On my final day we did a small snow dance as we had still not seen any fresh powder; the so-called 'Greatest Snow on Earth'.

The dance didn't work straight away.

More snow neededMore snow needed













I mentioned in my first blog about the somewhat spurious claim that Utah has the greatest snow on earth.

In my view no single area can claim to have the greatest snow on earth and, quite frankly, it just raises people expectations that are then often dashed. 

Our hopes were not met as the powder snow did not come. It is a marketing phrase rather than a statement of fact.

We did though have some fabulous piste skiing and on our final day in Canyons it was some of the best.

The resort has groomers like Deer Valley and Park City though it also has more variety of terrain and is the fourth largest ski area in the USA. 

In my personal opinion it is by far the best of the three for the simple reason that it has the best skiing.

As we left Utah after a week of skiing groomers you can probably guess what happened on the morning of our departure on Sunday.

It snowed.

Great big thick flakes were tumbling out of the sky.  As well as claiming to have the greatest snow on earth Utah also claims it is difficult to make a snowball as it is so dry that is doesn't stick together well. Not so.

We threw several very good snowballs as our vehicle came to pick us up and take us to the international airport that is a mere 45-minutes away.

Looking up the mountain as the snow fell I just wished I could have at least skied on 'The Greatest Snow on Earth' and I hope not to wait to another 10 years before skiing in Utah again.

When I come back perhaps I will sample the fresh powder snow and I would like my opinion of the claim to be proved totally, 100% wrong.

Welcome sightWelcome sight













The Greatest Snow on EarthThe Greatest Snow on Earth













For the spirit of the mountains

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