Another beautifully lost dreamer with an incurable case of wanderlust.

Losing my Ski Virginity in Park City

After five years in the travel industry I was invited on the most epic famil going! For those who don’t know, a famil is a familiarisation, so a group of travel agents go on a trip and experience lots awesome things that we can then sell to our clients. The trip that I was invited on was fully worth the wait… it was a ski trip! Our store won a competition (that I wasn’t even aware of) and the prize was 7 nights in the snowy mountains of Utah!

I obviously jumped at the chance. I had never been skiing and couldn’t wait to give it a go, although I must confess I was slightly worried about falling off the side of a mountain and dying. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

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So there I was, a couple of weeks later in Sydney airport, standing next to a family with a bright pink Pomeranian dog, waiting for my new ski buddies to arrive! There was of 9 of us in total and we instantly all hit it off, I was so glad to have such an awesome group of people to experience the trip with. The flights with Delta was really comfortable; the lovely flight staff, interesting new conversation and ridiculously large servings of red wine certainly helped.

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Now, I’m not usually one for the cold, but as soon as we got to Park City I felt like a child again. The scenery was magical; the snow capped mountains were sparkling and the cold air was refreshing. Our hotel, the Grand Summit, was spectacular and we each had our own beautiful room. Jetlag wasn’t an option for us. After we checked in we were off to pick up our ski hire (which was surprisingly easy) and we were go go go!

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Ski lesson number one at Park City was an experience. First off, I’d just like to say that ski boots are the most uncomfortable footwear known to man. But once I put my skis on, my slowly bruising shins were the last of my worries! Saying that, I don’t think I had laughed that hard in a long time. Our ski instructor, Nathan, was amazing. He was so patient and explained everything very clearly. He was supportive but also knew when he could push us to achieve more. After just a couple of runs in the baby slopes we were riding the chairlifts up to the green runs. I was happy that I could stand up in skis, let alone weave my way down a green run on my first class. I think I got a little too confident though as I picked up speed and then lost control, bailing and landing with my feet bent either side of my body and my back sliding across the snow. Not very graceful, I must say. I had a little embarrassment cry but after a pep talk from Nathan, I got back on the slopes and gave it another go. I’m very grateful that he got me back up the mountain that morning.

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Ski lesson number two at the ski only Deer Valley Resort was good fun. The snow was a bit mushier so we had to go higher up the mountain which was cool. There were a couple of green runs that did a loop, joining a blue run at the end. We practised our technique and control on those runs. After a few rides, I increased my speed and was starting to get the hang of it. The only thing that worried me was the fact there were a lot more people and I was getting nervous about my spatial awareness. So picture this: beautiful white snow, hundreds of skiers gliding down the mountains and, oh look, there’s a girl in pink… she’s was skiing nicely but now she appears to be picking up speed, faster and faster, I hope she steers away from that fluro orange ‘slow’ sign… ah, boom! So the nice soft meshy sigh that I thought I could bump into and catch my feet actually snapped off the metal fixtures and I ploughed into the floor covered in the mesh. Thankfully nobody was injured and I provided top knotch entertainment for my buddies in ski school. Not sure the man who had to fix the sign was best impressed though!

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Ski lesson number three at the Canyons was epic. There was fresh powder and Nathan was back to teach us how to really carve up the slopes! By this class I was confident on the greens and parallel turning quite nicely. I didn’t fall over once and I was really enjoying being on top of the world and breathing in the fresh mountain air. We took the chairlifts (I love the fact they have targets for your bum to land in!) up the resorts and took in the scenery. We worked on our posture and tweaked our style until it was up to Nathan’s standards. Up and down the green runs, we had the best time! It was quite emotional when our last class came to an end, but I was so grateful for Nathan and what he had taught me. The next day I even went up the mountain on my own and enjoyed a peaceful ski session with a couple of the other girls. I felt so proud of my progress and being on the mountain filled me with contentment. I really loved my ski experience.

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Even when we weren’t on the slopes, there was so much to do at Park City. It surprised me actually, I didn’t realise how much it had to offer. Our group went on horse drawn sleigh ride (possibly the coldest I’ve ever been), we rode the alpine coast (which was hilarious and much faster than I had imagined) and we had a stand up paddle board yoga lesson in a natural crater. Pretty unique, hey. For non-skiers who want to explore the mountain, snowshoeing is a great way of doing that. I wasn’t sure on how exciting it would be, but we had a wonderful time with lots of laugh. The guides were great and it really gave us the opportunity to take in the scenery and venture off the slopes to the untouched snow.

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In 2002, Park City hosted the Winter Olympics and we were lucky enough to visit the park. It was fascinating reading about the olympians and playing on the simulators! Let’s say I’ll never be a freestyle skier… However, Cool Runnings, eat your heart out! We got to ride on the Comet Bobsled. After a very brief ‘keep your head and shoulders stiff’ safety briefing I was getting in the back seat for fastest and bumpiest ride of my life. Exhilarating is an understatement; 15 bends, 70km and nearly 4Gs, it was absolutely fantastic and really got the adrenalin pumping. To make it even more exciting, we took home the silver, just losing out on gold by 0.01 seconds!

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Park City’s Main Street is so adorable. I felt like I had gone back in time when I walked down it the first time! It boasts a number of well established restaurants, bars, shops and an art deco theatre. I could only imagine how electric the atmosphere would be down Main Street while the Sundance film festival is on! It’s safe to say that we explored the night scene very well in town!  I ate and drank more than ever before! Highlights included Zoom, Handle, No Name and Fletchers. I never really imagined Utah being a very ‘happening’ destination but it was such a pleasant surprise! Everybody was friendly and up for a laugh; even the Uber drivers, who would sing to Justin Bieber with us!

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I had a very nice introduction to apres ski. I really like apres ski, whoever thought of it was a bloody genius. One afternoon we visited a ski in ski out (well, fall out) whiskey and vodka distillery where we met a lovely man who was apparently in Neighbours. I didn’t know who he was, but never did I imagine myself in the USA drinking vodka with a famous Aussie actor! I think we apres apres apres ski’d most days, the most memorable being at the Stein Eriksen lodge in Deer Valley. Wow, the views were incredible while we ordered beautiful cocktails huddled around fire pits. We were so spoiled and we absolutely lapped it up!

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And then there was the shopping mall. The outlet shopping mall. We went mad, everything was so cheap and pretty. I’ll leave it at that or I’ll get into trouble!

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I was pretty devastated when it was time to leave. I had to spend at least an hour in the outdoor hot tub taking it all in before heading to the airport! Although the sun was shining in Australia and the coffee is far nicer, I couldn’t help but leave a little piece of my heart in the snowy mountains of Utah. The trip was genuinely one of the most incredible trips I have ever been on and to be honest, I could have never afforded it if I was putting it together and paying for it myself! So I just wanted to say a huge thank you to Margie, Brenda, Frazer, Jenny and all the team for every single experience that they gave to me. Every second was awesome and it really has ignited my passion for ski!

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2 comments

  1. Sam, it looks like you had an amazing time! I’d love to get out into the mountains next winter and although I don’t think I’ll be able to afford to go the the States, this post has made me determined to get out somewhere in Europe for a bit of snowboarding. I would like to go to Park City at some point though and I’d definitely want to try out a stand up paddle board yoga sesh in that crater. That looks so cool!

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