Going Local: Sundance Resort

Looking up the creek in the village, Sundance Resort is nestled in a beautiful canyon below the towering peaks of Mt. Timpanogos. Photo credit: powell-peralta.com
Looking up the creek in the village, Sundance Resort is nestled in a beautiful canyon below the towering peaks of Mt. Timpanogos. Photo credit: powell-peralta.com

There are a lot of resort names in Utah that shout a lot, that everybody knows about, and which are immediately recognizable. But there are also some reasonably well-kept secrets not far from Salt Lake City which are worth visiting, and one of them is just up the road from Brigham Young University. With a hiking trail established in the early 1900s by a BYU professor, Sundance Mountain Resort has one of the longest mountain resort histories in the state and maintains a close relationship with the university.

Owned by movie star and philanthropist Robert Redford, Sundance is a quiet haven seated below Mount Timpanogos in Utah County. The resort has a beautiful rustic setting, with log buildings dominating the village and a variety of lodging options for guests.

Sundance first became best known for its hiking. After the first aforementioned trail was established, the activity caught on as more and more people began exploring Mt. Timpanogos. In time, the first rope tow was constructed for skiing, but the hiking trails continued to expand. As a result, Sundance operates year-round and is host to conferences, weddings, and great summertime sightseeing and hiking.

This lift is so versatile and covers enough terrain that it has a unique map. Don't get lost! Photo credit: liftblog.com
This lift is so versatile and covers enough terrain that it has a unique map. Don’t get lost! Photo credit: liftblog.com

Rising out of the village is Ray’s Lift, a quad chairlift built locally by Garaventa CTEC, now part of Doppelmayr Garaventa group which makes ski lifts around the world (the map photo comes courtesy of LiftBlog.com). This lift is also one of the main access methods for additional hiking trails, as well as most of the ski runs, and has the distinction of being equipped with two mid-stations; the top one unloads in both directions. Sundance’s lift system is on the classic side compared with many resorts; none of them are high-speed detachables. However, it does allow every rider to savor the fantastic views around them as they head on up. Jake’s and Red’s are the two newest lifts on the mountain, with Jake’s opening up expanded terrain and access and Red’s replacing an older chairlift.

At just 450 acres, Sundance isn’t as large as some of its neighbors, but don’t be fooled. The resort’s solid vertical and layout still make for a large skiing experience. And none has the view from the resort summit, with a panorama of the surrounding Wasatch range, valleys, and Timp’s impressive peak.

The resort has indeed spawned one of Utah’s best-known institutions: The Sundance Institute and its best-known annual event, The Sundance Film Festival. Held during the ski season in Park City, the festival attracts film buffs, actors, editors, and other makers and shakers of independent film from around the world, and we at VIP Limousine have been proud to provide transportation for attendees throughout the years at the event. But the idea for the festival and the institute began at the site of the resort after Redford acquired property there.

Accessible from Provo Canyon by car, as well as Utah Transit Authority bus route 880, Sundance Mountain Resort is a beautiful getaway with a purpose: escape amidst beauty. The slopes, spas, and space provide a unique and quiet atmosphere away from the crowds and cares. The experience at Sundance is one which thrives on serenity and ensuring that guests have a luxurious experience, but without being pretentious or frilly. Between the annual dustings of Utah powder, great hiking, and stunning vistas, it is another little slice of heaven in Utah.

Going Local: Snowbird

Possibly one of the most famous in the nation, the Snowbird Tram hurtles skiers and boarders up and down the rocky resort face with ease. Photo credit: utahoutside.com
Possibly one of the most famous in the nation, the Snowbird Tram hurtles skiers and boarders up and down the rocky resort face with ease. Photo credit: utahoutside.com

Down the street from Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon is a year-round resort where everything is a bit bigger. It doesn’t have as long of a history, but it has sure made an international name for itself since opening in 1971, with European inspiration abounding. This is the world-famous haven of Snowbird.

On approach driving up the canyon, Snowbird dominates the view off to the right, with the tram rising above the cliff faces. This is one of the first things people usually see. The tram is one of the original lifts and is the only one that runs from base to summit. Getting closer to the resort base, guests can see the so-called Gad Valley first up on the right, one of the four resort entrances.

Gad Valley is one of the three mountainside “segments” in Snowbird’s current configuration, and was recently updated with newer chairlifts, including three high-speed quads. It stretches up to the American Fork Twin Peaks. The face under the Tram and Peruvian Express dominates the front of the resort. At the top of the tram and over the summit of Hidden Peak is Mineral Basin, with a large bowl and direct access to Alta. The entire skiable area is 2,500 acres, a healthy size for the steep and narrow canyon.

Snowbird has four main lodges, each with distinctive concrete architecture designed for longevity and strength after avalanches. The first one is the Iron Blosam Lodge, opened in 1975 with beautiful views of the mountainside. The Inn at Snowbird is the next up the road, and has a wide variety of room types including lofts, studios, and condominiums. The Lodge at Snowbird was the first lodge constructed and is adjacent to the Snowbird Center and the tram. Finally, there is The Cliff Lodge, the recently-remodeled icon with three restaurants open year-round to guests. It is frequently still busy in the summer months when Utah’s longest ski season is long gone.

Snowbird now functions continually, with summer hiking and biking trails, chairlift and tram rides, and activities in the village such as the mountain coaster. However, it is most famous for its wintertime activities, which is when the resort really comes to life.

Skiers and boarders will rise at early hours to jam themselves into the Snowbird Tram. An icon in its own right, the tram has one red and one blue cabin which effortlessly whisk guests up to Hidden Peak and its fantastic views. Snowbird recently built a new restaurant/lodge at the top of the tram to take advantage of the amazing vistas, right in the midst of fresh Utah powder.

Snowbird also took an innovative step to alleviate some pressure off the tram on the busiest days. At the top of Peruvian Express is a tunnel with a conveyor belt running through it; the tunnel goes through the mountain and out into the other side in Mineral Basin. This borders with Alta; Snowbird installed the Baldy Express in part to enable the access to its neighbor…if you’re a skier.

The future of the resort has some exciting developments. Snowbird not only added to and remodeled their resort real estate, but the upgrades are continuing! The Mineral Basin Express chairlift is slated to be upgraded to increase capacity; it will also offer a smoother ride with updated technology. The resort has also received approval to expand into Mary Ellen Gulch with another new lift and a gondola planned. Those alone are great reasons why we at VIP Limousine recommend spreading your wings and flying up to Snowbird.

Going Local: Market Street Grill

A bustling business, Salt Lake City's Market Street Grill is a prime location for great food. Photo credit: Market Street Grill
A bustling business, Salt Lake City’s Market Street Grill is a prime location for great food. Photo credit: Market Street Grill

Even though Salt Lake City is near the Great Salt Lake, it is not exactly home to fresh seafood. In fact, the lake itself is unsupportive of salt-water creatures. However, that doesn’t stop the cuisine of the sea from making a splash along the Wasatch Front, and we at VIP Limousine stand behind one place in particular: Market Street Grill.

The first location of Market Street Grill opened in 1980 in downtown Salt Lake City’s historic New Yorker Hotel, previously condemned by the city and subsequently overhauled. Situated near Main Street, the Market Street Grill quickly established itself as a seafood staple for Wasatch Front residents looking for what one would normally find in Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, and New York. The atmosphere is decidedly historic at the downtown location, with a feeling that hearkens back to the 1930s, but the dishes are up-to-date takes on classic recipes.

Lest one thinks that Market Street Grill would struggle being inland from the coastline, their products are shipped in fresh in spite of the distance. The proof is in the taste and preparation; fresh fish is very distinctive, but so is not-so-fresh fish. Market Street Grill only bothers with the former.

They also bothered to have more than one location! Since the original location on Market Street itself in downtown Salt Lake City, next to the Utah Transit Authority TRAX Blue and Green lines, Market Street Grill has expanded to Cottonwood Heights and South Jordan, each with their own distinctive style and feel. These two latter locations also have fresh fish markets, with seafood products available to prepare at home.

In addition to the restaurant, Market Street Grill also has a separate operation, the Market Street Oyster Bar. The first of these opened in 1981, and has different hours than the main restaurant. There is also a location inside the terminal area of the Salt Lake City International Airport so passengers can enjoy the same delectable menu while traveling on or traveling through.

For small or large groups, for casual or formal dining, Market Street Grill has solidified a place on Salt Lake City’s culinary map, and it is one of the most highly-ranked in the area. We at VIP Limousine recommend giving them a try.

Going Local: Alta

One of our SUVs up visiting Alta in the summertime. The village of the resort features parts of a historic chairlift. Photo credit: VIP Limousine chauffeur Nick Martin
One of our SUVs up visiting Alta in the summertime. The village of the resort features parts of a historic chairlift. Photo credit: VIP Limousine chauffeur Nick Martin

Buried up at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon is an area known worldwide for its epic snow and legendary terrain. It’s home to tantalizing steeps, powder bowls, and breathtaking views. The chairlift network is quirky and uses recycled parts to reduce costs and carbon footprint, and the terrain feels bigger than it measures. This is Alta, and it apologizes for nothing.

With a base elevation of 8,530 feet, Alta sits amongst the highest of the resorts in Utah, though it’s not as much of a resort as some of the others. The village area is divided into two parts: Wildcat and Albion. The Wildcat Village is the first one along the roadway and is home to the Collins Express and Wildcat double chairlifts, day lodge, skier services, and a Utah Transit Authority bus stop. Albion has the Sunnyside Express (the only detachable triple in Utah) and the Albion double chairlift, a lodge, ticketing, and a skier store. It doesn’t have much else, and the nightlife is very limited, and that’s part of the draw.

When Alta celebrated its 75th anniversary, they brought out the original single chairs! Alta was one of the first resorts in the United States to have a chairlift.
When Alta celebrated its 75th anniversary, they brought out the original single chairs! Alta was one of the first resorts in the United States to have a chairlift. Photo credit: Yelp

As a result of the simple approach to the ski resort concept, Alta is efficient and not complicated for visitors. This goes back to the resort’s founding, with the original single chairlift, installed back in the 1930s. The area uses RFID tickets which make the lift lines a breeze, and the map is easy to navigate. There is also the “Transfer Tow” between the two halves of the village which can take guests between the two different sets of base area lifts without the need to hike, drive, or take a bus.

Collins Express leading up from the Wildcat base next to the lodge. Photo credit: discoveralta.com
Collins Express leading up from the Wildcat base next to the lodge. Photo credit: discoveralta.com

Collins Express takes guests up high above the base area in one ride, with a unique angle station in the middle so that skiers do not have to go all the way to the bottom to catch a ride back up; instead, they can lap the top portion with the beautiful vistas and snow. This includes the famous Baldy Chutes above the rest of the Wildcat base; a little hiking up goes a long way for enjoyment.

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From Albion base, a ride up the Sunnyside Express leads to Sugarloaf Express, which takes skiers up to Devil’s Castle. But to the left is the brand new Supreme Express chairlift, which starting in 2017 will whisk guests up to the Alta summit of 10,551 feet, providing access to Catherine’s Pass and East Castle. This new lift (pictured above prior to installation) is manufactured by Leitner-Poma of America, and is similar to other lifts around the world, including examples at Vail and Breckenridge.

A view out from Alf's Restaurant at Alta. Photo credit: foursquare.com
A view out from Alf’s Restaurant at Alta. Photo credit: foursquare.com

One of the best-kept secrets at Alta is the food, and the star is Alf’s Restaurant. This American-themed restaurant sits slopeside next to the Sugarloaf, Supreme, and Sunnyside Express chairlifts. With seating inside and out, it has great views and also has a small museum dedicated to the history of Alta.

As a skier-only mountain, Alta has survived several lawsuits from snowboarders who have fought the ban on the activity within its bounds. It’s very true that the area is exclusive, and the battle is likely to continue. However, if you use two boards instead of one, Alta should be on your bucket list.

Salt Lake City: Our Home, Part 11

A Salt Lake City and Sugar House highlight, Sugar House Park is home to expansive green space and nature. Photo credit: flickr.com
A Salt Lake City and Sugar House highlight, Sugar House Park is home to expansive green space and nature. Photo credit: flickr.com

City parks are often a welcome change and respite from the concrete jungle and tall buildings. Salt Lake City has several, but one of them in particular stands out for its location and proximity to the trendiest neighborhood in the city: Sugar House.

Once an industrial area which then went into decline, Sugar House was founded in the 1850s with a sugar beet test factory after the Latter-day Saint Pioneers made the trek across the continent. Sugar House was also home to Utah’s first state prison until 1951, when it was moved to Draper (at the time of this writing, the prison is being moved yet again to the northern end of Salt Lake County). After the prison move, the city built Highland High School, home to the famous high school rugby team led by Larry Gelwix, and Sugar House Park. Using the newly-vacated land brought an oasis with stunning mountain views to the neighborhood, as well as an expansion of the Salt Lake City public school system.

The entrance to Highland High School. Photo credit: Salt Lake City School District
The entrance to Highland High School. Photo credit: Salt Lake City School District

In recent years, Sugar House has seen a massive revitalization project, with historical buildings being preserved, unsafe ones rebuilt, and new developments added altogether. There are two shopping centers in Sugar House which are very popular with the local residents, both of which are relatively new and are home to a lot of local and small businesses. On Highland Drive, these spots include Cubby’s, Bruges Wafffles & Frites, Wasatch Brew Pub, and many others. Sugar House has also become more amenable to some chain locations including Cold Stone Creamery and Buffalo Wild Wings.

One of the main buildings on the Westminster College campus. Photo credit: collegesofdistinction.com
One of the main buildings on the Westminster College campus. Photo credit: collegesofdistinction.com

Sugar House is also home to Westminster College, the only accredited private liberal arts college in Utah. The college, established in 1875, sits just north of central Sugar House and has four main colleges within it covering business, education, liberal arts, and nursing/health.

A streetcar of the Utah Transit Authority S Line waiting at a stop. Photo credit: fox13now.com
A streetcar of the Utah Transit Authority S Line waiting at a stop. Photo credit: fox13now.com

With the development of public transportation in Salt Lake City, Sugar House is also more accessible than ever. There are several Utah Transit Authority bus lines which connect the neighborhood with downtown and the surrounding area, but the newest development is the S Line Streetcar. This line runs along a previous railroad right-of-way through Sugar House, connecting to the main UTA TRAX system at Central Pointe station. Operating 7 days a week, the line’s development also included a linear park and running/biking trail. As of this writing, the S Line is to be expanded from its current terminus just shy of Highland Drive in central Sugar House and will go north to the campus of Westminster College. Furthermore, the system will be adjusted so that it will run on 15-mimute intervals, up from the current 20-minute interval schedule.

From the surrounding areas, Sugar House is also accessible by road from Interstate 80 and 700 East. These are two of the quickest ways to get to where everybody wants to be in Salt Lake City: Sugar House.

Going Local: Sawadee

Just east of downtown Salt Lake City, Sawadee's atmosphere delights the senses at every turn.
Just east of downtown Salt Lake City, Sawadee’s atmosphere delights the senses at every turn.

We at VIP Limousine pay very close attention to the food scene in Salt Lake City, and are always on the lookout for the best offered in the area. One of these places sits along South Temple, tucked amongst the older homes and high-rises; it is run by a Thai chef and serves arguably the best Thai food in downtown, according to The Deseret News. That place is Sawadee, and it’s a delight.

The first sign that Sawadee is a good place is that it is busy. And by busy, we mean ALWAYS busy! It’s often tough to find a parking spot or a table on a Friday or a Saturday, because the demand is so great for their authentic menu and friendly service, so it’s definitely worth calling and making a reservation. They do also have an efficient take-out service, which is great for having a night in.

For access, the restaurant is located along the Utah Transity Authority‘s bus Route 209 and is a distant walk from the TRAX Red Line.

Stepping into Sawadee, guests are immediately surrounded by authentic Thai decor, including a large gong, beautiful drawings, and hand-crafted clothing and wooden art. Many of the staff are actually from Thailand, so if you speak it, definitely get your practice in! Guests are seated quickly regardless of how busy the dining area is; there is also the option to sit outside and enjoy Utah’s warmer weather.

The menu is bursting with classics, including several types of spring rolls, curries, Pad Thai, salads, and vegetarian dishes. Just about anything on it can be customized to taste. Some of our favorite dishes include the Pad Thai, yellow curry, and the beef waterfall salad. Sawadee also features some delicious desserts, including mango with sticky rice.

Sawadee’s portions are quite generous, which is perfect for sharing around the table as well as bringing back home for leftovers, a reminder of just how good it was. Many of the menu items are family-style, too, so there’s nothing to complain about with quantity, let alone quality.

Consistent, clean, charming, charismatic, and chock-full of goodness, we at VIP Limousine definitely recommend Sawadee for a quick trip to Thailand without buying a plane ticket.

Going Local: Deer Valley Resort

The perfect Deer Valley corduroy grooming which leads down to the Silver Lake Lodge. Photo credit: Dan Campbell; dancampbellphotography.com
The perfect Deer Valley corduroy grooming which leads down to the Silver Lake Lodge. Photo credit: Dan Campbell; dancampbellphotography.com

In 1981, Edgar Stern oversaw the development of a small ski area in Park City, replacing a previous area which had closed in the 1960s after several decades of operation after the Works Progress Administration constructed some trails. Just this year in August, it became part of a resort joint venture which includes names such as Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain in California, and Winter Park, Aspen Snowmass resorts, and Steamboat in Colorado. The area is now known as Deer Valley Resort, easily one of the most famous names in skiing.

At high-end resorts, everything is either nice, or it is nice. Deer Valley is certainly the latter. The 2,026 skiable acres are draped across several high peaks in the Wasatch Range, all of which are accessible by chairlifts. The Deer Valley chairlift network is very modern and very fast, with a gondola and a myriad of detachable lifts to keep lines at a minimum. The resort also caps the number of lift tickets it sells every day for additional crowd control.

Accompanying the lift network are the lodging options. These include (but are not limited to) The Grand Lodge, Lodges at Deer Valley, Black Diamond Lodge, Flagstaff Lodge, and the Silver Baron Lodge. In addition to these properties, Deer Valley is also home to two very exclusive hotels.

We love taking our clients to Deer Valley! Behind the VIP Limousine Black Hummer H2 is the funicular railway from the Deer Valley parking lot and valet up to the St. Regis Hotel. Photo credit: Nick Martin
We love taking our clients to Deer Valley! Behind the VIP Limousine Black Hummer H2 is the funicular railway from the Deer Valley parking lot and valet up to the St. Regis Hotel. Photo credit: Nick Martin

The first of these is the St. Regis Deer Valley, a world-class hotel run by Marriott Hotels which is located next to the slopes as well as the parking lot for convenient access all-around. This beautiful property overlooks the mountains and has some spectacular luxuries. Guests can valet their vehicles at either the top via the backside of the hotel or at the bottom next to the Deer Valley base area; with the latter, one then takes the funicular railway up to the hotel while enjoying the stunning views of the resort and the surrounding area.

Nestled in a canyon on the western side of Deer Valley, the Montage Deer Valley offers a private, luxurious getaway. Photo credit: deervalleyspecialists.com
Nestled in a canyon on the western side of Deer Valley, the Montage Deer Valley offers a private, luxurious getaway. Photo credit: deervalleyspecialists.com

The other standout location is The Montage Deer Valley, tucked up higher in the western part of the resort. This 220-room palace also offers ski-in/ski-out access for guests and a view down into Park City. It has large event spaces and quick access to much of Deer Valley’s best terrain, including the newer Lady Morgan Expansion.

What else is there to know about Deer Valley? A great deal. This former Winter Olympics venue is still used for training and competitions today by athletes from around the world, and the Olympic legacy lives on at the resort lodges. Guests can ski down the runs utilized by Olympians, which are labeled on the trail maps. Many of the runs are carefully groomed for a great cruising experience; however, if speed is not your thing, there are also areas the locals love which are home to plenty of Utah powder.

Deer Valley holds a unique position in skiing. It is consistently rated #1 or near #1 for resorts in the United States, and the guest experience shows. This place, with its beautiful wintertime ambience and fun summertime activities, including the Deer Valley Music Festival, is a favorite destination for VIP Limousine and for people from around the world.