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Going Local: Avant Groove

One of the newest hot spots in Salt Lake City, this gem shines on Pierpont Avenue in downtown. Photo credit:
One of the newest hot spots in Salt Lake City, this gem shines on Pierpont Avenue in downtown. Photo credit:

At Going Local and VIP Limousine, we’re taking a moment to deviate our attention from the ski resorts and impending winter season to have a look back at downtown Salt Lake City. Most of the local establishments we have and will be highlighting are mainstays here in Utah, often having been around for decades. For this write-up though, we’re looking at a place which has an age that can still be measured in days, but which also has a promisingly bright, jazzy future ahead.

Avant Groove is the latest and greatest to hit the Salt Lake City nightlife scene. It’s a jazz club that even skin-deep could be straight out of La La Land, but it’s a bit cleverer than that. Owner John Vecchi moved to Salt Lake City several years ago and had contemplated opening a club in his native Bay Area, but he decided to launch Avant Groove a bit further inland here in Utah. As far as we’re concerned, we’re all the more fortunate for it. He successfully created an atmosphere and vibe that befits both the casual and the classy.

Walking up to the premises, Avant Groove’s initial impressions and appeal center around one word: cool. The establishment is in a renovated historic building on Pierpont Avenue just west of the downtown business district. Outside, there’s a large deck framed by big glass windows, which in turn sit next to an old-fashioned revolving door that takes patrons back in time. Inside, the original bare ceiling is left to show itself and the structure within, but has updated additions where needed which meld different periods of design together. The main room is peppered with modern touches and period-style furnishings that wouldn’t look out of place in the 50s and 60s. Definitely cool.

The icing on the decor cake, though, is two-fold. First is the central bar, which resembles an iceberg sculpted by the 20s or 30s; the second is the chandeliers, which have been made to imitate brass instruments. It’s a unique touch that could be interpreted as a physical manifestation of what jazz music can be: twists, turns, and unexpected moments, and thus definitively cool and classy.

A main floor to brag about! The stage is just off to the right of this picture. Photo credit:
A main floor to brag about! The stage is just off to the right of this picture. Photo credit:

And what cool and classy music it is. On the night which Going Local first went to Avant Groove, the club featured a local ensemble which was celebrating the 100th birthday of jazz icon Thelonius Monk. In addition to guest artists, the owner of Avant Groove himself performs with a quintet called Elastic. The music played on center stage here is great fun and is executed beautifully by enthusiastic and knowledgeable musicians.

The architecture, ambience, and sounds should tickle your senses, but Avant Groove isn’t done yet. The kitchen, wait, and bar staff is continually whipping up and serving delicious food and drinks on the ready to delight noses and taste buds. They will even make non-alcoholic versions of classic drinks. The food is excellent and can be easily shared, and is great for satisfying one’s appetite instead of overindulging.

In order to stimulate one’s five senses at Avant Groove, it’s a quick walk west from the Utah Transit Authority‘s Gallivan Plaza TRAX station (on the Green and Blue lines) to Pierpont Avenue, just off of West Temple between 200 and 300 South. There’s also a good amount of parking in the area; for chauffeured patrons, there’s also a spot on the curb for quick loading and unloading.

This establishment’s time in Salt Lake City has so far been very short; as that time gets longer, it will determine how well it does. One thing is for sure though: we at VIP Limousine and Going Local are rooting for Avant Groove’s success and placement on the map of local hot spots. Salt Lake City: listen up and take a bite of this place!

Going Local: Cherry Peak Resort

Located near Logan and the Utah-Idaho border, Cherry Peak is definitely a hidden gem. This image shows the base lodge just after completion before the area opened for business. Photo credit:
Located near Logan and the Utah-Idaho border, Cherry Peak is definitely a hidden gem. This image shows the base lodge just after completion before the area opened for business. Photo credit:

At VIP Limousine, we understand what it’s like to start a business and work towards your dream. We started small before becoming #1 years later. Every business has a story and a dream, and Going Local loves to highlight these establishments. As we continue our series on Utah ski areas, we wanted to write about Utah’s newest pick: Cherry Peak.

Located just outside of Richmond, Utah, up north by Logan, Cherry Peak was the brainchild of local property owner John Chadwick. He dreamed of opening a ski area on the property, and skiers and boarders alike had already gone up to the slopes. The dream became a reality in 2014 with the completion of the beautiful base lodge.

Upon opening in December of 2015, Cherry Peak became the newest ski area in the state of Utah, and the first all-new area established in a long time. The resort has a commitment to keeping their skiing basic and pure, and initially operated with two triple chairlifts bought from other resorts and given a second lease on life. A third chairlift, the Summit triple, was installed the following year. It’s an environmentally-friendly option that enables Cherry Peak to maintain consistent service and pass on savings to customers.

These three triple lifts give skiers and boarders access to 200 acres and 1,265 vertical feet of Utah powder. Cherry Peak’s size does mean it is for the faint of heart; the front side has only one easy run, with the beginner pod located up higher. From the summit of 7,050 feet, there are only intermediate and advanced runs. There is also a copious amount of night skiing here, the most in northern Utah.

In addition to the alpine arena, Cherry Peak has summertime activities including a music festival. The winter also is home to a nordic skiing loop, tubing, and an ice skating rink.

There are a few other reasons, however, we think that Cherry Peak is worth a look. The first is the price. Season pass prices top out at only $239 and they include access in the summer, as well as other perks such as access to other mountains, such as Eagle Point Resort. The second is the atmosphere. This is an honest, simple resort populated primarily by locals up away from the crowds. These alone make Cherry Peak worth the trip.

Salt Lake City: Our Home, Part 12

The Columbus Center in South Salt Lake is a hidden gem in the midst of the city. Photo credit:
The Columbus Center in South Salt Lake is a hidden gem in the midst of the city. Photo credit:

We at VIP Limousine like to highlight reasons why we love our hometown. However, it also includes the suburban areas across the Salt Lake valley, and it is important for us to look at–and, as chauffeurs, to know–all of them. This week, we want to look at our immediate neighbor: South Salt Lake.

Known as the “City on the Move,” South Salt Lake was our prior home before we moved to just south of the Salt Lake City International Airport. The small city of about 24,000 neighbors the Salt Lake City neighborhoods of Sugar House and Liberty Wells, one which is very trendy and another which is up-and-coming. The area is surrounded by several freeways and sits near the Central Pointe TRAX station, with the S-Line streetcar running through the northern part of the city limits.

The city is home to a lot of diversity. Historically, South Salt Lake has had the most, if not the most diverse, populations in Salt Lake County. The only Chinatown in the Intermountain West is located here, and a wide variety of businesses are located here, everything from transportation and some manufacturing to the headquarters of some local and growing businesses, including Zagg, a phone case and accessory firm. It’s also the location of the first franchise of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in the world, established in the 1950s.

South Salt Lake has also been home to some prominent individuals, most notably Ed Catmull, a graduate of the University of Utah and the president of Pixar. While not a Utah native, Catmull graduated from Granite High School, a now-defunct high school of the very broad Granite School District.

South Salt lake is not to be overlooked. As an industrious city which has been cleaning up its act and becoming more prosperous, it’s a good neighbor that helps drive the Wasatch Front forward.

Going Local: Snowbasin

A beautiful winter day at Snowbasin Resort, looking up over the Needles Gondola towards the Allen Peak Tram. Photo credit:
A beautiful winter day at Snowbasin Resort, looking up over the Needles Gondola towards the Allen Peak Tram. Photo credit:

Utah’s signature Greatest Snow on Earth is scattered around the state in various places, some better-known than others. We at VIP Limousine and Going Local like to highlight everything in our backyard, and if necessary, beyond. Hence we wanted to write about the silent giant in northern Utah: Snowbasin Resort, a majestic place with great scenery and years of staying power.

Seriously though. Snowbasin’s origins trace back to the 1930s, making it amongst the oldest continuously-operated ski areas in the United States. Alf Engen’s mark in 1938 has remained ever since. The resort steadily grew over the years, with some of the first chairlifts in the country being installed here as early as 1946. That lift, Wildcat, has been through several iterations and is being upgraded to a brand-new high-speed six-person chairlift just in time for the 2017/2018 season. The resort is also making upgrades to the Allen Peak Tram. Both projects are being built by Doppelmayr out of Salt Lake City and Wolfurt, Austria.

Snowbasin was once owned and operated by the same group that has now become Vail Resorts, but is currently owned and operated by the Holding Family. It’s famous sister resort, Sun Valley, sits up north in Ketchum, Idaho, and the two share many of the same great qualities. One of the most obvious places is in the guest experience. Snowbasin doesn’t skimp on their day lodges and food. Their plush restaurant areas and menus are sure to brighten up even the gloomiest of ski days.

Not that there’s much to gripe about. Snowbasin days are best known for a few things: great snow, great views, and no lift lines. With 3 detachable chairlifts, 2 high-speed gondolas, and a tram, Snowbasin’s lift network quickly whisks skiers and boarders alike to the top for access to No Name, Allen, Strawberry, and Demoisy peaks. Of course, nobody has to go up that high, as the resort provides ample terrain for all levels. But why wouldn’t one want to, with that view?

For a long time, Snowbasin sat in the shadows of many other resorts, with a bit more of an old-fashioned flair. But then came something which would make any competitor or corporate relative jealous: the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Snowbasin was selected to host several very prominent competitions, namely the Downhill, Combined, and Super-G events.

Facilities saw massive upgrades, with the lodges rivaling those of some of its ritzier neighbors. The chairlift network saw a massive influx of changes, with the John Paul Express, Allen Peak Tram, Needles Gondola, and Strawberry Gondola all being installed in the same year. Opening up terrain and improving access does wonders for any ski area, and Snowbasin was no exception. The resort now has nearly 3,000 feet of vertical and 3,000 acres of skiing spread out over 104 different runs. It’s no wonder it skis bigger than the stats suggest.

So what makes Snowbasin so special? For the locals, it has a lot to do with the fact that in spite of having summer operations, fast gondolas, and nice facilities, the area has been able to maintain qualities that make it a major draw. There’s no massive development for lodging at the bottom. There’s no nightlife. There’s no complicated ticket systems. There’s no night skiing. All of these factors keep Snowbasin simple and quiet, and sometimes, after a hard day on the slopes, that’s exactly what guests ask for. Sure, the Utah Transit Authority has a bus running from nearby Ogden, and there’s no shortage of people from all around the world who come visit here (including some of our own clientele). That’s one of the beauties of a locally-grown business, and it’s why we at VIP Limousine, as well as others, love Snowbasin.

All Resort Group is out of business!

All Resort Group

All Resort Group, the venerable transportation company which ran All Resort Express, All Resort Limousine, Park City Transportation, the local SuperShuttle, Premier Transportation, and Lewis Stages, has closed and has ceased operations.

Our thoughts are with all of their former employees and hard-working chauffeurs who were dedicated to the industry like ourselves. For former All Resort clients: we are ready and able to pick up your slack and continue providing top notch service. Give us a call at 801-288-9494 for your needs today!

Going Local: Beaver Mountain

Looking up the beautiful slopes of Beaver Mountain. Photo credit:
Looking up the beautiful slopes of Beaver Mountain. Photo credit:

There’s nothing quite like continuing to run a family business, especially when that business spans decades. As many ski areas are run by conglomerates and corporations, we at VIP Limousine and Going Local like to point out those which have deep roots in the region with those who are in charge.

Several hours north of Salt Lake City lies the city of Logan, home to Utah State University in Cache Valley. The area is home to many local and home-grown businesses, and is far enough removed from the busy interstates and the capital to definitely feel separated. With that, it’s not too difficult to find more hidden gems in Utah. One of them is the petite, family-owned Beaver Mountain ski area, and it’s certainly a surprise. Located just off of Highway 89 on its way towards Bear Lake, you might almost miss it, but that would be a shame.

This no-frills mountain was started in the 1940s by a gentleman named Harold Seeholzer, who oversaw the resort’s initial beginnings and development, including its first chairlift in 1961. This old-school lift, Beaver’s Face, still operates to this day on weekends and holidays and is a significant part of Beaver Mountain’s charm: small, simple, old-fashioned, and thus elegant in its own right.

As time has passed, even the area’s 75th anniversary, the mountain stayed in the family even after Harold passed away. The Seeholzer family has gradually expanded the mountain over the years and completed upgrades to equipment and facilities. The summit can be reached by the updated Harry’s Dream triple lift, which came from Alta; Marge’s Triple opened up new terrain and came from Keystone; and the newest lift, Little Beaver, which was manufactured by SkyTrac in Salt Lake City, is home to the beginner area and night skiing, a rarity in the current skiing world. Today, Beaver Mountain spans 828 acres with a summit of 8,860 feet above sea level.

Every year in the summertime, the mountain hosts the Beaver Mountain Music Festival, a two-day event with multiple stages and a bike race on the mountainside. Beaver Mountain is also a summertime event venue, with their main lodge for rent for major events, as well as RV sites, tent camping, and yurts available for use. It’s truly a multipurpose place whose possible uses belie its supposed size.

One other unique touch about Beaver Mountain? They rely completely on Utah’s natural snowfall. There is no artificial stuff here whatsoever, even just to make a base. They want their guests to have the full Utah powder experience without anything added in to adulterate its purity.

It’s a ways out of the way for most who live or visit Utah, but that’s what makes Beaver Mountain truly a locals ski area. It’s a place filled with heart and a classic American winter atmosphere. As a local resort, it’s also Exhibit A of the American dream: building a business, keeping it going, staying unique, and building a great reputation.

Going Local: Powder Mountain

Overlooking the Timberline lift at Powder Mountain. Photo credit:
Overlooking the Timberline lift at Powder Mountain. Photo credit:

VIP Limousine has some secrets that we keep pretty close, but sometimes they’re worth letting out. Our clients sometimes request to be driven to lesser-known places in Utah and even the surrounding states, and today we wanted to share one. Tucked up high behind the main Wasatch range is a funny little resort called Powder Mountain.

When we say little, though, we don’t really mean little. This bare-bones resort actually sprawls across more than 7,000 acres of terrain, not all of it accessible by lifts. James Peak, Wolf Creek, DMI, and Gertsen Canyon are all accessed either by a breathtaking (literally) hike or snow cat only. These stunning areas of “resort backcountry” are private and hardly get any attention.

Not that Powder Mountain is full of traffic anyway. With the location and glut of other resorts, there’s nary a lift line to be found even on epic powder days when everyone in Utah calls in sick. The resort’s chairlift network would be modern by 1980s standards, and that’s an intentional positive. It makes the mountain feel old-school and traditional. The one exception is the high-speed Hidden Lake Express, installed by Doppelmayr and with parts made nearby in Salt Lake City.

With recent expansion work, though, Powder Mountain did install two new lifts last season: Village and Mary’s. Village was created for ski-in/ski-out access from a future development and descends into a canyon which previously had no lift service at all. Mary’s services the beautiful, expansive Mary’s bowl and also created lift-accessed terrain for the first time. Both of these powder-chasing lifts were manufactured by SkyTrac in Utah. The company previously replaced the Sundown chairlift at Powder Mountain as well.

Besides the old-school lifts, Powder’s minimalist feel continues to the lodging area. The basic buildings give a feel of going back in time without feeling run-down. Feeling hungry? Load up on their massive pizza slices and other basic, feel-good food before skiing back down to the base of the Timberline lift.

Powder Mountain is also minimalist on their approach to grooming. This philosophy leaves stashes of unadulterated Utah powder available to all, since they only groom “where necessary” and leave the terrain mostly alone. Even in the snowfields of Cobabe Canyon, there’s an old bus left underneath a tree and the snow! It’s worth the trek to check it out, because…

…beneath the “bus run” is a beautiful, wide-open powder field leading all the way down to the lowest point of the resort. On the way back up from the bottom on the Paradise lift, everybody gets to take in the expanse of the main resort area views, passing over cliffs and steeps. One feels as if they are truly isolated from the outside world, with only the surrounding elements and the hum from the chairlift disrupting the peace.

Accessing Powder Mountain, located east of Eden, is done by going through the city of Ogden via 12th Street and following the signs through Ogden Canyon past the Pineview Reservoir. The windy road eventually leads up to the main parking lot. While many may drive themselves, the Utah Transit Authority runs a bus (route 674) from Ogden, and transportation companies, including VIP Limousine, bring skiers and snowboarders from all over the region to have a taste of Powder Mountain.

With the lodge not directly meeting any chairlifts, school buses to shuttle people out of canyons, snow cats to get up steep ridges, and very little in the way of fancy amenities, Powder Mountain isn’t for everyone. But that is also why it is a draw for its loyal fans and the locals in northern Utah, and it’s why we at VIP Limousine recommend checking it out.