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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. 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.

Going Local: Solitude Mountain Resort

The secret of this place? It's in the name. Photo credit: kutv.com
The secret of this place? It’s in the name. Photo credit: kutv.com

As the hot summer still beats down on Utah and we’re regularly hitting the high 90s and 100s, many of us have thoughts that turn to cooler weather. And by cooler weather, we mean snowy and cold. And snowy and cold in Utah, we mean the ski season. “Going Local” is going to highlight northern Utah’s biggest attractions in a series of blog posts, and we’re starting with what is definitely a local favorite: Solitude Mountain Resort.

Tucked up in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude’s secret is in the name. It often gets passed up for some of the bigger local names, but that is exactly what makes it appealing. In the experience of our company, VIP Limousine, Solitude is devoid of annoying lift lines and crowded slopes. The chairlifts are mere steps away from the parking lot surface, and there is no interruption besides a lift ride separating one from enjoying the slopes.

Solitude is highlighted as one of the more family-friendly resorts in Utah. The mountain has a high degree of beginner and intermediate terrain, with a dedicated learning area or “bunny hill” near the main lodges. The gentle chairlift and slope are excellent for those who are wanting to try skiing or snowboarding for the first time, which are also good for building confidence. Expanding beyond this area to other slopes and lifts yields yet more gentle and undulating terrain as well, so the transition from beginner to beyond is easier.

This does not mean, however, that Solitude is boring. One look at the craggy peaks above tells any visitor that this place is anything but. Those undulating groomers are great for ripping quickly down the various faces of the resort. A glance to the left off of Eagle Express, the first high-speed quad chairlift in Utah, reveals some great drops coupled with a fantastic view. A ride up the new Summit Express lift is also very revealing in regards to Solitude’s terrain…in part because not only is one not always going up (there are portions where the lift actually descends due to terrain features), but also the chutes and cliffs belie the friendly-looking beginner slopes.

Turning right at the top of the Summit Express leads to a hidden gem: Honeycomb Canyon. A long, steep, varied section of the resort tucked away behind the façade seen from the parking lot, this canyon is beset by avalanche danger. This also means that it is often swamped with that famous Utah powder. Consider it lift-accessible backcountry. Once at the bottom, the Honeycomb Return chairlift brings any and all powderhounds back up to the ridge above the Eagle Express.

Solitude has only a recorded 1,200 acres of skiable area, but the layout and altitude make it ski bigger than it actually is. The lift layout easily manages uphill traffic and access to various points of the resort. Plus, a trip down the SolBright connector allows a transition between Solitude and its neighboring resort, Brighton. Passes are available which cover both areas in one deal, expanding the skiable area and allowing visitors a taste of two different areas.

Accessible in the winter by Utah Transit Authority bus lines, personal car, or your local private car and limo service, Solitude is also open for summertime activities. New ownership under Deer Valley Resort has not dampened Solitude’s family-run character established by its former owners, the DeSeelhorst family. The company has done some upgrading, including some work on the lodges and installing the new Summit Express chairlift, but it remains distinctly different from its more famous sibling resort on the Wasatch Back. We at VIP Limousine really do believe that Solitude Mountain Resort is a great escape.

Random Acts of Kindness, Episode 2

Surprise! We’re breaking our every-two-weeks rule with a special new episode of Random Acts of Kindness by VIP Limousine!

Our social media manager, Philip Keeve, hit the streets of Salt Lake City with videographer Brianna Platt and a group of local church volunteers to go pass out cookies in Salt Lake City and spread some cheer! Check out the clip above.

If you like what you see here, have a cause you want our help with, or have any questions about our charitable efforts or services, contact us by email or call us!