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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking back at 2015 - A year in review

 I love writing this post every year.  I love to look back over the last 365 days at all of the wonderful things I have done, and in my case, all of the beautiful places I have been.  What I do not love about New Years Eve is the pressure to have this "fantastic night", or the need to stay up until midnight to do so.  Call me old at heart, but being in bed by 10 pm is my idea of a great time.  Despite how I chose to ring in the New Year, reflecting back on the past year is my favorite way to start the day.

This New Years Eve, I am lucky to be home surrounded by friends and family, packing for a week long trip to the island of Madeira.  A trip with my family to a far-off non touristy 60 degree island is the perfect way to start the New Year.  But before I take off, I have to sit down and reflect on the awesome year I had.  Pour a mimosa if you like to celebrate early, and lets recap an awesome year on Katie Wanders. 
January:  Antelope Island
January:  Bonneville Salt Flats 
January
January was all about some local hikes and trips, after spending a week and a half back East for the holidays.  The month started with a hike on Antelope Island, and continued on with a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  We bought some new microspikes for some winter hiking and climbed to the top of Grandeur Peak.


February
February was a "hole" lot of fun.  We started the month off with a trip up to Wyoming, to ski Jackson Hole Ski Resort, see the Tetons, and ski Grand Targhee.  I also posted a 6 month update on my move to Utah, celebrated my 27th birthday, signed up to run another marathon, and started training to coach Girls On The Run.
Angels Landing Hike, Zion National Park
Entrance to the Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
Lake Las Vegas, Nevada
March
March is a fantastic time in southern Utah so that is exactly where we went.  We planned a wonderful trip down to southern Utah and to Las Vegas, Nevada.  We went to Zion National Park, and hiked Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, and Riverside Walk.  We continued our road trip south and went to Las Vegas and stayed at Lake Las Vegas.  We ended the month off with a trip to Kolob Canyons on our way back to Salt Lake City.



April
I welcomed spring and ran the Salt Lake City Half Marathon (half #7). This was a PR for me, my fastest half in 1:55 and on a hilly course at altitude.  I also ate at some great restaurants like Pallet.  It was a low key month full of running and eating my way around Salt Lake City. 

The Breakers Mansion, Newport, Rhode Island
Allenspark, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
May
May was all about travel.  It was my first trip back East since Christmas and I was so excited to be back home in the spring.  The month started with a trip to Stonington Point, and Jamestown Rhode Island.  I kept the Rhode Island tour going with a trip to Newport to visit Rosecliff Mansion and The Breakers.  When I got back to Utah I spent some time hiking before heading off on a road trip to Colorado.  We stopped and saw Rocky Mountain National Park, and Boulder, and then went to see Denver and visit friends.  
Adams Canyon Waterfall, Layton, Utah
Silver Lake, Brighton, Utah
Lake Lackawaxen, Utah
Utah Valley Marathon
June
June was a fun month around Utah. We attended Bike Prom, and I ran my second marathon, the Utah Valley Marathon down Provo Canyon. Thatchers mom and sister came to visit and we hiked the Brighton area in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Silver Lake and Twin Lakes.  We took a trip to Red Butte Garden, and added a few more fun hikes including: Donut Falls, Adams Canyon Waterfall, and a hike to Bloods Lake and Lackawaxen lake.  We ended the month with a trip to Jordanelle Reservoir to go stand up paddle boarding and spend time near the water. 

Big Sur, California 
Bonneville Seabase, Grantsville, Utah 
Golden Gate Bridge, San Fransisco, California
Keyhole Arch, Pfeiffer Beach, California 
Napa Valley, California 
July
July was a BUSY month (and maybe one of the best!).  The month started with a hike to Horsetail Falls down in Utah County.  Then, it was fourth of July in the High Uintas, with some camping and a gorgeous hike on the Lakes Country Trail.  After the Uintas, we hiked the popular hike up to Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak in Big Cottonwood canyon.  This month, I bit the bullet (and accepted inland diving) and went scuba diving at the Bonneville Sea Base.  There was another trip to Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake before we embarked on my favorite trip yet, a trip to California.  A trip to California completed our drive, coast to coast with stops in Lake Tahoe Pier 39 Sea LionsSteps of San FranciscoGolden Gate Bridge Driving Highway One - Half Moon Bay to Big SurPfeiffer Beach, Big Sur Monterey - Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, and San Carlos Beach and finally ending the amazing trip with a visit to Napa Valley.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Wall Lake, High Uintas, Utah
August
August started with another trip back East.  This time, it was a long weekend in Boothbay Harbor, Maine before spending a week in Connecticut working between semesters.  I visited my beloved Alma Mater at Avery Point, and returned to Utah for a gorgeous hike to Wall Lake and The Notch in the High Uintas

Battlecreek Falls, Utah 
Block Island, Rhode Island  

Desolation Lake Trail, Utah 
September
We started the month off with Oktoberfest at Snowbird.  We also continued our Utah waterfall tour with Bridal Veil Falls in Provo, Stewart Falls in Provo, and Battle Creek Falls in Pleasant Grove.  And then it was another trip back East, this time for a wedding in Vermont.  We went to a beautiful wedding at Riverside Farm in Pittsfield Vermont, and went on a great hike in Killington.  After Vermont, it was a quick trip to relax on the beaches of Block Island, Rhode Island.  Once back in Utah, we ended the month with some gorgeous fall hikes, up Killyon Canyon up Emigration Canyon and Desolation Lake Trail and Overlook in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Escalante, Utah
Oktoberfest, Snowbird, Utah
Queens Garden/Navajo Loop, Bryce Utah
Highway 12, Utah
October
This month, we planned another Road Trip to finish off our Mighty Five Tour (visiting all 5 National Parks in Utah).  We planned a trip to Capitol Reef National Park, and then down Famous Highway 12.  We stopped in Escalante to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls.  We eventually ended up in Bryce Canyon National Park where we hiked Navajo/Queens Garden Loop Trail among the Hoodoos.  I also took a trip to Las Vegas to visit a friend there for work, and enjoy some of the delicious food Vegas has to offer.  We ended the month with some great hikes, a hike to Red Pine Lake in Little Cottonwood Canyon and to one of Utah’s peaks, Mount Nebo

Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah 
Mount Olympus, Utah  
Mount Van Cott, Salt Lake City, Utah  
Grove Creek Canyon, Utah
November
November brought some quick trips and hikes around Salt Lake City.  I hiked Mount Van Cott by the University, and one of Salt Lake City’s popular peaks, Mount Olympus.  We also took a trip to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah.  I ended the month with a hike to Grove Creek Canyon and Falls with Amanda in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  
Antelope Island, Utah 
Onaqui Management Area, Utah

December
December was a chaotic month between recovering from Wisdom Teeth Surgery, my cat getting sick and the holidays.  But I still managed to squeeze in some adventure!  We took a trip to western Utah to find the Onaqui Herd of Wild Horses. I also went on some great hikes.  I liked the Living Room in Salt Lake City, and then the highest peak on Antelope Island, Frary Peak.  We got some crazy snow storms in Utah and I took advantage and skied Deer Valley and Alta Ski Resorts.  


Looking back, it was an amazing crazy wonderful year.  I saw so many places, from Boothbay Harbor, Maine to Big Sur, California.  Utah local events and long road trips.  This blog, and all these memories organized so neatly remind me how lucky I am to live this crazy beautiful life.

2015 has some large shoes to fill.  It was an amazing year and a hard act to follow.  But 2016 is starting off with a bang with a trip to Madeira, Portugal. I am so thankful for this my crazy wonderful travel filled life.  Bring it on 2016. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Alta Ski Resort- Utah

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday with family and friends.  I shipped off to the East Coast on Tuesday, but I am still catching up on the start of the ski season in Utah.  While New England is sunny, lets take it West, back to Utah where there was actually a white Christmas.

Last week, after skiing Deer Valley, I had one more "skiers only" resort to try.  And it was one everyone talks about.  When I ask friends or acquaintances in Utah what their favorite Utah ski resort is, nine times out of ten it is Alta.  Alta Alta Alta.

Because I normally ski with snowboarders, Alta and Deer Valley (skier only resorts) were off limits. But when a snow storm dumped nearly 3 feet of snow across the Utah mountains, and Liftopia had a deal, I ditched the snowboarders and headed to Little Cottonwood Canyon to see what Alta was all about.

Alta and Snowbird share Little Cottonwood Canyon.  You can even buy a joined Alta/Snowbird pass if you would like to ski both mountains, but one mountain a day is plenty enough for me.  The price was right, the conditions were perfect and I had the time.  The stars seemed to line up, and mother nature knew I had some free time during finals week.  My only final was Friday so Thursday, with a fresh foot of snow on the slopes, I decided it was time to ski Alta.


Alta is by no means a cheap mountain to ski.  A new lift ticket to ski is $89, standard for a ski mountain but still expensive for many.  I knew that was out of the budget so I checked out Liftopia prices.  When I saw a Liftopia ticket for $54, I knew I had to bite the bullet and see what Alta is all about.

Note:  While Alta lift tickets are expensive, they have a great deal after 3.  You can ski a certain area of the mountain for $10 after 3pm, an hour and a half of skiing at the end of the day.  With all the fresh snow, I wanted the day to check out the mountain and for $54, it was a steal of a day at Alta.

First Impressions:
  1. I thought Alta was going to have an uppity vibe to it.  Not Deer Valley uppity but a "skiers only" kind of exclusive vibe.  I am proud to report not at all.  The mountain reminded me of a Skiers Only Brighton, a really laid back locals mountain with down to earth old school facilities and buildings.  Nothing swanky, just simple and classic, with an old school ski lodge 
  2. The base lift does get a bit crowded.  Back in Vermont, you can easily wait in a 45 minute ski line.  That is unheard of in Utah.  There are no lift lines due to the size of the mountains, the number of resorts, and the number of lifts at each resort.  I was surprised to see a line at the base lift by the lodge.  When I say line, I mean 5-10 minute wait (am I spoiled much?).  I never saw a lift line the rest of the day.  
  3. The mountain really stuck with that old school vibe.  One of my favorite runs was off the "wildcat" lift, a simple two person lift that didn't even have a bar that came down.  And on that note, NO ONE puts the bar down here while riding the ski lifts.  Maybe its my large fear of heights, but I just like putting the bar down.  I am fine on ski lifts but it was definite that the bar was staying up all day long and I was going to accept that. 
  4. This mountain has a loyal following of die hard skiers who love love love this mountain.  Everyone I talked to on the mountain was so friendly, so excited, and so glad to hear I was finally giving Alta a try.  They were more than happy to share their favorite runs with me, and tell me where the snow was the best. 
  5. Un-groomed.  Unlike Deer Valley, Alta had a fair number of un-groomed trails.  I prefer to play in the fresh snow any day then ski a perfectly groomed trail.  Don't get me wrong, I love the variety, and like to start and end on the groomed, warming up my legs or giving them a break when they are on fire.  But this mountain had so many great un-groomed trails where you could ski through feet of Utah powder.
I had such a great time skiing Alta.  My favorite runs were off Wildcat is where I spent a lot of my time. I skied everything from Blues to Blacks, played on the groomed trails and found some fresh powder all over.  The conditions were amazing after days of snow piled on top of Alta's slopes.  I loved the vibe of the mountain, and how much people really loved the mountain was very very clear.  And I can see why.  The facilities were old school and simple... nothing like the newer resort style of Snowbird, and reminded me a lot of the basics at Brighton.  After a long day of skiing, I quit at about 3:00 pm to enjoy a cold beer at the Goldminers Daughter, Alta's popular bar.  I enjoyed a cold beer in front of the hot fire, while watching skiers make their way down the slope.  

Alta lovers, I finally understand.













Monday, December 21, 2015

Deer Valley Resort

Utah is home to 13 ski resorts.  Yep, you read that right, thirteen.  I have been to Alta, Brighton, Deer Valley, Snowbasin, Solitude, Snowbird and Canyons.  Seven of the most popular ones aint so bad.

 I have not had the chance to visit Park City (now merged with Canyons), Beaver Mountain, Brian Head, Eagle Point, Nordic Valley, Powder Mountain or Sundance.  Bottom line is if you like to ski, Utah is an amazing place.  Not only do we have so many resorts sprinkled all over this state (within 30 minutes to 1 hour from the city), but we are home to "The Best Snow On Earth".  Yes that is trademarked and you can read all about that here. 

The problem with trying to visit Utah's ski mountains is that it is a very expensive hobby.  Even though I own all my own gear, and the mountains are close and gas is cheap, lift tickets are quit expensive.  I usually bring a lunch but by the time you throw in a lift ticket, an expensive lunch at the lodge, and a post ski beer, its about $100-$150 to throw yourself down a mountain and eat lunch.

Deer Valley is one of the most expensive ski resorts in Utah.  Not only does it have a large price tag, but it comes with a reputation.  One of old money and privilege.  A full day lift ticket to ski Deer Valley is $120 and exclusivity is the name of the game (and lets not forget a season pass will cost you $2,400 dollars).  It is a skiers ONLY mountain so if you like to snowboard, you will have to learn to ski if you want to visit Deer Valley.  They also limit the amount of passes they sell each day.  The resort often reaches capacity during the holidays and long weekends so its best to pre-purchase your tickets online.  

Normally, you would not find me at Deer Valley.  But as a skier, living in Utah, I figured I had to join the big leaguers just once to experience Deer Valley.  Located in Park City, just 40 minutes from my apartment, I really needed to see what the hype was all about, and see if the women really wore fur muffs.  When my friend Lauren had Gold Passes (read free lift tickets) through her work we packed up and went to Deer Valley.  Gold Passes are the holy grail of Utah skiing, a transferable pass that gives you 50 days at each ski resort (100 at Park City) for $4,300 for the season.


Everything I heard about Deer Valley was swanky, upscale classy broads in fur muffs, with egos the sizes of their wallets, and something about the famous Stein Eriksen Lodge (Worlds best ski resort, 5 star of course).  I hate to sound so awful but thats really all I hear about the place.  Nothing about the snow, the resort, the lifts, the trails, nada.  

So let me share my first impressions.  
  1. Deer Valley is gigantic.  2,000 acres of skiable terrain and 21 chair lifts.  This place is huge and with limited tickets sold, and skiers only it is never crowded.  Check out their trail map here.  
  2. There were more employees out than skiers.  I have never seen so many staff at one resort.  There were staff everywhere.  At least 3 standing around the map incase you have any questions.  I mean, I can read a map, I have eyes but if some handsome man wants to read it for me, sure! 
  3. The mountain is empty after noon.  We skied the afternoon and there were times we had the entire trail to ourself.  
  4. No one was wearing fur.  I was pretty bummed about this.... I wanted to see some 70 year olds in fur muffs.  However, if you go to their site here, they even post pictures of women in fur.  So this is a thing.  But not as stereotypical as I thought. 

  1. The facilities are over the top.  We walked out of the parking lot to see some shiny fancy car on display in the parking lot.  I can't even remember what kind.  Why not right?
  2. The people who ski here are in a (financial) league of their own.  We ran into a gentleman on the lift who told us he skied Deer Valley every day, loved to go to his member only meetings, hit up the gym and have lunch and dinner at some of the amazing Deer Valley facilities. I didn't tell him I usually ski with a squashed PB&J in my pack.
  3. I have never seen so much on-mountain lodging in my life.  There are condos and cabins e v e r y w h e r e. Google the prices if you want to see some sticker shock.
  4. Wide and perfectly groomed trailed.  A lot of trails were still closed but Deer Valley was home to perfectly groomed wide runs, leisure skiing at its finest. 
  5. The views are insanely beautiful.  Sitting above Park City, Deer Valley is a gorgeous resort, especially with a foot of fresh snow. 
  6. Great mountain for someone learning to ski.  Because of the wide groomed trails, this is a great mountain for anyone just learning.  Lauren was new to skiing and she really enjoyed the wide groomed trails on the mountain.










Deer Valley is also home to some of the 2002 Olympic Ski Events.  It was fun to see the signs around the mountains showing the spots of the moguls and slalom events. Overall, we had a great time skiing at Deer Valley.  A huge mountain with great groomed trails.  Not somewhere I would ski for the full price, but a great mountain if you can find yourself a free or discounted ticket.  Or a great mountain if you don't mind the expensive lift tickets and the culture that brings. 

The culture is very different than your typical ski mountain.  While Snowbird is one of my favorite Utah Mountains, it is about as opposite in culture as you can find.  If you ski with a rowdier crowd, then Deer Valley is not for you.  But if you are already on skis, and want to visit one of Utah's most exclusive mountains, then Deer Valley is a great place to say you have been once. 


Another Utah mountain on the list.  
Check back in a few days as I share my day at Alta!