The Powder Snow Ski Scene & Good Eats In Salt Lake City
A few years ago I spent a few weeks in Salt Lake City and it was the first time that I experienced this place. As one can imagine, life in Salt Lake City is difficult to compare to anywhere else, because this is such a unique community. The city is located on the eastern edge of the Great Salt Lake and the entire valley is surrounded by mountain peaks. Upon first glance, it is easy for an outsider to assume that everything that can be seen in the valley is part of Salt Lake City. The valley where Salt Lake City is located actually is composed of many small cities. The locals refer to each small city in the valley by name, especially when giving directions. When compared to the the amount of land that the entire community covers, the actual boundaries of Salt Lake City only cover a small portion of the valley.
The historic Temple Square is the most famous landmark in Salt Lake City and it is the central point for the entire road grid number system. Every road is designated by the points of a compass and the higher the address number, the farther the location is from the Mormon Temple. A typical sign at an intersection might read 3200 S & 3600 W. This location would be in West Valley City, southwest of the central Salt Lake City grid point at Temple Square. It takes a while to get used to the grid system, but after one gets a grip on it, a map or GPS system is not necessary to bring along.
Atmospheric conditions in Salt Lake City are unique, to say the least. Moisture from the Great Salt Lake causes fog and hazy skies. The local heavy industries contributes to the smoggy haze too. On a bad day, Salt Lake City has the worst air quality in America, because the bad air gets trapped in this high altitude valley. On a good day when there is a breeze, the skies are crystal clear and the visibility is nearly unlimited
The weather in Salt Lake City is practically unpredictable. While waiting on the ski shuttle bus, I had a conversation with a local ski bum about how nearly every weather forecast in the news is totally wrong. The local skier said, “The only thing that a weather man can predict in Salt Lake City is what the weather was like yesterday!” I just had to laugh, because what that ski bum said was absolutely true!
There are many factors that contribute to the weird winter weather that Salt Lake City gets, but there is only one kind of weather that the winter sports enthusiasts eagerly look forward to. Winter storms that that move east over the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Great Basin Desert to Salt Lake City are usually guaranteed to dump several feet of dry powdery snow on the high mountain elevations. Ice cold air from the High Plains of Wyoming add the dry atmospheric conditions that create powder snow in the high elevations. Fine powder snow is a skier’s dream come true and this type of snow occurs most often in the mountains near Salt Lake City. The powder snow that falls on the mountain ski slopes uphill from Salt Lake City actually is rated as the best in the world. The dry powder snow is what makes Salt Lake City one of the busiest winter sports destinations in the west!
On a “Powder Day” the Salt Lake City winter sports enthusiasts literally come out of the woodwork. Every road that leads to the ski resorts turns into an endless traffic jam of cars moving less than 5 miles per hour. Every ski shuttle bus is packed like a sardine can. Every parking lot anywhere close to the ski shuttle bus route is full and there are no empty parking places to be found anywhere in sight.
The Powder Day ski lodge traffic problem is amplified exponentially, if the early morning avalanche control crews have to do some blasting to make the narrow mountain roads safe. If one can imagine sitting in a jam packed ski bus that takes an hour to move 10 feet, then one can imagine how much patience that the winter sports enthusiast must have. To an experienced skier, this is all just a minor inconvenience, because ripping fresh Utah powder snow is well worth the long wait!
As an experienced chef, it did not take long to figure out the overall restaurant marketing scene in Salt Lake City. There are restaurants that cater to the locals and there are restaurants that cater to the winter sports tourists. I noticed that the locals really do like to dine out in this city and there is a wide variety of restaurant venues to choose from. There are home style diners, fast food joints, ethnic restaurants and middle of the road chain restaurants throughout this city that serve surprisingly good food.
The majority of the restaurants in the community target the winter sports enthusiasts. The closer that one gets to the mountains, the more restaurants one will see. Corporate chain restaurants by the hundreds can be found close to the mountains, but there are a few old local favorites too. Oddly enough, the local privately owned restaurants in the same area mimic the clean brand new look of the corporate restaurants, so they will appeal to the modern winter sports crowd. Everything from Bento to Burritos can be found in this town and there is some good Korean food too.
Utah has a clean living theme, so as far as the nightlife goes, it can be hit or miss. Up till recently, beer had to be less than 3.2% alcohol and all liquor is measured when dispensed. As one can imagine, a drunken rowdy bar crowd is a real rarity in Salt Lake City. Bar patrons tend to spend more time socializing, than wasting money on weak drinks and this is actually good thing for those who like to shoot the breeze.
There are some great little places to get a bite to eat around the valley and I happened upon a really cool old fashioned diner when I was hungry for breakfast one morning. The One Man Band Diner is as nostalgic as it gets. This restaurant offers old fashioned vinyl booth seating and classic American diner food. The One Man Band Diner also has a gimmick that I thought vanished from the restaurant industry well over 50 years ago. Every table has a phone that connects with the chef in the kitchen. After looking at the menu, all that a customer has to do is pick up the phone and place an order directly with the chef. There are no waitresses and there is no host. When the chef finishes the cooking, the chef phones the table and tells the customer to pick up the order. This is a classic self service system that was a fad way back in the mid 20th century and it is nice to see this bit of restaurant nostalgia lives on!
I did not get enough time to photograph all the scenic sights in Salt Lake City that I wanted to, because I was unexpectedly hired to do a job in Arizona. I really am not much of a cold weather person and I cannot ski because of past injuries, so the move to a warmer climate suited me just fine.
One thing that I really liked about Salt Lake City, besides the good restaurant food, was that the people there are so nice. There are plenty of honest smiles and the local people have plenty of nice things to say. Salt Lake City is a nice western winter destination to visit and summer adventures await in the Great Salt Lake next door. Winter sports enthusiasts that seek steep mountain slope ski runs and the best powder snow in the world certainly will like this place!