Park City
Tuesday 19 February 1991


Warm sun, blue skies.


Packed powder.


The first day of the first Lambert family ski holiday.

This day was a bonus. Originally, we were not able to book the flight we wanted. Thanks to the Americans bombing of Libya, flights were virtually empty and we were able to change our flight a few days in advance to go when we intended.

Our plan was only to ski for a few hours because we were all tired, but we signed up for lessons and ended up skiing all day.

Sue in the queue for the lift tickets

John wrapped up warm

Jenny near the ticket windows

Mike with skis

When we booked the holiday, we were all in the beginner category. We had ambitions to make it to the top of the mountain sometime during the week. Thanks to my lesson at Alpine and some sessions at the dry slope in Bracknell, we were all a little better than we expected and in fact Cathy and I made it to the top of the mountain on the first day and all of the others (except Sue) by the end of the second day.

The route home near the Angle Station Sue hanging up her skis

Park City showed itself at its absolute best on this first day. Although there was not as much snow as in most years, snow conditions were good, the sun was shining and the sky was blue and as we came together at the resort center as the sun set, for the first time we discovered the "Cookie Bear".

Because of the extra day, we stayed at a Quality Inn in down town Salt Lake for the first night and only moved into our condominium after our first day of skiing. It turned out to be up a slight of steps and lugging all of the stuff up from the cars, we really discovered the effect of altitude.

Five years on it is impossible to remember specific days during the complete week, but there are many memories.

The day they groomed Webster

One of the more indirect routes to the Summit involves the Pioneer lift on the South facing side of the mountain. From the Summit to the bottom of the lift is a long green run, Webster. This became a favourite of Chris and Jenny because it was left to form small bumps in placed. One day they turned up in discust at lunch time with the comment "They groomed Webster."

The hut on Claimjumper

The youngsters soon found their feet. By the end of the second day, they had progressed to the lessons at the top of the mountain and quickly moved through the groups. It was obvious that the instructors had a completely different approach to children's lessons. Very little of the theory and a great deal of "follow me", and a tremendous emphasis on sheer fun. This was clear one lunchtime as we skied together down Claimjumper, the broad green cruise from the Summit. Suddenly Chris and Jenny disappeared off the run behind some kind of hut on the side of trail. It turned out that there was a narrow track with a jump on it. Jenny negotiated it fine, but Chris didn’t reappear for quite some time and was covered in snow all over. In fact, wherever we skied there was a tendancy for the youngsters to disappear off the edge of the run.

Nail Driver

One of the ways to the Summit is via the Payday lift. The Payday lift crosses a series of runs of varying degrees of difficulty. One of the steeper and more intimidating of these is Nail Driver. Imgaine, then, the excitement of the youngsters one lunchtime when they joined us. "We skied Nail Driver" they proclaimed proudly. It had been groomed and they started part way down, but it was still a black run.

Freezing at night

"The longest floodlit run in the rockies" proclaims the advertisement. After 4pm each day, there is night skiing from the top of the Payday lift. About half way through the week, we were tempted to sample the night skiing. It was definitely an experience! Payday is not the most exciting run in the world, but at the end of the day with lots of kicked up snow and uneven lighting it is challenging enough. The most memorable aspect however was the extreme cold. After about four runs, we decided that the run was not worth the long cold lift ride.

John skiing past


American ski resort food has a pretty poor reputation. We however found a great deal to enjoy:

Chris sitting on the steps near the Cookie Bear Jenny outside the chocolate factory

Jenny looking very cool at the lunch table


The lessons were memorable for all of us. Sue stayed at the bottom of the mountain all week and had some problems getting off the lift at the start of the week. Her abiding memory was American women who needed to know all of the answers to lots of obscure questions about technique.

The youngsters enjoyed lessons. So much so that they tried to stay children for a couple of years after they reached nominal adult age.

John and Chris setting off for their first lessons

Cathy and I took adult lessons and soon learned that getting placed in the correct group is a very hit and miss affair. Lessons start at the top of the mountain and selection is done on the basis of a short assessment run before any serious skiing. Some days Cathy ended up in the higher group on the basis of her tidy technique; somedays it was me, based on my willingness to ski a little faster.

Mike and Cathy getting started

Cathy all ready to go

Towards the end of the week, I got frustrated and took a private lesson instead. I was immensely proud of the piece of paper which declared me to be a strong E skier on groomed slopes (or translated into English - a competent intermediate).

The Lost Skis

Before you go skiing into a large resort for the first time, the problem of what to do with skis when you stop for lunch does not occur to you. With in excess of ten thousand skiers around, there just aren't the facilities for everyone to lock their equipment up when they go for lunch. By and large the honour system works and skis tend to be where you left them.

One problem with rented skis is that the shops tend to have large numbers of the same models. One evening, as we finished skiing, we left our skis and went to Cookie Bear as usual. When we returned, my skis were not there. A very similar pair were very close, but they were from a different rental shop and possibly adjusted differently. For 24 hours, I had a charge on my credit card for the full value of the skis (despite the fact that I returned the ones that we left instead). Eventually, "my" skies were returned and I got credited.

The New Boots

Everyone has difficulty with rented ski boots and after three days my big toe nails started to turn black. "Buy some boots" said Sue and eventually at the end of the day I was pursuaded to do just that. After a lengthy period of trying out different models, I got a rather smart pair of Nordica 767 rear entry boots. The following day did not bode well. By lunchtime, I was in agony with pain in balls of both feet. However, the boot fitters were as good as their word, and a wedge in each heel solved the problem.

The First Black

I had never skied a black run before. As I looked around, there were some runs which were shown as black on the map, which looked reasonable. For several days, I looked, but assumed that the grading was there for a reason. Finally, I plucked up the courage and instead of turning off Claimjumper at the end of the plateau and taking the Sunnyside blue run, I carried straight on. It was pretty much of an anti-climax. I soon realised that some blacks are given that grading just to keep the crowds down and in fact Claimjumper was no steeper and no more difficult that Sunnyside. (However, I was to find out that some runs were clearly blacker than others!)

Willie's Run

Willie's run is named after a World Cup giant slalom skier, and until the new race area was opened was used for World Cup GS runs. It leads down from the top of the ridge above the resort centre and dog legs under the Ski Team lift. From the lift it doesn't look too difficult and one day it was groomed for racing.

I took several looks at it, and around mid afternoon, I decided to give it a try. I turned sharp right from the top of the Ski Team lift and fell almost immediately. The cut across to the top of the lift is narrow and at the top heavily rutted. Trying to keep speed down, I caught a ski and fell in full view of the lift. As soon as I got to the top of the lift, I realised that it is pretty steep at the top. The first two turns were OK then I got off balance fell and lost one ski. Gradually, I started to accelerate and there didn't seem to be much I could do to stop. The other ski was lost and I slid a long way down the slope heading towards trees gathering speed all the way.

I was very relieved to see a short length of safety fence placed in exactly the right place to stop me. I hit the end quite hard, but stopped. My arm was bruised and stiffened up pretty badly, but overall I escaped. Someone brought my skis down and I skied very carefully to the foot of the run.


Lift Vertical

Last updated: 21/02/00