In the last issue of I-15, I wrote about some of Salt Lake City's vibrant, exciting nightlife, which belies the accounts in the international media about "boring" Salt Lake City. In preparation for that article, several Salt Lakers, including some good folks from I-15, and I made the rounds among many of Salt Lake City's hottest nightspots one Friday evening. During that outing, I suggested we do a similar tour of sporting/recreational sites within easy access of Salt Lake City. As with the nightlife gig, I proposed we demonstrate in one day the wide variety of exceptional recreational opportunities offered to our residents and visitors.
So, one recent Saturday, I set out with Heidi and some folks from I-15 (Ryan, Morgan and Tre, with Keri joining later) to enjoy an amazing recreational adventure. It was a day that is possible in only a few places on earth.
First, we headed up to Homestead, in Midway, near Heber (just 55 minutes from the Salt Lake International Airport and 20 minutes from Park City). One hundred years ago, the main attraction at the resort was the mineral hot springs crater. Now, Homestead is a world-class resort, offering a wide variety of recreational activities, including golf, horseback riding, snowmobiling, biking, buggy rides, and cross-country skiing. Much of the variety of recreational opportunities we were seeking that Saturday was available at the Homestead. But we were there for just one, unique, experience. I was going scuba diving in a crater.
The Crater at Homestead is a 55-foot tall hollow limestone rock, filled with 90° to 96° water – the only warm water scuba diving destination in the continental United States. Until a few years ago, those wanting to get into the water dropped from the top of the crater by a rope. Since then, a tunnel has been drilled through the rock wall at ground level. Walking through the tunnel, we came to an equipment-rental counter, dressing rooms, and decks at the side of the mineral water. I stripped down to my swimsuit, put on the scuba equipment, and pushed off the deck into the warm, clear water. My dive was enjoyable – and very different from any dive I have been on before. I kept it brief because I was flying to New York City on the red-eye that evening (diving deep depths and flying on the same day can be very dangerous) – and because we had a long list of other recreational activities ahead of us.
After drying off and changing clothes, I headed off with our entourage to the 389-acre Utah Olympic Park, less than 20 minutes from Homestead. (From Salt Lake City, it's 24 miles – or 16 minutes by bobsleigh.) There, I was to take a ride on the 1335-meter bobsleigh course, which first became operational in 1997.
At the bobsleigh course, every seat on every ride had been reserved. They run at full capacity every day. At the top of the course, we met some of the enthusiastic and committed Olympic bobsleigh coaches. We rookies were all a bit nervous, but excited and happy that we were about to have an exhilarating Olympic experience. We were warned there would be 15 curves and that, after the third curve, it gets "steep and tight." We were told to crunch our necks down to best endure the g-forces. With that advice, I climbed in the middle (a pro in front and two fellow-rookies in back) and off we went. None of us was disappointed. At a top speed of over 72 miles per hour, we had the ride of our lives.
From there, we went to The Canyons to ski a few runs. The Canyons is where Park West used to be, but it is so much more now. The Canyons is one of the five largest ski resorts in the country, comprised of 36,625 stunning acres, with several new lifts, runs, restaurants, shops and a four-star lodge. Tre, Heidi and I skied, while Ryan and Morgan snow-boarded. We had some good runs, with even a couple tries on a small jump, and a fine lunch at the mid-mountain restaurant. After lunch, however, it was snowing so hard I couldn't see. It was a propitious time to leave, before we did some damage – and, after all, the horses were waiting.
We drove east a few miles and saddled up a couple horses for a quick ride into the mountains. The horses had not been ridden for a while and it showed. They were a bit spooky, but it all brought back great memories. Several years ago, I kept a couple horses at a beautiful equestrian facility on Old Ranch Road in Park City. Horses and great riding opportunities abound within a few miles of Salt Lake City, in almost every direction. Getting out for a ride in the mountains is always exhilarating and grounding – particularly when it is so difficult most of the time to get out of the office at all.
After riding the horses to the barn, we drove about 25 minutes back to Salt Lake City, for a quick workout on the treadmill at the new Salt Lake City Sports Complex (650 South Guardsman Way). Keri joined us there, adding inspiration for our athletic endeavors. The Sports Complex houses two Olympic-size ice skating rinks, the first indoor ice skating facility in Salt Lake City since Hygea burned down many years ago. There are also two large swimming pools, one indoor and the other outdoor, as well as workout machines and a room for dancing, aerobics, and yoga. The Sports Complex is one of our City's great recreation treasures and should be known to, and experienced by, every Salt Lake City resident.
With plenty of sunlight remaining, we were on the Bonneville Golf Course, where I teed up for the first time in two years. The weather was perfect for sweaters and, although we only played three holes, we had a wonderful no-lost-balls time. I putted for two birdies and ended up with bogies instead, signifying to me that, if I'm going to play more than my normal 9 holes each year, I'd better get my brain calibrated by practicing my putting.
Bonneville is one of Salt Lake City's eight beautiful golf courses, contributing to the tremendous reputation our City has for its public golf facilities. Last July, Golf Digest ranked Salt Lake City as being the number one Golf City among big cities. The ranking was determined on the basis of the number of courses, the quality of courses, and the prices. For descriptions of Bonneville, Forest Dale, Glendale, Mountain Dell Canyon, Mountain Dell Lake, Nibley Park, Rose Park and Wingpointe Golf Courses, check the City website at slcgov.com/whattodo/golf.
After surviving three holes relatively unscathed, we proceeded on to the Eccles Tennis Center, across the street to the west from the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. There, Heidi, a former tennis competitor and assistant coach, shamed me. The courts are beautiful, easily accessible, and well maintained. Knowing how easily I can get on to the courts (as well as all the public courts accessible during the spring, summer and fall throughout Salt Lake City), I have no good excuse for letting my tennis game get so rusty.
After finally getting in a few good volleys, we drove to Rockreation Sport Climbing Center (2074 East 3900 South) for a wall climb. I'm not a rock climber, but I'm now sold on Rockreation. After putting on some gear and warming up on some lateral moves around the room, we climbed one of the walls to the ceiling. The climb was exhilarating and it provided great exercise and stretching (which I felt for several days afterwards, in places that usually do not get stretched). The trainer was friendly and informative – and patient, to boot. Now I understand the enthusiasm my son has had for Rockreation – and why so many people in our community frequent it, even if they will never see the side of a rock cliff up close.
After Rockreation, I had in mind a run up City Creek Canyon, where I love to run, and perhaps a mountain bike ride or a hike along the Shoreline Trail. But, alas, the sun was going down – and I think we had made our point. Between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., we had been scuba diving, hurdling down the Olympic bobsleigh run, skiing, horseback riding, working out at the Sports Complex, playing golf and tennis, and practicing rock climbing.
Salt Lake City is unsurpassed in the recreational experiences available within a few miles. And on days like that Saturday, winter sports and summer sports alike are accessible – all of which enhances the tremendous quality of life in our City.