Monday, July 27, 2015

Vail's huge summer upgrades

Not too long after Vail bought Park City Mountain Resort, they announced plans to merge it with Canyons, creating the largest ski area in North America.  In a normal year, a resort will spend between 1 and 5 million dollars updating the resort.  The $5M normally only occurs when a new, major lift is going in.  This year, Vail announced they were spend $50M in a single summer in Park City.  That's so far beyond anything we have ever heard of, it is almost hard to imagine.

You can read a bit of plans and updates here.

Building a large restaurant and 3 ski lifts on the back side of a mountain can be quite the challenge.  How do you get all those materials there?  You start by staging everything in the PCMR park lot.  These are new lift towers.
These are odds and ends, including tops for the towers.
Then you bring in this beast.  I would describe this as a flying jet engine with a small seat.  The cabin is just big enough for the pilot to get into.
Helicopters have a hard enough time in the thin air at elevation.  Flying with big loads over windy mountain ridges has to be nasty!
This helicopter looks weird.  First, it has two counter-rotating blades. That would be odd enough, but the blades are offset by about two feet.  Looks closely at the centers of the two blades.
It was taking it about 5 minutes to make a round trip.  Pick something up, fly it over the mountain, drop it off, and come back for more.  I am sure this type of helicopter costs a fortune per hour, so you don't leave it sitting around.
Everything on the ground was already prepped for pickup so there was no delay.  These guys at the bottom of the cable had a miserable job.  The helicopter kicked up a LOT of wind and in a dirty mountain parking lot, that means choking dust and swirling debris. 
Jasper and I enjoyed watching a handful of flights before they had to stop the copter for refueling and a pilot break.  I wish Vail luck with this.  They have a tremendous amount of work to get done in a very short building season. If it starts snowing early this year, completion may be a huge fight.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Park City Art

Jasper and I were going for a walk around Park City today and ran across some new art being created.  One of the pedestrian tunnels along Poison Creek was being painted with a mix of geometric patterns.  The guy doing it works at a local restaurant and is an art student at the University of Utah.

The fun part was that he would let you paint one of the triangles so it becomes a community art project.  The woman in the blue top is about to paint hers.  Then she offered to hold Jasper so I could paint one.
Mine is the beautiful purple one.
I will head back and take a photo of the entire tunnel when he is done.   It is a HUGE improvement over what has been there for years:  dirt and mud on old white paint.

It is nice to live in a city that supports projects like this. 

Visiting Michigan

Julie and I went up to Michigan to visit with Julie's family.  We stayed with her mom for a few days in Royal Oak and then went with Julie's cousin Kathleen and her husband Bill to their cottage on Rush Lake.

They recently acquired a pontoon boat, which is perfect for this lake.  It's great to take around any time of day, including this gorgeous sunset.
 Kathleen and Julie, our beautiful boat bling.
 As the sun dropped, the colors kept getting better.
In the morning, Bill would wake up and head out on to the dock with his fishing rod, in search of the perfect bass.
But he let me use a rod, and I got the big catch.  It's about a 15" large mouth bass. It is back swimming freely in the lake again.
During the time we were there, we saw a number of other family members.  This is Megan, Bill and Kathleen's daughter.  We also went out to dinner with their sons Michael and Patrick.
We also got to spend time with Julie's uncle Tom and her aunt Marie.  Below we have Tom and Julie lounging on the back deck.

Nice trip.  It was fun getting to see everyone and we had nice weather, although it did get hotter and more humid than Julie and I are used to.  Once we left North Carolina, we have grown soft (and dry, and comfortable).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I bought a Phantom 3 drone a month ago to use for video and photos.  Yesterday, I got to ride in a much bigger, much nicer one, a Bell 407. I hope as I go through life, the only time I have to ride in an AirMed helicopter is when I am up shooting photos.

Paul Hewitt, a friend, fellow Rotarian, and runner, is our Park City Fire Chief.  He set up a ride with our local helicopter ambulance company, AirMed, which is part of University Health Care.  The idea was to fly around the local fire district, checking out the foliage (dry versus green).  I got to tag along and take some photos.  What an opportunity!
For those in Park City, the AirMed office and landing zone is over near Promontory, tucked back away from all the houses.  It is conveniently close to Park City, but out where the helicopter noise doesn't upset the locals.

My photos aren't terribly artistic.  I was shooting out a little hole in the door's window and as nice as this helicopter is, we weren't exactly sitting still.  You will notice some pieces of helicopter showing up in some of the photos.

This past year, Park City, Summit County, the DOT and a few others got together to build this very nice tunnel under highway 40.  Humans can traverse through it, but the main push was for all the deer, elk and moose.  There had been a lot of big road kill accidents in this stretch.
This is the Park City Heights subdivision, out by the hospital.  They started building 2 or 3 years ago, but ran into some EPA issues with mine tailings.  Seems like it will be a long time before we see houses.
The first stage of our new movie studio is nearing completion.  Eventually there will be a hotel and a few other buildings around it.  I don't know the details, but I heard that they are already successful at finding companies to pay for the space.  Maybe it won't have to be converted to a Target store after all.
This is the lower half of Old Town.  The big building on the right is the newly refreshed library.  Most of the ski runs are Park City Mountain Resort, with a few from Deer Valley on the far left.
And the upper half of Old Town.
Same area, but looking back through town towards I-80.
Can't fly around Park City without taking a picture of the house.  Right below the white spot on the hill is our ex-house.  Our condo is just to the right of it.
Another view of our neighborhood, looking from the northwest.  This elevation is the only way you can see the entire neighborhood at once.
This is the base of Park City.  This may be one of those great pictures to look back at a decade or two from now for a before and after.  That base area will see some very serious development.
Wonder how Vail is doing on development of the new Gondola and the Snow Hut restaurant?  Right now, they are basically a big hole in the ground.
Here is a closer look. The gondola base will be on the left and Snow Hut will be on the right.  They have a long way to go before the ski season.
The Montage hotel, up at Deer Valley.
This is the Hotel Park City, which also serves as the clubhouse for the municipal golf course.
The Utah Olympic Park.  The big Nordic ski jumps are on the left.  The luge and bobsled track is on the right. The collection of white lines in the bottom, middle are the practice jumps for the ski jumping.  You can see the big pool they land in.  They just rebuilt that entire area with new jumps, a new pool, and even a climbing wall.
While a lot of my pictures were a bit soft, this one came out very sharp.  Zoomed way in, you can see some of the jumpers standing on the jumps.
And the last photo is a shot showing the huge value of having conservation easements on local land.  The pretty green area is the Swaner Nature Preserve.  The closest area is Kimball Junction.  The contrast is amazing.
Getting to take these shots was a fantastic opportunity.  A huge thanks to both Paul Hewitt and the great group at AirMed!