Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How to Survive Salt Lake

I had an awesome time in Salt Lake, but there are some things you should know about it if you're planning to visit.

First, if you are coming from New York, where gin martinis flow free from our sink taps, you better have a game plan so as to prevent what could become a serious case of the delirium tremors. The arcane liquor laws there are designed by happy, teetotaling, apple-cheeked Mormons to "protect your liver" but could just cause a hard drinker to have withdrawal convulsions. To wit: all the beer there is 3-2 beer, even the beer you buy in the state liquor store (which is open for about seven minutes a day, five days a week). If you want "grown up beer," meaning beer with more than a drop of alcohol in it that won't leave you with the blazing 3-2 headache, you must smuggle it in from out of state.

Luckily, my friend Kristi has become quite the little rumrunner and somehow managed to buy up half of Colorado's supply of Fat Tire, which I promptly drained over the course of three days; if there are any bums in the University district where she lives who'd like to head over to her place and collect the empties from the back porch, please note that you will probably net about $437 at the recycling center.

If you order liquor at the rare bar or restaurant that serves it (and many don't), know that you will be served ONE OUNCE of alcohol with a mixer; the state mandates an automatic one-ounce pourer be attached to all liquor bottles. So, you should know about the sidecar. It is legal to order an extra shot on the side (but only one!) which you may add to your weak-ass drink once they bring it to your table. And whatever you do, don't order a martini. They are not allowed to be bigger than one ounce. Oh, and if you want a shot with a chaser? The waitress has to come around the bar, hold your beer for you while you take the shot, and only then will hand the beer back to you. Why? Because only the DEVIL two-fists.

The best solution? Bring a couple of flasks with you to Salt Lake. Or stick to wine once you're there. Hey, Jesus made it, so I guess they can't water that down. Or, do as I did and find a friend who has some Xanax. Pop one of those babies and your cravings for booze will be but a distant memory as you drift off on a happy cloud of sleep, oblivious to your quads still aching from the slopes.

OK, on to Snowbird (http://www.snowbird.com/). The Wasatch Mountains are toothy, steep and imposing in a way that the Colorado mountains are not, and even though Colorado is having an epic year for snow, I can see why Utah resorts are superior. (Don't worry, Vail, you'll always be my first love!) The mountains in Little Cottonwood Canyon, as one of my friends explained, get around 500 inches of snow a year. Clouds build up over the Great Salt Lake, suck up a ton of moisture, move into the mountains, and just dump it all on top. Plus, it's the desert so there's no humidity, so it's the nice, dry powder that's fantastic for boarding or sking.

Even though there were only about six fresh inches while I was there (which, incidentally, is like more than Vermont got all year, or something, at least it seemed that way), it was so good that I actually had one of those weird experiences where you MAGICALLY GET BETTER, which is always very exciting. Also, we got two straight bluebird days, which will be enough to lift my spirits for like a whole week. I will warn potential visitors that Snowbird does not have fantastic beginner or intermediate terrain for boarders, thanks to lots of traversey uphill type of stuff. IT's better to be more advanced, able to handle the bowls in Mineral Basin and have enough confidence to build up type of speed required to get you through the uphills if you're going to go there. Otherewise, Solitude is a better choice, I hear. As for magically getting better, it didn't happen until my second day. Magically getting better on a board means it gets less physically demanding, and since I was exerting myself pretty heartily the first day, my legs still feel as though I spent the last few weeks crushing a Thighmaster between my knees 24/7.

I met my first real Mormon (one who hasn't fallen away from the church, anyway), a sweet, chunky kid full of candor, on a chairlift. I asked him about his upcoming mission, and he told me a bit about it, and his nervousness surrounding it and mixed feelings toward it, lamenting for instance the fact that he wouldn't be able to snowboard for two years while overseas, because it was expensive and because the LDS Church thinks "evil exists" at the resorts. I had a good laugh about that, since evil exists everywhere, and it seems like it'd be easier to have a conversation with someone about the LDS church if you strike up a normal conversation about why you're in their country, while on a chairlift, rather than assaulting them on their doorstep. Anyway, it was an enlightening experience and it did a lot toward humanizing the much-derided Mormon missionary in my mind, even if I think Joseph Smith is a bunch of hooey.

Finally, if you're in Salt Lake, make sure you check out Takashi, voted Best New Restaurant in 2005. Kristi recommended it, and I was not disappointed. It's sleek, modern, and has tasty, fresh and creative sushi preparations. I admit I was nervous for my intestinal tract to be eating sushi so far away from the coast, but it was some of the best raw fish anyone has slapped down in front of me in a good long while. I had been craving raw fish and oysters intensely for some time, and luckily I was with one of my friends who has approximately two thousand times my disposable income ("Oh, this weekend I'm just heli-skiing up in Alaska, then next week I'll be down in Chile, and then I'm off to my house in Vail for awhile...." must be rough) and kind of owed me a dinner, so I got to pig out on his dime, on top of it. Thanks J! He even offered to sate my yearning for oysters on Sunday at the Oyster Bar, but instead I inhaled a few dozen bowls of $7 all you can eat mussels apres board at Snowbird and then went home and got drunk in Kristi's hot tub and was too lazy to go. I suck.

Anyway, a huge thanks to John for carting me from the SLC to the lovely mountains of Utah, to Kristi for showing me a fantastic time and letting me crash at her place and play her piano, and to her boyfriend Scott for chaufering me around when I needed it, and treating my girl Kristi nice. If I had a lawn, I'd zero-scape it in your honor. Although the flora-loving residents of Carroll Gardens would be horrified.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy shit, Utah really is Hell.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

You must have been there about the same time I was. SLC is like if the fifties and the present immaculately concieved, or something. And I grew up there!

3:31 PM  

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