Review of Salt Lake City

Now that I’m no longer a resident of Salt Lake City, I feel I can properly and fairly issue my critique of the city.

I moved to Salt Lake City early May of 2012.  I rolled down Parleys Canyon from Park City, winding slowly downhill to the valley floor with what might be the largest smile on any human ever.  The Wasatch Range tickled the upper reaches of the blue sky around me and left me staring up a lot more than at the road.  Salt Lake seems to keep that hold on you.  Throughout the time I lived there, at any moment that I could see the mountains I seemed to be staring at them, and not at what I was doing.  The captivating backdrop had me in a constant daydream at every point that I wasn’t actually part of the backdrop.

I pitched a tent in my brother’s backyard and that became my home for a few months.  I’d use my brothers house to eat, sleep, etc and would crash in the tent every night.  I worked only 20-30 hours a week and spent every other waking hour climbing in the Wasatch.  Shoutout to Greg Gavin, Matt Conn, my brother Ryan and a few other random partners I had throughout that time of excessive climbing.



I quickly fell into that simplistic lifestyle.  The accessibility of the mountains is incredible.  I could be at work in downtown Salt Lake, get off at 2pm, and get four hours of hard climbing in before the sun set.  The weather was a gorgeous constant.  Every morning the temps would be in the 50’s.  The sun would rise over the valley, casting it’s rays around a few clouds until the temps would crest in the 90’s.  By the end of the evening we were back down to the low 70’s before falling back into the 50’s overnight.  I’d get up super early before work and drive an hour to American Fork canyon and work projects on super hard limestone routes. Then, drive back to Salt Lake, work 5 hours, and then do a few laps in Big Cottonwood on some moderates until it got dark.

If you’re a climber, a hiker, a camper, or you want to break into the outdoor world, summer in Salt Lake will cause wet dreams every night.

Also, Salt Lake rests in an amazing position in the west.  Everything seems to fall under the five hour rule.  Jackson, WY and the Tetons, four hours.  Moab, five hours.  Maple canyon, 2 hours.  Joes valley, 2.5 hours.  St. George, 5 hours.  Zion National Park, 5 hours.  Indian Creek, 5.5 hours (close enough). Las Vegas, four hours.  An endless amount of adventure all within an easy days drive.  All of those are achievable on a three day weekend.

However, if you’re looking for a party, if you’re looking to fist pump your way through a room full of available young folks.  Well, Salt Lake is not your spot.  I came from a college town where everyone was close in age, everyone drank (a lot) and everyone wanted to dance and party.  That is definitely not Salt Lake.  Half the city maintains a strict Mormon culture.  The other half is a counter-culture that has slowly moved into the city.  We do our best to have a night life but it just doesn’t seem to hold together.  The liquor laws put a damper on a lot of excitement and the bars and clubs just don’t have a good crowd.  I’ve heard rumor that some nights get nuts at some place in town, but I’ve never been there when it was happening.

Then there’s winter.  75% of the city is there mainly for winter.  The storms start shrouding the summits and before long the dark green Wasatch becomes a towering winter wonderland.  There’s something about mountains covered in snow that makes them seem taller, and more ominous.  Everyone is excited for every flurry and they flock up the canyon roads to the numerous resorts plotted across the range.  Utah doesn’t lie when it says they have the best snow on earth.  Pictures splattered all over Facebook will be enough to get you dropping coin on a ski rig and chasing pow like the best of them.

salt lake backdrop

But there’s a catch to winter.  Smog.  People will say “inversion” but that’s just a fancy word for “we pollute the shit out of the valley.”  As cold temps roll off the mountains the cold air falls hard into the valley.  All the pollution that usually rises out away from the city, get’s hammered down on top of us.  It’s like nature is just showing us everything we usually let loose into the atmosphere, it’s mother natures way of giving us a taste of our own medicine.  The mountains disappear behind a constant brown fog and the city looses it’s awe.

pollution ShittyCity

Everyone tries to “rise above” as much as possible.  Residents will go for drives in the mountains simply to get above the inversion ceiling for a bit and get some fresh air.  The resorts remain clean, the smog merely covers the valley, rendering the mountains a dream just outside of the dread.  You can taste our exhaust in the air when you step outside, breathing becomes more like chewing as the air thickens.  I stopped running altogether because I felt like I was just speed inducing cancer with every breath.  To me, the city became disgusting.  It lost all of its sheen of summer and became a gross, brown, polluted hell.

city pollution

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money to rack up on ski gear and rarely got a chance to get into the mountains.  I upped my hours at my job and got a second one.  Before long I was working 70-80 hours a week and stopped going to the mountains altogether.  They were no longer calling to me, because I could no longer see them.

So, in a nutshell.  Salt Lake is a great city if you’re motivated to make it so.  The summer weather is unbeatable, and adventure is around every corner.  The climbing is world class all over, and the skiing needs no introduction.  Downfalls? There’s no nightlife, and in the winter we get Hong Kong style pollution levels that rarely clear up and bring a weird depression upon the city.  If you can just rise above as much as possible, maybe you can outweigh that part.  But if you’re not a skier…well, you’ve got a lot of thinking to do.