It used to be perfectly fine for a fellow to go off with his friends for a few days of rest, relaxation and hilarious hijinks. Then some idiot coined the term mancation, and suddenly it all felt uncomfortably metro.
But set that silly word aside, and a trip with your best buds is well worth doing, and worth doing well.
I went to Utah to snowboard and came home with a few insights. They might come in handy on your next adventure. Especially if it happens to take you to the Beehive State.
Once you’ve met Penn and Teller, leapt from the DJ scaffolding into the pool at Caesar’s (heads up: this is frowned upon), and somehow found yourself in the labyrinthine basement of the Bellagio dodging room service staff, you’ve pretty much made your point. As the Hangover movies proved: it’s possible to go back to Vegas one too many times.
1. Seriously, don’t call it a mancation. It sounds like something Kathie Lee would say to Hoda in a sauced stupor. Also, it doesn’t sound anything like “vacation.” I’ve racked my brain for an alternative portmanteau, but the best I’ve come up with is Bromantic Getaway—and I hate myself for that. Can’t we all just agree to call it a “trip”?
2. Resist the temptation to overplan. Just phone some people and book a ticket. You’re going on a guys trip, not robbing a casino. Speaking of which…
3. Pick the right crew. This is crucial. If George Clooney and company taught us anything in Ocean’s Eleven, it’s that so much rides on the right mix of personalities. You need people who are easygoing, don’t snap when hungover and are always game for adventure. You want the guys who will make sure you come home with stories, but not get you kicked out of the hotel. At least not an hour after check-in, anyway.
4. Think outside the Vegas. The “What Happens in Vegas…” marketing campaign perfectly captured why Sin City is the obvious choice for a guys trip. As a pro poker player once told me: “I thrive because people save up mistakes and free passes all year just to blow them here.” The “anything can happen” element makes Vegas awesome…but after a while it starts to seem like the same anythings keep happening. Once you’ve met Penn and Teller, leapt from the DJ scaffolding into the pool at Caesar’s (heads up: this is frowned upon), and somehow found yourself in the labyrinthine basement of the Bellagio dodging room service staff, you’ve pretty much made your point. As the Hangover movies proved: it’s possible to go back to Vegas one too many times.
That’s why for my most recent adventure, we chose Utah. It’s the best place in the country to ski and snowboard for those who want to mountain hop without chartering a helicopter. Salt Lake City is hemmed in by mountains and the Salt-Lake-Effect hammers them all with fresh flakes. Plus, we arrived at the airport, picked up an SUV and were on the mountain within an hour. Where else can you do that?
As this map indicates, there are a boatload of snowy slopes around SLC.
5. Let the reason you went take top billing. If you went to Vegas, you’d debauch, as clearly debauchery was the plan. In Utah, we went for the snow and we weren’t disappointed. Our first stop was Snow Basin, where it dumped and we absolutely attacked the powder. Of course, that means different things to different people. For me, that means carving cool s-curves down the intermediate hills. Still, it was deep and airy and insanely fun. (And no, that is not me in the photo at the top of this page.)
You can compare all of Utah’s ski spots by price, vertical drop, lifts, skiable area and a handful of other variables at skiutah.com, but it’s worth mentioning that Alta and Deer Valley don’t allow snowboarders, while Brighton specifically caters to them with some of the country’s best terrain parks and half pipes. We chose three mountains that fit our price and ambitions and had three completely different experiences that were all a variation on “this is awesome.”
6. Surprise yourself. After the main event (or between main events), try something you didn’t plan for. One night we took in a Jazz game. The next, we found ourselves in Ogden at the Salomon Center. I can’t imagine bad snow conditions in Utah mid-winter, but this place seems designed as a contingency plan. In the spare hour before dinner we managed to try indoor skydiving, surfing and rock climbing. Plus we went upstairs to the arcade and had a hoops shootout for the goddamn ages. Still, the highlight of the “things beside skiing” itinerary was the Utah Olympic Park near Park City. There, we boarded a bobsled piloted by an Olympic Silver Medalist and shot down the track at 80mph. I am glad I did it, because now I can say I went bobsledding with a silver medalist. But it would take the threat of death for me to ever do it again. The g-force strain on the body is not for the weak of stomach.
7. Eat well. A good guys trip requires a few memorable meals so that you can recount your stories of the day while getting fueled up for the night. In the past decade, Salt Lake City has kept pace with the “eat local” “all homemade everything” dining movements. There are fewer hotspots than LA or NYC, but that makes choosing easier. Even the resorts have stepped their game up.
One dish not to miss in Salt Lake is Bahn mi at Oh Mai. The baguette is crispy outside and light inside and the food is ultra-cheap. Pack three sandwiches in your backpack and make people on the ski lift jealous. Another SLC winner is Bambara. This is a great menu—tons of fun to order off of. The dishes are smart and well executed… and the house-made blue cheese potato chips are incredible.
Meanwhile, in Park City you’ll want to hit up Talisker on Main. It’s where the stars eat when they come out for Sundance, for good reason: a mellow atmosphere and smooth vibe make you naturally anticipate a quality. And the place delivers with excellent local-inspired cuisine.
Fun fact: if you finish your snow day at Park City’s Town Lift, you can literally walk across the street to High West. They’ll even keep an eye on your skis and boards.
8. Tipple. Utah is one of those places that people make lots of assumptions about. I feel for everyone who lives there just for all the lazy polygamy jokes they have to endure. And No. 2 on the wrong-headed assumptions list? That it’s a dry state. It’s not. In fact, it was as easy to find craft beers and well-made cocktails in Salt Lake and Park City as almost anywhere else. And if you do make some half-baked Mormon jab that doesn’t even get you a charity chuckle, you can order a round of Wasatch Brewery’s Polygamy Porter to get the crowd back on your side. In Park City, the High West Distillery & Saloon distills excellent whiskey and vodka. They serve house cocktails with names like “Dead Man’s Boot” and “Trigger” and the best, booziest cheese fondue you’ll find outside of the Swiss Alps.
9. Know when to splurge. This is a key for anyone who doesn’t own a platinum card. You probably can’t go over the top on everything, so you’ve got to pick the right things to splurge on and do so without guilt. Since we finished the trip in Park City, we decided to rent a house for our last two nights. It was the sort of crazy, lavish pad that seems totally ridiculous—right up until you’re lounging in the hot tub hanging out over the city. At that exact moment, beer in hand, such a spot feels perfectly reasonable. Is it pricey? Sure. But you’re not losing money on roulette and you’re paying half of NYC prices for drinks, so it kinda evens out in the end. Or at least you can tell yourself that. The fact is, there are times to spend money and times to save. For us, a giant house overlooking in Park City was the right time to lay down our distinctly un-platinum credit cards.
10. Keep a few stories to yourself. One of the hardest lessons for a man to learn is when to keep his mouth shut. Our last night in Utah, we were wandering through downtown Park City at 1 a.m. when we learned that Danny Masterson of That Seventies Show fame owned a nightclub there. Going inside seemed like a fantastic idea (maybe Mila is there!). So did the first round of shots. And the next. After that, well, you know what they say: “What happens in Utah… stays between you, Danny Masterson and your court-appointed attorney.”