When Mother Nature created Utah, she was evidently well rested and in a generous, creative state of mind. She added the vast, sparkling Great Salt Lake; seemingly endless plateaus of red, sedimentary rock in swooping formations; life-giving rivers; and of course, the majestic snow-robed mountains. How to take it all in? You can’t, in one short trip. But a good place to start your exploration this winter is in Park City, a 19th-century, a silver-mining town tucked into the basin of the Wasatch Mountains, that’s become an international ski destination with its two resorts, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain. Both mountains will be hosts of the 2019 Freestyle World Championships.
Famous for its perfect, powdery snow and serious slopes, Park City has the great fortune of being a mere 25 miles from Salt Lake City. It has all the big-city cultural amenities you could want (good coffee, microbrew beer, guerrilla art by Banksy), yet that indelible small-town Main Street charm still presides. The Olympics aren’t too far in Park City’s rearview mirror: “It is not uncommon to see Olympic athletes training all over town, especially at the Utah Olympic Park facilities, where visitors can even take a turn on the original Comet Bobsled track used during the 2002 Olympic Games,” says the Chamber/Convention & Visitors Bureau’s director of communications, Dan Howard.
What’s New in Park City
Even if you’re a Park City regular, Howard says there are some novel things to know about this year. For example:
- This is the first year for the IKON Pass ($749 to $1049; covers 12 to 14 resorts), which allows skiers and boarders to hit the slopes at any of the Alterra Mountain Company’s properties. There’s also the EPIC Pass ($489 to $949; covers 25 to 65 resorts worldwide).
- Deer Valley will replace the Homestake chairlift with a new, detachable, high-speed quad chairlift, which will cut ride time in half and get more people up the mountain quicker.
- Park City Mountain will debut a new, dedicated learning area with gentle terrain and advanced snowmaking technology, called High Meadow Park. The resort has also added a high-speed, four-passenger lift that allows guests to more quickly and easily put their new skills into action on the mountain.
- Park City Mountain’s iconic Mid-Mountain Lodge is situated in an old miners’ boarding house that dates back more than 120 years. The lodge has undergone extensive renovations that pay tribute to Park City’s heritage while inviting skiers into a warm and cozy space where they can take a breather from the mountain action and connect with friends over innovative cuisine and drinks.
What to Do
Your trip will have a different feeling during the busy times. Hotels will be more expensive and slopes will be more crowded amid holidays, school breaks and peak weekends than if you go midweek and the shoulder season. Take some time to research your trip and make reservations early for the best ski experience.
Get some context when you start your visit at the Park City Museum, where you can learn what was not-so-great about the Great 1898 Fire and tour the original town jail. Or take it to another plane with Park City Ghost Tours from old-timey guides.
For those who want to have snow fun without actually snapping on skis, head to Park City Mountain’s Flying Eagle Zip Line, take a sleigh ride or race along the toboggan-style Alpine Coaster that travels a 4,000-foot course. You can showshoe and geo-cache at Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, a 200-acre wildlife refuge and farm that houses a state-of-the-art environmental education center and 10 miles of trails.
If you’re planning on hobnobbing with film-industry people and movie buffs, take this advice from Howard: “While the Sundance Film Festival is easily the busiest time of the year to visit, true film buffs will eschew the showy first weekend of parties in favor of the second week, where films are shown multiple times and it is easier to get a ticket.”
You’ll find great places to eat—especially because, as rumor has it, there are more restaurants in Park City per capita than anywhere else. Main Street with its myriad offerings is Park City’s beating heart, but you should also venture out to Kearns Boulevard and Kimball Junction, where locals frequent places such as Sammy’s Bistro, Twisted Fern, the Wine Dive, 5 Seeds, and Freshies Lobster Co.
End your day Old-West style at the walk-in/ski-in High West Distillery & Saloon, a 1914 Victorian house at the bottom of Quittin’ Time ski run, or grab a buffalo burger at the famous No Name Saloon & Grill.
Getting There and Around
Park City is one of the only major ski destinations where it’s possible to go car-free. Take a shuttle from the Salt Lake City Airport. (There are also multiple car services available.) Park City has a free transit system and a robust Uber/Lyft community (including being the test market for Uber-ski). All of the apres-ski action takes place on a three-block stretch of Main Street and most area hotels offer complimentary shuttles.