This is a three-part comprehensive story as GreatOutdoors.com ski correspondent Andrew McLean explores his own back yard with it's three signature ski areas. A long time resident of Park City, Utah, Andrew writes in this piece about Park City in three separate segments: First, the Park City Mountain Resort, then Deer Valley, then The Canyons Ski Resort, making a unique collection of world class ski areas in one town. Read all Andrew's reports below.
For such a small ski town, there is a lot of confusion surrounding Park City, Utah. First off, there is the city of Park City, then a ski resort named the Park City Mountain Resort, which is commonly referred to as “Park City”, and its neighboring resort, Deer Valley, which adjoins the Park City Mountain Resort although you can’t ski between the two, and finally there is The Canyons ski resort, which is not technically in the township of Park City, but in general terms is considered part of the Park City skiing experience. During the Sundance Film Festival or the peak holiday weekends, Park City becomes No Parking City and as a final linguistic twist, there is a Park City City Park in the middle of town.
What is not confusing about the three ski resorts located in the Park City area is that they all are different, yet all have excellent skiing and riding. This may be obvious to some people, but having lived in Park City for twenty years and skied all around the world, I only recently discovered that some of the best skiing in the world is literally right out my backdoor. The unappreciated secret of Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), Deer Valley and The Canyons is consistency. The nearby resorts in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons (Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude) often steal the show with some of the largest storm totals in America, but if it hasn’t snowed in a few weeks, the skiing in Little & Big Cottonwood canyons can be downright ratty, ragged and rough. By contrast, you can always find good skiing at the Park City resorts, whether it is beautiful groomers, gladed trees, terrain parks, half pipes, jumps, steeps or famous Utah powder. Park City also simplifies vacation logistics by having numerous hotels, dining and entertainment options all within walking distance in the town itself, unlike the Cottonwood Canyons where amenities outside of chairlifts are much more limited.
Organizing a trip to Park City involves catching a morning flight from almost any city in America, which will get you to the resort in time for a half day of skiing in the afternoon. A program known as Quick START (Ski Today and Ride Today
allows you to convert your boarding pass into a same-day lift pass at any of the three Park City resorts. Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), catch a shuttle up to Park City and you are in business.
We'll start our series this week by taking a close look at Park City Mountain Resort. Next week, we'll cover Deer Valley, followed a week later by The Canyons.
Park City began life as a silver mining town in the late 1800’s, boomed in the early 1900’s, went fallow from 1930-1950 and was reborn as a ski resort in 1963. In 2002 it hosted the Olympic Giant Slalom events and for the last two decades PCMR has been known as a world class destination ski resort.
While skiing PCMR in February, I met up with Debbie Battersby who works as a Mountain Host. Debbie’s daughter, Ashely
, is a veteran of the Park City terrain parks and has competed in the Dew Tour and X-Games. According to Debbie, what sets PCMR apart from its neighbors is organized programs (especially for kids), Parks & Pipes, good snowboarding terrain, history and last but not least, “we don’t have houses on our slopes,” as both Deer Valley and The Canyons do.
The kids programs range from learning how to ski all the way up to the US Ski Team. Racing has been a historical mainstay for PCMR, but recently the Parks & Pipes have dominated the scene. Over the last twenty years of skiing, the resorts have gone from almost banning jumping to nowadays encouraging insane air-time by using snow cats to build a massive succession of monster kicker jumps. In PCMR’s case, one terrain park wasn’t enough, so they built four, including a beginner’s park, which is suitable for small children or terrified adults (like me).
Park City is one of the few Utah resorts with night skiing, and when they shut the regular lifts down at 4:00 each day, the grooming cats come out to play. Each morning brings endless miles of perfectly groomed corduroy and with an uphill capacity of over 30,000 people per hour, it is an all-you-can eat carving fest until your legs give out.
On average, Park City gets 360” of snow per year, and when it arrives as a classic Utah dump, the skiing can be as steep, deep and bottomless as anywhere on earth. For steep, off-piste skiing, the East Face of Jupiter Peak offers chutes, cliffs and wide open faces that will challenge any skier. Days later, if you are still hungry for freshies, they can always be found in sheltered trees on the shady slopes, which are right off of the ridgelines throughout Park City.
Aside from the skiing, PCMR has beautiful on-slope amenities like restaurants and lodges. If you haven’t burned up all of your adrenaline by the end of the day, a quick ride on the Alpine Slide (a mountain roller coaster of sorts) should finish you off and leave you gasping for air right at the base lodge. From here, it is a short walk into the resort center for an après-ski drink, snack or meeting. For lunch, you can either eat on the slopes, or ski into town for a bite, then catch the Town Lift back up.
All told, you would have to try hard not to have a good day at the Park City Mountain Resort. There is something for everyone and whatever you choose will be high quality. The hardest part might be deciding which of many options to pick, and when to do go. From there, it is all downhill, just as skiers and snowboarders like it.