I finished up my 2020 ski season with 8 days in Utah. Between the frequent mornings revealing 3 inches of fresh powder and some good food, it left me looking forward to a return next year.
Diana and I enjoy small road trips, so we chose to drive from the Bay Area to Park City this year. As the travel time is about 12 hours, we decided to break up the trip with an overnight in Elko, Nevada. The traffic wasn’t bad in California the day we left, and it really thinned out in Nevada. The long stretches of highway with an 80 MPH speed limit were especially nice. Then, for much of the day, I had an “I can’t drive 55!” earworm courtesy of Sammy Haggar. There were also numerous snow-dusted vistas to enjoy along the way. The desert drives are almost always peaceful and provide time for some degree of mindful reflection as the road rolls by.
There are a few 6000 foot-high passes along the way which can be challenging when the weather is unkind, but everything was smooth sailing on this trip. So, we arrived in Park City around 3:30 pm, which gave us time to hit the local supermarket to stock the larder in the 2 bedroom timeshare we had reserved for the week. Our son TJ and a friend arrived around 6 pm to find a warm take-n-bake pizza fresh out of the oven. For them, it was a welcome nosh after skiing that day at Brighton Ski Resort on the other side of the peaks we faced from our rooms.
Park City was a boomtown where silver was discovered in 1868. Mining operations continued until 1978, by which time the ski resort had been minting money in a different manner for 15 years. There are still many historic buildings and references around town from its mining past.
Nearby activities include downhill and nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and tubing. Shopping on Main Street is always popular. There is also the Sundance film festival, which comes around in late January when the town is packed with celebs, film enthusiasts, paparazzi, and gawkers. Not far from Park City is the Utah Olympic Park, where Olympians from around the world train for events such as ski jumping, ski aerials, luge, skeleton, and bobsled. A few years ago, we caught a men’s bobsled competition there. Diana seemed to be enjoying the eye candy (buffed bobsledders in tights) that day.
Treasure Mountain, as it was then called, was opened in 1963 by the last surviving Park City mining company as a way to lift the town from a depression in the silver industry. A nearby property, Park City West, later renamed the Canyons, was started in 1968. The two resorts were merged under the name Park City Mountain Resort in 2014 after the resolution of an ugly property litigation fight. The property is now managed by Vail Resorts and is a major destination available under Vail’s Epic Pass program.
In total, the resort boasts 41 lifts with access to 7300 acres, with 324 mostly intermediate level ski runs. It draws an international crowd, in search of The Greatest Snow on Earth, as the Utah marketing slogan goes. Snowfall is about 350 inches a year, much of it light and dry, with snowmaking filling in the gaps where needed. I have to admit, I have not found anywhere with consistently better quality snow. The resort also offers some great tree skiing (my favorite) as well as several real-estate runs, where you get to see where the 1/100th of 1% stay when they come to town, i.e. the uber-rich.
Nearby is Deer Valley Ski Resort, known for fancy digs and dining, impeccably groomed runs, and a ban on snowboards. We went there in years past, before the advent of the Epic Pass program, which does not include Deer Valet (as we call it). It is quite nice and chic, especially when experienced from the ski-in ski-out St. Regis hotel located there. There are even greeters at the entrances to the pedestrian plazas whose sole job is to hand out tissues and carry your skis.
Lift tickets for both hills are about $175 per day if you haven’t planned in advance. If you do plan in advance, the best case pricing is about $120. That’s before you shell out $25 for your burger, fries, and soda at lunch. Skiing is not a cheap sport.
Another option if you are simply looking for a terrain park is Woodward Park City, a nearby hill with a half-pipe and a terrain park where tickets run $45 or less for a day. It is best to buy a ticket in advance since ticket prices actually go up as they sell more and it is possible tickets sell out. Saving $75+ will buy a lot of beer for the end-of-day bragging about your latest tricks.
In the next article, we will tell you about lodging and dining options in Park City.
What would you do with a day or two in Park City?