Park City Mountain Resort is known for great snow, a fun town and a huge amount of skiable terrain, all reasons we chose it as one destination for our honeymoon in March 2019. It was purchased by Vail Resorts in 2014, a point which still seems to be of some controversy with the locals.
Park City Mountain
Okay, so first things first, this resort is huge. In fact, it’s the biggest in North America. In 2015, Park City Mountain Resort was joined by lift access with Canyons Resort – resulting in a resort with more than 7,300 skiable acres. It will take you the better part of the morning just to get to the other side.
On the west side is Park City, which has a good combination of blue and black runs, with some awesome bowl and tree skiing at the top. On the east side is Canyons, where we found some long groomers and steep black pitches.
In the middle, is one of the weirder things I’ve seen at a ski resort – The Colony. We first skied the area on a really cloudy day, which meant that as were were going up the chair lift a colossal home rose out of the clouds, in the middle of the ski run. Many resorts have homes near the base of the mountain that are ski-in ski-out, but this is different. The Colony is a subdivision of huge mansions set into the middle of a ski resort with roads cut deeply into the mountain – part of what made the area so weird. The result is a odd set of roller-coaster like runs that dip and curve around the homes, and under and over the roads via bridges and tunnels. While it was fun at first to admire the homes, which were remarkably hidden in the trees considering their size, I felt like I wasn’t really getting in a proper run.
Above the Colony, at the top of the DreamCatcher lift, you can find Could Dine – one of the most expensive on mountain restaurants I’ve ever eaten at. (And that’s saying something given how expensive on-mountain dining can be.)
The resort map can be found here.
Historic Mountain Tour
Park City offers free guided daily tours of the mountain that take your around some good, intermediate runs while teaching you some of the area’s history. It specifically focuses on the mountain’s mining history and transition into a ski resort. Park City was incorporated as a city in 1884 and was known for its abundant silver veins long before it became a ski mecca. Scattered throughout the resort are several old mining buildings. It was interesting to learn a bit about them and how the miners’ adventurous spirit and ingenuity led to the area’s transition to skiing.
The tour is a good way to get your bearings at the resort and appreciate the area a bit more during your visit. It was also a good way to meet some other skiers, and we spent the rest of the day with a few that we had met. I recommend doing the tour, and at the start of your visit to Park City. The tours start at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm, but it is advisable to sign up with a Guide prior to secure your spot as they are limited to ensure a good experience.
Runs and Lift Quality
With the exception of the weird runs in and around The Colony, the runs at Park City were all a good length, and there was a good combination of shorter runs and long runs. There is also a good combination of advanced and intermediate runs. The mountain definitely has runs to keep an experienced skier entertained, while still having some solid intermediate runs and playful groomers. And, since it’s so huge, it’s hard to get bored.
I really liked the runs off of Super Condor on the Canyons side, but unfortunately we were unable to get back over for a second go at them. Our last day at Park City, we tried to start on the Canyons side, only to find out after we bused over that the lifts were on wind hold.
Overall, the lifts were good. Many new, high-speed and high-capacity lifts. There were a few older ones around, but that is to be expected and probably helps keep the crowd spread out a bit. With the exception of the wind-hold issue on Canyons and that the Quicksilver Gondola wasn’t always open (for the same reason), we had no issues with lift access. I did get the impression that Canyons goes on wind hold often.
Snow Quality and Signage
I was disappointed with the grooming at Park City. I’ve never really paid too much attention to how much of a mountain was groomed prior to this trip, because I’ve never felt that there was a problem with the amount of groomed runs. Everywhere I’ve been it’s always felt like the right amount. However, at Park City it really felt like there were not enough groomed runs to ski. In addition, those that were groomed felt choppy, like they hadn’t broken up the hard snow from the day before well enough. In addition, there was no on-mountain notification of which runs were groomed for the day. The groomed information was available online, but international travellers without data roaming will find it difficult to access on-mountain.
Utah typically gets a lot of really good, powdery snow. Perhaps, this means they don’t need to groom as much as often as other places. However, we arrived after a period of unusual weather for the time of year. It had been a very cold and dry February. In March, it was starting to snow a bit more, but it was fairly wet snow. If the sun didn’t come out, the snow was really hard. Fewer groomed runs meant a lot of hard packed moguls. I simply don’t find it fun skiing over boulders. In the middle of our trip, we woke up to 5 inches of fresh snow. The snow was amazing, but underneath was crusty hard-packed snow. We couldn’t see where the ice-hard bumps were and it was jarring on our knees. Other places would have groomed the moguls down so the snow could settle on top and be skiable. Instead we gave up early and miserable.
One thing I did really like at Park City was the signage. In particular, there were uphill signs along the lift lines so that skiers riding the chair could identify which run was which. This was extremely helpful when navigating a new mountain. It meant that we could sight a run on the lift that looked good, identify it correctly, then use the signage at the top to drop into the run we wanted to ski next. On most mountains, you’re really just guessing what run you are looking at from the lift.
The Town of Park City
My vague memories from a previous visit to Park City, along descriptions of Park City as an old mining-turned-skier town led us to believe that it would be a laid-back cool little place. We were mistaken and a bit underwhelmed by the city (and it’s a city not a “town”). That said, some of the buildings in Old Town are very charming.
It really feels more like just another suburban American city than a ski village. It has seen a huge amount of growth since hosting events for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics (the last time I visited the area) and it feels like it. Historic Main Street is packed with cars (both parked and slowly driving up the steep street) and other people waiting for a dinner table. The rest of old town has a quaint but packed feel to it, and beyond there is a heap of modern sprawl.
There is a free bus system that is very helpful to getting around town and we were able to easily get to Main Street, other parts of the resort, and the grocery store to buy provisions for our apartment.
Park City Village
When we did walk through the actual Park City Mountain Resort Village, it was pretty empty and also underwhelming. There were a few nice mountain-side hotels, but when we wandered through the area at night the restaurants all seemed quite, which was odd since we were there during peak season. The ski school, coffee shop and gear stores were reasonably busy during the day.
Getting to Park City
Park City is located Utah, about 50km (30 miles) from Salt Lake City. It is about 50 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport via I-80 and UT-224.
If you are comfortable driving in the snow and plan to see other parts of the state, taking a car is fairly easy. Many of the accommodation options have parking available and there are day-parking facilities at the resort.
There are a few shuttle services that will bring you door-to-door from the airport, and the resort offers to book for you if you are staying through their reservations department. That said, the suburb nature of Park City to Salt Lake City makes it very easy to take a taxi or a ride-share to the resort. We were able to easily book an UberXL in both directions to carry us and our skis for a very affordable price.
Park City, as part of Vail Resorts, is on the Epic Pass. If you have the season pass, you can use this at Park City for lift access. Otherwise, you will need to purchase an RFID lift ticket, which will give you access to the Epic Mix ap and the lifts.
I have previously written about the Epic Australia Pass in My Perisher Review. You can read about it following the link. It is very good value if you are planning or want to ski more than one resort throughout the year or for more than two weeks.
The additional benefits that are meant to come with the pass, such as discounts on food and beverage are only really useful if you plan to eat at really weird hours, such as after 2pm (who eats lunch then?) and have a good understanding of which places are mountain-owned.
Have you been to Park City Resort? What did you think?