The Ultimate Guide to Park City, Utah

The Ultimate Guide to Park City, Utah

The new Park City Resort is bigger and better than ever

Park City Utah has long had the most skiing of any ski town in the United States, but this winter it has grown again. For decades it was home to three independent mountains, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and Canyons, the largest in all of Utah. But over the summer Canyons and PCMR merged, with a brand new gondola and several new trails to fully interconnect them, and the result, simply called Park City, is now the single largest ski resort in the country – by far. The numbers are staggering, with over 300 trails, including 14 bowls, plus 17 on-mountain restaurants, all sprawling across 7,300-acres linked by a 22-mile network of 38 lifts. Here’s our guide to the new improved resort.

As a result, Park City is the hottest winter destination in the U.S., but it’s allure goes beyond the  new mega-resort. It is also the nation’s most accessible major ski town, an easy 45 minutes from the large Salt Lake City international airport, which has non-stops from all over and is rarely affected by winter weather. East Coast skiers routinely leave home in the morning and are making turns by lunchtime. The resort expansion has opened up the appeal of the historic town itself, with lifts and trails running right down to Main Street. A former silver mining town, it has atmospheric saloons and Victorian architecture alongside fine dining and art galleries – plus the town is home to Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival, and the famed actor/director owns an upscale eatery, Zoom. Park City was the epicenter of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and today the Utah Olympic Park here is more popular than ever, with two museums, ski jumps, zip lines, and the bobsled run – which is open for public rides.

Here’s how to make the most of a winter visit to the new Park City.

Ski season starts in November and runs into April, with relatively mild temps all season, and average daily highs of 33F/1C in December and January, climbing to 43F/6C in March. Snow is plentiful all winter long, with some of the best and driest powder anyplace – Utah’s famously trademarked “Greatest Snow on Earth.” Park City averages about 350 inches annually of this white gold, and the most consistently excellent conditions are in February and March, though it can be epic anytime during the season.

Park City Side:

The huge new ski resort has three entry points, two of which are on the town side. The base of the former Park City Mountain Resort sits a few blocks above Main Street and has extensive free bus service from all over the area, but limited parking. This is an older base area with a small dated pedestrian plaza with a few restaurants and shops, full ticket office, ski school and rental facilities, and offers the fastest access to skiing and snowboarding. There are some smaller lifts here serving a learning area at the bottom, while the main Crescent lift is a high speed quad that allows all other abilities to access their ideal terrain.

Park-City-ViewDirectly under the Crescent is a network of single black trails that can be enjoyed with just one ride up. Then there’s King Con lift, a high speed 6-passenger chair that’s the favorite of Intermediates, and serves more than a dozen blue and double blue runs in their own easily navigated canyon – many skiers spend a whole day here. King Con also is the main gateway to the Quicksilver gondola, the new link between the two sides of the massive resort, and many will relish the novelty of skiing Park City end to end in a single long day.

More advanced skiers will likely forego the gondola and continue back from the Crescent to the Bonanza high-speed 6-pack, which brings them to a large assortment of black diamond trails and a few double blacks. For even more challenge, McConkey’s Express can be accessed from Bonanza, offering lap after lap of true expert double blacks in the bowls and glades of daunting Jupiter Peak. Alternatively, for very strong skiers, the Quicksilver gondola has a mid-station atop the ridge separating the Park City and Canyons sides, providing access to Pinecone Ridge, a nearly all-double-black area that previously required a long hike.

Dining: On the Park City side is a bit more limited, but the on-mountain highlight is the new Miner’s Camp, opened this year at the base of the Quicksilver gondola. The 500-seat lodge features floor to ceiling glass and is the latest iteration of the upscale ski resort cafeteria, with several made-to-order stations. The most unique choice is the Viking Yurt, the rare independently owned on-mountain restaurant at a big American ski resort. Lunch is casual, with fancy sandwiches and the signature tomato coconut curry soup. But dinner is when the Yurt shines, with a sleigh ride commute and six course candlelit dinner accompanied by pianist. It is a full night out, a four hour European alpine experience – the King and Queen of Norway dined here – unlike anything else in skiing.

Town:

main-st-at-nightThe famous Town lift runs right from the heart of Main Street in Park City, and while it is a longer, slower triple chair, it has the best location – its base lodge is all of town. For this reason many skiers drop down for lunch at one of the colorful spots like the No Name Saloon, known for its madcap décor, cheap beer and bison burgers (no beef served). The most famous option is the High West Distillery & Saloon, which claims to be the only ski-in/ski-out distillery in the world. It sits on the edge of the Town run (blue) and just steps from the lift. While its whiskies have won numerous international awards, the upscale comfort food is the main daytime appeal. But if you end up here for après or forget to leave before dinner, you will discover the beauty of the region’s free bus network – from anywhere around the mega resort you can get a ride back to where you started. From the Top of the Town lift, skiers can easily access the Bonanza chair and the wealth of blue and black terrain it serves, head back to the expert only areas of Park City, or just ski the medley of green, blue and black runs under the lift.

The Canyons:

Just a few minutes outside town, The Canyons base is the most detached but most modern, a purpose-built ski resort village with several excellent restaurants, lots of shopping, plenty of lively après activity, and ample parking. It also has the best lift network, with the nation’s first heated, covered chair, the Orange Bubble Express, and next to it, the Red Pine gondola. guide to park city - the canyonsThe Canyons side rises steeply, and has a good variety of long green, blue and black runs coming all the way back to the base – even for the last run home you never have to compromise. The Orange Bubble provides quick access to two other key lifts: Sun Peak Express serves several blue cruisers and some less advanced blacks, while the Super Condor is one of the very best expert chairs in all of skiing. It climbs Murdock Peak, a long ridge with seven double black chutes and trails off one side and half a dozen single blacks and a black diamond bowl on the other. It also accesses large double black Condor Woods glade area, and eight more double blacks in Murdock Bowl. This one lift is fast and offers lap after lap of excellent challenging terrain – for experts it’s like a separate ski resort all its own. But if that is not enough, the Canyons side has another vast slate of double black bowls, glades and runs off the 9990 Express and two chairs serving more entry level expert terrain, with many long single blacks off both the Tombstone and Dreamcatcher lifts. park-city-TheFarmRestoBeginners are in luck too, as it is the rare mountain that has a green area higher up, tucked right into mid-mountain and served by the High Meadow chair. Intermediates will find a world of assorted blue cruisers, many quite long, smack in the middle of the Canyons side, below the base of the 9990 chair. With so much terrain there really is something for everyone.

Dining: The culinary highlight of the Canyons is The Farm, a true farm to table eatery that makes its own charcuterie and even cheese, in the base village. There are also a few fun stalls sprinkled around emulating urban food trucks with tacos and such. The on-mountain offerings are widely varied, from a popular waffle hut to the newly rebuilt Cloud Dine, another gourmet cafeteria, with made to order pizzas and salads. Tombstone Grill, at the base of the Tombstone Express chair, is a fun and tasty outdoor Western BBQ eatery, perfect for sunny days – of which there are a lot.

Where to stay in Park City