Like the Ancient Mariner who saw “water, water everywhere,” at Park City in the Wasatch Mountain Range of northern Utah, you see white ribboned runs hugging the mountains all around you. That's because three of Utah’s major ski resorts—Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and Canyons—are within minutes of the historic ski town and each other. (Only a boundary rope separates the terrain of Deer Valley from Park City Mountain.) Add the ski jumps of Utah Olympic Park to the landscape and you’ve got one colossal network of slopes for slip sliding away. Each has its own brand and personality, making a winter vacation here filled with new experiences every day. A free transit system ties it all together, and lodging offers something for every budget. With Salt Lake International Airport just 35 minutes away, Park City as a destination is as perfect as you can get.
Park City Mountain Resort
Like many ski resorts out west, Park City’s history dates back to mining days. When the silver boom ended, so did the town, almost, until the consolidated mining company started up skiing in 1963. To this day a labyrinth of deserted mine tunnels snake deep underneath the terrain of both Park City and Deer Valley. In 1965, skiers rode a mine train through the tunnels and then were hoisted nearly 1,500 feet up a shaft to daylight and the slopes. The “Skiers Subway” was a frightful experience and didn’t last long. The shaft and other mining ruins remain on the mountain, and free historic ski tours give a glimpse into the colorful past. Many runs and lifts are named after mines and mining terms, such as Motherload Lift, Treasure Hollow, Payday and Silver King.
Flash forward to PCMR today. Sixteen lifts carry skiers and snowboarders to eight peaks and 114 trails, two that spill right onto Main Street near the Town Lift. Mountain tours for every ability are offered free every day, some on Signature Runs, the name given to steep black runs groomed for bragging rights. Everyone can have fun at Park City Mountain Resort. There’s even an alpine coaster, zip line and dinner sleigh rides to round out family adventures on the mountain.
If Park City Mountain Resort were an animal, it would be a puppy—playful, fun, active and loved by all the family. If it were a car, it would be a Chevy Avalanche—a versatile SUV with a zest for adventure.
Deer Valley Resort
Coming from a hospitality background, real estate investor Edgar Stern developed Deer Valley in 1981 like a five-star hotel. Impeccable service, luxury lodging and sumptuous dining have been its hallmarks since the beginning. Even though the resort has grown tremendously in size and stature, it has never wavered from Stern’s philosophy. “We are running the resort to dad’s vision,” says his son Lessing Stern, chairman of Royal Street Corporation, DV’s parent company. Skiers (no snowboarders allowed) love it, consistently giving it top marks in magazine polls. In 1987, Roger Penske of race-car fame became a partner.
Guests rule at Deer Valley. “You can’t look puzzled without someone asking, ‘May I help you?’” says Christiaan Boer, Park City Chamber communications assistant. The resort is not afraid to limit the number of skiers in a day to 7,500, ensuring a roomy experience for all. And Deer Valley's ski valets are legendary. For a list of other guest amenities, click here.
The beauty of skiing Deer Valley lies in the layout of its 100 runs spread over six mountains. Everyone can ski from the summit—and you should for the views—on easy cruisers spilling gently from the top of each peak. It’s possible to ski from one boundary to the other on groomers in a short morning. Deer Valley owns its share of gnarly stuff too. The Mayflower and Daly chutes and bowls will rev your heartbeat, and the Anchor Trees (not on the map) are a local’s secret on a powder day.
Norwegian gold-medal Olympic star and creator of the layout flip, Stein Eriksen helped design Deer Valley, and his namesake lodge that he fashioned after European ski lodges is Utah’s only five-star, five-diamond hotel and spa. Eriksen’s graceful skiing style and gracious manner set the standard for elegance at the resort. If you’re lucky, you can find him having lunch most days at the Stein Eriksen Lodge.
If Deer Valley were an animal, it would be a Bald Eagle—rare, regal, respected and enjoying amazing views. If it were a car, it would be a Cadillac—a luxury ride in a class of its own. —
Since its inception in 1968, Canyons Resort has undergone name flip-flops, ownership changes and enormous expansion, making it now the largest ski resort in Utah (4,000 acres) and the 5th largest in the country. With the opening of the iconic Waldorf Astoria with its own gondola, other luxury properties like the Hyatt Escala Lodge and the installment of the Orange Bubble Express—the country’s only enclosed chairlift with heated seats—Canyons has ventured into the luxury world of skiing vying with its neighbor.
Day skiers and snowboarders ride the Canyons Cabriolet from the transit center and free parking lot up to the resort village, a pleasant pedestrian plaza reminiscent of European piazzas. Here shopping, dining and a lively apres ski scene take place. It’s also the hub for ski school, lockers, child care and all other resort services.
Canyons has an interesting mix of terrain—from Aspen and pine glades with a quiet backcountry feel to undulating groomed runs through posh neighborhoods with luxury homes to a steep area at the summit of 9990 feet with undefined expert and advanced runs. The terrain is so vast that you could ski off one lift all day and be happy. Consider nine peaks, 182 trails, five bowls, 21 lifts and three terrain parks. It’s a serious mountain with only ten percent for beginners. View the map here.
Olympian and World Cup champ Holly Flanders heads up the popular three-day women-only workshops three times a season. “Women teaching women just works,” says Flanders, noting that some participants return every year. “They learn without external pressure and gain confidence.”
If Canyons were an animal, it would be a Siberian Tiger—huge, powerful, majestic. If it were a car, it would be a Ford Escape—young, nimble, American-made and surprisingly large.
After hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City solidified its place as a great ski town. Historic Main Street looks 19th century, but most of the buildings were re-constructed in the early 1900s after a fire destroyed nearly the entire town in 1898. Park City is also the best place to eat s’mores as it seems every restaurant has its own version of the finger-licking campfire concoction.
Zoom—Robert Redford’s casual bistro in a former Union Pacific Depot.
High West Distillery and Saloon—an Old West style eatery in a reborn barn with whiskey pairings and whiskey-infused cuisine.
412 Bistro—very French and very good.
Seafood Buffet at Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley—you’ll think you’ve died and fallen into the ocean
Escala Provisions Company in the Hyatt at Canyons—home of the most inspiring s’mores dessert on the planet.
Park City Museum—a priceless retrospective of the area’s history on Main Street.
Utah Olympic Park—the competition venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Nordic jumping, bobsled, luge and skeleton and home of two excellent ski museums. A guided tour takes you to the top of the breathtaking tracks and jumps; and if you dare, hop aboard a bobsled for a 55-second, 80-mph, 5 G-force run. Live it from the video on this page.