Park City, Utah Imagine waking up on the East Coast, and making tracks in deep Utah powder by noon. This is no dream, this is the reality of a Park City family ski trip, you can be catching fresh tracks at Deer Valley or Park City Mountain all afternoon. See why Park City Resort is among our Top 10 Utah Family Ski Resorts.
We hopped an early Delta flight out of Logan, and by 12:30pm Utah time we had ridden two high speed lifts to 9,400-feet and we were floating on a foot of fresh powder on Deer Valley’s signature Stein’s Run. With a direct flight to Salt Lake City airport, Park City’s two major ski resorts are just a 30-minute drive, so you can be clicking into your skis by noon. We had our ski boots and ski clothing handy for a quick change, and rented skis and poles from SkiButlers.com (instead of lugging our own across the country). Ski Butlers met us at our Lodge at Deer Valley, and in five swift minutes, we were dialed in for six days of skiing. To say things were clicking would be an understatement.
We started our Utah ski week at Deer Valley – “the fairest of them all” in any skier’s storybook. Deer Valley is everything you have heard about; rated the #1 resort by Ski Magazine readers, four and five diamond lodging, award-winning on mountain cuisine, ski valets that carry your skis from your car. Deer Valley is posh, almost like a private ski club – snowboarders are not allowed and lift ticket sales are limited to about 7,000 a day to assure everyone has a seat in their lodges. What’s not limited is the terrain, with five separate peaks spreading over 2,026 acres, 3,000-vertical served by 21 lifts including 12 high-speed quads and a leather-upholstered gondola. Deer Valley just sold to Aspen and KSL, so stay tuned for possible changes.
Our first afternoon, we found gorgeous groomed cruisers off Bald and Flagstaff Mountains, and powder-filled Aspen groves in Triangle Trees. A typical travel day you get weary from jet lag, airport shuffles and check in lines – not so on this day – we were fatigued from high altitude air, too many turns, and too many temptations at the extravagant Seafood Buffet dinner to finish our Deer Valley day.
Day two, we were on the Silver Lake Express by 8:45am, (tip: this base lift opens 15 minutes early to get you to the upper mountain in time for official 9am opening). Deer Valley lays out the white carpet each night (while you rest in high thread count beds), catering to the Bogner wearing real estate buying clientele. We crushed cord on long trails like Hidden Treasure and Legal Tender named for the silver discovered in these mountains in 1868. Deer Valley slopes coined over $400 million in silver, today the gold rush is in real estate, as magnificent mountain mansions hug the hillsides of the buffed slopes.
Empire Canyon is Deer Valley at its peaks, 9,570’, here in Daly’s Bowl this pampered paradise gets double black steep with chutes and tremendous tree stashes which I can’t share as I have been sworn to secrecy (hint: ask a local).
Now a confession about my love of skiing and Deer Valley: the more you ski the more you can indulge in Deer Valley’s fine food. The best burger I have ever encountered is made with Chipotle at Royal Street Café. Or you can ski to the delightful Austrian lodge, The Goldener Hirsch, for the finest cheese fondue lunch. For après ski, Stein Eriksen’s Lodge is the 5-star place. The legendary Olympic Gold medalist Stein has since passed away, he skied into his 90s here, serving as Deer Valley’s director of skiing since the resort opened in 1981.
For a long leisurely finale, ski down to Deer Valley’s Jordanelle Gondola, which we called a “real estate run” as you ski over and under expansive snow bridges built solely to access enormous elegant ski chalets, including the Ski Magazine Dream Home. Second homes are booming in Utah, and luxurious hotels by St Regis and Montage are huge lodging additions on these slopes. Deer Valley is the trail map out of “lifestyles of the rich and famous” but you can have your moment of fame as you ski this posh upscale downhill resort.
Park City Resort was next. In fact, Deer Valley abuts Park City -which now includes The Canyons – both are operated by Vail Resorts as Park City, interconnected for 7,300 acres and 38 lifts, also part of the Epic Pass, but not so with Aspen owned Deer Valley. Utah legislatures and environmentalists are considering a Utah Interconnect, One Wasatch, which would link 7 Utah ski resorts – Deer Valley, Park City, Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton – that would be epic like European skiing with over 18,000 acres of skiing and riding.
Park City’s ski area emanates from downtown, making it a popular choice. The US Ski and Snowboard teams train on the front side (ski Picabo and check out the 3 Kings terrain parks), but there is plenty more to explore among 17 peaks. Park City is the busiest area (no ticket sale limits or snowboard restrictions here) but with 4 high speed-six pack lifts, Park City makes a case for spreading people out over the 7,300 acres and a dozen bowls of terrain. We dispersed for the hardcore terrain of Jupiter Bowl, and found steep and deep chutes off this remote double chair to 10,026’. Then we tapped into McConkey’s for more double black delights.
After a morning of high elevation excitement, we took it down a notch and discovered “The Motherlode”, a pleasant pocket of well-spaced aspens and perfectly-pitched runs like Parley’s Fool’s Gold and Glory Hole. PCMR hearkens back to 1963 when skiers would ride the 3-mile underground mine shafts from town to access the slopes. I preferred the fresh air and sunshine on the chairlifts. Park City stays open till 7:30pm for twilight skiing and riding, but with such a fantastic town at the base, we found après ski took precedence.
Strolling by western boutiques and saloon-inspired eateries in Park City’s Old Town, it’s easy to picture the 1868 Frontier town. But I cannot imagine Main Street during Sundance, when 60,000 Hollywood heroes and wannabes descend for the 2nd largest film festival in the world. Tip: the ski slopes are empty during Sundance Film Festival’s parties and premiers in late January.
Dine at High West Distillery, an historic garage turned whiskey batch restaurants. Non-skiers could have serious fun in Park City, shopping, touring the historic silver mining spots, and meeting their ski friends for a slopeside lunch.
Next day, we skied Park City’s Canyons side, all 4,000 acres – which is now part of Park City. From the Quicksilver Gondola or the Red Pine Gondola, you have eight peaks to explore. We inscribed our skis on Tombstone’s cruisers before heading up to experts-only Peak 9990, named for the summit elevation. Here you can hike to backcountry bowls or point ‘em down Magic Lines and Red Pine chutes. No joke, this is avalanche prone territory so heed signage and patrollers.
Peak 5 and Dream Peak to the East offer up gorgeous glades, gentle winding trails and more of those “real estate runs.” As you ski through The Colony, the largest ski in ski out lots for sale in North America, you see one magnificent mansion after another. This once sleepy ski area called Park West has transformed into a mega-mountain for millionaires. Talisker bought The Canyons from folded ASC, then brought in Vail Resorts who also bought Park City (September 2014 for $182 million)to create this 7,000-acre network. Needless to say, there is plenty to ski at each. Utah could link seven ski resorts by installing two lifts (I don’t see Deer Valley participating by opening its borders, or allowing boarders, anytime soon).
A Canyon’s must for lunch is Lookout Cabin, take the Short Cut lift from Red Pine or the Orange Bubble chair from the Village base. This mountaintop chalet has panoramic Wasatch Mountain views and table service dining. Refueled, you are ready to explore the Canyon’s original ski terrain, in Silverado, Rendezvous and Murdock Bowl. The Super Condor quad accesses chutes like Yard Sale, groomed ridge runs with sweeping views, big bump runs or the tight twisty Canis Lupis – one of six “natural halfpipes” on the mountain that are banked, bumpy, loaded with turns and trees, offering an amusing alpine descent (fun for kids and adults on short skis). To conclude our 3-mountain 6-day ski tour, we spotted a moose and her baby in the middle of the ski trail – a sign it was time to return to Maine. An exhilarating Olympic Bobsled ride at Utah’s Olympic Park was the icing – literally – on the tracks!
If you want to ski waist-deep Utah pow, trademarked “the greatest snow earth,” make your way to Park City – one fun town, two world-class resorts, all within a half hour airplane touchdown. By skiing on your arrival and departure day – you can ski Deer Valley and Park City including The Canyons.