You don’t have to have a background in meteorology to appreciate the exceptional powder of Utah’s Wasatch Range. But Utahns don’t just brag about their powder. It’s the white stuff in general, from lake effect snowfall to the shape of the snowflake and the snow’s moisture content that sets tongues to waggin. In fact, Utah’s snow enthusiasts claim they have the “The Greatest Snow on Earth”. Which is why this state was considered worthy of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and continues to serve as a training ground for world class athletes like alpine ski racer, Bode Miller or snowboarder, Shaun White. Of course, mere mortals flock here too come the first of winter’s flurries. And while we’re not here to call into question your mortality (or athletic prowess), we are here to tell you why you too should find yourself, post haste, flying down a powder dusted mountain in Park City, Utah. Which should get you a gold medal for common sense, if nothing else.
There are a few things to know as you plan your trip to Park City, Utah. First, though this small atmospheric town is ridiculously close to Salt Lake City, Utah (only 36 miles from Salt Lake International Airport), you’ll find the slopes most accessible if you book yourself accommodations in Park City itself. Options include time-shares, resorts, hotels, bed & breakfasts, and rustic lodges. The usual suspects, in other words, with beds enough for 12,000 (plus a few, if you get cozy). Conveniently, there’s also a free bus service that runs around town and out to the resorts, so you don’t have to hassle with driving or parking. Second, though there are a handful of smaller ski areas not far from Park City, it’s the “Big Three” - The Canyons, Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort - that see the most slope action. Which is logical, considering the sheer size of each ski resort and the number of high-speed lifts on offer. Ticket prices are fairly comparable between the resorts, but if you keep an eye out it’s often possible to snag deals on multi-day passes or pre-season bookings. Finally, there’s the weather. All three resorts are usually open by the first week of December, if not the last week of November. Snow depending, everything shuts down by early April. You’ll find the crowds at their peak over the Christmas holiday season, President’s Day weekend and Spring Break in March. Consider yourself warned.
Without further ado, find to follow an overview of the main mountains to help you pick your perfect match. Provided you don’t have time to tackle all three this vacation.
The Canyons ranks as Utah’s largest ski resort, boasting 4,000 skiable acres. Included in this snowy package are eight mountain peaks, a vertical rise of 3,190 feet, six natural halfpipes and two terrain parks. Amongst other things. Located roughly 10 minutes northwest of Park City, this resort is the closest one to Salt Lake City by mere miles. They don’t offer night skiing here, but with 18 lifts, five of which are high speed, even the most dedicated skier should have no trouble efficiently tackling the resort’s many runs in the course of a nine to four. For families with young children in tow, this one gets a nod for offering lift tickets free to kids under seven. There’s not an abundance of easy runs (only 10% are ranked beginner friendly) though, in fact there are marginally more Black Diamond runs here than there are Blue Squares. Which means, in short, that this is a great choice for skiers advanced beyond the snowplow looking for plenty of room to maneuver, whether the mode of choice is a pair of skis or a snowboard.
Deer Valley Resort:
This might be the smallest of the big resorts but there’s a reason it has been rated one of the top ski resorts in America three years running. In addition to high-end accommodation and gourmet dining, Deer Valley also limits the number of skiers allowed on the slopes each day. Which makes this resort - and its skiers - feel special. Because, well, they are special. And for those skiers who don’t like to share the run with boarders, this should definitely be your pick - snowboards aren’t allowed. This resort also has the largest percentage of beginner runs (27%), which coupled with a good selection of intermediate and advanced runs, as well as 11 high-speed quads, means you won’t have to wait long to hone your skills. Bandy about the adjective “luxurious” if you will, but come expecting also to find the sort of serenity on the slopes, with just the right measure of snow and excitement, that you’re seeking. In other words, cool, classic, calm, less-crowded and very-well connected.
Park City Mountain Resort:
For vacationing families planning a visit with young children, Park City Mountain Resort gets our vote. Not only are lift tickets free for kids under seven but there’s also a good selection of beginner (17% Green Circle) and intermediate (51% Blue Square) runs on offer. In fairness, Deer Valley has more beginner runs, but Park City Mountain Resort has some very good instruction programs with limited class size, including classes geared toward your adventurous tot (ages 3-5). Additionally, there are three terrain parks (including one lighted) and a superpipe, which means a mixed group of skiers and snowboarders should stay well entertained. Set a stone’s throw above Park City, this resort sweeps across 3,300 acres, the second largest of the three, and gets around 360 inches of snow a year. Three lifts stay open after dark for night skiing, which usually starts late December and closes late March, conditions permitting. There’s also the Alpine Coaster (a snowy roller coaster), a NASTAR race course and good family-friendly tubing at Gorgoza Park. In sum: whatever your ability level or choice of ride, Park City Mountain is a great choice for groups seeking a mix of terrain types to suit the needs of all ability levels, whether they swing skis or snowboard.