Think skiing is for the alpine pros and those with deep pockets? Think again. Park City, Utah will charm you, no matter your skill level or budget.
Jackson Hole, Aspen, Vail – many of America’s ski destinations conjure up images of isolated slopes, private helicopters and hefty ski-lift fees. But within northern Utah’s snow-laden mountain ranges lies Park City, one of the country’s most beginner-friendly ski towns. Bringing together a laid-back Utah vibe and grand mountain ranges where the 'Greatest Snow on Earth' falls aplenty, Park City has the perfect conditions for beginners not looking to bust their budget.
There are affordable lodging options
You don’t have to stay at pricier Deer Valley or Park City Mountain, the two big ski resorts within Park City, although their amenities are world-class. Instead, try local lodging, such as the Blue Church Lodge (thebluechurchlodge.com) or Torchlight Inn (torchlightinn.com). Due to Park City's seasonality, the town is flush with condos and rooms to rent for the budget-conscious; try local sites such as Park City Rental Properties (parkcityvacationrentals.com) or Stay Park City (stayparkcity.com) to find a good deal.
Renting a car isn’t necessary
It’s only a quick, 35-minute trip from Salt Lake City International Airport, where over 800 scheduled flights come and go on a daily basis. There are plenty of shuttle services (visitparkcity.com/visitors/transportation) for hire to get into Park City proper; there’s also the TRAX light-rail which will connect you to the Park City bus system and bring you into town ($4.50). Once in town, there’s a free public bus system that takes you to the foot of each ski resort, to the Historic District, residential neighborhoods and more. There’s also the free Main Street Trolley Service from 10:00am-11:00pm that can take you up and down the city’s main artery, dotted with galleries, shops and restaurants.
Which means you’ll spend more time on the slopes
Thanks to its close proximity to a major airport, a visitor can get to Park City, check-in, and hit the slopes all before lunchtime. A lift ticket to either mountain will cost you about $100 per day, but that includes access to 21 lifts, 101 trails and over 2206 acres at Deer Valley, or to Park City Mountain’s 41 lifts, 300 trails and over 7300 acres. Services such as Get Outfitted (http://getoutfitted.com) can help with clothing rentals; renting a full kit – that’s jacket, pants, gloves and goggles – from Get Outfitted starts at $33 per day (gloves alone can cost that much to purchase). A service such as Ski Butlers (skibutlers.com) can deliver a full package of skis, poles, boots and a helmet to you for about $60 a day, taking the headache out of renting equipment on site. It also might be a good idea to check sites like liftopia.com, where you can sometimes find deals on rentals and lift tickets. For easy access, there’s an in-town lift that will take you to Park City Mountain from Main Street; there are also base areas at each mountain that are accessible via the street.
The trails aren't all black diamonds
Park City’s slopes are made for beginners. Fully 12% of the trails at Park City Mountain are designated green for beginner skiers, and 27% of the trails at Deer Valley are beginner friendly. Both offer ski schools for those just starting on the slopes, including children’s programming. Alpine apprentices should try Homeward Bound, Ontario and Success runs at Deer Valley and Homerun and Claimjumper at Park City Mountain for the gentlest beginner courses.
The powder is the 'Greatest Snow on Earth'
That’s not a matter of opinion, in fact: since 1988, the state of Utah has had a federal trademark proclaiming this to be true. Ski Utah (skiutah.com), an association representing the winter sports industry in the state, has so far recorded a whopping 272 inches of snowfall for the year (the area usually gets around 550 inches total for the year). All that soft, powdery snow can be attributed to a few things, according to Ski Utah, including frequent storms, a soft surface of snow, and right-side-up snowfall, where a fine powder sits atop the heavier stuff – perfect for slicing through the trails.
There’s a plethora of other activities besides skiing and snowboarding
If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your things, there are tons of other activities in the area to keep just about anyone happy. The Park City Museum (parkcityhistory.org) has several permanent galleries where visitors can learn about everything from mining to the city’s jail. The Utah Olympic Park (utaholympiclegacy.org/park) has bobsled fantasy camps, tubing and ziplining, and is host to events such as the bobsled and skeleton World Championship. Also of note is High West Distillery (highwest.com), the world's only ski-in saloon and distillery, as well as activities like riding the Alpine Coaster, fat tire snow biking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and more. If you’d rather stay indoors, a day pass to a world-class spa such as the Montage Deer Valley ($55) or Stein Eriksen Lodge ($50) will get you access to just about everything the spas have to offer except the treatment rooms. Both spas regularly lauded for their saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, hot tubs, and relaxation rooms, and Montage Deer Valley has a particularly swoon-worthy indoor pool.
It’s easy to eat and drink like a local
Celebrities, locals and visitors all mingle together at the low-key spots around town, and no one will bat an eye at you if you’ve got hat head or aren’t wearing makeup. For an excellent post-ski lunch try The Farm (parkcityrestaurants.com/the-farm), where their sustainable fare includes a braised oxtail onion soup. For a filling weekend brunch try local favorite Silver Star Café (thesilverstarcafe.com) across from the Sundance Film Festival offices. You’ll be rewarded with hearty options such as goat cheese grits and eggs and a French toast monte cristo – great to fuel up for a day on the slopes. Another in-town option across from the lift is Atticus (atticustea.com), where you can slurp on smoothie bowls, lattes, and even a used book or two. At night, head to the rowdiest place on Main Street, the No Name Saloon (nonamesaloon.net), where an eclectic playlist highlights the diverse and casual crowd.
Lauren Finney traveled to Park City, Utah, with support from Visit Park City (visitparkcity.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.