Last week, I wrote about skiing at Park City Mountain Resort. I wrote about the crazy deep amount of snow, the great terrain and how much fun our family had on our first visit to Park City. What I didn’t write about was how much fun YOUR family can have and why you should take your family skiing at Park City Mountain Resort. Thus, the subject of today’s post.
While Utah has a wealth of great skiing, the Beehive state is not necessarily known for great ski towns. Rural people, like us, may love the novelty of skiing out of Salt Lake City: We make turns all day and we can eat great food all night, while having access to “city” stuff we don’t see at home. But for most people, the family skiing vacation doesn’t involve a city. It involves a small, picturesque mountain town, a condo on the slopes, or an historic hotel, and lots of fun apres-ski activities. For families seeking this sort of experience in Utah, the historic mining town of Park City, and Park City Mountain Resort in particular, is the perfect destination.
Park City, Utah is a town of about 7300 residents ringed by three world-class ski resorts: Deer Valley, The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort. I have never skied Deer Valley, but it is consistently ranked among the top destination ski resorts in the country in readers’ polls, such as the annual SKI magazine rankings. I have skied The Canyons — one day last year — and frankly, I spent the entire time trying to figure out where I wanted to be. By the time I found the terrain I was seeking, the steeps off of Ninety Nine 90, the day was nearly over. I’ll have to go back!
My family and I spent two days skiing at Park City Mountain Resort in December. The snow was deep and a bit heavy, but we had a marvelous time. If you read last week’s post, you already know how much fun we had, so I won’t cover that ground again. Suffice it to say, we would go back in an instant. Here’s why we would visit Park City Mountain Resort again and why I think other families should add the resort to their ski vacation wish list.
1. A Focus on Families: I think that Park City Mountain Resort would be a great destination for anyone, not just families. However, Park City Mountain Resort is family-oriented and wants families to ride on their slopes. Their ski school offers the Kids Signature Program for kids 3 1/2 to 14 years of age. For the littlest skiers up to age 5, class sizes are guaranteed to be 3 kids or less per instructor. For kids ages 6-14, classes are limited to 5 kids per instructor.
And, while I shouldn’t mention this, as these ladies are my competition (just kidding!), Park City also has the Snowmamas, a group of moms to whom you can submit questions about planning your vacation and family skiing at the resort. Expert family skiing advice from family skiing experts — that is what we brave ski moms do best!
2. Mountainzones. Pick up a Park City Mountain Resort Map. The color-coded map is easily the best ski resort map I have ever seen. By visually dividing the mountain into zones, Park City Mountain Resort makes it easy to choose the riding experience your family is looking for. Each zone is described on the map according to the type of terrain and the type of skiing available in that zone. The zone descriptions even include recommendations for specific runs!
Like intermediate groomers and entry-level moguls? Look for the color blue and head over to the King Con highspeed quad. While you are there you kids can check out the entry-level Ridge Terrain Park. Are you a family of mixed abilities, but you want to stay together as much as possible? You’ll want to read about the Silverlode/Bonanza zone. Look for reddish-orange and go check out Homerun, the longest run on the mountain, that takes beginners from the summit to the base. There are Adventure Alleys in the Silverlode zone that sweep in and out of the trees for kids and their parents, as well as a variety of intermediate runs. Expert skiers will want to read about the yellow, purple and light orange zones (also known as Thaynes/Motherlode, McConkey’s/Pioneer and Jupiter). Again, each zone is described according to the terrain, the grooming and the riding experience you can experience you can expect. In addition, Park City has Signature Runs, many of which are in the green Crescent Mountainzone. The Signature Runs are advanced, black diamond runs that are groomed. These runs open up more of the mountain to intermediate and advance-intermediate skiers looking to up their skills.
We tried to explore as much of the mountain as we could when we were at Park City and I have to say that I thought the map descriptions were very accurate and held true. There is very little risk of overstepping your ability and winding up someplace scary. Unless of course, you overstate your ability. If that’s the case, then you had better rise to the challenge and find your way down.
3. Great amenities. In addition to its great terrain, on-mountain services and ski school, Park City also has night-skiing on the Payday, First Time and Three Kings lifts (which serves the Three Kings Terrain Park). Nightskiing didn’t start this year until Christmas Day, so we missed it, but I think it provides a great option for families. If you arrive in the afternoon you can still get on skis on your travel day, thus not wasting a precious day of ski vacation time! Night skiing is available from 4:00-9:00p.m. seven nights a week through March 27, 2011.
As for parks, the King’s Crown park off of Payday is for serious freeriders. Park City Mountain Resort also has on of the largest halfpipes in North America, and while most families aren’t quite ready to jump into the pipe with some of the best riders in the world, it is fun to check out their superlative skills and be inspired. For some video of some local Park City teenagers showing their stuff in the terrain parks, check out the Day in the Life Park City website. These guys have so much fun and cover, with video, just about every action sport you can imagine. They also have video “how-to” guides in case you are wondering what you should be doing, and how to do it, in the terrain park.
And what should you do if you don’t want to ski every day? There is an Alpine Coaster which operates each day from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. It looks like a blast! Each morning when we were at Park City, we talked about riding the coaster, and each afternoon, we were too far away and having too much fun to cut our ski day short. Still, I can imagine that it would be really fun for kids and their parents on a “day-off.” Same with the Gorgoza tubing park with seven lighted sledding lanes.
When You Go……
I have to admit it. We didn’t stay in Park City, so I have absolutely no slope-side lodging recommendations. We really enjoy staying in Salt Lake City, so we made the easy commute (which even on a really snowy morning, when we were stuck behind 4 snowplows on I-80, was easy). If you want to stay in Park City, check here. There is every option you can imagine.
Many of the vacationing skiers we chatted with were staying at Deer Valley and taking a free shuttle to Park City Mountain Resort. Deer Valley doesn’t allow snowboarders, so if you do stay at Deer Valley and you have a rider in your party, get familiar with the shuttle schedule.
If you don’t mind commuting and you want to save some money, we did find a nice-looking, family-owned Best Western motel in Coalville, Utah. Doing some pre-trip research, I saw an ad for the Best Western Holiday Hills Motel in Coalville, visited their website and was impressed. Only 15 minutes north of Park City, along I-80, this might be a good option for budget-minded families (like mine) who can drive to Utah. I haven’t been here myself, so if any of you have, please let me know what you think.
Salt Lake City remains an excellent lodging option as well, especially if you are planning to ski some of the Cottonwood Canyons resorts such as Alta, Brighton, Snowbird or Solitude. On this trip, we stayed near the University of Utah in a 2 bedroom condo at a property called the Chase Suites. Nothing special to look at and located along a boring commercial strip, our unit was roomy and served us well as a place to lay our heads and stay warm. It was clean, there is hot breakfast, a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, and the price was right. We found it on the Visit Salt Lake website.
As for eating on the mountain, we had several great experiences at the Mid-Mountain Lodge which, in my opinion is the coolest ski lodge in ski country. Completely rennovated, you would never guess that the lodge is actually a 114 year-old boarding house. In 1991 this building was moved from The Silver King Mine (along the Bonanza Run) to its current location. There is a cafeteria and a coffee bar, which has grab-and-go sandwiches and snacks.
Regarding dining in Salt Lake, we had a terrific sushi-fest at The Naked Fish. And, if you are in the City at the holidays, make a point to visit Temple Square and see the amazing Christmas lights and displays.
Finally, if you are flying to Salt Lake City, remember that you are oh-so-close to Park City. A 35-minute drive from the airport and you’ll be slopeside. Wear your ski clothes on the plane and don’t waste a single moment of fun!
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