Park City’s rise to becoming the largest ski resort in the United States – with more than 7,300 skiable acres, 348 trails, 41 lifts, eight terrain parks, 13 bowls, a super pipe and three base areas – wasn’t easy. It involved merging the once-standalone resort The Canyons into Park City Mountain Resort proper, a move that happened when both resorts finally fell under the ownership of Vail.
It's a deal that didn’t please many of the locals who long regarded Park City Mountain Resort as their personal mountain. But now that the dust from takeovers, land-grabs and territorial ownership rights has finally settled, most Utah residents just want to put the whole affair behind them.
Considering what’s left standing, it’s easy to let the past stay buried i especially when it’s underneath an annual average of 355 inches of snowfall. Unlike Whistler-Blackcomb, the continent’s largest ski resort, Park City doesn’t have to overwhelm the uninitiated.
What was once a separate resort is now called Canyons Village, linked to the rest of Park City Mountain Resort via the Quicksilver Gondola. And while your pass gives you access to the entire playground, it’s better served to divide your time on the mountain into either Park City or the Canyons rather than trying to see the whole place in one day.
Getting into Park City's vast terrain doesn’t get much simpler thanks to the Town Lift, which shuttles people right from Park City’s main street into the resort’s network of trails. Ski down your choice of blue, black, or green runs and link up with the Park City Base Area, where you can take in the massive super pipe.
From here, experts typically hop onto the Crescent Express to make their way to the resort’s signature double black runs off Jupiter Lift or McConkey’s Express. The latter offers instant access to steep bowl skiing as well as dense double-black glade runs, while the former reaches the tallest point of the resort at 10,026 feet. Here, more double black runs carve down Jupiter Peak as well as runs off Scott’s Bowl and legions of other runs, skier’s left, that funnel you all the way to the mid station of the Quicksilver Gondola.
Intermediates within Park City proper gravitate toward the shorter blue runs off the King Con Express, as well as the blue and black runs off Bonanza, Silverlode and Motherlode express lifts.
Beginners don’t have quite as much terrain as the rest, with only eight percent of the runs rated as green, but they’re nicely scattered throughout the resort. One of the country’s best long-running green runs, the aptly named Home Run, stretches from mid-mountain’s Summit House all the way to the bottom.
On the Canyons side of Park City, things get a bit more spread out; the terrain is stretched across a handful of distinct canyons, making them pretty time-consuming to traverse. Simply put, if you’re staying in Park City and want to ski the outer edges of the Canyons, get a ride out to the base rather than try to ski your way there and back – it’s far more efficient.
The Canyons’ variable terrain can make it more difficult to get around, but it also often means there are less people on the slopes, even during peak season. Experts head out to either of the runs that drop off both sides of the Ninety-Nine 90 Express Lift (named in honor of the mountain’s 9.990-foot elevation), or crush double black runs off Murdock Peak, the resort’s northernmost mountain, which includes hike-only terrain off of Murdock Bowl.
Blue-level skiers have loads of runs scattered throughout this stretch of resort, including Snow Meadow off Dreamscape and a network of blue runs that reach from the top of Peak 5 all the way down to Tombstone Lift. Beginner-level skiing and riding is relatively sparse here as well, though a few fun runs are accessible via Sun Peak Express, High Meadow Lift and the Orange Bubble Express, a lift with heated seats and a retractable weather shield made of orange see-through plastic.
Just like the skiing and riding, the main base areas may fall under the same Park City name, but they have pretty distinct personalities. Park City is literally tied to the town of the same name, a snow globe-perfect mixture of a historic mining town paired with all the modern amenities typical to a high-end mountain enclave.
You can literally ski right to the back door of High West, Utah’s first post-prohibition distillery and one of the best après and dinner spots in the area. The proximity to town also means lodging of all types is readily available – everything from haute and hip digs to B&Bs, as well as nightlife and cuisine that varies from cocktails and sushi to shots of rail whiskey at No Name, a saloon that caters to the ski bum set.
Sitting about 15 minutes north by car, the Canyons Base delivers a more all-inclusive experience, including a pedestrian village with shopping, dining and lodging, as well as concerts and festivals. Not to mention, The Farm, one of the region’s best restaurants, serving mountain fare from locally sourced ingredients.
In terms of all the other elements of the ski experience, it’s 100% dialed – as you’d expect from a Vail-owned ski resort. The lessons are top-notch and cater to all age groups and skill levels, along with signature programs for racing, women and local kids. First-timers should definitely consider a lesson, so that they'll be better oriented on where to go (and not go) on a mountain that’s not the friendliest for newbies.
From High West Distillery and the legions of other restaurants within Park City proper to lunch at Canyon’s mid-mountain Lookout Cabin, or lunch and dinner at The Farm at the mountain base, it’s tough to narrow it down to one. But the Viking Yurt experience edges out all comers, and includes a 25-minute snowcat-pulled sleigh ride, hot spiced glogg and an elegant five-course dinner complemented with live music from a baby grand piano – all at 1,800 feet.
As with the resort itself, lodging typically breaks out into either the Canyons or near the Park City base area – and since the Town Lift launches from Main Street, pretty much any accommodation in Park City is ski-in/ski-out. To benefit from the package deals the resort offers, consider booking through the Park City Mountain-managed properties at a hotel like the Grand Summit, which sits at the base of the Canyons and offers a variety of rooms as well as a spa, fitness center and a pool complex with a network of hot tubs. Or flip the script and opt for the Washington School House, which has 12 rooms with a heated pool and a ski lounge with valet, all in a 1889 school house steps away from the Town Lift.