2023 Ski Experience at Park City:The ski experience at Park City in the spring of 2023 was outstanding. My two daughters and I headed for our winter ski experience trip at Park City. The three of us hadn’t been away together in decades. As a bonus, Park City had just received over three feet of snow in the previous weeks, so we were in for excellent ski conditions. I had been to Park City thirty years ago with my husband, Bob, and remembered it as a fun mountain with many wide intermediate to expert slopes and a delightful eclectic town filled with shops and restaurants. Fast forward to February 2023, and this description still holds, except that the size of the ski resort area has more than tripled to include two additional ski resorts for a total of 8 mountains to ski, making it a much better ski experience at Park City than in the past.
The Layout:Park City is just 35 minutes from Salt Lake City, so it is easy to get to by Utah natives and travelers flying into Salt Lake City International Airport. The combined Park City ski area is the largest in the U.S. today, boasting eight mountain peaks containing 7300+ skiable acres with over 41 lifts and 330 trails. I was amazed by the size and varied terrain now offered. Danielle and I are both strong intermediate skiers and were excited to discover that 42% of the trails are rated intermediate, with 8% beginner and a whopping 50% expert. Although they have a strong ski school, I would think twice about bringing the kids and beginner skiers to this mountain. Other ski resorts focus more on beginner skiers and learn-to-ski programs.
How did it get so big?Today, the mountain layout includes three former ski areas (Park City West, Canyons, and Park City) that were bought, finagled, and merged by Vail Corporation between 2013-2015. The aggregation of the mountains was completed with the installation of the Quick Silver Gondola that moves skiers from the Canyon and Park City West areas over to the original Park City Mountain. When planning a trip to Park City, you should consider what area to focus on each day. While it is possible to traverse from one side to the other, you’ll get more enjoyment by picking either the Canyons or the Park City side and focusing on the runs in that area. The winds on the Park City side tend to be stronger, and the Canyon side seems more sheltered.
Parking: A ChallengeThe trip’s biggest challenge was parking and driving to the resort areas. Resort’s capacity has expanded beyond its limited roads and surface parking areas. So, we rented an Airbnb just a few miles north of the Canyons Resort Center. Canyons still offers limited free parking at their lower Cabriolet lot, which has a convenient lift to take you and your gear to the resort base mountain complex. A free upper lot is also available, but you will find yourself hiking up through the resort lodging areas to get to the base. Parking in the downtown Park City lots is by reservation only and not cheap. We arrived on Thursday evening, and I tried to reserve parking for the weekend, but the first available time was for Monday morning for the daily rate of $25. These lots are a short walk to the Park City Mountain base, so it is worth not stressing about parking. This worked out perfectly because we chose to go to the Canyons area the first two days and arrived early enough to get into the Canyons free lots. We used our Park City reserved parking on Monday to focus on skiing the Park City Mountain area. A free bus system efficiently moves people from the hotels, the downtown areas, and the main route leading up to the ski slopes. The shuttle bus also goes between the Canyons area to Park City. Many park at the Canyons and then take the shuttle to Park City. Then, they can either ski back to Canyons later in the day or return on the shuttle.
Park City Ski Accommodations:There is a wide variety of lodging available:
- Posh slope-side resorts
- Most of the hotel chains such as Marriot, Hilton, etc
- Timeshare condominiums
- Airbnb & VRBO units
Saving Money using the Epic Pass:Skiing has gotten crazy expensive, with the typical cost of lift tickets between $200-$300 per day. However, the ski areas do discount for multi-day passes. You can also save more money by buying multi-resort passes through either EPIC (run by Vail Corp) or Ikon Pass. Both offer full-season or limited multi-day passes at the country’s top ski resort areas. These passes give you lots of flexibility in where and when to go skiing. In addition to good discounts on lift tickets, they also offer discounts on rental equipment and buddy passes. Buddy passes are a great way to bring along a friend, which is how Lori joined us for this trip. Buddy passes are lift tickets discounted off the already low Epic or Ikon multi-day rates. These savings add up. If you plan ahead, you can get even better rates for the next year at the end of the season. Additionally, if you purchase a season or multi-day pass, you can defer it to the next year without losing money if plans change. There is an Epic App that you can download to your phone that features excellent trail maps and other important information. We used this app to navigate the mountain and would be lost without it.
Where to put your stuff:Lockers are available to store your items and lunches at all the mountain base facilities. For example, I rented a jumbo locker for two days to store our street boots and lunch bag for $25 daily. What a money-making business.
The restaurant Scene in Park City:
Bring your own food to the slopes:It is better to bring your own food and drinks unless you want to eat at one of the slope-side restaurants. The food has improved over the past decades but has become more expensive. We brought our lunch for two days and ate lodge food the other two days. Prices averaged about $20-$25 per person for lunch. Visit one of the nicer lodges, and you can easily expect to pay $30-$40 pp for a typical lunch. There are plenty of places to eat in and around the Park City area. The resorts all have their upscale restaurants, and the eclectic downtown area is bustling with restaurants of all types. However, make reservations way ahead of time if there is a special place you would like to go to. Picture all the skiers you saw on the slopes during the day descending on the downtown area hungry for food and drink. In Park City, you can find almost any type of food, from Pizza and Thai to upscale steakhouses.
A Special Dinner:Danielle made reservations for The Rime at St. Regis Resort, Deer Valley, for Sunday evening before leaving for our trip. St Regis is famous for their sunset champagne toasts at their exclusive restaurant on the slope. We valet parked and took the fancy Funicular cogwheel coach up to the restaurant area. The dining room was upscale, with fabulous views of the slopes. The menu was as expected for an upscale restaurant, with both beef and seafood featured. We ordered beef carpaccio as an appetizer to share with a Caesar salad. I ordered the salmon with truffle mashed potatoes for dinner, and Danielle ordered a beef fillet with blue cheese cream sauce. They were cooked perfectly, BUT that is where it ended—neither meal was exceptional. There was no pizzaz and minimal seasoning. The service was excellent, but overall, we just left a little disappointed. We expected special, but nothing was special besides the view, and the fire and rock garden.
Other Dining Experiences:The first two nights, we headed into the downtown area of Park City for dinner. Both times we tried to get into the High West Saloon/Distillery. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations and usually have a 2hr + wait time. We tried twice to get there early to get on the waitlist. Unfortunately, the first night they were closed for a private party, and the second night they were already booked for the night. Too bad, because we had heard from several people that it was a good fun place to go for dinner. With the High West Saloon out of the question, we walked around the town hoping to get in someplace. Upon a recommendation, we headed to Fletcher’s, and although they were booked in the restaurant, we could order food and have dinner at the bar, which suited the three of us just fine. We ordered a variety of starters and sides to share. Again, they were OK, not special. The bartenders were friendly and schooled us on the challenging Utah liquor laws. These laws are stringent. You can’t get alcohol unless you sit down and eat something. These laws are why the slope-side restaurants can’t serve anything but 5% beer out on their sundecks. This puts a damper on the whole Après Ski scene. The next night we met a few friends in town and again had trouble getting into any Main Street restaurants. We finally ended up at an Irish Pub that could accommodate all five of us. The service was good, but the food was OK—very little seasoning and flavor. I had Irish Beef stew, which I would rate as a B. Ok, but not great.
Finally – Great Food:We finally scored some great food the night before we left Salt Lake City. Danielle was looking on Trip Advisor for restaurants in Salt Lake when she spotted a Mexican Restaurant, The Red Iguana, she had seen twice on DDD. The Yelp reviews were also excellent, so using Resy APP, she got us reservations for 7 PM. It was a good thing she did because walk-ins were being turned away. It is a smaller restaurant with a big reputation, so seating is limited even though they have built a second location in Salt Lake. The Red Iguana is famous for its authentic Mexican food featuring homemade Mole Sauces featured on DDD. Danielle asked to taste one, and the waiter brought out a place with a sampling of all nine of their mole sauces to taste. They all had complex, rich tastes designed to go with different dishes. Danielle ordered Puntas De Filete A La Nortena, and I had their Poblano Plate with avocado and one of their Mole sauces. Without a doubt, this was one of the best authentic Mexican dishes that I have ever had. Finally, we scored some great food! At least we were leaving on a high note.
What about the Ski Experience at Park City:The Park City ski experience was fantastic! We had some of the best conditions I have experienced in over 30 years of skiing nationwide. Our trip was timed perfectly. We arrived on Thursday on the tail end of an extensive storm system that dumped over 36” of fresh snow on an already extensive base. It snowed most of Friday morning as we arrived on Canyon Mountain.
Day One Canyon Side:We arrived at 8 am. The lifts opened at nine. This gave us plenty of time to get up to the base from the parking lot, store our stuff in a locker, get Lori her Buddy Pass at the Epic ticket center, and get in a long line. The Canyon has two high-speed lifts serving its based lodge: an eight-person high-speed gondola and The Orange Bubble lift. The Orange Bubble is a six-person chair-lift with a big orange Plexiglas bubble that skiers can pull over their heads to protect them from wind and snow. A nice touch and added to our comfort as we climbed the slope in the snow. Once we arrived at the top of the lift, we had to decide where to go. We planned to meet a few of Danielle’s friends’ mid-morning, so we didn’t want to stray too far. After taking an easy run or two, to let Lori regain her ski legs, we headed for some of the steeper blues Park City is known for. Some of the fun slopes we enjoyed were Mainline, Echo, and Eclipse. The snow was soft, velvety, and perfect. After a few hours, the clouds gave way to bright sunshine, and we were having a blast. We found it easy to traverse the Canyon trails with lifts and good connecting trails. Even their runouts were fun to ski and offered amazing views. In one area called The Colony, they have built a smattering of gorgeous homes, carefully designed, so they add to and don’t disrupt the views and the terrain. This area was tucked in between other mountains offering protection from winds. We skied until our legs gave out around 3 pm.
Day Two – Exploring all three ski areas:On day two, we again parked at the Canyons parking lot. However, we wanted to explore more and go to the Quick Silver Gondola, which would take us to the Park City trails. We started with The Orange Bubble and began to work our way south to our right, skiing up and down the many mid-mountain trails, finally getting over to the Quick Silver Gondola. This Gondola goes up from the mid-mountain, over the peak and double diamond expert trails, then down to the Mid Mountain Lodge and Silver Lode chair lift on the Park City side. Here we found the blues to be long, wide, and steep. Lori was pushing herself on these slopes, but we all had fun. The weather was excellent, and life was great. We had lunch at the Mid Mountain Lodge and headed back out for a few more runs before returning to the northern Canyon slopes. Again, our legs were dead, and Lori was struggling with the comfort of her boots, so we were done for the day, but we had logged over 20 miles of skiing, according to Danielle’s Ski tracker app.
Day Three – Canyon side:Unfortunately, Lori had to head home on Sunday to get back to work. Her flight was around 7:30 am, so I could drive her down to the Salt Lake City airport and return by 6:30. Danielle and I decided to pack up and get to the slopes early. The weather forecast was for temps in the low 30s and clear skies. It was going to be a fantastic day with just the two of us skiing. This paid off. We got a great parking spot close to the base lodge lift. The lines for the gondola were minimal, so we decided to wait for the Gondola to take us up. The choice was to get there early and wait for the lifts to open or get there around 8:30 and wait to get through the lines on the first run. We decided that getting there early was the better way to go, as we were up the mountain and enjoying our first run on empty, pristine slopes. Our day was fantastic. We are both about the same skill level, and we had a blast exploring the dozens of runs from one side of the Canyon to mid-mountain and back. There are many unique and challenging runs on these mountains, with spectacular views. We clocked over 25 miles of skiing. Finally, we headed back to the condo, tired and hungry.
The Fourth Day: Park City SideMonday was our fourth and last day to ski. We had parking reserved at the Park City Base. Danielle’s friends came over to carpool and spent the day skiing with us. The forecast was for snow most of the day, and it did – hard! Danielle’s friends had some experience skiing the Park City Trails, so we let them be our guides. The snow fell steadily when we got our gear on and to the first lift. The wind picked up as we headed up to higher altitudes. The conditions were harsh, but the skiing was fantastic. We had many layers on, so fortunately, we did not get too cold except for our hands. The trails on the right side of the mountain were, again, steep and wide. Some of the blues had turned into blacks with moguls and harsh conditions.As the morning progressed, the weather got worse. It was snowing harder, and visibility was going down fast. We stopped for a quick lunch to buy some hand warmers and then headed out with a plan to work our way back to the base lodge by around 2 pm. After hitting the slopes we wanted to try, we worked our way over to the far right side of the mountain and finally down to the base lodge. We were done! The wind was blowing hard, and the light was flat, making navigating the terrain difficult. Once down, we headed to the car and were very happy with its proximity to the base area. Danielle and I had planned to drive down to Salt Lake City that afternoon and stay close to the airport as another three-day storm was fast approaching. However, it wasn’t snowing off the mountain, so our trip down was easy. We finished the day at the before mentioned Red Iguana restaurant and had fun talking about our trip. What an amazing four days we had and how lucky we were with the weather and conditions. After skiing, many Colorado resorts, Lake Tahoe, Taos, and Baker Mountain – Park City, went to the top of my list. Danielle’s favorite is Beaver Creek in Colorado because she loves the trails but finds the Après Ski and restaurants better.
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