With more than 7,000 acres of skiable terrain, Park City Mountain is the largest ski resort in the U.S. And with its proximity to the town of Park City, Utah, a trip here isn’t complete without experiencing all that the “Greatest Snow on Earth” has to offer.
Skis are on the roof, Johnny Cash is walking the line on the radio, and there’s hot coffee in the console.
The drive to Park City Mountain’s first entrance is 25 minutes from my garage door in Salt Lake City, and today I’m counting every second. Last night, a monster winter storm passed through and left a 12-inch carpet of fluffy, dry Utah powder: the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” as proclaimed by my license plates. Like so many Wasatch Range storms, it quickly cleared out, and I’m racing to a perfect-powder day under a bluebird sky. I crank the engine, step on the gas, and start plotting my powder plan. It’s essential to have strategy on a powder day at Park City Mountain ski resort — or on any day, really. It’s the largest ski and snowboarding area in the U.S. With 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, its only rival on the continent is its Canadian cousin, Whistler Blackcomb, which boasts more than 8,000 acres.
Park City Mountain has four base areas, one high-speed gondola connecting its two halves, and 41 lifts accessing more than 300 trails — and that’s just counting those that are labeled on the trail map. Today, I choose Town Lift. It’s a back-pocket trick I deploy sometimes, but it is a gamble. It’s farther up the road (the last of the four base areas as you travel up the resort from Interstate 80), requires a throwaway-run ski to get to the good stuff, and is a slow lift. Yet all these drawbacks mean nobody will think of it.
I blow past the hundreds of people lining up at the main base areas, Park City and Canyons villages, and pull into a parking garage on Park City’s historic Main Street. From here, I walk onto the Town Lift, right as it’s opening, and that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the day. After a throwaway run from the top of the lift, I’m champing to get to the summit of the mountain and the big daddy peaks, Jupiter (9,998 feet) and Ninety-Nine 90 (you guessed it: 9,990 feet), both of which require a hike to the top. But then I remember the advice of an avid skier who hits the slopes more than 100 days every season, and I head to the Crescent Express lift, a high-speed four pack that, on powder days, is almost as overlooked as Town Lift. Crescent doesn’t disappoint. While the sound of avalanche guns echo from higher up, I take laps on Silver King, Willy’s Run, and Erika’s Gold — steep, black-diamond runs that I’d skip on a regular, groomed-track kind of day, but are quite forgiving in the deep Utah powder.
By the time I hit Quit’N Time, one of my favorite under-skied runs back into town, I think to myself, Last run?, and then I remember one more fine bit of advice: Never call it the last run. It’s a jinx. “Second to last run,” I say to myself, and drop in. I could keep going — after all, while other ski resorts have ski-in/ski-out homes and hotels, Park City’s downtown is ski-in/ski-out. “PC,” as the locals call it, is the kind of sprawl — beneath four 9,000-plus-foot peaks — you want: The quantity and quality of the terrain means there’s always good snow somewhere, and plenty of room for beginners and learners. And while you’ll want at least one of your days in Park City to be a powder day — ideal for Nordic or cross-country skiing (in which skiers use gear that lets them leave the track and, well, go cross-country) at the White Pine Nordic Center — there are lots of other worthwhile activities to enjoy.
From world-class skiing to a host of other exciting winter activities, read on for five leisure pursuits that will get you on board with Park City.
Ride an Olympic Bobsled
The Rundown: Feel the thrill of sledding down an icy track in a real Olympic-level, four-passenger bobsled steered by a professional pilot.
Where to Go: Utah Olympic Park offers bobsled rides on the same track that witnessed bobsled, skeleton, and luge events during the 2002 Winter Games. If that sounds like too much excitement, the sports park has activities for all adrenaline levels and ages, including a ropes course, a zip line and drop tower, free museums dedicated to Utah’s ski history and Olympic Legacy, and more.
Who It’s For: To ride the bobsled, you must be over 16 years old and weigh at least 100 pounds. It’s a true bucket-list experience for many, but isn’t for the faint of heart.
Visit an Ice Castle
The Rundown: Utah is one of only six places in North America where you can visit a frozen palace. Created in 2011, the icy, LED–lit fortress is built every winter by harvesting icicles and spraying them with water to fuse a structure that weighs more than 20 million pounds.
Where to Go: Located in Heber Valley, just a 25-minute drive south of Park City, this wonder of ice and lights is called Midway Ice Castles.
Who It’s For: It’s a great family activity — strolling through the castle and gliding down the slides built into it is perfect for all ages. For the kids, there’s a snow princess ready to take pictures, and come evening, there’s light and fire shows, which make for a romantic night out.
Take A Sleigh Ride to a Yurt
The Rundown: Give your appetite a run on an exhilarating 23-minute ride in an open-air sleigh towed by a snowcat — 1,800 feet up to a ridgeline — where a six-course meal in a warm and cozy yurt awaits.
Where to Go: The Viking Yurt has been a Park City tradition for more than two decades. Owners Joy and Geir Vik share their Norwegian heritage — and plenty of aquavit (a Scandinavian liquor) — during the four-hour, one-seating-a-night dinner.
Who It’s For: This experience is one for the grown-ups, but The Snowed Inn Sleigh Company offers Western-style dining with kid-friendly menu items — accompanied with a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Relax in a Hot Spring
The Rundown: The Homestead Crater is a geographical marvel — a mound of mineral deposits containing a once-gushing hot spring. It opened to the public in the 1990s, and today it’s clear, cobalt waters are the perfect place to soak and float after a ski day. Technically, the crater is considered “open water,” so snorkel and scuba lessons are available. This natural wonder also offers stand-up paddleboard–yoga classes if you want to practice downward-facing dog in a truly one-of-a-kind setting.
Where to Go: The Homestead Crater is located at the Homestead Resort in Midway.
Who It’s For: Adventure enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy the crater — the clear-blue warm waters are fun to explore with friends, and there’s a contained swimming dock for the little ones.
Explore 200-Plus Miles of Snowmobiling Trails
The Rundown: Heber Valley is the perfect place to try snowmobiling under the winter sky. A huge network of trails ascends into the nearby Uinta Mountains, and you can discover meadows, mountain peaks, and wide-open spaces to open the throttle.
Where to Go: Rocky Mountain Outfitters, which provides rentals and guided tours of the area, is the best place to start. If slow-and-easy is more your speed, they also offer horse-drawn sleigh rides. Plus, free shuttle service from Park City to Heber Valley is available, making the 25-minute trek a breeze.
Who It’s For: Folks who want to explore the winter landscape without the effort of cross-country skiing will definitely want to take a ride on a snowmobile.
Where to Stay:
This article originally appeared in Issue 2, 2019 of the North America edition of Interval World magazine, published by Interval International®, an indirect subsidiary of Marriott Vacations Worldwide. Any re-use of this content, or any portion of this content, is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.