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Olympic thrills and giant ski hillsOlympic thrills and giant ski hills

Park City, UtahPark City, Utah

In January, many folks are thinking about two things: skiing and the Oscars. For 2018, you can add one more topic: the Winter Olympics. And there’s just one place that combines them all: Park City, Utah, home of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Here, you can enjoy some of the greatest variety of skiing and snowboarding anywhere. Attend the Sundance Film Festival and preview next year’s possible Oscar contenders. Plus, you can try some death-defying Olympic sports for yourself. Just fly in to Heber City Municipal Airport–Russ McDonald Field, a 20-minute drive south of Park City. Oh, and bring your scuba gear. Really.

  • At the Deer Valley Resort near Park City, you can spend a whole or half day skiing with one of these Olympians. Photo by Eric Schramm courtesy Deer Valley Resort.
  • Historic Main Street is easily walkable, or you can hop on the free trolley. Photo courtesy Deer Valley Resort.
  • The Park City mining boom began in 1869 and lasted 50 years. At its height, Park City had a population of 10,000, 30 saloons along Main Street, and a flourishing red-light district. More than $400 million in silver created 23 millionaires, including the father of William Randolph Hearst. Today, 64 of Park City’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many along the town’s Main Street, and more than 1,200 miles of tunnels wind through the surrounding mountains as remnants of the mining era, along with this old structure. Photo courtesy Park City Mountain.
  • After the silver played out, attention shifted to the snow. In the 1930s, ski jumping pioneers competed on Ecker Hill, the present site of the Utah Olympic Park. The area’s first ski lift was built in the 1960s, prompting Park City’s second boom. Today’s year-round population is 7,500, with lodging for 20,000 guests. The tiny historic downtown retains its charm, yet the area boasts over 100 restaurants plus numerous intriguing shops and boutiques in three separate shopping districts. Photo courtesy Park City Mountain.
  • Vail Resorts purchased Park City Mountain and in 2015 spent $50 million to completely renovate and connect it to Canyons Village via a two-way gondola. This created the largest single ski area in the U.S., with over 7,300 acres, 300+ trails, 38 lifts, seven terrain parks, 14 bowls, six natural half pipes, one super pipe and one mini pipe, three distinct base areas, nine hotels, and more than two dozen restaurants. Photo courtesy Park City Mountain.
  • Canyons Village provides a variety of slope-side lodging opportunities like the Grand Summit Hotel, to allow you easy access to Utah’s legendary powder. Accessibility from lodging to lifts, ski school, and other guest services provide an easy, family-friendly guest experience. Photo courtesy Park City Mountain.
  • Let the powder, and your dreams, fly at Park City. Photo courtesy Park City Mountain.
  • Deer Valley is home to many of Utah’s finest lodging and dining establishments. Enjoy bountiful European buffets, fireside dining, and more. The Mariposa, Deer Valley Resort’s premier restaurant, is located in the Silver Lake Lodge. Rated #1 in Utah by the Zagat Restaurant Guide for food and service, it features an award-winning wine list and a blend of classic and current cuisine, in a rustic, elegant setting. Photo courtesy Deer Valley Resort.
  • Experience the thrill of the bobsled as a professional pilot takes you and two other passengers zooming down the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Sliding Track. The Utah Olympic Park also has a zipline. Photo courtesy Dad Logic.
  • Stand at the top of the 120-meter ski jump—if you dare! Photo by Rocky A via Flicker.
  • In summer, freestyle aerialists perfect their routines by jumping into a giant pool at the Utah Olympic Park. Photo by Tojosan via Flickr.
  • Discover the thrill and challenge of Biathlon on the 2002 Olympic Range at Soldier Hollow Olympic Center. You’ll be coached by the professional staff as you learn to shoot with precision rifles similar to those used during the Olympic Games. During the winter, you will either ski or snowshoe and in the summer, choose running or biking. The biathlon course gives participants a sense of authentic biathlon competition and culminates in the presentation of a certificate suitable for framing. Photo courtesy Soldier Hollow Olympic Center.
  • The Homestead Crater is a geothermal spring hidden within a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock. The Crater formed over the past 10,000 years as melting snow seeped two miles down into the earth where it was heated and then percolated upward, depositing minerals on the surface. The hole at the top of the dome lets in sunlight and fresh air while the interior stays heated by the mineral water at a constant range of 90–96°F. Once inside, you can go swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, enjoy a therapeutic soak, or even take a paddle board yoga class. Photo courtesy Homestead Resort.
  • Normally open mid April–October, the Crater Springs Golf Course at Homestead Resort is a par 72 course measuring 7,095 yards from the back tees that plays 5,091 yards from the forward tees. It has a rating of 73.5 with a slope of 147 from the back tees and 68.3 with a slope of 124 from the forward. The course features five sets of tee boxes on each hole to accommodate any skill level and to allow you to practice different parts of your game. Photo courtesy Homestead Resort.
  • In support of emerging filmmakers, Robert Redford hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City each January. The festival has become an international attraction and is now America’s largest independent film festival. Photo by Jonathan Hickerson courtesy The Sundance Institute.

One of the attractive aspects of this getaway is that you don’t have to rent a car. Use Uber, Lyft, or a taxi from the airport to Park City. In town, there’s a free public trolley system and new zero-emission buses. These buses operate on an express route to connect riders between Main Street and the Olympic facilities in Kimball Junction without additional stops.

The eastern and western slopes of the Wasatch Mountains are home to no fewer than 10 world-class ski resorts. Park City, tucked into a canyon on the eastern slope of the Wasatch, gives you access to three of them: Deer Valley, Canyons Village, and Park City Mountain, between the other two. Vail Resorts, which owns ski areas across North America and even in Australia, purchased Park City and in 2015 spent $50 million to completely renovate Park City Mountain and connect it to The Canyons Resort (which was re-named Canyons Village at Park City) via a two-way gondola. This created the largest single ski area in the United States. (By the way, you can take advantage of all this consolidation by purchasing an Epic Pass, which gives you season-long lift privileges at 15 Vail properties including Park City/Canyons Village.)

The Orange Bubble Express, located at The Canyons in Park City, is one-of-a-kind, featuring heated seats and clear orange plastic that allows riders in the quad-lift to observe the surrounding scenery as if through a pair of ski goggles. From the resort’s Grand Summit Hotel, the lift whisks skiers to mid-mountain Lookout Peak before continuing uphill just south of the current Sun Peak lift. Photo courtesy Park City Mountain.

The renovations included upgrades to many Park City Mountain lifts and restaurants as well as greatly increased snowmaking capacity. Canyons Village, Park City’s original snowboarding mecca, is known for its deep, powdery snow, spread across eight mountains. Its resort village is loaded with restaurants, shops, and après-ski entertainment. Seven signature Park City properties include the newly renovated Grand Summit Hotel, a ski-in, ski-out resort with a fabulous spa and health club.

Deer Valley, one mile south of historic Main Street in Park City, is Utah’s most elegant and sophisticated resort, with perfectly manicured slopes, heated sidewalks, plus some of Utah’s finest dining and lodging, most notably the Forbes Five-Star-rated Stein Eriksen Lodge and its Glitretind Restaurant. Deer Valley hosted the slalom, aerial, and mogul events during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and its slopes are still for skiers only—no snowboards. One of the numerous activities offered is called “ski with a champion,” your chance to ski with a real Olympian for a half or full day.

Just five miles north of Main Street in Kimball Junction, the Utah Olympic Park is where you can careen down the $25-million bobsled run at up to 80 mph. Or, play on the ropes courses, visit the ski museum, or take a tour. You may see athletes training on the luge, skeleton, or ski jump. If you have a car, drive 20 miles south of Park City to Soldier Hollow in Midway, where you can ski cross-country, go tubing, or experience the biathlon by combining skiing or snowshoeing with target shooting, just like in the Olympics. Also in Midway, you’ll find the continental United States’ only warm-water scuba diving destination at the Homestead Resort, plus lodging and a beautiful summertime golf course.

The Viking Yurt is a unique fine dining adventure that begins with a 23-minute sleigh ride 1,800 feet up the mountain. Over the next four hours, you’ll enjoy a six-course Scandinavian feast, accompanied by live piano music and glowing candles. Photo courtesy The Viking Yurt.

Each January in Park City, Robert Redford hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival, which has grown into the country’s largest independent film festival. Films are screened at venues around town and free transportation is provided.

In Park City, it’s easy to eat well, but two establishments really stand out: Chimayo and the Viking Yurt. Chimayo presents the most sophisticated Southwest menu I’ve ever seen, and how could this Dane resist a four-hour, six-course Scandinavian feast inside a yurt, on top of a mountain, accompanied by live music on a baby grand piano? After all, this is Park City, the only place I know where you can get the biggest skiing and the most exclusive, along with a dose of Hollywood, the Olympics, and scuba diving—really.

Deer Valley’s slopes are reserved for skiers only, and you can ski right down to your hotel room. Photo courtesy Deer Valley Resort.

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Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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