With its roots firmly in the West's colourful past, Park City today offers myriad choices for discerning skiers looking for that special place, and for that they have to thank an army of gnarly old timers with picks and shovels digging for silver.
Aircraft on their final approach to Salt Lake City airport during the winter are full of smiling faces. Passengers in window seats may notice the Great Salt Lake, and they will certainly notice the snow covered mountains of the Wasatch Mountains, part of the magnificent Rocky Mountain Range.
The smiles are perhaps broader than usual because these passengers are skiers and boarders en route to the ski resorts of the Park City area, and they know that once they have collected their baggage, the resort shuttle will have them conveniently pulling into resort just 35 minutes later.
An historic mining town and three sparkling ski resorts
Within living memory Park City was one of Utah's mining success stories, having popped up virtually overnight in 1884 when silver was found and mining continued until the 1960's when commercially viable silver finally ran out. Today's skiers and boarders may spare a thought for the punishingly hard graft that created a labyrinth of subterranean mine shafts and tunnels beneath the very trails where they now play.
And what a place to play - Park City consists of three sparkling resorts; Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and Canyons. Between them they boast 58 lifts, 426 named runs (including bowls and terrain parks) and over 9,600 skiable acres of what Utah has trademarked as the 'Greatest Snow on Earth'. Why is the greatest? It's light, it's fluffy and it falls abundantly and conveniently during ski season - an average of almost 900 cm each winter. Little wonder then that 22 events were held in Park City during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The nucleus of this impressive trio of resorts is in the town of Park City, where the Main Street is rich in Victorian buildings listed on the US National Register of Historic Places (there are a total of 84 such buildings though out the town), a three dimensional legacy from those rip-roaring mining days. Today Main Street remains as busy as it was in its heyday and many of the quaint buildings house restaurants, bars, shops and art galleries. Park City Mountain Resort was the first of the local mountains to open as a ski resort, and as the ski area's reputation grew, so the town grew and today's visitors enjoy an extensive range of hotels and condos to choose from, suitable for almost any budget.
30 years ago this season Deer Valley cranked up its ski lifts for the first time, unveiling an unrivalled commitment to excellence and service for its visitors, which continues to this day. In fact for the last three years, Deer Valley has been voted the best ski resort in North America by readers of Ski magazine - the popular American ski title. The resort is characterized by its swish hotels, gourmet restaurants and perfectly groomed snow, and the highest levels of customer service. Deer Valley remains a bastion for skiers, and snowboarders will have to get their fix on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons.
The relative new kid on the block is Canyons, which in former incarnations was a much smaller resort known as Park West and then Wolf Mountain. In the early nineties, the area was bought with an eye to develepment, and in the last few years, the imaginative plans are racing ahead. A resort in its own right with smart modern hotels and condos where the improvements keep on coming, such as the new and innovative bottom to top bubbled quad chairlift with heated seats, a new gondola and another 300 acres of skiable terrain, for a total of 4,000 acres.
Travelling between the resorts is easy, courtesy of a shuttle service that runs from early morning until late at night, and the longest journey between resorts - from Deer Valley to Canyons - takes approximately 15 minutes. The same bus service is also perfect for getting to and from off-mountain activities, including the extensive shopping opportunities and night life that extends to over 100 restaurants and bars plus some excellent night spots in Park City (not including the night skiing on Park City Mountain Resort!).
Away from the skiing and retail therapy, visitors to the resorts have plenty of non-ski activities to whet their appetites, including the rare thrill of bobsledding on the Utah Olympic Park track at speeds of up to 75 mph. This is the same spot where Alex Coomber won a rare bronze medal for Great Britain in the women's skeleton during the 2002 Olympics. A more sedate pace can be enjoyed in the natural pristine environment of the mountains and forests by snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Family activities include sleigh rides, ice skating and every kids favourite, snow tubing. Petrol heads are kept happy too, with exhilarating guided snowmobile tours into the backcountry.
To book a ski holiday from the UK to Park City please contact one of the following tour operators:
Ski Safari, Tel: +44 (0) 1273 224 060, Web: www.skisafari.com
Ski Independence, Tel: +44 (0) 131 243 8097, Web: www.ski-i.com
American Ski Classics, Tel: +44 (0) 208 607 9988, Web: www.americanskiclassics.com
Ski World, Tel: +44 (0) 8444 930 430, Web: www.skiworld.co.uk
Crystal Holidays, Tel: +44 (0) 20 8939 5035, Web: www.crystalholidays.co.uk
Virgin Holidays, Tel: +44 (0) 844 557 4321, Web: www.virginholidays.co.uk
Sponsor: Park City Mountain Resort
The advertorial feature is sponsored by Park City Mountain Resort, 1910 Prospector Avenue, Park City, UT 84060, USA. Tel: +1 435-649-6100. Web: www.visitparkcity.com