We drove along Interstate 80 en route from Salk Lake City to the slopes and remained uneasily silent while the four of us–two adults, two teenage boys–stared out the car windows to bare brown, scrubby mountains. The rumors were true. There was no snow.
We had flown from Atlanta in early March and arrived in Utah to find temperatures remarkably similar to those we left, with daily highs hitting the mid-50s. But Park City aims to please, and it did not disappoint. By the end of our five days, we had enjoyed beautiful spring skiing on groomed slopes, delightful walks, satisfying meals, and some fine family bonding time. Our vacation was a success, after all. There’s a reason that Park City is a popular ski destination for Atlanta families. From Hartsfield it is a direct flight to Salt Lake City, and from there it’s about a one-hour drive to the slopes. The ski resort at Park City is spitting distance from tonier Deer Valley and quieter Canyons, offering a variety of ski options from one location. Plus, for the après ski crowd or non-skiers, the western-themed Main Street is packed with restaurants, boutiques, and bars. Throw in the 2002 Winter Olympic venues, an Olympic museum, and Tabernacle Square, all just a short drive from the slopes or the airport, and you have the ingredients for a varied and enjoyable family vacation.
In two consecutive years at Park City, we had completely different experiences. Last year we had enough Marriott rewards points to cover four nights at the Park City Marriott, which is one of three Marriott hotels there–the others being Marriott’s Summit Watch on Main Street and Marriott’s Mountainside at the ski resort (both pricier). While our location was a bit removed from the action, there is a hotel shuttle bus, as well as free public bus transportation provided by Park City that offers easy access to Main Street, Park City ski resort, Canyons, and Deer Valley.
In 2014 the spring snow was ample and temperatures were wintry, and when we were off the slopes we bundled up to explore the shops and eateries on Main Street. I had booked a late flight back to Atlanta, and we used our final half day to visit the Winter Olympic venues and museums. Although there are daily tours of the Winter Olympic competition sites, we opted for a quick look at them and then proceeded into the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center. We were happy to learn that admission is completely free and the building houses two museums: The Alf Engen Ski Museum and the Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic Games Museum. Both museums display wonderful exhibits, instructive films and interactive perks. We took turns sitting in a bobsled, and we paid a small sum for Disneyesque simulations of a bobsled ride and a ski run. (For $185, you can experience an actual bobsled ride down the Olympic track, complete with professional driver.)
We allowed enough time to stop in Salt Lake City to visit Tabernacle Square before our departure. The grounds are beautiful and Mormon sisters from various countries toured us through the Mormon Temple and the Tabernacle, home to the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They suggested we take lunch at the Lion House Pantry next door, and the friendly cafeteria indeed serves delicious home-style meals at a great value.
This year we decided to stay closer to the action, and we found a condo through the helpful staff at Park City Vacation Properties that was about a 10-minute walk to the lifts and about a 15-minute walk to Main Street. The warm weather allowed for pleasant walking, and I also walked to the Windy Ridge Bakery, where I purchased enormous croissants and doughnuts for breakfast, and to the Windy Ridge Café, where I picked-up dinner for four (for under $30—one of the best deals in town). One day our boys skied to the town lift and met my husband and me for lunch at the ideally situated Bridge Café and Grill.
While we visited some favorites from last year, such as Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and the Lion House Pantry, we discovered other new gems, such as Squatters Roadhouse Grill, which offers fine food and craft beer at reasonable prices.
I had purchased lift ticket vouchers from Costco last year, but they weren’t available this season. This year, the EpicDay lift ticket was the way to go, with discounts applied when purchased online at least a day before skiing; the pass was good for Park City and Canyons, as well as night skiing. Vail Resorts, Inc. plans to connect the two resorts in time for the 2015-16 ski season.
We’ve experienced Park City two ways and had a terrific vacation both times.