Park City, Utah
We have been skiing Park City since 2003 which was the year after the Olympics were held there. I (Ron) actually skied there for a few days back in the early and late 80’s when the old 4-passenger gondola was still there. I remember there being so much powder on one day that I couldn’t even get any forward momentum on the narrow skis I had back then which had no flotation. This review is based on the 15+ visits since 2003.
Park City and The Canyons are now linked via a new impressive gondola installed in 2015, but we skied them before the merger and never ski both sides in one day so we think of them as 2 different resorts. Because of that this review is divided into 2 different sections.
It pains me somewhat to read this review written in 2014 which is based mostly on skiing from 2003-2014. Vail bought the Canyons from Talisker in 2007. Not much changed until 2014 when they also bought Park City Mountain Resort. The two resorts were combined in 2015 via the Quicksilver gondola and this opened up the flood of skiers and crowds that have been getting worse every year. We still go back every other year or so, but it’s not the same experience it used to be. Grooming at both resorts is reduced, lines are longer for everything, and staff and customers are grumpy. The positive culture which was different at each resort has been combined into something much less appealing.
|Real Vertical ?||3,190′, Rank: 21|
|Size||7,300 Acres, Rank: 3|
|Annual Snowfall ?||355″ claimed / 288″ actual, Rank: 50|
|Lift Pods ?||27, Rank: 1|
|Distinct Trails ?||298, Rank: 1|
|Review Date||(multiple visits from 1980-present)|
|Number of visits||15+ from 1980 to present|
Park City Review
Stats (Park City side)
|Real Vertical ?||2,725′|
|Ski Pods ?||14|
|Distinct Trails ?||116|
|Review Date||(multiple visits from 1980-present)|
|Number of visits||15+ from 1980 to present|
Park City overview
We always have fun at Park City and usually end up skiing there at least one of the days in a week-long trip. We think of it as one of the easier days on our trips. It’s mostly characterized by the many very wide groomers and bump runs, and the forests of mostly aspen trees on the front side. The Jupiter Bowl area and Jupiter Peak are where the steeps are, but to me these are notch below what can be found at The Canyons side and the really good stuff off Jupiter Peak requires a substantial hike.
Our typical ski day…
We usually start off the day on King Con, which is unique in that there are 13(!) blue runs off it — and no other colors of runs. If you are an intermediate skier this is the place for you.
Next up is the Silverload 6-pack chair, which can get very crowded but has some slightly longer runs. This brings up one of the issues I have with Park City which is that the vertical on each lift is modest, so the runs tend to go by quickly. The Motherload lift is nice and long but until now it was a slow triple so we tended to avoid that one. It has now been replaced with a high speed quad so that area should get more traffic now with the shorter ride back up.
Moving on to the best part — Jupiter Bowl. This is a large area of bowls, chutes, and trees served by a single double chair 🙁 . On a powder day that chair develops a large line of course, but the skiing is great. A very short hike up to Scott’s Bowl leads you to some of the best and least tracked-out powder in the area. On the other side of the chair Fortune Teller and Silver Cliff are seriously steep.
Ski to downtown Park City for lunch
Sometimes we head over to Payday and ski into downtown Park City for lunch. There is a great Brazilian restaurant right at the bottom of the lift that we love. The resort restaurants have definitely been below-par experiences and the lodges are crowded so if we have the time we definitely like to hit the Brazilian place up. It should be noted that since Vail bought the resort, they have already completely replaced one restaurant and have remodeled another so at least the facilities will be improved. Unfortunately that includes Vail (high) prices so I’m not sure if that is better or not!
It’s fun to ski into the town and it’s a great view, but the ride back on the Town Lift is REALLY long and slow though, so it eats up a lot of time. The top is near the top of the Payday lift. That area is pretty flat so we usually only do one run there. That lift needs an upgrade.
After lunch we usually head over to McConkey’s which is on the other side of Jupiter Peak. This is our second favorite area of Park City. A short hike to skier’s right up the ridge toward Jupiter Peak leads you to a large bowl area “o-zone” and “p-zone”. There is some great snow in there because of the hike.
On the other side of McConkey’s, the Black Forest glades are a blast. Unlike most conifer stands in Utah, these trees are widely spaced and it’s a fairly easy and fun run.
Pioneer and Crescent steep groomers
On the way back we hit Pioneer for a couple of runs. This has some steeper blues, but it’s another slow triple.
There are 6 long black runs from Crescent lift. They usually groom a couple of them, so even on a day when the snow is icy or sticky these are some good steep groomers.
- A nice variety of terrain with a mix of groomers, steeps, moguls, and trees
- Runs are abnormally wide even by western standards
- Very convenient access to downtown Park City
- Along with Deer Valley, these are the easiest accessed ski resorts from a major airport in North America.
- Not a lot of vertical on each lift
- Feels more crowded than The Canyons side of the resort or the other Park City resort Deer Valley
- Still needs some lift upgrades as of 2021 (Pioneer, Town, Jupiter)
Would we go back
We seem to visit just about every other year because the resort is on our Epic Pass and is a reasonable one-day drive from our home in South Lake Tahoe. Although we prefer the Canyons side, we always spend one day on the Park City side.
The Canyons at Park City Review
We’ve been skiing The Canyons since 2003 when we discovered what a great place it is. Utah is full of great ski resorts, but this part of Park City is different and special.
Stats (The Canyons side)
|Real Vertical ?||3,190′|
|Ski Pods ?||13|
|Distinct Trails ?||182|
|Review Date||(multiple visits from 2003-present)|
|Number of visits||15+|
We first heard about The Canyons in 2002 when the winter olympics were held in Park City and the TV coverage was headquartered in the Grand Summit hotel at the base. The Canyons had gotten 4 years of upgrades starting in 1998 that more than doubled the size of the resort and made it a major player in the destination resort market. The resort has had a number of different owners since then which has (thankfully or sadly?) ended up with Vail Resorts owning the place. In 2015 Vail spent $50 million on a gondola linking up Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons and now call it one resort which is simply “Park City”. The Canyons is now “The Canyons at Park City”.
In 2003 we visited for the first time. We were staying in Salt Lake City downtown and drove up to the resort to ski with the kids. We thought we had found paradise. Long, steeper, well-groomed trails were virtually empty. We liked it so much that we bought a timeshare right in the village at the top of the Cabriolet lift. We owned that for 10-years, which is one of the reasons we skied there so much. The other reason is that it is just plain awesome even though it’s not nearly as empty as it was back in 2003.
Divide and Conquer
The Canyons is large, and you are wasting your day if you try to ski all the ski pods in one day. The best option is to divide it in the middle and spend 1 day on Tombstone and everything to the left of that, and the other day on Saddleback and everything to the right of that. In any case, your day will begin either on the Gondola or Orange Bubble to get up to mid-mountain where you can decide whether to go right or left. These 2 lifts move people out of the base area quickly and the lines aren’t usually more than a couple of minutes.
I won’t bore you with details on every ski pod, because this place is huge. Here are some highlights from lookers left to right (southeast to northwest).
Dreamcatcher and Dreamscape
The Dreamcatcher and Dreamscape lifts access 2 of our favorite intermediate groomers on the planet: Alpenglow and Twilight. The snow is the deepest on this side of the mountain, and the groomed runs are just a tad better because of it. Dreamcatcher has a large vertical and some lower-angle ungroomed black runs that are great on a powder day.
The Peak 5 chair accesses one of the steepest zones on the mountain called “The Abyss”. Skiers right has about the steepest angle that can hold snow and not be pure rock that I have skied. I remember skiing this with our son Kai after he got to be a great skier, just hoping/praying he didn’t fall.
The 9990 lift is named after the altitude of the top station, which is the highest on the mountain. The north face of 9990 has the best/deepest snow on the mountain. NOTHING is groomed on that chair, so it is all black or double-black. Bring your “A” game because this is where AiRung blew out her 2nd knee in an unfortunate accident on a narrow trail traversing out of an un-skiable zone a few years back. On a powder day you could spend all day in this zone, but you probably won’t because there are so many other choices and things to ski. The negative to the north face area is that it takes 2 chair rides to get back to the top, and one of them is the busy and long Tombstone lift.
Backcountry gate removed
Before 2021, 9990 also gave you access via a short uphill hike to a backcountry gate. This was easy access to some fantastic snow. I have been out the gates a few times and it’s amazing how easy it is to get to untracked snow, but that ease of access was the downfall of the gate. Several people were killed in avalanches and Vail had to finally close it permanently. There is now a gate lower down at the top of the Peak 5 chair which will require considerably more hiking to get up to the Dutch Draw and Flattop areas.
Tombstone is a huge ski pod with some very unique features. There are some extraordinarily long lower-angle blue groomers to skiers right, and some much shorter but very steep double-blue’s on skiers left, including “Sidewinder”. Sidewinder is not really a highlight though. We usually call it “Icewinder” — you get the picture. Taking it after 11AM means a very fast ski down a crowded slope with a bunch of semi out-of-control skiers. Still Tombstone has something for everyone and Icewinder aside, it’s a great ski pod.
Super-Condor – our favorite
Super-Condor is on the right side of the mountain and is the best place to rack up lots of vertical. Other than 1 really long low-angle groomer, everything is steep and they often groom 2 or 3 of them. You have iron legs if you can ski top to bottom without resting. This is a very unique ski pod and is not something you can really find anywhere else but The Canyons.
The Orange Bubble midway unloading area gives you access to one of the most underused areas of the mountain highlighted by Lookout Ridge, which is another of the greatest steep groomers we have skied. Silverado Bowl is great on a powder day, and since it is underused you should find some soft lines even after 3PM.
To us The Canyons has traditionally excelled in the things that make skiing great — snow, terrain, grooming, and lifts but it has not been so great for things that you would find in a lodge like food and bathrooms. It used to be that there was NO food and only temporary bathrooms to the left of Red Pine at the top of the Gondola. That is an area the size of Kirkwood with no services. Thankfully they are slowly improving that situation with a new restaurant at the top of Dreamscape, and an outside dining area at the bottom of Tombstone. Still, the food is very expensive and nothing really special, and it will be hard to find a seat (except Lookout Cabin), so our recommendation is to eat at one of the non-Vail restaurants in the village.
- 182 trails
- Lots of steep groomers
- Less crowding than some other resorts of this type
- A modern fast lift system
- Utah snow
- It’s very entertaining skiing at The Canyons due to the unique nature of the terrain. It seems like there are lots of hidden gems as you explore.
- The Park City area resorts get less snow than the Cottonwood Canyons resorts get, which is ironic since you can look down on Big Cottonwood Canyon from the top of the 9990 ridge, but that is the case so you will find better/deeper snow nearby.
- Some of the runs actually face South due to the primary ridge orientation being Southeast/Northwest and the fact that the area does actually have lots of canyons. There are probably something like 20 runs that are mostly sagebrush and are seldom open because they face south. It would probably be better if they just revised the trail count down and took those off the map.
- There is also a huge difference between the amount of snow received at the base vs. the top of 9990, which is not unusual for a lot of places but here the difference is probably something like 4:1. The base relies entirely on snowmaking.
- As mentioned in the review, Vail has done their usual with food prices and the lack of seating and lodges on the mountain make eating on the mountain something to be avoided if possible.
Steep groomers! You will find them on Super Condor, Orange Bubble, Dreamcatcher, and Iron Mountain. If you can handle steep ungroomed terrain head up to 9990 for the best snow. There is great really-steep terrain all over the mountain, so explore and enjoy.
Our best experience
We once signed up for the “First Tracks” program where we skied with an ex-Olympic US Ski team member with a few other lucky people. We literally had the whole mountain to ourselves for 1 1/2 hours of bliss.
Would we go back?
Yes definitely. In fact the first year we no longer had our timeshare we still went back and rented a place in the village! We have Vail Epic passes and Park City is a relatively short drive for us from Tahoe, so we will probably be back every few years.