Head to this Utah town for the ultimate ski vacation

What’s it like to ski at the country’s largest ski resort?

In the summer of 2015 Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort combined to create the largest single ski and snowboard resort in the United States. The result is a snow-covered behemoth spanning more than 7,300 acres – three to four times the size of world class destination resorts like Snowbird, Steamboat or Copper Mountain. Improvements totaling over $50 million included a new eight-passenger Quicksilver Gondola connection, new restaurants and refurbished trails.

Park City is the easiest accessible mountain destination in the country, and it is only a 35 minute-drive from Salt Lake City International Airport. Skiers can hop on the slopes the same day they fly in.

With 300+ trails, 41 lifts, 8 terrain parks, one super pipe and one mini pipe, plus many diverse ski-in/ski-out and village adjacent lodging properties, Park City is a, world-class mountain destination located in an authentic and historic western town.

Things we loved about Park City Mountain Resort:

  • Accessibility: the resort was a quick 35-minute trip from the airport. And once on the mountain you barely need a car – shuttles are efficient and frequent and the lifts of Park City Mountain Resort come right down to the quaint Main Street, which also happens to be home to wonderful hotels and restaurants.
  • Favorable conditions: Park City is privy to Utah’s famously dry powder (in contrast to that crunchy, icy East Coast snow), generally held to be the best quality snow in the nation, if not the world.
  • Diversity of trails: being a ski novice I was nervous about attempting such a mega-resort but the layout of PCMR was easy to navigate and there were plenty of trails for beginners to test their skills. Ski pro’s also have plenty to keep busy with Olympic-level terrains and obstacle courses for daredevils.

Ski Schools at Park City/Deer Valley

Both Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley are home to excellent ski schools for kids. Our kids were beginners and at Park City Mountain Resort’s “Ultimate Ski Lesson.” They learned to ski down the bunny slopes after just one day of lessons. The student-to-teacher ratio was two to one, making for a very attentive and hands-on learning experience. The friendly instructor taught them the basics and made sure they had mastered the fundamentals before moving on to more complicated skills. We also liked that the majority of the time was spent outside on the slopes with periodic breaks for snacks and lunch.

The Deer Valley Ski School felt a bit more like camp with activities in the classroom like crafts for the younger kids and fun treats like hot cocoa breaks in a mid-mountain lodge for the more advanced skiers. The kids loved the fuzzy mascots that roamed the slopes looking to say hello and were able to ride the two-person ski lift on their own. Deer Valley’s more intimate atmosphere also helped the kids feel more confident on the slopes.

In both cases lunch and all activities were included. Equipment rental is not included in ski school but we used the nifty Ski Butler service and loved the fact that they pre-delivered all the equipment to our hotel the night before and fitted us in our room to make sure everything worked well.

Where to Stay in Park City/Deer Valley
The Lodges at Deer Valley are the perfect base if you’re interested in taking advantage of both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. The PCMR is only an eight-minute shuttle bus trip and DV is a three-minute bus ride away.

The rooms feel like upscale apartments, with warm wood accents, chandeliers, high-end artwork, fireplaces, and marble bathrooms complete with soaking tubs, and separate showers. We stayed in a two-bedroom condo-style suite that came equipped with a massive kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances, a living room with a gas fireplace and laundry facilities. The complimentary daily breakfast was an appetizing spread of pastries, cheeses, yogurt and granola, waffle station and hot items like baked quiches and roasted vegetables.

The complimentary hotel shuttle was a Cadillac Escalade which was always just a phone call away. Though we had a rented a car to drive from the airport we barely used it as the hotel SUV took us to our various activities and dining outings quickly and easily.

Another nice perk was the complimentary hot cocoa and warm cookies available every afternoon in the lobby. My kids loved sipping the hot cocoa while sitting by the fireplace – it was ski lodge heaven!

Other amenities include 24-hour front desk and on-site check-in, concierge and bell service, complimentary wireless Internet access in each guest room, ski rental and storage, general store, fitness center, outdoor heated pool and hot tub and underground parking.

Dining at Park City/Deer Valley

On Park City Mountain we found a local’s secret, the family owned ski-in/out Silver Star Café at the base of the lower Shooting Star lift. Its outdoor deck provided amazing views of the mountain and terrain below. The dinner menu at Silver Star offers highly elevated comfort foods, like salt cod fish dip, pork osso buco, and an outstanding burger. Standout dishes included the roasted cauliflower, boneless buttermilk fried chicken and the vegetarian wild mushroom stroganoff. Their selection of craft beers and live music rounded out the fantastic experience there.

Another unforgettable dinner was had at Fireside Dining, an authentic Swiss-style restaurant whereby meats and cheeses are cooked directly over a live fire. Before dinner we were treated to a horse-drawn family sleigh ride that set the tone for the Alps-like experience of Fireside Dining. Dinner was a hearty four courses that included buffet-like stations of salad and charcuterie, fire-roasted leg of lamb, fresh baked breads and dessert fondues. But the highlight of course was the Swiss raclette cheese suspended in front of a roaring fire and melting directly onto the serving plates.

Another great option for mid-mountain dining at Deer Valley is Royal Street Cafe, located near the Silver Lake Lodge. The antidote to a long morning on the slopes, Royal Street has a bistro feel with well-considered dishes like the tuna tartar with its lime caper aioli and the Niman Ranch mole short rib tacos that we devoured after our morning ski lessons. We were glad we saved room for dessert – the carrot cake cupcake did not disappoint.