A Tale of Two Cities

Park City is the consummate destination resort, whether for budget backpackers looking to ski-and-save or big-money travelers after some select pampering. So rest assured that whatever the color of your charge card, Utah's 2002 Olympic star has got you covered.
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park city aerial, utah
Hit the Heights: Park City's downtown amenities are framed by three world-class ski resorts (Lori Adamski-Peek/courtesy, Park City Chamber & Visitors Bureau)
Budget Be Damned!
Snag two of your closest riding buddies and hit Utah Olympic Park for a bomb down the mile-long Olympic bobsled track. It costs a head-splitting $200 per person, lasts less than a minute, and may leave your stomach in your mouth, but how often do you hit four G's and drop the equivalent of a 40-story building? Sick, dude.

The Scene
The erstwhile stoner sport of snowboarding came of age at the 2002 Winter Olympics—and Park City was its turn-a-blind-eye chaperone. The telegenic halfpipe competitions, plus equally telegenic acrobatic stars like Kelly Clark and Danny Cass, raked in record crowds, not to mention a new generation of vert-obsessed groms.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Park City is the place both to play and party, this despite its location in the heart of Utah's buttoned-up Mormon country. Indeed, Park City was shaking things up long before the 2002 Olympics' X-Games vibe introduced the former mining town to millions of TV viewers.

In 1868 the discovery of silver in the mountains brought a flood of businesses, miners, and chancers to the Wasatch slopes for a shot at striking it rich. Sixteen years later, in 1884, Park City was officially incorporated and the mines kept things growing right up until their final closure in 1949. Walk up and down the historic Main Street today and you'll still get a sense of that hardscrabble 19th-century graft, even if the jail and old flophouses are now flanked by high-end galleries and ritzy restaurants. Fox fur and Dior sunglasses may intermingle with the weathered hoodies and baggy jeans, but you get the picture...

The Slopes
Rock up to a ticket kiosk at any of Park City's three resorts—Park City Mountain, Deer Valley, and The Canyons—and any self-respecting powderhound will reel from sticker shock. With some of the highest prices in the country, any budget will be blown if you're spending upwards of $70 for a daily lift ticket.

So be a good scrounger and save by buying in bulk—in other words, check out the deals on multi-day tickets. The Canyons (435.649.5400; www.thecanyons.com) offers a free day's skiing if you pre-register for a coupon and present it at the ticket kiosk when buying a lift ticket for two or more days. Prices start from $130 for a two-day lift pass; apply for your online voucher at www.thecanyons.com/freedaydeal. Not a bad deal for 3,500 acres of primo powder, 100 runs, and five terrain parks in which to hone those wanabee Ross Powers skillz.

Another way to save up your nightly beer money is to sign up for Park City's Quick START program, offering a complimentary ticket to any one of the town's three resorts on the day you fly into Salt Lake City. Simply register online for a redemption voucher, hop the next SLC-bound flight, and present your voucher and your boarding pass along with a photo ID to the resort of your choice. Then you've got what remains of a snow-filled day to kick off your vacation in grand style. Visit www.parkcityinfo.com/skiing/quickstart/ for more information.

The Crib
Don't tell mom you're staying here, but the Chateau Apres (800.357.9372; www.chateauapres.com) is where to stay and save while rocking out on the slopes and in the après-ski department. A slightly garish alpine-cum-gingerbread creation, this 32-room lodge (plus two hostel-style dorms with bunks) won't exactly get the home fires burning, but it's clean, convenient (a short walk from the Park City Mountain lifts and Main Street), and cheap ($90 for a double; $30 per bunk berth). Better, it's a great place to meet fellow skiers and travelers and get in on the local scene.

If this sounds too spartan for your tastes, Park City boasts hundreds of condos for those traveling with a crowd, or B&B's for something simple, sweet, and cost effective. Even though some properties might be a distance from Main Street or the slopes, a free shuttle service means you'll never be far from your desired locale. Check out the Park City Chamber of Commerce's lodging locator, plus their "Hot Deals" section. Here you'll find late-breaking deals on the town's 120 lodging properties, updated weekly each Monday. Visit www.parkcityinfo.com for more.

You've scrimped, you've saved, all in the name of ripping up some of Utah's best snow. Congrats, now it's time to treat yourself (some more). Free fun is never far in Park City with numerous concerts, costume events, arts festivals, and film events—including the Sundance jamboree, where you can score reasonably priced $10 tickets to individual screenings, maybe even including a Q&A with the director and cast into the bargain. Stay on the ball and pre-register online for advance ticket info (www.sundance.org), or get in the "Wait List Line" at theaters an hour before screenings for a chance to scoop up any extra tickets. If you're not in town for the festival itself (and face it, rooms will be scarce and prices inflated), sneak in for free film screenings pre-Sundance in January to get a flavor of what's coming up.

Other places to eke out savings (and have fun in the process) are at the resorts themselves, which throw free bashes throughout the season. Deer Valley hosts the Freestyle International World Cup for two days each January, a great time to watch hot-dogging superstars race each other down the Olympics moguls course and get big air off the freestyle ramps. Their athleticism will either inspire, amaze, or terrify you. This annual event also features live entertainment (anyone remember Cheap Trick?) and fireworks. In addition, January 2006 sees several events to celebrate the Torino Winter Olympics, including the ten-day Winterfest, Park City's self-styled "non-stop, ten-day party" to celebrate its 2002 Olympics legacy.

Back on Main Street, you don't have to be a gourmand to forage. Reasonably priced eateries, pubs, and grocery stores abound, including the legendary spit-and-sawdust No Name Saloon and Grill (447 Main St., 435.649.6667), where local ski bums, ski patrolers, and visitors in the know come to drink, dance, and party. In no time at all, you'll be back in turn-of-the-century mining mode and wondering how the hell Utah got that dry-state rep.

Published: 10 Oct 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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