Ideal Park City and the Idyllic Heber Valley
More than just the Best Town in America, Park City is arguably Utah’s premier ski town. It is, finely put, where to ski in Utah.
While Ogden and Salt Lake, as we shall see, may bend the definition of “ski town” to accommodate a wider winter experience, Park City does that too, yet also embodies the textbook definition of “ski town.” The chairlift called “Town Lift?" That’s a direct connection between lower Main Street in historic Park City and Park City Mountain’s 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. (“Historic” is not being thrown in lightly: Main Street is a true silver mining-era town with almost four dozen buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, making it distinctive from many of the prefabricated ski villages found in America’s winter landscape.)
For those who love novelty on a ski trip, Park City Mountain’s 341 runs alone could mean you never ski or ride the same run twice on your Utah ski vacation (Epic Pass-holders rejoice!). Not that you’d get bored on the 103 runs next door at the Ikon Pass-friendly Deer Valley, which adds more than 2,000 acres and another 3,000 feet of vertical to Park City’s portfolio of lift-served skiable terrain (emphasis on skiable: Deer Valley is ski-only so, alas, not rideable; and another emphasis on lift-served, because nearby Park City Powder Cats opens up another 15,000 private ranch acres to backcountry touring). Speaking of novelty, sustainability-focused Park City is one of the only mountain towns that doesn’t require a car to visit. Combine an airport shuttle with the town’s free transit system and hotel shuttles and boom: You’ve just reduced your carbon footprint.
In another anthropomorphic turn, Park City views itself as “Winter’s Favorite Town.” Hard to disagree with its visible Olympic legacy (including the must-visit Utah Olympic Park) and comprehensive winter recreation options, a list that includes the hits such as cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snow biking and snowshoeing. But it then one-ups other destinations with sleigh rides, dog sledding (See: Harnessing Passion: The Arctic Rescue Sled Dog Team) and Woodward Resort, [draws in a long breath] the nation’s first all-in-one action sports and ski resort that is also part of the Park City-headquartered U.S. Ski & Snowboard team’s network of training facilities. Mix in a first-class arts scene, top-rated spas, excellent shopping, some 150 restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries for après and, just, so much variety to be an ideal multigenerational family destination that, yep: perfect ski town.
Nearby Heber might seem like a newer ski town on the block, but something about the Alpine (as in Alps) landscapes attracted early Swiss settlers who quickly established some serious ski town vibes. It’s a heritage that remains strong today in European-inspired architecture, dining and accommodations. A base camp in the Heber Valley means easy access to off-the-mountain winter recreation options including a tremendous amount of snowmobiling. There’s just a lot of room out here. One way to take in the room and splendor of the valley is on the historic Heber Valley Railroad, perhaps best known for its family-favorite North Pole Express, which fills up quickly. As you’re building your itinerary, also book early for the magical (sorry, there is no other word) Midway Ice Castles near Soldier Hollow Nordic Center and note the easy access to Deer Valley’s Jordanelle Express Gondola, a somehow-secret-side of the mountain.
Bonus: Though you may never have skied there, Sundance Mountain Resort almost needs no introduction. Made famous by Robert Redford, the rustic beauty of the 500-acre resort welcomes more than just skiers and riders to the north fork of Provo Canyon: foodies, artists, filmmakers, anglers and other walks of life find plenty to love here. Sundance is equidistant between Heber on the Wasatch Back and Provo (where, make no mistake, there are plenty of things to do) on the Wasatch Front.