Those who love snow sports have always thought Park City was pretty epic. From its Utah powder, the terrain parks, half-pipes and bowls to its historic downtown with picturesque mining-era buildings.
It’s also got its own distillery, over 100 restaurants to choose from and, for those who want to hit the slopes, the chance to race down the entire length of an Olympic bobsled track (the winter Olympics were held in Utah, of course in 2002).
Another plus: Because Park City is less than an hour from the Salt Lake City Airport, you can leave in the morning from just about anywhere in the U.S. and be on skis the same day.
Come during the Sundance Film Festival in January and you’re guaranteed plenty of celeb sightings.
Now, with the recent acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort for $182.5 million by Vail Resorts, Park City is even more epic, the Vail Resorts folks say. That’s because “Epic” is their mantra and slogan. The mega company with 11 mountain resorts in the West already runs the adjacent Canyons Resort and there are plans to connect the two next year, creating the largest single ski area in North America with 7,000 skiable acres, subject to regulatory approvals, of course.
Already this year, the majority of all lift tickets sold at either Park City Mountain Resort or the Canyons will be valid at both places, where you’ll also find plenty of off-the-slope fun—zip lines and snowshoeing, and at Park City Mountain Resort, one of the world’s longest alpine slides, an alpine coaster and the Gorgoza tubing Park that I can say from firsthand experience is a lot of fun.
“The strength of the Park City brand is something we intend to protect and enhance,” said Blaise Carrig, President of the Mountain Division for Vail Resorts. “While we are proud to maintain the individuality and characteristics that make each of our mountain resort unique, the strength of our company lies in our ability to continuously invest in the guest experience….from snowmaking to terrain and new lifts and restaurants.”
“Vail Resorts runs a good show,’ said one ski industry executive outside of Utah. “They have forced us all to be innovative.”
(You can also purchase an Epic Pass for the season that gives you discounted access to Vail Resorts in Colorado, Utah, California, the Midwest (Michigan and Minnesota) in France, Switzerland and five free days in Japan. Even if you are just a once-a-year skier, the Epic Pass pays for itself in just over five days. You can also buy an Epic Pass for just four days or a week. If you plan to hit iconic mountains like Alta, Aspen, Jackson Hole and Whistler Blackcomb, consider the Mountain Collective pass; For perhaps the best deal, check out the air-lodging-lift packages from Ski.com that promise some of the lowest lift prices anywhere as well as discounts on air and lodging.)
Carrig noted creating more year-round activities at all of the Vail Resorts is “a priority for our company,” noting that the company plans to build on what Park City Mountain Resort already offers with elements about the forest ecology and learning through play “for visitors of all ages.”
But until the deal was recently done, locals—and Park City Mountain Resort fans—were worried that the resort would even open this ski season. That’s because of a bruising three-year legal battle that preceded the takeover—that all started when Park City Mountain Resort missed the lease renewal deadline of some 2,852 acres of ski terrain from the company that owned the Canyons. The acquisition of PCMR was on Vail’s wish list since leasing the nearby Canyons in 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“People are just glad there is clarity,” said another local who is a snow sports industry executive. “It’s going to be interesting year.”
All they need now is plenty of snow.
Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando, LA and Chicago. Coming later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.