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In the 1860's, this picture-book Victorian town's claim to fame was its silver mines. These days, it's known for gold -- Olympic gold -- having hosted the 2002 winter games.
But even before the February 2002 Winter Olympics put Utah and Park City on the map, pros, amateurs, and rookies alike flocked here for the fabulously fluffy powder, not to mention dry weather, to-die-for scenery, and a cool, Wild West town.
For non-skiers, Park City's no slouch. There's a ton of stuff to do, including snowboarding, snowmobiling, snow tubing, bobsledding, and even luge. And in January, you can go stargazing at the world-famous Sundance Film Festival.
Without a doubt, this city is a winter sports Mecca for everyone. And best of all, it's just a short and scenic drive from Salt Lake City.
Park City offers more than 8,000 skiable acres in three top-notch areas. Whether you're a family of beginners or experts, there are plenty of places to perfect your skills. A few lessons from the nation's top skiers (the US Ski and Snowboard Team and the US Ski Association make their home here) and you'll be slaloming the slopes in no time.
Best of all, you can enjoy Park City with your littlest Olympians-to-be, thanks to ski schools for children as young as 18 months. And if you've ever dreamed of tearin' up the pipe, you can hop on a snowboard (and get lessons) at two of the area's resorts.
To sample all of Park City's skiing, consider the "Silver Passport," a special multi-day, multi-resort pass. It's good at the resort of your choice and available when you buy a three-night minimum lodging package; price is based on the cost of your room. This year marks the first time all three ski areas are participating in the program. Order a pass directly from any of the resorts.
You can't get any closer to town than this place; the "Town Lift" picks you and your gang up, right at the bottom of Main Street.
What's more, the 3,300-acre resort caters to skiers, snowboarders -- and kids. Children six and under ski free and there's childcare for tiny tots. If your youngsters are new to the sport, take a private family ski lesson. They learn the basics while you get tips on honing their techniques.
If you want to squeeze in as many runs as possible, there's night skiing (the only resort offering it in Park City). You can't stay over (there's no hotel onsite), but Park City Mountain reservations will arrange for ski-in, ski-out lodging next to the resort.
The smallest and most exclusive of the area resorts, Deer Valley's 1,750-acre resort is rarely overcrowded. That's because it admits a maximum of 5,000 skiers a day. Even fewer tickets are sold in poor weather to prevent traffic jams in the lodge. If you're planning to ski here, reserve tickets in advance.
Worried about being grounded in the lodge with toddlers? Deer Valley's staff will care for infants as young as two months old. And there are ski lessons for kids 3 and up. Like Park City Mountain, there's no on-site lodging, but town is just a mile away, and Deer Valley Resort's reservation service books packages for every budget.
Once the most obscure of the three resorts, The Canyons is now Park City's crown jewel. The nation's fifth largest ski area, it has 3,625 skiable acres and the area's only all-inclusive resort.
Located a bit farther out, The Canyons is hardly a schlep at just four miles from downtown. Even if you think it's inconvenient, there's a good reason to make the trip anyway: "Turbo Tubing," a nighttime park offering a delicious bit of fun in a snow tube.
Like the other resorts, families are a big priority at the Canyons. The "Skiers in Diapers" program starts kids off at 18 months, and childcare is also available for those 18 months and older. Children 5 and under ski free. In the base village, there are live bands, jugglers, and strolling magicians, not to mention the resort's two mascots -- Mogel Moose and Ted E. Bear -- who walk around and greet kids.
Reserve a room at one of two newly opened resort hotels: the Sundial Lodge or the chi-chi Grand Summit Resort Hotel, a four-star hopeful. And ask about the weeklong family deals that include free lift tickets for kids and discounted ski lessons.
At the Utah Olympic Park, see Olympic athletes fly a football field and a half on the K-120, a 120-meter Nordic ski jump (during the pre-snow season they ski down customized tracks).
Adrenaline junkies with strong hearts and stomachs can hop on board the "Bob Sled" ride with a trained athlete and blast down 400 vertical feet at 80 mph to the finish line on the same track used during the Olympics. If that's a wee bit fast, check out the "Ice Rocket," a self-steering, self-braking, one-person sled that goes a "mere" 60 mph.
Ski jumping your thing? Sign up for a two-hour lesson (don't try this if you're not an ace skier). Or play Olympic athlete for a morning and get real coaching on how to bob sled and skeleton (that's the head-first, face-down sled event) in special "Wanna-Be" camps.
Even during the "no snow" season, there's plenty to do here. Park City's rich history comes alive at the Historical Museum. The Utah Central Exhibit tells the railroad's story inside an 1890's passenger car. The Silver King Mine Exhibit digs into the city's silver mining roots where prospectors won and lost fortunes. And don't miss "The Great Fire of 1898" display, documenting the blaze that destroyed Main Street. Kids will love a peek at the old territorial jail in the basement.
If you're in town during mid-week, take a stroll through the local farmer's market where you can load up on fresh fruits, veggies, jewelry, and arts and crafts.
Afterward, enjoy a free concert in the city park. Your youngsters will enjoy the hula-hoop contest during set breaks. If you're here in August, be sure to attend the Park City Art Festival -- one of the top three in the west, attracting some 75,000 visitors.
Type of trip: Skiing, outdoor sports
Best ages: 6 and up
Ideal trip length: Weekend
Distance: Salt Lake City, UT (32 miles); Provo, UT (46 miles); Boise, ID (370 miles)
Best time to go: November to March for skiing. Holidays will be more costly and crowded.
Weather: 33/12 degrees in January; 82/50 degrees in July. Snow starts falling in November.
Lodging: Ski resorts offer all-inclusive packages with lodging, skiing/snowboarding lessons and lift tickets.
Squirm Factor: None
Park City Mountain Resort 1310 Lowell Ave., Park City Phone: 800-222-7275
Deer Valley Resort 2250 Deer Valley Drive South, Park City Phone: 800-424-DEER
The Canyons 4000 The Canyons Resort Drive, Park City Phone: 435-649-5400 Lodging reservations: 888-CANYONS
Utah Olympic Park 3000 Bear Hollow Drive Phone: 435-658-4200
Park City Historical Museum 528 Main St. Phone: 435-649-6104
More information: Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau Phone: 800-453-1360
Favorite Local Spot: Cows Ice-Cream Shoppe 402 Main St. Phone: 435-647-7711 Note: Kids can sit on a life-size fiberglass cow while licking cones of yummy "Moo Crunch" or "Wowie Cowie" ice cream. The shop is well known for its line of cow T-shirts -- including cows snowboarding, playing soccer, or hitting baseballs.
Best souvenir: Stuffed Olympic mascot (a bear with hockey stick and ice skates).
Take your family on a scenic trip on the Heber Valley Railroad, Utah's oldest steam train. The railroad offers tours of various lengths. The shortest is best for families with young children; it's a 1-1/2 hour round-trip tour. Reservations required. Departs from Heber City, 17 miles south of Park City on Route 40. Phone: 435-654-5601
Reviewed April 2004.