Park City with Kids
Located just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, Park City offers the convenience of three supreme ski resorts and the charm of a wonderfully historical town. Originally settled as grazing lands and a toll route, in the mid-1800s, silver and gold was discovered, which lead to a huge population boom. During the beginning of the 20th century, the population declined due to a drop in silver prices and several mining tragedies, but in 1963, the town opened its first ski resort. Now, skiing and tourism is the main attraction here with huge events like the 2002 Winter Olympics and Sundance Film Festival putting Park City on the map.
Snowboarding or skiing with kids takes on a whole new layer of crazy. Is it fun? Absolutely! Will the kids love it? Most likely! But, you need to be prepared (check out our Packing List for pre-trip preparations). The resorts of Park City are ready and willing to help. One of the services you should definitely look into if you are renting skis is Park City Ski Valet. You can reserve equipment on-line and someone delivers it to your door. No waiting in rental shop lines, breaking into ski time. They have extra equipment on-hand in case something doesn’t fit right and they adjust bindings/fit right in the comfort of your room. It’s fantastic…especially when you get to the mountain in the morning and you are ready to go!
There are three ski resorts in Park City: Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort. They each have their own unique offerings for families. They all have fantastic instructors, excellent runs, and lots of fun family-friendly activities. It’s very easy to get between the resorts as well. So, you don’t have to pick just one.
At Deer Valley Resort, you will be pampered. They offer luxury accommodations, gourmet dining and first-class services. It is a fantastic place to learn to ski as they have one of the biggest ski schools in the nation with 500 instructors. And, there is no snowboarding here, so skiers will feel right at home. The conveyor belts are perfect to get beginners up the “bunny slopes”, but Deer Valley’s high-speed lift chairs means it offers one of the highest uphill capacities in the country – meaning more ski time for you!
Our kids learned to ski at Deer Valley Resort and it was awesome! The instructors were very in-tune to what they needed and what they could do. The conveyor belts made it easy to learn to ski without having to worry about lifts. The numerous lodges tucked up in the mountains meant there was plenty of places to stop for a break – offering amazing food and views – but with more than 100 runs, it was hard to get the kids to stop for a break! In the evening, we headed up to Fireside Dining – fondue and rotisserie by the fire – at Empire Canyon Lodge, which the kids LOVED, followed by a horse drawn carriage ride through the pines! Lots of fun for the whole family!
Park City Mountain Resort is the site of Park City’s original resort. The miners hunting for silver here used “longboard snowshoes” for transportation to the mines and later built runs and jumps by the 1920s. In fact, the early skiers here used the mining tunnel subways and elevators to gain access to ski the mountain. But don’t let this rich history make you think it’s behind the times, Park City Mountain Resort hosted four events – including snowboarding events – during the 2002 Winter Olympics and opens the World Cup season each year.
The resort’s proximity to town – you can actually ski or snowboard in/out of town for lunch from the resort if you want – makes it ideal for families. But, there are a lot of other reasons Park City Mountain Resort is great for families. Their Kids Signature ski school offer small class sizes for a variety of skill levels where learning is made fun. Plus, family-friendly activities abound like the Alpine Coaster – a “toboggan” type ride through the pines, and their Flying Eagle Zip Line.
Our kids had lots of fun here! They loved the coaster and zip line and their instructors took time to have fun during the lessons – like pointing out small jumps and teaching them tricks. They learned to parallel ski so they felt more confident on the trails. They loved the fact that we could ski right into town for lunch – although there are plenty of yummy places to eat at the resort as well – and then take the lift back up to the mountain and get right back to skiing.
Located a few miles outside of Park City, Canyons Resort is known for its fun! It hosts a Spring Concert series, three huge terrain parks as well as a little terrain park for the younger skiers and snowboarders (3 – 6 year-olds), zip lines and more. It is definitely for the adventurous-at-heart!
Our kids loved the rock-n-roll atmosphere here. They had fun meeting – and getting in a snowball fight with – the Canyons mascot. They thought the skiing was great – and heard even greater things from the snowboarders. And they loved looking for elk from the gondola. The took their first blue run here with the help of an instructor (third day of instruction – see above). We loved the service…everyone from the ski-hops (pictured – like a bell hop for your ski equipment) who took the kids along with our skis to the base of the mountain, to the ski patrol who introduced them and let them pet their rescue dogs to the waiters in the restaurants.
Things to Do in Park City:
Outside of skiing and snowboarding, Park City offers lots of things to do. Main Street is the center of the action and offers great walking tours, restaurants and shops. The Park City Museum is a fabulous interactive museum that gives visitors a great grasp of the area’s history. Our kids loved the scavenger hunt the museum curator sent them on and had fun sitting in one of the Skier Subways from the early mining days.
If your kids aren’t skiers (or just want to take the day off), but love the snow, head to Gorgoza Park where tubing is taken to the extreme. Huge snow slides are built into the side of the mountain and kids will love flying down the bumps in giant inner tubes – even multi-seat inner tubes so they can enjoy the ride together. There are also snow mobiles for kids to ride (on a track). If your kids are ready for a more adventurous snow mobile ride, there are many companies that offer back country tours. Or, try something really unique and go dog sledding. Our kids had so much fun meeting the dogs and flying down the snow packed path imagining they were in the Iditarod!
If your kids get Olympic fever hearing about all the 2002 Olympic events that were held in Park City, be sure to visit Utah Olympic Park where visitors can see Olympic gold medals, sit on bobsleds, take a photo that looks like their holding the torch and visit sites like the ski jump, the bobsled run and much more! The kids marveled at the nerve ski jumpers have as we stood at the top of the ski jump and were super excited to meet members of the Paralympic Bobsled team who were practicing while we were there. They even let the kids sit in their bobsled at the top of the run!
Flights arrive daily from most locations in the United States to Salt Lake City where it is about 40-minutes drive to Park City. Car rentals are available as are shuttle transfers, limos and taxis. Getting around Park City is easy on the city’s FREE public transport.
Places to Stay:
Each of the ski resorts has many lodges ranging in amenities and pricing – some offering ski-in/ski-out option for easy access to the mountain. We stayed at Silver Baron Lodge at Deer Valley Resort, which is one of our Family Choice Award Winners. The beautiful 2-beroom condo offered plenty of room for the whole family. The full kitchen meant we could eat meals in when we wanted to and the fireplaces and private on-deck hot tub gave us a great place to warm up after a day of skiing. Plus, the free shuttle to Deer Valley Resort and to Main Street gave us plenty of dining and entertainment options.