We love skiing. The feeling of carving a turn on a meticulously groomed slope, weaving through a field of moguls, or -- the piece de resistance -- floating through a sparkling field of fresh powder is, as far as we're concerned, one of life's great joys. But ask anyone who lives in or who's visited Park City, and they're sure to tell you that our town's two resorts are about much more than the slopes. Following are our top 10 wintertime must dos -- five for each Deer Valley and Park City Mountain -- a curated list of experiences that are the difference between a good ski day and a great one.
Deer Valley Resort
1. Hire an instructor
Yes, it's something of a status symbol to hire a ski instructor (888.754.8477) for a half- or full-day at Deer Valley--the resort's ski school employs more than 1,000 instructors just for this reason. But the advantages of doing so are many: you'll get to see as much or as little of the mountain as you like, you'll ski the best snow, your instructor will be able to provide firsthand knowledge of Deer Valley's many lunch options, and you'll get to cut the lift lines. And, oh yeah, you'll probably end the day a better skier than when you started.
2. Eat a bowl of turkey chili
While a bowl of signature chili is now just the tip of the gastronomic ice berg at Deer Valley, this hot bowl of satisfying goodness is representative of how this resort forced a change throughout the ski industry when it opened in 1981. Before then lunch was clearly an afterthought to most ski resort operators. Deer Valley revolutionized the skiing experience by offering its guests both great terrain and elevated yet familiar comfort food at the same time. Try the turkey chili on nachos, a baked potato, fries, or in a bowl at most of Deer Valley's day lodges.
3. Have a beer on the ski beach
The après-ski options at Deer Valley are many, but if the sun is shining--and it does more than 300 days per year in Park City--grab a beer inside Silver Lake Lodge and take a seat outside at the Ski Beach. Not only do these lounge chairs offer front row seating to snow-sliding action on the Birdseye run, it is, hands down, the best place to people watch in Park City.
4. Go for a snowshoe and roast s'mores
Who says making s'mores is exclusively a summertime activity? For a more family-friendly après-ski respite, book a guided snowshoe hike from Snow Park Lodge followed by s'more making (with homemade graham crackers and marshmallows from Deer Valley's renowned pastry kitchens) over an open fire. Call All Seasons Adventures at 435.649.9619 to book.
5. Make a reservation for Fireside Dining
Stop whatever you might be doing right now, pick up the phone, and make a reservation for dinner at Fireside Dining (435.645.6632). From the moment you walk into the dining room at Empire Canyon Lodge, you'll feel transported to a rustic chalet somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Cheese fondue, raclette, carved meats, chocolate fondue, and selection of stews are prepared and served from the lodge's stone fireplaces. This quintessential dining experience is offered Wednesdays through Saturdays during the winter season only.
Park City Mountain
1. Ride the Town Lift
Not many ski towns can boast runs running right down into a historic district as is the case in Park City. (And likely no other leads directly to the world's only ski-in, ski-out gastrodistillery, High West.) Park City Mountain's Town Lift is an older, slower fixed-grip triple, but honestly wouldn't have it any other way. The 20ish-minute ride provides ample time to take in the views over vintage mining homes, alongside historic aerial tramway towers, and through dense aspen groves before depositing passengers near the base of the Bonanza lift.
2. Ski the resort from one end to the other
In 2015, Vail Resorts christened the Quicksilver gondola, a lift connecting what was previously two separate resorts. Park City Mountain now spans 7,300 acres and is the largest ski and snowboard resort in the Lower 48; a distinction which presents a delicious challenge: skiing the entire resort from end to end in a single day. If you're an intermediate skier or better you can do this in one of two ways: on your own with a little help from our "Murdock to McConkey's" guide, or book Park City Mountain's Peak to Peak Guided Ski Experience.
3. Go on a free guided tour of historic silver mining sites
Before the advent of skiing, Park City was a rough and tumble boom town fueled by silver mining. You can glimpse Park City's colorful history with a free Silver to Slopes guided ski tour of the dozens of historic mining era structures still standing within the resort boundaries, including the iconic California-Comstock mine. Tours are recommended for intermediate level skiers/riders and above and depart daily from the Park City Mountain Village area at 10 am and at the Trail Map near the top of Bonanza lift at 1 pm.
4. Stop for après at the Corner Store
Just try to resist the gravitational pull of the Corner Store (Park City Mountain Town Base) as you clomp through the plaza at the end of a day at Park City Mountain. You’ll definitely hear the place before you see it. Live bands play here four to six days a week, and the daily $3 PBRs and $3 tequila shots attract the kind of crowd you’d expect: 20-somethings looking for a quick and cheap buzz before heading up to Main Street for more serious partying. Seats on the outdoor patio are hard to come by after 3 p.m. on sunny days; heat lamps warm the faithful when it’s cloudy or snowing.
5. Take a sleigh ride and dinner at the Viking Yurt
A snowcat-pulled sleigh draws guests up the ski run through aspen and conifer groves and views of the starry skies. Inside the Viking Yurt (at 9,500 feet!), long wooden tables set with pewter dinnerware and candles, a roaring fire, and live musical entertainment on the baby grand piano set a Scandinavian tone for an elegant five-course dinner. The yurt is open for lunch, as well, serving popular favorites like the grilled cheese, tomato soup, and Bloody Marys garnished with housemade jerky.