Playing Together

Family Fun 101: The Definitive Guide to On-Slope Exploration at Deer Valley and Park City Mountain

Here's how to navigate local resorts with kids, teens, and—perhaps—grandpa in tow.

By Jane Gendron December 11, 2019 Published in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Park City Magazine

Small and tall smiles at Park City Mountain

Park City Mountain


Getting your head around 7,300 acres should not intimidate you or your brood. Whether you’re accompanied by never-evers, fearless “parkie” teens, or groomer-inclined grandpa, Park City Mountain (PCM) can be broken down into bite-size—or smorgasbord-spanning—fun for all.

  • For starters (easy)

Accessed by a gondola (the best way to avoid beginners-getting-off-the-chairlift mayhem), High Meadow Park at Canyons Village base has an oh-so-gentle grade, ample space to pizza-pie or french-fry those turns, and off-the-main-run trails that introduce skiers and snowboarders to “off-piste” experience. Start with favorite adventure trail Hidden Bear (keep an eye out for carved bears while exploring) or Alley Cat, and then work up to intermediate-level Flying Salmon.

On the Park City side, check out the newly revamped, surface-conveyor-bedecked First Time Park. For lappable fun, head to Mule Train (just below the Snowed Inn off of Turtle Trail) to ski/ride a covered conveyer and accompanying run with gold-, silver-, and copper-padded features.

  • Middle of the pack (intermediate)

For true intermediate snow sliders, hit easy-like-a-Sunday-morning cruisers Sunnyside and Parley’s Park, or carve those turns and take in Old Town views from King’s Crown. Head clear to Iron Mountain Express (Canyons side) for perfectly pitched Copper Head, where more-advanced skiers can pop off into the trees for a side of fresh tracks. Or ride Super Condor Express to cruise Upper and Lower Boa

If everyone in your posse is game for green-to-blue-ish trails, keep an eye out for the metal sculpture Snow Bugs (locally made, somewhat Pac-Man-like recycled metal sculptures) designating the mining-themed adventure alleys. As ski school veteran Mary Flinn Ware puts it, “All of the alleys are cut out and designed to turn and help control speed, and they’re groomable, so you’re not fighting through tight trees.” Powder Monkey, for example, is rife with whoop-de-doos. (Grown-ups: remember to keep those knees soft.) And for slalom wannabes, there’s always the thrill of NASTAR racing.

  • Powder 101 (intermediate)

When Utah gets hit hard with the white stuff and it’s time to initiate a new-to-powder skier or snowboarder, don’t miss TNT—the adventure alley accessed via Sunnyside or Parley’s Park. Let gravity do the work as you float through TNT’s gladed, oft-overlooked expanse all the way to the bottom of Thaynes chair. If trees are intimidating, Keystone (off of Thaynes lift) is a go-to for a not-too-steep-but-pitched-enough powder entrée, as is Assessment off of Bonanza chairlift.

  • A Snow Bug sculpture designates the entrance to an adventure alley

    Introductory bumps (intermediate)

Want some quad-burning fun? Start with Powder Keg, adjacent to Assessment—so, yes, you can bail out and meet the bump skiers at the bottom. Or pop into the Eclipse bumps under Sun Peak Express (Canyons side). The beauty of Eclipse is that half the run is ungroomed, hence mogul-filled, and the other half not so. So choose to be challenged, or not (as long as you can stomach a little commentary from the lift).

  • Taste of the bigs (intermediate)

Hit “Jupe,” but not really. Skirt Jupiter’s expert-only terrain by taking the loooooong, gorgeous, pine-scented Jupiter Access, past the bottom of Thaynes lift, Comstock Mine (why not throw a little historic relic in the mix?), and Motherlode. Watch folks coming off Limelite, or just cruise and enjoy.

  • Expert picks (expert)

Seasoned skiers and boarders have their pick of steep-and-deep (deep depends on the snow gods, of course). On the Park City base side, launch into McConkeys, Jupiter, or the fast runs off of Ski Team Ridge, such as Erika’s Gold, or take Silver King to Willy’s and The Shaft. (Tip: Time those runs for afternoon laps off of Crescent chair, when everyone else has headed higher on the hill.) On the Canyons side, hit Ninety-Nine-90 and the terrain off of Super Condor.

  • Park play (easy, intermediate, expert)

Get in your jibs and jabs at a half dozen terrain parks—and half-pipes—dispersed throughout the mountain. Start at Little Kings (via Blaster Adventure Trail off of Bonanza chair), and work up to 3 Kings (yes, the 2019 World Champs playground), which encompasses yeehaw-inducing jumps and features as well as a rail garden and a 13-foot half-pipe. For a flowy ride, head to Transitions on the Canyons side of the hill. And for the fearless among you, follow in the tracks of Shaun White and Chloe Kim at the 22-foot Eagle Pipe (Park City side).   

  • Refuel on hill 

 Start with a breakfast burrito at The Corner Store (1325 Lowell Ave, 435.645.8666, or doughnuts at PCM’s Cloud Dine (atop Dreamcatcher). Don’t miss the shareable tater tots at Tombstone BBQ. And for the discerning palate, perhaps brussels sprouts or the poke bowl at Mid Mountain Lodge—or the coconut Thai soup at Red Pine Lodge. Keep in mind the free hot chocolate refills at Miners Camp and Summit House. Slightly off-mountain (and sans resort price tag), venture into Old Town for pizza, Philly cheesesteaks, and street tacos at Davanza’s (690 Park Ave, 435.649.2222,, or chicken flautas (and margaritas for the grown-ups) at Baja Cantina (1355 Lowell Ave, 435.649.2252, Of Note: Non-skiers/snowboarders can get a sniff of the on-mountain experience by riding the Red Pine Gondola and meeting up with the rest of the family at the lodge for nibbles and sips.

  • Photo stops 

King’s Crown, Copper Head, or by the 10-foot carved moose in High Meadow Park. If you’re with advanced skiers, any of the ridge shots, but Ski Team Ridge is primed for Insta-Book-worthy snaps. 

  • Park City Mountain tip 

 Avoid the end-of-day cluster-funnel on the Park City base side by taking view-laden, uncrowded King’s Crown in lieu of Homerun—provided your crew can handle a blue run.

Deer Valley Resort


The secret may be out. Highly civilized Deer Valley Resort is not merely a bluebird-day, stick-to-the-groomers kind of place. While the ski valet and über-helpful greeters coddle you—and the cuisine is exemplary—the mountain doesn’t hold back in terms of terrain, dishing up everything from little-leg-friendly, aspen-lined runs to full-throttle descents, all of which is thoughtfully laid out on 2,026 skiable acres. Just leave the snowboards at home; this side of the Wasatch caters to skiers only.

Skiers-only Deer Valley Resort has plenty of groomed runs (as well as remarkable off-piste terrain).

  • For starters (easy)

Ease into the slopes via Snow Park’s Wide West with some forays through Candyland’s colored hoops and Bucky’s Bumps. Then, work up to Deer Hollow and Gnat’s Eye (accessed from base via blue runs) for lengthier, yet still beginner-friendly, terrain. In the Silver Lake area, cruise the magic carpet a few times before taking Trainer to Quincy Express chairlift. At the top of Flagstaff, try to talk the kids out of that gazillionth lap on beloved Ontario (the jumps and whoop-de-doos off the side of the trail are addicting, but the trail gets jam-packed), and consider veering off toward Empire Canyon via Bandana, popping over to Red Cloud—or less crowded Silver Strike Express—for a run down Silver Buck.

  • Middle of the pack (intermediate)

Got an entire clan who can handle intermediate terrain? Head to Flagstaff for long groomers, such as Hawkeye—and, yes, while mom and dad carve, little rippers will find jumps tucked between neighboring runs and small trails through the trees. Or head to the top of Bald Mountain for cruisers like Tycoon (glade skiers can—and should—hop off into Triangle Trees on a powder day). For solid green-blue-level skiers, head to designated—and kid-adored—adventure areas (be sure to grab the children’s map). Careen through the swooped trails of Bucky’s Frontyard, off of Quincy Express, as well as Bucky’s Backyard and Ruby’s Tail, both accessed via Bandana run. Look for Quincy the Bear in his cabin, and don’t miss The Enchanted Forest at the top of Red Cloud chairlift (where ski schoolers might be discovered having a snowball fight). And for a fun little foray off the beaten path, take a hard left near the top of Judge chairlift and into the Toilet Bowl run for a hootin’, hollerin’ swirl back to Silver Lake. For a long, stunning run with huge vistas, take Homeward Bound off of Sterling Express—unless it’s windy.

  • Powder 101 (intermediate)

While the diehard, elbows-out powder hounds are yet to swarm DV, the resort is not as untracked as it once was, so get those skis into the champagne snow posthaste. For newbies, Little Bell (off Success) and Toilet Bowl (via Judge chairlift) are good places to start. The place for slightly advanced skiers new to powder: Oompa Loompa Land, the trees accessed off of the split at Star Gazer and Gemini (via Red Cloud chair or Silver Strike Express).

  • Introductory bumps (intermediate)

Do not begin moguls skiing on the 2002 Olympic course, Champion. A good starter bump run is Boulder Bumps under Northside Express chairlift, accessed via Lost Boulder; you can start from the top of the bumps, or cruise down the groomed side of the trail and pop in halfway down for less steep moguls. Or get those knees hopping over the small stretch of bumps directly below the top section of Blue Bell (below the Quincy Express chairlift), then pop into Bucky’s Backyard for giggles. The good news: both options allow for a bailout—i.e., half the clan can ski around and meet at the bottom. The bad news: that inevitable yard sale will be witnessed by folks on the chairlift (but most would-be hecklers are actually downright supportive of bump skiers, so buck up).

  • Taste of the bigs (intermediate)

While both Lady Morgan and Empire scream expert, not-so-skilled skiers can taste the big bowl experience without dipping those tips into black-diamond terrain. From Empire Express lift’s apex, take in the views of the cornice-topped chutes, the bumped-out bowl, and beyond, before taking Supreme along the boundary of Park City Mountain for an advanced blue-rated circumnavigation of the expert stuff (Of note: Supreme is best skied in the morning). From Lady Morgan Express lift, take a moment to consider the audacity of skiers throwing themselves off of the cliff below, and then take Pearl run and gently wind back down toward Empire.   

  • Expert picks (expert)

Skilled sliders: head for long, steep, Stein’s Way off of Sultan Express chairlift, which not only is fast and fun, but also has views of Jordanelle and the Uintas. On a powder day, head for Mayflower Bowl, Empire (check if the chutes are open and, if you’re up for a traverse, beeline for X-Files), or Lady Morgan (Centennial Trees is a must, but keep close to each other), or hit Ontario Bowl.

  • Refuel on hill 

 When toes need a thaw, grab a spot by the fire at Cushing’s Cabin at the top of Flagstaff for the best hot cocoa on the hill (be sure to request whipped cream and marshmallows) and stunning views. You can grab a bowl of the famous turkey chili there, but to get the most bang for your buck, grab chili with fries at Empire Canyon Lodge for shareable, stick-to-your-ribs scrumptiousness. DV’s F&B crew has every foodie—and non-foodie—covered, with lodge eats ranging from chicken fingers and pizza to prime rib and pho. Don’t miss the lemon bars, massive cookies, and carrot cake.

Not skiing? Ride the funicular at the St. Regis Deer Valley (adjacent to Snow Park Lodge) and meet the posse for a rich hot chocolate (or something more full-leaded) and jaw-to-the-floor views on the hotel’s terrace. 

  • Photo stops 

Skiers of all levels can tackle Homeward Bound (off of Sterling Express) on a bluebird day; stop just past the map of the peaks for a snap. Or grab a shot at the top of virtually any peak—Flagstaff, Bald, and Empire are particularly photogenic.


Tips for Child Care and Kid-Friendly Deals

Get them on board(s)]

At both resorts, ski school and day care fill up fast—particularly during peak season (December holidays, Presidents Week, and March)—so make those reservations early. If something comes up, you can get a full refund as long as you cancel at least 24 hours prior to the lesson at PCM and before 5 p.m. three days prior to the lesson at DV. Ski school at both PCM and DV starts at age three. 

For the teeny-tiny ones

PCM offers child care for six-week to 6-year-olds in the licensed child care facility at Little Adventurers Daycare in the Grand Summit (Canyons side, reservation required); no day care options for wee ones on the Park City base side. Deer Valley has a one-stop shop for child care and ski school, from two months to 12 years old (with teen ski school during peak times).

Book sitters early

Check out our Things To Do guide for a comprehensive list of babysitting businesses, and consider messaging the Park City Moms Facebook group to discover local student babysitters.


Tap into cheap skiing for your 10- to 12-year-olds with the Ski Utah’s 5th or 6th Grade Passport ( A $45 fee grants access to three days of skiing at each participating Utah resort for fifth graders and one day of skiing at each resort for sixth graders; some blackout days apply. To save a little coin at both Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain: Reserve in advance and online. Ask about first-timer savings at PCM.


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