Park City Mountain's Quicksilver gondola

For much of its 50-year tenure, Park City West, as it was named when it opened in 1968, languished in the shadow of its slicker neighbors, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. Park West’s persona-non-grata status was largely due to a nonsensical layout, lack of base-area lodging, and a revolving door of managers and owners. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the first glimmer of the resort’s potential was made apparent when the now-defunct American Skiing Company took over operations, retooled the mountain layout with the Red Pine gondola, and changed the resort’s name from Wolf Mountain to The Canyons. The next owner, Talisker Corporation, deepened the resort’s prospects further with base-area upgrades and installation of North America’s first heated chairlift, the Orange Bubble Express, in 2010 (and changed the name again to Canyons Resort). The old Park West’s definitive turning point, however, began in 2013 when Vail Resorts entered into a long-term lease of Canyons from Talisker, which was followed by Vail’s much-publicized purchase of Park City Mountain. Then came the Quicksilver gondola, which connected the formerly separate Park City Mountain and Canyons and created the largest resort in the Lower 48.

And so it was that the ski hill locals once referred to as “Park Worst” seemed finally able to fully shed its former, second-rate status. But if you’ve visited Canyons Village any time in the last year, you know the remaking of the resort is actually just getting started.

Whistler South?

When Talisker leased Canyons to Vail Resorts in 2013, it retained rights to more than four million feet of development space at Canyons Village. But it wasn’t until after the Quicksilver gondola launched in 2015 that TCFC, a division of Talisker, contracted Replay Resorts to create a master plan of Canyons Village. “Before Vail Resorts, ownership of Canyons was very unstable,” says Brian Shirken, president of Columbus Pacific Properties, developer of Canyons Village’s Pendry Park City condominium hotel. “Vail Resorts’ investment in the Quicksilver gondola and other infrastructure showed its commitment to growing skier days and gave developers like me the confidence that there will be future growth at Canyons Village.”

A vibrant, walkable village—akin to Whistler, Vail, and Keystone—was the inspiration for the Canyons Village Master Plan. The plan’s first phase creates a new commercial area centered between Shirken’s Pendry and the Lift Residences condominiums on what used to be the Sundial Lodge parking lot. “Canyons Village lacked a sense of place,” says Gary Raymond, managing director of Replay Resorts and one of the primary architects of the master plan. It all began, he says, with overcoming grade issues, given that Pendry’s building site was initially located below the grade of both its neighboring properties and the Sunrise lift on its mountain-facing side. So, the planners incorporated two levels of underground parking, thereby raising the Pendry’s entrance and skier plaza to a grade consistent with the Lift and Sundial Lodge. Plus, a high-speed or gondola version of the Sunrise lift will be extended to match that same plaza elevation. Shirken says that, when complete (Lift was scheduled to open in December 2019, Pendry in November 2021, and completion of the Sunrise lift extension and replacement is to be determined), the resulting Pendry/Lift/Sunrise lift plaza will be the “ultimate access to Park City Mountain, with firepits, art, and entertainment. It will be the new heart of the ski village.” Shirken, Raymond, and Dave March, director of marketing and events for the Canyons Village Management Association (CVMA), all predict that the density of amenities in the new Pendry/Lift village square—five restaurants will be located in the Pendry alone—will entice guests to stay put. “Instead of making multiple trips into Main Street to have dinner, shop, etc., Canyons Village guests will have enough options ... that they will likely feel the need to go to Main Street only once or twice during a weeklong stay,” March says.

Old Town competition or complement?

Having a chic, bustling, and walkable base area checks a lot of boxes for visitors, not to mention Park City transit managers. But what about Main Street merchants and restaurateurs (who pay some of the highest rents in Utah to be located in arguably Park City’s most unique amenity, the Old Town historic district)? “Main Street will always have a very strong draw due to diversity and density of what it has to offer,” assures Jim Powell, Park City Chamber/Bureau’s vice president of marketing. “I agree that all of the new and future development will drive more vibrancy in Canyons Village, but I think that will balance out with the increase in the bed-base and visitor nights in that area. I really don’t see this as a ‘win-lose’ situation between Main Street and Canyons Village.” Alison Kuhlow, executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, echoes Powell. “Historic Park City has unmatched charm and character that you can only find in a historic district,” she says, “if anything, [merchants] expect to be busier with the completion of Canyons Village.”

And that’s not all, folks

Pendry, Lift, and the Sunrise lift projects are, however, not all that’s in store at Canyons Village. The 63-unit Apex was slated to open in late 2019, and North America’s first YotelPAD (a tech-savvy, space-efficient, innovative, condo-hotel brand) is under construction there as well, with a scheduled completion of fall 2020. Several other projects, including paving the Cabriolet parking lot and a 1,100-pillow employee housing project, are also expected to break ground next year. In addition, the next phase of development at Canyons Village calls for a third village square centered around a pedestrian bridge traversing the Canyons Golf fairway and conference center.

To put it in perspective, according to the CVMA, Canyons Village will be approximately 35 percent developed in two years and 42 percent developed within the next three to five years. “If people can come to Canyons Village and do all the things they expect to do on a mountain vacation within walking distance of where they are staying, without having to get in a car, we’ll have succeeded,” Raymond says.   

Tips for Travel

During the ski season, hop aboard the Canyons Village Connect, a complimentary, on-demand ride service within the base area and the Canyons Village Transit hub.

Canyons Timeline

1968

Park City West opens with three double chairlifts, a coffee shop, and day lodge

1974

Park City West closes for the 1974–1975 season due to drought

1975

Jack Roberts buys majority share and renames it Park West

1995

Kenny Griswold and Michael Baker purchase the resort and call it Wolf Mountain 

1997

American Skiing Co leases 3,100 acres from Griswold; buys the resort’s lifts, buildings, and development rights; names resort The Canyons

July 2010

Talisker Corporation buys the resort; now Canyons Resort

May 29, 2013

Vail Resorts leases resort fromTalisker; Talisker retains development rights

September 2014

Vail Resorts purchases Park City Mountain Resort

December 2015

PCM becomes largest ski resort in US

August 2016

Canyons Village master plan submitted (approved May 2018)

June 2017

Lift Residences breaks ground

February–August 2019

Construction begins on YotelPAD, Pendry Park City, and Viridian Park City Residences

TBD 2019

Construction is under way and slated to begin on nine more properties (For a complete list, visit cvma.com/development)

Spring/Summer 2020

Paving of parking lots; construction to begin on employee housing