The air is getting nippy, the mountains are tipped in snow, and you keep glancing at your skis, wondering when you'll first get to strap in. If you can't wait to get back on the mountain, you're probably looking at booking a ski/snowboard trip as soon as the resorts open, knowing full well early season can be hit-or-miss if your primary goal is getting in those turns on the slopes. Sometimes Mother Nature sends us foot after foot of fresh powder and, other times, the resort snowmaking teams have to pick up the slack. Although the weather looks promising, if you're planning on coming to Park City for early season skiing and snowboarding, it's best to expect a limited number of runs to be open and variable conditions. That said, there are still dozens of ways to fill your days while in town and we guarantee you'll have a great time, even if you aren't knee deep in powder. Here's what you need to know about early season in Park City.
Advantages of Early Season
Sure, you won't have the maximum amount of terrain available on the mountain, but you also won't have to deal with exorbitant lodging rates or crowded lift lines. For beginner level skiers and riders, early season is as good a time as any to learn because you'd be spending most of your time on beginner runs regardless of how much snow is on the mountain. Plus, if you start practicing early season, you can come back for more! Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a newbie, the first 30 days is also the perfect opportunity to get your legs back in shape. Unless you've been doing some pre-season, dry land training, don't be surprised if you need a post-ski massage or extra long soak in the hot tub!
Reservations are a must during the holiday season and busy weekends for anyone wishing to experience Park City's world class dining scene. It's far easier to snag a table at popular joints around town and at the resorts when you come during the mellower early season. So you're free to sample all of Park City's most iconic dishes no problem.
Off-Slope Activities for Early Season
Once you've gotten a few runs in on the mountain, here are few other ideas to get you started on planning the ultimate early season vacation.
Explore the Extensive Trail System
Park City is home to an extensive trail system, including over 50 kms of groomed winter trails. Depending on the weather and trail conditions, you may choose to go hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or fat tire biking. Before heading out, make sure you check out the current conditions. Great sources for up-to-date trail information include Mountain Trails Foundation and Basin Recreation.
Family Adventure Time at Utah Olympic Park
No matter the time of year, the Utah Olympic Park is a great place to spend a full or half-day if you're looking for something interesting for all ages. Spend the day exploring their adventure courses, the Drop-Tower, and museum. Throughout the winter season, the UOP typically hosts a number of sporting events that are open to the public. Already on the docket for this year is the IBSF North American Cup (Nov. 18-21) and FIL Junior Luge World Cup (Dec. 5-8).
A number of local outfitters (Red Pine Adventures, Rocky Mountain Outfitters, Blue Sky Ranch) let you add a little western flair to you visit by saddling up for a cozy winter ride in the dazzling natural surroundings. But trail rides aren't the only way to get in some horse play, you can also tap into a number of unique equine adventures with Park City Horse Experience, from horse meditation circles to family activities.
Namaste in a geothermal crater
Ditch the yoga studio and find your center with Park City Yoga Adventures. While there are a number of options to choose from, including hiking and snowshoeing paired with yoga sessions, the most interesting experience is paddleboard yoga inside the Homestead Crater, where the turquoise blue waters stay a balmy 95-degrees year round.
Peak climbing season in Utah, which boasts some truly epic routes for craggers, is the summer, but that doesn't mean you can't get a taste even in winter. Test your skills at the local climbing gym, The Mine Bouldering Gym (1764 Uinta Way, Suite G1), or bring your kids to the Swaner EcoCenter where they can scramble up the indoor climbing wall.
Improve your angling skills with fly fishing
Fly fishing is one of the few activities that can be enjoyed year round in Park City and, during winters, it's a peaceful way to enjoy a bit of solitude in the mountains. We recommend booking a trip with a local guide (All Seasons Adventures or Park City Fly Fishing), who can show you where the fish bite best.
Check Out Local Exhibits
While Park City isn't home to any major museums, there's a little something to suite everyone's taste. Take the kids out to the Swaner EcoCenter to explore the Art and Science of Arachnids (through Dec. 9) or experience ski-flying in the new interactive exhibit at the Alf Engen Museum. Art enthusiasts will find galleries galore to choose from and, if you're in town at the right time you can join in the monthly Park City Gallery Association's Last Friday Gallery Stroll (Nov. 30).
Channel Your Creative Side
If you want to do more than just admire art, you can get your hands dirty with classes at the Kimball Art Center with everything from abstract painting to creating holiday platters (course catalog here). Another great option for budding artists is the Paint Mixer where you can choose from fun classes appropriate for all ages and adult-only evenings paired with alcoholic beverages.
Explore Old Town and Main Street
A must for any visitor to town, Main Street is quintessential quaint. A mix of big brands and local shops, art galleries, and world-class dining, it is perfect for a casual afternoon stroll. Pop into the Park City Museum to learn more about the rough and tumble mining days, satisfy your sweet tooth with a treat Java Cow or Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and treat yourself to shopping therapy.
Get a Head Start on Your Holiday Shopping
Speaking of shopping, if you're in town ahead of the Christmas rush, we recommend checking out some of the local holiday markets. Park Silly Sunday Market, held weekly during the summers, returns for the Silly Holiday Bazaar (Dec. 7-9) with local arts, crafts, and food. Another holiday "shoppertunity" for those on the hunt for unique gifts is the Art Elevated Local Artisan Market (Dec. 14-16) hosted by the Swaner EcoCenter.
Rest and Relaxation
Vacation is all about pampering yourself and disconnecting from your hectic life, so make sure to pencil in a spa appointment. While you can't go wrong with a booking at The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge or Spa Montage, a massage isn't the only way to relax in Park City. For something a bit more exotic, try floating in a sensory deprivation tank at Sync Float or go sub-zero with a cryotherapy session.
Mark Your Calendar - Special Events
As soon as the ski resorts open, Park City is buzzing and you'll find plenty of events to fill your evenings.
Snow might be an unsure thing early in the season, but the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Park City Mountain (Nov. 23) is guaranteed to be magical. Festivities continue with Main Street lighting up the following day during the annual Electric Parade (Nov. 24), complete with an early visit from Santa Claus and carolers.
Performing arts non-profit Park City Institute kicks off its 2018-2019 season at the Eccles Center Thanksgiving weekend with a performance by the Grammy Award-nominated a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock (Nov. 24). Other early season highlights include a National Geographic Live "Point of No Return" with Hilaree O'Neil, who led a team of alpinists on the first ascent up a remote peak in Myanmar (Nov. 30) and contemporary dance group Bodytraffic (Dec. 8).
Take a trip to gain insight into one of Japan's greatest artists during a special cinema event when the Park City Film Series and the British Museum present Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave (Nov. 28). A truly groundbreaking documentary, the film features experts at the forefront of digital art history and pioneering 8K Ultra HD video technology that brings audiences closer to Hokusai's work than ever before.
No need to wait till Christmas to get in the holiday spirit, just join the annual Santa Pub Crawl (Dec. 1) and have a jolly time at Main Street's most popular watering holes. Make sure you dress in your favorite holiday-inspired costume and bring an unwrapped toy to donate.
For a family-friendly show, visit the historic Egyptian Theatre during their run of James and the Giant Peach Jr. (Dec. 7-9). Along with a collection of singing insect friends, James heads out on a musical adventure of courage and self-discovery.
For a full listing of up-to-date happenings around town, check out our events calendar.
Explore Out of Town
One of the perks of skiing in Park City is the proximity to Salt Lake City and the surrounding resorts. If you run out of things to do, don't hesitate to take a trip down the canyon to explore what the city has to offer. Take a drive out to the Spiral Jetty, catch a show at the Eccles Theatre, or hit the slopes at one of the resorts in the the Cottonwood Canyons.
For a more quaint feel, check out neighboring Kamas and the Heber Valley. Home to one of the leading concert venues in the area, the DeJoria Center, Kamas also provides easy access to the scenic Mirror Lake Highway and the nearby Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Another mini-getaway from town, the picturesque Heber Valley hosts a number of family-friendly events, like the 90-minute train on the North Pole Express complete with hot cocoa, elves, and Santa, three state parks (Wasatch Mountain, Jordanelle, and Deer Creek), plus the famous Homestead Crater, and 2002 Olympic venue Soldier Hollow.
If you don't mind the distance, Utah's incredible national parks are also temptingly close!
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