After skiing at 18 ski resorts in 4 countries as a family, I have a pretty good idea what makes or breaks a family ski vacation. We gave Park City, Utah, a test drive last weekend and the experience wowed us in every way. In 2012, Ski Magazine included all three of the ski areas in Park City – Canyons Resort, Park City Mountain Resort, and Deer Valley Resort – on their top 10 list. After skiing at each one of them, I get it. Luckily for families, this top rating extends to parents and children of all ages.
I can’t think of a ski destination that is easier to access. Park City is a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City Airport. The sad truth is that from the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s faster to fly to Park City – including airport waiting time – than to drive on Highway 80 to Lake Tahoe on a Friday night. This puts Park City in the weekend getaway category, not just the week-long ski vacation category.
Once you arrive, your can rent a car … or not. We used the Park City Transportation shuttle service into town. Although there may be a small wait in the airport for other riders, guests don’t need to think about directions or where to park; the shuttle drops guests right off at their accommodations. A shared van is $79 round trip for adults and $50 round trip for kids.
There’s a free bus system in Park City to all the resorts, Historic Main Street, and the Utah Olympic Park so a private car is not a necessity.
The three Park City resorts — Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort, and Park City Mountain Resort — offer very different ski experiences. This is surprising given their close proximity to one another. One factor is that they are owned and operated by different companies and each resort has its own distinct flavor.
Canyons Resort is the largest ski area in Utah with 4,000 skiable acres and 182 runs. As a result, there’s huge variety at Canyons for skiers and snowboarders alike and the resort appeals to a wide spectrum of guests from ski bums to upscale travelers.
Canyons also offers large accommodation inventory so all budgets can find something suitable here from the Waldorf Astoria with multi-room residences to simple condos; there’s a bit of everything available and they offer a whole array of family-focused lodging/ski packages on the CanyonsResort.com website.
Kids 6 and under ski and snowboard for free. Their Little Adventures Children’s Center offers childcare for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old. This is huge! New parents alert: you CAN ski this winter. They also have a dedicated Resort Animation Director who creates après ski activities just for kids so parents can enjoy one of the many options in Canyons for post skiing fun. Love this!
After my visit and chatting with Park City Mountain Resort management, it’s clear that this resort lives and breathes families. They’ve actively thought through how to create the best possible ski experience for all ages and interests from groomed and un-groomed terrain, to expert bowls, to kid-friendly adventure alleys through the trees.
Best of all, Park City Mountain Resort offers a best-in-class Kids Signature Ski Program. Signature 5 is for children aged 6 to 14 and guarantees the class size is five students or less, enabling more granularity in skill matching and instruction. Meanwhile, Signature 3 is for children aged 3.5 to 6 and guarantees the class size is three students or less.
Add in the I Ride Park City Freestyle Camp for ages 10 to 15 with hands-on coaching and time in a digital video lab editing content taken during the camp session for a well-rounded, diverse program. I’ll do a dedicated post on all of these exceptional offerings in January, but for now, suffice to say there is a host of exciting learning options for kids.
Kids 6 and under ski and snowboard for free at Park City Mountain Resort. Their programming is clearly one of the reasons Ski Magazine named Park City Mountain Resort the #1 Family Vacation Resort in 2012. A well-deserved honor!
Deer Valley is known as the “posh” resort and caters to upscale skiers. Deer Valley Resort owns and operates nine of the accommodations (48% of their lodging is ski-in/ski out), as well as the three main mountain villages, Snow Park, Empire Canyon, and Silver Lake and their respective food and beverage outlets. This results in top quality, consistent guest experiences at every turn.
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One of the big differentiators in Deer Valley is that they do not allow snowboarding. While this may not be good news for some families, skiing purists will rejoice as the different styles are not competing for space on the slopes. The resort also attracts and caters to multigenerational groups that want to be and ski together; many of the runs have multiple ways down so families can ride lifts together and then ski their own level to the bottom.
In addition to a wide array of ski-in/ski-out luxury homes and condos, Deer Valley is home to three world-class luxury hotels: St. Regis Deer Valley, Montage Deer Valley, and the Stein Eriksen Lodge. I can’t give a fair assessment here as I didn’t tour all three properties, but our readers know I how much I love the incredible Paintbox kids’ club at Montage Laguna Beach; I toured Montage Deer Valley and I’m very excited about their comprehensive amenities for families including Paintbox, an in-house bowling alley, a year-round heated outdoor pool, and the Compass Explorers program that transports kids to/from ski school.
Although Deer Valley doesn’t offer a kids’ ski free program, there is a Family Value Package, valid at The Lodges at Deer Valley and includes a 20% discount on accommodations, 20% discount on adult lift tickets (two per day), two discounted kids rental vouchers (12 and under; with the purchase of two adult lift tickets) and two FREE kids lift tickets per day. This is valid January 2 – February 13, 2013 and April 1 – 15, 2013.
After skiing in Europe for two years, skiing in Park City is like skiing on another planet. All three of the resorts have dedicated staff from the parking lot to the mountain and these folks make the ski experience hassle-free and fun.
Mountain Hosts are available throughout each resort. Getting lost is not possible. Skiing with kids is a big responsibility; relaxation is directly related to feeling safe and secure at all times. This guest-centric ski environment ensures this is the case.
Stay tuned for advice on saving money on a Park City family ski trip. In the meantime, the Park City website is an EXCELLENT resource for any and all questions related to planning a family ski trip to this incredible destination. Park City Mountain Resort also offers Snowmamas, a brilliant online ski resource written by and for families.
Editorial Note: Ciao Bambino received complimentary transportation, lodging, and ski experiences in order to review Park City. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
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