Park City Mountain Resort features night skiing, where one can hit the slopes into the evening hours. Photo courtesy of Park City Chamber & Visitor’s Bureau

Wanderings: Park City, Utah

Wander down Park City’s Main Street on an evening in the height of the winter tourist season, and the small-town charm is palpable. A trolley makes its way on the snow-covered streets of historic Old Town. Breweries, distilleries, fine dining establishments, art galleries, and boutiques are hopping, and the landmark Egyptian Theatre’s neon sign lights up the sidewalk. With all the après-ski action, it’s hard to imagine that, just 60 years ago, this vibrant mountain community was on the cusp of becoming a ghost town. 

Very much a ski town, a chairlift from Main Street brings powder hounds to Park City Mountain Resort, while just down the road, Deer Valley provides 2,000 acres of varied terrain and limits the number of skiers each day for plenty of mountain access. Photo courtesy of Visit Park City

Park City was settled after the first silver mine opened in the 1860s. It was officially incorporated 20 years later during its boom, with homes built near the mine and further up the canyon in Old Town. The carefully preserved architecture reflects this rich mining history, and the anti-chain store ordinance on Main Street has allowed more than 200 unique businesses to call it home. “As soon as you walk down Main Street, you can still feel the essence of the silver mining era,” says Dan Howard, vice president of communications for Visit Park City. “In the National Historic District, the buildings are so well preserved; the Park City Museum was built over the old jail cells, and you can almost feel the ghosts of that era.”

Park City is a year-round outdoor destination where one can mountain bike through the changing leaves during fall.

While this legendary ski town is thriving now, that wasn’t the case when mining stopped soon after World War II. By the 1950s, the population of Park City had dwindled, and Main Street was all but deserted. 

Then, in the 1960s, Park City was saved by the ski industry with help from the surrounding mining companies. Using 10,000 acres of mining company land and a federal government loan, Treasure Mountain (now Park City Mountain Resort) opened on the back side of the Wasatch Range in 1963. However, there was already some tough competition, with other established ski areas like Alta and Brighton on the front side of the Wasatch, which is known to accumulate more snow. With low ski traffic, the resort was far from thriving for a number of years. “Park City was very connected to ski-bum culture,” Howard says. “Back then, it was very affordable and had a groovy vibe reflective of early ‘70s culture.”

Surrounding Park City, hundreds of miles of hiking trails twist through aspen groves and meadows and climb to majestic peaks, from family-friendly options to more challenging terrain.

Recognizing how other prosperous ski towns like Aspen and Sun Valley offered high-class amenities, real estate developer Edgar Stern lived out his lifetime fantasy of owning a ski area when he opened Deer Valley Resort on the other side of Park City’s Main Street in 1981, designing it as a luxe experience with gourmet cuisine and first-class lodging. According to Howard, when Deer Valley was founded, it started to receive a lot of attention, as did Park City.

Nestled in the mountain valley, Park City also provides access to concerts, performing arts, the Sundance Film Festival, and plenty of art galleries. Photos courtesy of Park City Chamber & Visitor’s Bureau

Another boom hit in 2002, when Deer Valley hosted the Winter Olympics, bolstering the area’s reputation as a world-class ski destination. Today, the 400-acre Utah Olympic Park is a training site for skiers and features a variety of adventure activities in summer, including ropes courses, ziplining, and extreme tubing.

If you prefer Nordic skiing, Round Valley is a 25-kilometer trail system of rolling hills and steep ascents that can be easily accessed from Quinn’s Trailhead and various other points in Park City. Photo courtesy of Park City Chamber & Visitor’s Bureau

Along with the Olympics, Park City is known worldwide for hosting the Sundance Film Festival. As the largest independent film festival in the U.S., it draws upwards of 50,000 cinephiles to the town every January. “Sundance gets reported as the red carpet event of the mountains, but it’s so non-Hollywood,” Howard says. “It’s very funky, showing controversial, small-budget, independent films.”

Located off Park City’s historic Main Street, Town Lift Plaza captures the ski-mountain vibe, including options for après food and drinks.

Park City remains very much a ski town. A chairlift on Main Street delivers skiers right to the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort, while, just down the road, Deer Valley Resort still clings to a more high-end culture that tends to draw an older clientele. 

Find a selection of dining options at Park City restaurants, from a summery spinach and fruit salad to more exotic culinary adventures. Photos courtesy of Visit Park City

And yet, there’s also quite a bit for non-skiers to do in Park City, especially downtown. Explore Western and contemporary art on a gallery tour, hitting Mountain Trails Gallery, Montgomery-Lee Fine Art, Gallery MAR, Park City Fine Art, and Meyer Gallery, among many others. Get dressed for the West at Burns Cowboy Shop, a family-owned apparel store established in 1876. Learn about distilling spirits at High West Distillery just off Main, then grab a casual lunch at the Wasatch Brew Pub.

The Egyptian Theatre marquee advertises the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the country, taking place each January.

Check out the mountain culture on the other side of the slopes with a stroll around Deer Valley Resort. Along with shopping and dining options, the newly renovated Montage Deer Valley features a Western art collection and a spa with a menu full of relaxing treatments.

As Park City has grown, so has its arts scene. The Kimball Arts Center hosts gallery exhibitions and events, including the Kimball Arts Festival, where artists line a closed-off Main Street for a weekend in early August. Free concerts with well-known bands are sprinkled around different outdoor venues throughout the summer, and the Utah Symphony moves into town for the Deer Valley Music Festival during July and August.

Main Street art galleries offer a rotating selection of historic and Western contemporary artworks, such as these paintings by Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based artist Amy Ringholz.

And since Park City is located in a valley surrounded by mountains and rivers, summer activities are also abundant for outdoor lovers. Hit one of the three local rivers for blue-ribbon fly fishing, hike or bike on the 400 miles of trails, play golf, and more.

The charm of a Western mining town still exists on Park City’s historic Main Street. Photos courtesy of Visit Park City

No longer a near-ghost town, Park City has evolved from a pioneer-inhabited silver mining community into a world-class ski destination with all the amenities. It just took some time to get there.


Dos Olas Cantina

High West Distillery

KITA at the Pendry

La Stellina at St.Regis Deer Valley

Park City Social Aid & Pleasure Club

Pine Cone Ridge

Riverhorse on Main

Wasatch Brew Pub


Goldener Hirsch Inn

The Lodge at Blue Sky

Montage Deer Valley

Pendry Park City

St. Regis Deer Valley

Westgate Park City Resort & Spa


Alpine Slide & Mountain Coaster

Canyons Village Summer 
Concert Series

Deer Valley Music Festival

Deer Valley Ski Resort

Kimball Arts Festival

Park City Mountain Resort

Park City Museum

Park City Peaks Snowmobiling

Sundance Film Festival
January 18-28, 2024;

Utah Olympic Park

Woodward Park City Action

Sports Club

Art Galleries

Gallery MAR

Julie Nester

Meyer Gallery

Montgomery-Lee Fine Art

Mountain Trails Gallery

Park City Fine Art

Corinne Gaffner Garcia is a freelance writer and editor based in Bozeman, Montana. Her work has appeared in Marie ClaireCountry LivingMartha Stewart Living, and many other publications;

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