Ski Utah Resort Histories | Park City Mountain (2023)

The History of Park City Mountain

Established: 1963

Claim to Fame: Once a silver mining boom and bust town, the miners turned away from the silver ore underneath the ground to the white powder coating the mountains each winter. Theyrealized that nature’s bounty was all they needed to attract visitors to the historic mining town of Park City, Utah. Nowadays, Park City Mountain is the largest lift-served ski resort in the United States with 7,300 acres of skiable terrain.

Unique Character:Park City Mountain is home to a rich lore of silver mining history. You can dive in and get a first-hand account by joining the Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour. This free, guided tour for intermediate skiers pairs guests with an expert guide and historian to discover and learn about all the historic mining buildings, relics and infrastructure that dot the skislopes. For a glimpse inside the Silver to Slopes tour, listen to this podcast about local historian and tour guide, Sandy Melville.

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Terrain Info
Park City Mountain boasts the most lift-served terrain in the United States with more than 7,300 skiable acres. The mountain encompasses 17 peaks, 13 bowls, six terrain parks and over 330 named trails. The rolling terrain offers expansive views, perfectly sculpted groomers, powders stashes and ample opportunity to explore. It would take you weeks to ski every single run!

What’s in a Name: Park City Mountain
Park City Mountain wasn’t always the name for this world-class resort. It’s gone through a number of name changes throughout the decades. The ski hill debutedas Treasure Mountain in 1963.The name was later changed to Park City Ski Area for its fourth season in 1966. Most recently it was rebranded from Park City Mountain Resort in 1996 by Powdr Corp to simply Park City Mountainin 2020 by Vail Resorts.

A neighboring ski area and sister resort to Park City Ski Area, called Park City West, opened in 1968. It was renamed ParkWest in 1975 after a change in ownership, thenWolf Mountainin 1995 for just two seasons. In 1997 it becameThe Canyonsafter an acquisition by the American Skiing Company before it was purchased by the Talisker Corporation. It was then sold to Vail Resorts in 2014 and subsequently merged with Park City Mountain. Today that base areais known as The Canyons Village at Park City.

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Generously provided by the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah Ski Archives Special Collection

Summer Hunting Grounds
Prior to European contact, Indigenous bands roamed the Intermountain West for centuries. In Northern Utah, the majority of these folks belonged to the Uteand Shoshone tribes. The area around Park City and Summit County today served as a gathering place and summer hunting grounds for Indigenous people. Summit County’s harsh winter climate only made it hospitable in the late spring or summer months. Evidence has been found of ancient Fremont hunting camps dating back to 5,000 years ago. Shoshone people began to settle in Northeastern Utah an estimated 700 years ago.


Settlers of European descent began exploring the area in the 1830s, and Mormon pioneers arrived in the area in 1847 after emigrating across the plains to escape persecution. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1870 brought miners to the area in droves, looking to strike rich. The town of Park City was incorporated in 1884, and the population boomed to over 5,000 people, most of whom had direct ties to the mining industry.

Silver Goes Bust
At the turn of the century, Park City was a well-established blue-collar mining town. It boasted the second largest silver strike in America and miners drifted in and out of town hoping to strike rich. The Great Depression strangled the profitability of many of the mines in the 1920s, and thousands departed the area as hopes for prosperity dimmed. The fortune of the town was directly tied to the volatile mineral industry, and people arrived in town or departed at the mercy of the price of ore.

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Generously provided by the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah Ski Archives Special Collection

Skiing caught the fancy of local denizens in the 1930s with the construction of a massive ski jump with thetailings of the Creole mine. At this time, skiing was primarily a spectator sport. However,interest in recreational skiing slowly began to pique, and the Park City Winter Carnival debuted in 1936. Enthusiasm continued to build, and in 1947 the Snow Park Ski Area transported its first skiers uphill. This would eventually become the site of today’s Deer Valley Resort, but that’s an entirely different chapter of thestory that you can discoverhere.

By 1949 many of the mines in the Park City area had shuttered, and over 1,200 miners were out of work. By the 1950s the population of Park City had further shrunk. The prospects seemed bleak, and there was little work and few expectations for better times ahead. The 1950s were a tough decade to eke out a living in the rapidly shrinking town. One remaining mine company, the United Park City Mines, consolidated what had formerly been hundreds of individual mining companies into one entity.

A Change of Fate
As the prospects for the town of Park City dimmed, members of the United Park City Mines companygathered in secret, scraping together what was needed to apply for a government economic stimulus loan intended for depressed rural communities. The application languished for some time until a local, Jack Gallivan, mentioned the stalled loan during a lunch with PresidentJohn F. Kennedy. Shortly thereafter, in 1962, a loan of 1.25 million was approved, and the fate of Park City would forever change.

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Generously provided by the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah Ski Archives Special Collection

Out-of-work miners suddenly found work constructing a gondola and lifts, and the pace of construction was furious, taking two years to complete. Thanks to the dreams, grit and hard work of the area’s residents, Treasure Mountain was opened on December 21, 1963 by the United Park City Mines. It offered the longest gondola in the United States, the Prospector chairlift, a J-bar lift and a rope tow. Guests could enjoy a meal at the Summit House Restaurant and nine holes of golf in the summer.

The following winter, the miners added the Thaynes chairlift. It’s difficult to imagine now, but in those early years, it was accessible via a dark and foreboding tunnel in the Silver King Mine called the Skiers’ Subway. A mine train carried skiers through the dank and pitch-black Spiro Tunnel for 2.5 miles before reaching a cage-like hoist that carried them up 1,750 feet back to the surface of the earth. The elevator deposited them at the base of Thaynes Canyon, where they could access the new lift. It was an uncomfortable and arduous journey that proved unpopular with skiers, so the underground Skier's Subway was disbanded after just four years.

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Photos generously provided by the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah Ski Archives Special Collection

Stern Times
United Park City Mines ran Treasure Mountain for several years but sold it at a loss in 1971 to Edgar Stern, an Aspen real estate developer. The miners didn’t have any experience running a recreational enterprise, and they decided to offload the business for $5.5 million. That first summer three new lifts were constructed: Payday, Crescent, and Lost Prospector. Stern convinced his former friend and neighbor from Aspen, famed Norwegian skier Stein Eriksen, to settle in and help him promote skiing in the area.

The King Con Triple Chair was opened in 1973, and new runs were cut along the east side of King Con Ridge to serve as training slopes for athletes. Stern’s group worked hard to support the alpine ski racing community, and with Eriksen's help, convinced the US Ski Teamto relocate their training facilities from Denver to Park City in 1974. This was a massive win for the little mountain and brought national recognition to the town.

Stern gradually gravitated toward more grandiose dreams and sold Park City Ski Area in 1975. He went on to establish Deer Valley Resort, a radical departure from contemporary ski areas with its luxurious amenities and well-appointed lodges. More on Deer Valley’s history can be found here.

Growing Up
Stern sold Park City Ski Area to a businessman from New York, Nick Badami, who also owned the Tahoe area Alpine Meadows resort. He’d been bored by retirement and was looking for something to do with his son Craig. The two worked tirelessly to transform the struggling resort into a profitable destination, upgrading lifts, expanding terrain and investing in snowmaking. Snowcats were purchased and amaintenance shop was built. Jupiter and the Ski Team chairs were added for the second season. New terrain was added with the Pioneer Chairlift in 1984, and the mountain was connected to Old Town Park City with the Town Lift in 1985.

Craig’s zest for skiing secured the first FIS World Cup races for the resort in 1985, which brought international attention to Park City. Craig was tragically killed in a helicopter crash at the resort following a 1989 World Cup event. His father, besieged with grief,began looking for buyers who would share their family'sultimate vision for the resort.

A Change of Hands
Powdr Corp, a private corporation owned by Salt Lake City financier Ian Cumming, purchased Park City Ski Area in 1994. This meant Powdr Corp now owned and operated both Alpine Meadows and Park City Ski Area. In 1996, the Cummings changed the name to Park City Mountain Resort and lifted a ban on snowboarding. Their goal was to set the gold standard for guest services, alongside year-round amenities. Powdr Corp brought the resort into the modern era in the late 90s, installing several high-speed chairlifts including Silverlode, Payday, Bonanzaand McConkey’s. Powdr Corp maintained progress in upgrading facilities, also replacing the First Time, Three Kings, and Ski Team lifts. For more on Powdr Corp, check out our Last Chair podcast episode with John Cumming.



An Olympic Legacy
In 2002, the world’s eyes turned to Park City Mountain Resort, as Olympic athletes performed incredible feats on its slopes. Snowboard halfpipe, slalom and giant slalom events were held at Park City Mountain Resort. American men swept the podium in snowboard halfpipe, and Kelly Clark secured women’s halfpipe gold. Famed alpine racer Bode Miller took home silver medals in the giant slalom and combined.

From Past to Present
In the early 1970s, what was Park City Ski Area leased the terrain on the upper mountain from United Park City Mines, thus the mountain did not actually own the land on which it operated but relied on a long-standing lease. In 2003, Canadian-based Talisker Land Holdings LLC acquired the United Park City Mines company and ownership of the property underlying the Canyons Resort, as well asthe upper reaches of PCMR.

At this stage, Powdr Corp had been running Park City Mountain for two decades, but they failed to renew their land use lease with Talisker in 2011. After a lengthy court battle between Powdr Corp and Talisker Land Holdings, Powdr sold Park City Mountain Resort to Vail Resorts in 2014. This brought about the formation of the largest lift-served ski area in the United States as The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort became one.

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Vail moved quickly to invest $50 million into capital improvements including the construction of an interconnecting gondola between the two distinct base villages. Completed in late 2015, the Quicksilver Gondola transports guests 8,000 feet in about nine minutes from the bottom of the Silverlode lift at Park City to the Flat Iron lift on the Canyons side. A midway station atop Pine Cone Ridge provided guests with additional skiing access. The Snow Hut restaurant was re-imagined and rebuilt into the aptly named Miner’s Camp, and expansions to the Summit House and Legacy Lodge were completed. Snowmaking was also added to Iron Mountain.

Improvements are still very much underway, and Vail has lavished much attention in transforming the Canyons Village into a vibrant and world-class mountain destination. The aim is to foster a more walkable village area with a sizable increase in lodging, hotel, commercial spaces and employee housing. Meanwhile, an updated plan for the base area located in the town of Park City is currently in the planning stages with city council. One thing is certain, Park City Mountain will continue to change and attract guests and outdoor lovers from all across the globe.

QUICK FACTS & ZANY LEGENDS

  • Park City was one of the only permanent settlements in Utah that wasn’t founded by Mormon pioneers escaping religious persecution. It was incorporated and built by miners eager to strike it rich on veins of silver lode.
  • The silver mines around Park City eventually yielded over $400 million in revenue and created 23 millionaires.
  • When it first opened in 1963,a lift pass at Treasure Mountain cost $3.50. Almost 50,000 skiers visited Treasure Mountain during its first winter season.
  • Upon visiting Treasure Mountain’s original gondola, members of Sugarloaf’s management built a similar gondola at Sugarloaf, ME in the Carrabassett Valley.
  • While skiing or shredding Park City, know that more than 1,000 miles of old silver mining tunnels lie beneath Park City Mountain and neighboring Deer Valley Resort.
  • Many of the lifts accessible from the Park City Mountain Village are named after mining claims or mining terms, for example: Pay Day, Bonanza, Silverload, Silver Star, King Con, Jupiter, Motherload and Quicksilver. There's one glaring exception crowing the highest peak, McConkey's Express. This lift was named for Jim McConkey, father of iconic freeskier Shane McConkey. Jim McConkey was a skiing pioneer, appearing in films, constructing modern chairlifts and leaving brilliant marks in the annuls of skiing history. Lured to Alta in 1953 to join the Alf Engen Ski School, McConkey gained valuable experience to then act as director for Treasure Mountain's inaugural ski school in 1963.
  • For the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, over 40% of the events were hosted at Park City Mountain, the Utah Olympic Park and Deer Valley. This resulted in bolstering the area’s international reputation and a population boom.
  • In 2002, Park City Mountain hosted the giant slalom, snowboarding parallel giant slalom and snowboard halfpipe Winter Olympic events. Look for the Eagle Race Arena and the Eagle Superpipe runs where events were held. The events were 99.8% sold out with 95,991 spectators.
  • The size of Park City Mountain is simply astonishing. At this time, the resort encompasses 7,300 acres and 348 trails. This requires a huge operations fleet to keep the groomed terrain in top shape. Each night about 40 snowcats disperse across the resort during two shifts to manicure over 115 trails to perfection. To learn what it's like to be a snowcat driver, check out this fascinating article.
  • Originally established in 1896, theMid Mountain Lodge is the oldest lodge on the mountain. It formerly served asa boarding house and mess hall for silver miners. The Mid Mountain Lodge was recently renovated and re-opened in the 2018–19 winter season. Itincorporates mining history and Victorian decorwith a swanky and sophisticated vibe.

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Photos:Generously provided by Park City Mountain and theJ. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah Ski Archives Special Collection


References

Butz, A. (Oct 13, 2010). "Park City's history," Historic Park City Utah dot com. Retrieved fromhttps://historicparkcityutah.com/news/park-citys-history

Hampshire, D. (2013). "The idea that turned Park City around," Park Record, Dec 21, 2013. Retrieved fromhttps://www.parkrecord.com/news/the-idea-that-turned-park-city-around/

Hampshire, D. (2013). "Park City Mountain Resort enters the world stage," Park Record, Dec 24, 2013. Retrieved fromhttps://www.parkrecord.com/news/park-city/park-city-mountain-resort-enters-the-world-stage/

Park City Chamber & Visitors Bureau Park City History. (no date). Park City History -- Summary. Retrieved fromhttps://assets.simpleviewinc.com/simpleview/image/upload/v1/clients/parkcity/History_Timeline_359c66fe-8a1c-4ba5-b9e9-575bab6eb394.pdf

Smart, C. (2014). "Vail buys Park City Mountain Resort for $182.5M,"The Salt Lake Tribune,Sept 12, 2014. Retrieved fromhttps://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=58402188&itype=CMSID

Warren, L. (2019). "Way we were: Settlers weren’t the first ones here," Park Record, Nov 7, 2019. Retrieved fromhttps://www.parkrecord.com/news/settlers-werent-the-first-ones-here/

Warren, L. (2014). "From Silver to Gold: A History of Park City Skiing," Park City Magazine, Jan 1, 2014. Retrieved fromhttps://www.parkcitymag.com/outdoors/2014/01/from-silver-to-gold-a-history-of-park-city-skiing

Wells, J. (2014). "Park City dilemma: Vail Resorts gets its mountain," CNBC News, Sept 11, 2014. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cnbc.com/2014/09/11/park-city-skiing-vail-resorts-buys-out-the-bottom-of-the-mountain.html

Wikipedia (no date). Park City Mountain Resort. Retrieved fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_City_Mountain_Resort

Yanasak-Leszczynski, J. (2015). "The Earlier People of Summit County," Park City History Org. Retrieved fromhttp://parkcityhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/www20150422-American-Indians-in-Summit-County-Yanask-Leszczynski.pdf

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