A guide to navigating the new Park City Mountain Resort.

 

During a single construction-heavy season last summer, Vail invested more than $50 million into the combined resort. That’s real money, even in the ski industry, and it will make a difference. The most noticeable change is, of course, the new eight-passenger Quicksilver gondola providing the physical link between the two resorts, but visitors will also see long-overdue upgrades to the King Con and Motherlode lifts. Vail also took a fresh look at food service and replaced the decrepit Snow Hut with the cavernous Miners Camp restaurant. In addition, the kitchens and serving areas at Summit House and Red Pine Lodge were remodeled, and the latter has been fortified with a lot of new seating. Snowmaking upgrades and some new runs on the Canyons side round out the investments.

Last July, Vail Resorts rolled out a new logo and slogan for the combined resort: “There’s only one Park City.” As part of that event, the first version of the trail map—and there’s only one—was revealed. The size of the new Park City hadn’t really hit me until I saw it all on one page. Confronted with a bed sheet–size trail map covering the six miles from McConkey’s Bowl to Murdock Peak, I had to wonder: is it even possible to ski 7,300 acres from end to end in one day?

You can get there from here.

Last spring, before the gondola and new trails were in place, I tested out the new Park City’s skiability as best I could. Starting at what’s now called Canyons Village, I hopped on the Orange Bubble lift (avoiding the line at the Red Pine gondola), skied to Red Pine Lodge, and glided down to the Tombstone area. From there I took Timberline—a horizontal transport lift—over to the base of Iron Mountain. There I rode the lift up and skied down to a place in the woods where I was told the base of the Quicksilver gondola would be installed on the Canyons side. With no lift lines, the trip can take as little as 30 minutes, although mine took 45, owing to a few stops along the way to study the lay of the land.

A ride on the Quicksilver gondola takes about nine minutes, and most skiers and riders will likely ride the whole way, despite the option of getting off midway at the top of Pinecone Ridge. For one thing, the Park City side of Pinecone is expert terrain. For another, the run is usually sun- and wind-burned (read: awful), although when it’s good, it’s really good. Skiing down Pinecone also doesn’t get you to the Silverlode chairlift, a critical connection for this route. I’d recommend taking the gondola ride to its end, riding Silverlode up, and then skiing top to bottom on any of the runs under Bonanza (my favorite is Silver Queen), all of which lead to the Park City base.

Doing the trip in reverse can be even quicker: from the Park City base area, take Crescent up and ski Powder Keg, Assessment, or Claimjumper to the base of Silverlode/Quicksilver. Ride the gondola to the midstation and ski down the new runs on the Canyons Village side of the ridge—Blaise’s Way or Highway—to the base of Iron Mountain/Timberline. Take Timberline across to Tombstone, ride up Tombstone, and ski down Sidewinder or Deschutes to Red Pine Lodge, where you will find several options for heading down.

Traveling from base to base takes a little over an hour (when there aren’t lines). But what if you want to enjoy some skiing along the way?

Off the beaten path 

Sure, skiing the new Park City from end to end merits bragging rights, but the real adventure lies in adding a few detours to the previously described route. From the Orange Bubble, get off at the midstation and take a right to the base of Super Condor. A hike from the top into Murdock Bowl is well worth the effort if conditions are right. With fresh snow, the deepest powder around can be found here. But this area is also south facing and can turn to mashed potatoes in a hurry. If Murdock looks sketchy, there are plenty of challenging runs off the top of Super Condor lift—the nicely spaced trees and typically good snow in the Condor Woods or the wide-open One Hundred Turns are both solid choices. When you’ve had your fill there, board the Sun Peak lift to start migrating south.  

Offering steep terrain with an out-of-bounds feel, the Ninety-Nine 90 lift is a not-to-be-missed diversion. Take care, however, otherwise you might find yourself all the way back at Red Pine Lodge instead of the bottom of the lift; keep moving to skiers’ right, or take to the more open terrain in 94 Turns. While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss Peak 5, a slow, fixed-grip chair accessing some steep and nicely spaced tree skiing on the Mystic Pines and The Abyss runs. For intermediates, the Crowning Glory run—north facing and typically covered with good snow—also leads back to the base of the Peak 5 lift.

From the top of Peak 5 continue south by skiing down Solace or Harmony to Dreamscape, another slow (but fairly short) quad chair. There isn’t an exciting option to get to Quicksilver from there, but the skiing under the Dreamcatcher lift is worth exploring. If you are new to glade skiing or like your trees spread out a little, Chimera and the bowl at Fools Paradise are too good to pass up. These runs end at Cascade, a long, gentle cat track/trophy home tour winding down to Iron Mountain. To access Quicksilver from there, simply take the Iron Mountain lift back up and ski Chrome Alley to the gondola base. If you skip the trees under Dreamcatcher, there are a couple of intermediate runs that will take you from the top of Dreamcatcher (and the Cloud Dine restaurant) to Flat Iron. Bugle Ridge is the most direct. The Flat Iron chair will take you to Quicksilver—slowly.

After traversing the ridge on Quicksilver, head up Silverlode and then down Double Jack or Single Jack to the Thaynes chair (a slow relic, but short). From the top of Thaynes, take Jupiter Access to the Jupiter chair. This old fixed-grip double is a throwback to the days before grooming, offering a view so spectacular you won’t mind the slow pace. For my tastes, the vast terrain accessed by this unassuming lift—most notably Jupiter Bowl—is the best you’ll find on this side of the Wasatch Mountains. The options range from the wide-open bowls on West Face and Scott’s to tight chutes through the trees in Portuguese Gap.  

If you are doing this the cowboy way, you’ll need to hike to the top of Scott’s Bowl and then work your way south toward Jupiter Peak. In the quest to get it all in, the only logical route from the top of the Jupiter chair is taking the High West traverse and then hiking over into the Puma Bowl area.  It’s officially marked as “Pinyon Ridge” on one side of the Peak, and “Pioneer Ridge” on the other, although most locals just refer to the whole area as Puma Bowl. The 15-minute hike is always rewarding, and once in there you can ski down to the McConkey’s lift.

McConkey’s Bowl gets enough traffic now that it often has deeper moguls than I like, but in a good snow year, the Black Forest, along the southern boundary of the resort, offers some superb tree skiing. (It looks impossibly tight from the lift, but the spacing actually opens up nicely.) Another idea: from the top of the McConkey’s lift, a very short hike puts you back into the off-piste terrain of “O-zone” or “P-zone” under Jupiter Peak.

Add that up, and you’ve got a very full day of skiing. No lingering over lunch on this mission. Whether you traveled Murdock to McConkey’s or McConkey’s to Murdock, it’s—appropriately dubbed—an epic day. Is there an hour left to transit back to your starting point? That depends on how long you played in the trees under Dreamcatcher or whether 94 Turns demanded a second or third run. But regardless, you can always ski down to either the Park City base or Canyons Village and take the free city bus back to where you started.

After traversing the ridge on Quicksilver, head up Silverlode and then down Double Jack or Single Jack to the Thaynes chair (a slow relic, but short). From the top of Thaynes, take Jupiter Access to the Jupiter chair. This old fixed-grip double is a throwback to the days before grooming, offering a view so spectacular you won’t mind the slow pace. For my tastes, the vast terrain accessed by this unassuming lift—most notably Jupiter Bowl—is the best you’ll find on this side of the Wasatch Mountains. The options range from the wide-open bowls on West Face and Scott’s to tight chutes through the trees in Portuguese Gap.  

If you are doing this the cowboy way, you’ll need to hike to the top of Scott’s Bowl and then work your way south toward Jupiter Peak. In the quest to get it all in, the only logical route from the top of the Jupiter chair is taking the High West traverse and then hiking over into the Puma Bowl area.  It’s officially marked as “Pinyon Ridge” on one side of the Peak, and “Pioneer Ridge” on the other, although most locals just refer to the whole area as Puma Bowl. The 15-minute hike is always rewarding, and once in there you can ski down to the McConkey’s lift.

McConkey’s Bowl gets enough traffic now that it often has deeper moguls than I like, but in a good snow year, the Black Forest, along the southern boundary of the resort, offers some superb tree skiing. (It looks impossibly tight from the lift, but the spacing actually opens up nicely.) Another idea: from the top of the McConkey’s lift, a very short hike puts you back into the off-piste terrain of “O-zone” or “P-zone” under Jupiter Peak.

Add that up, and you’ve got a very full day of skiing. No lingering over lunch on this mission. Whether you traveled Murdock to McConkey’s or McConkey’s to Murdock, it’s—appropriately dubbed—an epic day. Is there an hour left to transit back to your starting point? That depends on how long you played in the trees under Dreamcatcher or whether 94 Turns demanded a second or third run. But regardless, you can always ski down to either the Park City base or Canyons Village and take the free city bus back to where you started.

(This article appears in the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of Park City Magazine)