Park City is more than just epic ski vacations — here’s why

Jan 19, 2020

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If you’re an ardent fan of winter sports, you’re no doubt already familiar with Park City, Utah. Many events during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games took place at this year-round tourist destination. From the beauty of the great outdoors to the glamour of the Sundance Film Festival, the city offers a wide range of activities all winter and summer long.

It’s a posh vacation spot for tourists seeking the beauty of the mountains no matter what the season. During the winter, Park City houses the U.S. Ski Team. In the summer, it hosts the training center for the Australian Freestyle Ski Team. The historic Egyptian Theatre, the home base of Sundance, brings films from across the globe to audiences. Celebrities are often spotted throughout the week-and-a-half-long festival that takes place in late January — so if you’re headed here then, be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Whether you have a love for the great outdoors or want to cross paths with the rich and famous, Park City has something to offer for everyone. 

Related: Your guide to attending the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

In This Post

Getting to Park City

Park City is one of the most accessible vacation destinations in the country. It’s just 25 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Shuttles from the airport to Park City are frequent and can drop you off directly at your hotel. 

The top airlines that serve SLC are AeroMexico, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta Air Lines, Frontier, JetBlue, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, SkyWest, Southwest and United. SLC is the fourth-largest hub for Delta flights in the U.S. Check out the Delta Basic Economy guide for some tips. The second most popular airline at SLC is Southwest Airlines. If you’ve got a Companion Pass, it makes the trip to Salt Lake even more affordable.

Where to hit the slopes

As you can imagine, if Park City was host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, its slopes are world-class. Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort are the two major ski resorts in town — with more than 2,000 and 7,300 acres of terrain, respectively. The slopes are open from November to April and cater to thousands of visitors.

Photo courtesy Deer Valley Resort
Photo courtesy Deer Valley Resort

During the Olympics, the mountains were home to award-winning athletes. The Park City Mountain Resort held four Olympic events while Deer Valley Resort hosted two Olympic events. As a visitor, you get the privilege to use the same slopes where the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams both won medals.

Don’t know how to ski or snowboard? Both resorts offer lessons for beginners. With hundreds of trails, the slopes at Park City offer a unique winter sports experience for all.

Related: Kids ski free — Save on your family’s next ski vacation

Where to stay near the slopes

While Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort are awesome for snowy-weather activities, you have other options — especially if you’re using Marriott Bonvoy points.

These are the Marriott properties in Park City:

Brian Kelly, The Points Guy himself, enjoying the St. Regis Deer Valley. (Photo by The Points Guy)
Brian Kelly, The Points Guy himself, enjoying the St. Regis Deer Valley. (Photo by The Points Guy)

You can earn Marriott Bonvoy points, get instant elite status and even free night certificates with the following cobranded credit cards:

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points with this limited-time offer after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. You also get instant Silver Elite status.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points with this limited-time offer after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. You also get instant Silver Elite status and a 35,000-point free night certificate on your card anniversary.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points with this offer after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. You also get instant Gold Elite status and an up to 50,000-point free night certificate on your card anniversary. Terms apply.

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points with this offer after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. You also get instant Silver Elite status and an up to 35,000-point free night certificate on your card anniversary. Terms apply.

Related: What is Marriott Bonvoy elite status worth in 2020?

Visit Utah Olympic Park

Ever wanted to visit an Olympic village? You’re in luck: The Utah Olympic Park offers tours year-round. The village includes the Alf Engen Ski Museum and the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum. The facilities also offer an intimate look into the history of Utah’s winter sports.

During the summer, Olympic Park offers summer tubing and bobsled, zip-lining and ropes courses. The Nordic ski jump used by Olympic-level athletes gets converted into a summer tubing hill. With a custom plastic surface, the ride smoothly glides just as well, if not better, than on snow. The activity is perfect for thrill-seekers as speeds can get up to 50 miles per hour.

Olympic Park in Park City (Photo by PhotographyPerspectives/Getty Images)
Olympic Park in Park City (Photo by PhotographyPerspectives/Getty Images)

From December to April, you can join the Winter Bobsledding Experience. Gear up to use the very same sliding track used for bobsled, skeleton and luge events during the Olympics. You can also enjoy tubing down the Soldier Hollow, the longest tubing lanes in the state. The skating rink at the Utah Olympic Park features a unique skating program that complies with the national and international standards of Learn to Skate USA. With world-class instruction in speedskating, hockey and curling.

Where to stay near Olympic Park

The Utah Olympic Park is about eight miles from downtown Park City. While there isn’t lodging within walking distance of the park, some of the closest hotels are just a short 10-minute car ride away. The Hyatt Centric Park City offers ski-in and ski-out access to the Park City Resort and the Wasatch Adventure Guides slopes. With 120 deluxe guest rooms, the hotel is a cozy home-away-from-home. Pair your stay at the Hyatt with The World of Hyatt Credit Card to get the most for your dollar.

Related: What is World of Hyatt elite status worth in 2020?

Hyatt Centric Park City (photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Hyatt Centric Park City (photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Experience the beauty of summer

Even if you don’t ski, Park City is the perfect destination to explore the great outdoors — especially in the summertime. If you’re interested in hiking, biking or camping, visit the nearby Uinta National Forest. Other trails include The Armstrong Trail or the Mid-Mountain Trail at Deer Valley Resort. 

When you’re done touring the trails in Park City, join a hot air balloon ride. Soar above the scenic greenery of Utah’s national parks and mountain resorts. For fishing and river rafting lovers, the forest offers beautifully preserved lakes and rivers, such as the Logan, Weber, Ogden, and Provo rivers.

Where to stay

Sunrise Lodge by Hilton Grand Vacations is a beautiful mountain resort nestled in the Canyons Resort and next to the Sunrise Lift. The resort offers free shuttles to restaurants and shops on the main street. With guest rooms and full suites with kitchen amenities, the Sunrise Lodge is perfect for families on vacation. You will fork over plenty of Hilton Honors points though since rooms are usually only bookable here with Premium Room Rewards (Think: 220,000 points per night.) It makes the nearby Waldorf Astoria Park City look like a bargain at 80,000 to 90,000 points per night for a Standard Room Reward. For a few less points per night, look at the DoubleTree by Hilton Park City – The Yarrow, which is often just 60,000 points per night during peak ski dates or as low as 36,000 points on other nights.

Don’t forget to use your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to earn extra points on the trip and enjoy free breakfast due to its benefit of complimentary Diamond status.

Head to Sundance and Slamdance

In late January, Park City is home to the largest independent film event in the country: Sundance Film Festival. Thousands of movie-lovers, industry executives and celebrities from around the world come for the 10-day festival. The entire town transforms into a film mecca with The Egyptian Theatre is the crown jewel. The festival has a total of nine venues scattered throughout town. Transportation around Park City is easy year-round with a free public transit system.

The Egyptian theater for the Sundance film festival. (Photo by Pureadiancephoto/Getty Images)
The Egyptian theater for the Sundance film festival. (Photo by Pureadiancephoto/Getty Images)

Even if you can’t afford Sundance credentials or are unable to buy tickets, there are tons of free events happening in the city. Stop by the Festival Headquarters at the Sheraton Park City, the New Frontier Lab or any sponsored event venues for fun on a budget. You might even spot celebs at local coffee shops and restaurants.

Another option is to visit Slamdance Film Festival during the last week of January. The artist-led festival focuses on low-budget and emerging talent as an alternative to Sundance. Though smaller than Sundance, Slamdance’s tight-knit community offers a more accessible and intimate experience.

Where to stay for the festivals

When finding a hotel during Sundance, it’s important to stick close to the festival’s bus route. There are three Marriott hotels directly on the route: Marriott’s MountainSide, Marriott’s Summit Watch and Sheraton Park City. The Sheraton is also Sundance’s festival headquarters and the location where industry members can pick up their credentials. Staying at the Sheraton means that celebrities come to your front door. The lobby is often known for celeb spottings and hosting industry meetings.

Bottom line

Park City can be your home base for many different types of vacations, from a traditional ski vacation to active adventures in the summertime to exhilarating film festivals. Choose the face of Park City that you want to see and use your airline miles and hotel loyalty points to help you plan an affordable trip. Just plan for those peak ski dates or trips that coincide with Sundance.

Featured image by Rob Hammer/Getty Images

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