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A zippy-quick, intoxicating blend of past and present
Story any most photos by Lee Juillerat
High on Adventure, April 2013


Ask any skiers about Park City, Utah, and, if they've been there, they'll provide earsful of tales about great days at its trio of ski areas—Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons and Deer Valley. Great snow, miles of runs groomed as smooth as a baby's butt, loads of powdery black diamond terrain.

Park City chairlift  Park City chairlift  Park City chairlift
Skiing's great at Park City's three resorts

I've made several Park City visits over the past 30 years. Each time the offerings get better, not only on the slopes, but in and around town. I hadn't been back since Park City hosted several events during the 2002 Winter Olympics based in Salt Lake City, just a half-hour's drive. Park City and The Canyons, which for years have offered a boggling array of terrain, keep adding refinements, from speedier lifts to high-end base area restaurants. Deer Valley continues to focus on providing first-class services, but keeps expanding, and has plans for continued expansion.

Park City skiing under bridge
Remember to duck

The skiing was sumptuous, but as I learned, the Park City region offers much more. That "more" includes a zoo's worth of quirky wooden animals alongside a Deer Valley ski run, teetering mining era buildings flanking Park City Mountain Resort trails, and an intoxicating variety of aged whiskey at the High West Distillery, which is part of an arts-flavored downtown that's kept its mining history intact. And just down the road is a former Olympic complex that's busier than ever with its fascinating museums, Olympic caliber training facilities and its faster-than-a-speeding bullet bobsled run. It's super, man.  

Fast Sledding


“Ready?” We nodded.

Park City bobsleigh   Park City bobsleigh
Ready...                                                                                        Set...

Two pushers began leisurely trotting behind the bobsled – a four-person sled with a driver, two journalists and a Utah Olympic Park employee recruited for the dreaded four-seater. Unlike the 2002 Olympic sledders who galloped full-speed and jumped inside in well-choreographed style, we sat inside, braced but unprepared for what came next.

Park City bobsleigh run   Park City bobsleigh run
                                                                                                 Go!                                                           Photos by Dino Vournas

The sled moved leisurely at first, then—zwoshhh—suddenly accelerated. Within nanoseconds we rocketed pell-mell, hit speeds of nearly 80 mph as we flew zippy-quick down straightaways and slammed around curves. The sled variously veered 45 degrees left, then whipped radically right, and sometimes seemed to spin upside down. I didn't count them, but I'm told we made 15 turns during our 400-foot descent.

In 57.21 seconds, less time than it's taken to read this far, we whirled, twirled and plunged eight-tenths of a mile. Fast, yes, but pedestrian compared to the track record of 46.47 seconds for a four-person bobsled team.

What, others asked, did I remember about the ride?

Like being in a video games played at warp speed, there was a surreal feeling that the earth was tilting wildly out of balance. One split second we bolted steeply downward, then suddenly veered hither and tither. There were the banshee screams of the sled's steel runners sheering ice, of sights that flickered past in less than the blink of an eye. Huddled inside the sled, I focused straight ahead, watched with fascination through the visor of my motorcycle-style helmet. Twice my helmet whacked the sled, probably while suddenly tilting around angled curves.

I was in the second seat behind driver Landon Phillips. Following advice given at our orientation, I sat upright, focused but oddly relaxed while immersed and absorbed in the otherworldly experience. Trust the driver, trust the equipment. A fellow adventurer, Jerry Hoffman, sat tucked behind me, but other than the whoops he yelped at the start, I forgot he was there. My legs were stretched outward around Landon, just as Jerry's were propped alongside me.

It's said the g-force for the sled's second person reaches 5-gs, while the fourth experiences 5.5-gs. A g-force is the force of gravity, or acceleration on a body. Standing equals a g-force of 1. By comparison, few roller coasters exceed 3-gs. A space shuttle during launches and reentries reaches a maximum 3-gs and a steep turn in a fighter jet ranges from 9- to 12-gs.

G-forces were a factor, but more dazzling was the gee-whiz factors. Wow!

A Gee-whiz Complex

One of the biggest problems faced by cities that host costly Olympic Games is maintaining specially built facilities after the Games are over. That's not been a problem for Park City, Salt Lake City and other Utah areas that hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Much of the $100 million profit has been pumped back into the venues, including the Utah Olympic Park, a 398-acre facility in Park City that hosted five Olympic events.

Park City Utal Olympic Park   Park City Olympics banner
Utah Olympic Park, busier than ever

“We're busier now than during the Olympics,” says Colin Hilton, the park's CEO, of the park, which includes six Nordic ski jumps, the sliding track with five start areas, a freestyle aerials winter training and competition hill, a 750,000-gallon summer freestyle aerial training pool and the Joe Quinnery Winter Sports Arena. Along with serving as a training area by Olympic hopefuls, the facilities are used by children learning basic skills and adults who combine winter recreation and socializing.

The Olympic experience is open to the public at several levels, including commercial bobsled rides. Two museums in the Winter Sports Center, visitors can get a sense of the bobsled and an Olympic style downhill run on an interactive virtual simulator. Riders sit on a quad chair that's attached to a motion base platform. Its moves mimic the sense of really fast, really steep skiing and bobsledding on a 16- by 20-foot screen.

The second floor Eccles 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum has displays from the 2002 Games, including one featuring Park City's Ted Ligety, who won Olympic gold in the combined in 2006 and took a second gold medal at this year's men's giant slalom in Sochi, Russia.

Derek Parra's Olympic medal  Derek Perra's Olympic medal  Derrek Parra
Derek Parra with his Olympic medals

The real action happens outside. Park programs cater to young skaters, who learn the basics of ice skating, to older adults. Derek Parra, a speed skater who took gold in the 1500 and silver in the 5000 meters at the 2002 Winter Olympics, oversees the program. I almost broke into a sweat when I got to hold and gawk at his impressive medals.

“If they can walk, they can skate,” Parra says of offering programs for young boys and girls and, more importantly, encouraging long-term athletic development. The intent? Simple: “Keeping that spirit of the Games alive.”

Another kind of spirits

A few days earlier, friends and I imbibed other varieties of spirits, the drinking kind, at the High West Distillery. Located in historic downtown Park City, High West makes small batches of mountain crafted spirits, featuring an array of rye whiskeys and vodka. Located in two side-by-side historic buildings, The Beggs House and National Garage/Livery Stable, High West opened in 2007, becoming Utah's first legal distillery since the 1870s. The National Garage was originally a livery stable that serviced the workhouses that pulled heavy ore carts up and down the mines. The two-story, Victorian-style Beggs this year celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Park City Whiskey bottles  Ram painting  Cowboy painting

Park City moose sculpture   Park City row of skis
Park City whiskey, sculptures and art

The distillery is part of downtown Park City's walking tour, one that offers quirky sculptures, like Franz the Bear and Moose on the Loose, galleries displaying a variety of traditional and funky art, buildings like the Egyptian Theater and the Park City Museum that evoke the town's history, and a gourmet's choice of eateries, including Zoom, which is conveniently located near Park City Mountain Resort's Town Lift.

Park City's Main Street   Park City Town Lift
Park City's Main Street                                                                    The Town Lift.     

Park City Silver King Mine   Park City Silver King Mine
Remnants of the Silver King Mine

Skiers and snowboarders can ride the Town Lift to its top, above what remains of the once famous Silver King Mine, one of several that helped Park City balloon as a century-ago boom town. A web of more than a 1,000 miles of mining tunnels still exist below ground. From the top of Town Lift, we skied to the Bonanza Lift. From the Bonanza we didn't ski for speed, stopping often to look at Silver King remnants, including a hoist building sided in corrugated metal, a concrete change house and a crumbling crushing mill, all evidence of Park City's previous incarnation, a blue-collar mining town.

Park City bear carving   Park City bear carving

Park City carved bear in tree     Park City carved bear on roof
Bears on parade along the Last Chance Run

But it's The Last Chance run, a gentle blue, at Deer Valley, that reflects another tonier lifestyle. Last Chance is a stop-and-gawk run. Several starter castle homes flanking the run feature sculptures, including a staggering, life-sized bull elk, with a mom and baby elk semi-hidden in the trees. More whimsical are wooden raccoons and bears, some reading, cavorting on the porch, climbing a tree and, most unbearably funny, skiing on the roof.

But Wait. There's More. A tall totem pole with a mountain goat, topped with a bald eagle and, atop another house, a bighorn sheep perched on the roof's highest peak.

Park City totem pole     Park City house
An eagle-topping totem                                           Free ranging bighorn                        

The skiing is always exceptional in Park City. So are the possibilities off the slopes.  

When You Go

For information about Park City, visit the website at www.parkcity.com. For the three ski areas, visit www.parkcitymountain.com, www.canyonsresort.com and www.deervalley.com. For the High West Distillery visit www.highwest.com and for the Utah Olympic Park visit http://.utaholympiclegacy.com.

Park City ski poster
Lee…I was framed!

About the Author

Lee Juillerat writes and photographs for a daily newspaper in Southern Oregon and does freelance work for a variety of magazines and newspapers. He's the author of books about Crater Lake National Park and a frequent contributor to historical journals. Juillerat can be contacted at 337lee337@charter.net.


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