Park City Utah is gorgeous in Summer and Autumn
by Frances J. Folsom
Visiting Park City Utah today, it’s hard to believe that this trendy ski town started life in 1868 as a wild and bawdy mining town known for its saloons and houses of prostitution. In 1869 silver and zinc mines were discovered. Almost immediately more than a dozen mines sprang up employing thousands of miners from Germany, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Mine shafts were 1700 to 2000 feet deep, mining life was hard with miners working six days a week having only two days off a year; Christmas and the Fourth of July.
Over the years four hundred million dollars in silver was brought out of the mines making twenty-eight men millionaires several times over.
Twelve hundred miles of tunnels, averaging 1800 feet deep, still run underneath Park City. Closed since 1980 today those mines are being used to recycle water from the mountains giving the city forty percent of its drinking water.
In 1960 Park City’s future turned to the tops of those mountains with one thing, skiing. Since then world class ski resorts have sprung up; Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, the Canyons Resort and the Waldorf-Astoria Park City are just a few that offer hundreds miles of trails for downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. In recent years these same resorts have discovered that these trails can be used in spring, summer and fall for walking, hiking, and mountain biking. And, the gondolas don’t sit idle either; you can ride them to the tops of the mountains for gorgeous views over the landscape.
That being said winter is fun but summer and fall, with no heat or humidity, are great too. And, you don’t have to be an outdoor enthusiast to visit. The streets are lined with shops, galleries, spas and museums.
As far as restaurants go you won’t starve, food critics have written that there are more chefs per capita here than there are in Paris.
Another bonus, the public transportation is fantastic. Buses are equipped with racks for your gear and go to all the mountain resorts as well as the downtown area. If you’re not used to the elevation, 7,000 feet above sea level, it can be a tough climb so hop on and off the free trolleys that go up and down Main Street.
The Park City Museum is housed in a stunning brick building that dates to 1885. Two floors are devoted to their Mega Mine exhibit exploring the mining history with interactive displays that explain the workings of mining equipment such as the Cornish pump, the shafts and tramways and how ore became silver. Of particular interest is a diorama depicting miniature miners and horses at work in one of the mines. One wall is given over to an original shaft elevator with all the workings.
Other exhibits depicting early life in Park City include one of the original stages that brought settlers here, artifacts from the first general store and saloon, and a 1926 fire engine.
To get a sense of what skiing means to this area don’t miss the Skier’s Subway a grouping of metal railroad cars that fifty years ago carried skiers through a mine shaft up one of the mountains to the ski slopes.
At the bottom of Main Street in a retrofitted garage is the Kimball Art Center a repository of visual art. Throughout the year its three galleries host changing exhibits of contemporary art by international and local artists. Each August the center hosts the Kimball Arts Festival; two hundred juried artisans of different genres from throughout the country show and sell their creations. Be sure to reserve early, the festival draws upwards of 40,000 people from around the country.
The best summer fun happens at the Park Silly Sunday Market and Street Fair. This eco-friendly event (90,000 visitors last year and they took only two bags of trash to the landfill) features arts and crafts from local artists, gourmet foods, fruits and vegetables, music and performance art.
Most Olympic parks dry up and go to seed when the games are over, not in Park City. The Utah Olympic Park was the site of fourteen events during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Today it is going strong year round with classes on freestyle skiing, Nordic jumping, luge and bobsledding.
Visitors can get a rush whizzing down the zip lines over the landscape. Or watching the Flying Aces, a group of Nordic jumpers that barrel down the tracks at eighty miles an hour, do air flips and, instead of landing in snow, land into a giant pool.
You will find a boatload of spas specializing in reflexology, massages, herbal wraps, body scrubs and facials. Several to check out are; Vie Day Spa is known for its reflexology treatments, Mountain Body Spa offers luxurious green tea facials, or get a little Botox at Align Spa.
One to be sure and check out is the new Golden Door Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Park City. You will be pampered in style at this 20,000 square foot spa, the largest in Utah. Along with the usual compliment of treatments the spa offers a health and fitness center equipped with elliptical cross trainers, weight machines, treadmills and spinning classes.
A visit to anyone of these spas is sure to get your mind and body into condition for hiking, mountain biking, swimming, shopping, sightseeing and everything else Park City has to offer