Park City & Canyons Resort Guide

I've spent nine days at Park City / Canyons, seven working as an instructor and two on my own. There is a reason that snowboarders never talk about it as a place you need to go to. For certain groups of people, it's definitely a wonderful place, but I am not one of those people.
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Park City & Canyons Resort Guide

Whether you love Vail Resorts or loathe them, you'll likely be happy they own Park City/Canyons. I've spent nine days there, seven working as an instructor and two on my own and there is a reason that snowboarders never talk about it as a place you need to go to. For certain groups of people, it's definitely a wonderful place, but I am not one of those people. Well, excepting for their terrain parks, but more on that later.

Getting There

I drove in to Park City from Colorado so that I would have a place to sleep. It's not a bad drive by any means, but not the way most people would be showing up. For everyone else, the drive from Salt Lake City, the drive is under an hour on good roads and highway the whole way. No real mountain driving required. That said, I was told that most of the wrecks that happen in that area take place on 224 between Canyons and Park City. Depending on your budget, your lodging options are either in Canyons, Park City, Kimball Junction, or if you're really desperate, Heber City in the other direction.

It is possible to park in Park City and access the mountain. You will pay for it, and it's something you have to book in advance. The only free parking for the mountain is on the Canyons side. And for anyone wanting to ride on the PC park of the resort, it's a real frustration. Because while there is public transit between the two, it probably isn't great if you get stuck on the wrong side of the gondola after it closes. And even once you park at Canyons, you still have to take a cabriolet to mountain access chair lifts.

The Town/Village

The Canyons Village is strange. It feels like an amusement park for snowsports. This is created by the lack of anything except hotels, condos, and the businesses related to them. It feels like an Olympic Village repurposed for slope-side condos, and somewhat slope-side employee housing. The only bar not attached to a hotel is the Umbrella Bar. Every restaurant on site is part of a condo or hotel complex.

Park City is a town that makes me sad. You can see whispers of the quaint town it once was beneath what is now an open air mall of clothing stores and restaurants. Yes, many of those stores are outdoor brands like Black Diamond, but don't expect to see a real selection of climbing hardware, ice or otherwise. For me personally, the saving grace was Atticus Coffee. Their teas (which you can order online) are magnificent, as well as their book selection. I truly hope that it's as local of a shop as it appears to be.

While I truly appreciate the car free space, the derth of truly locally owned enterprises is upsetting.

There are chairlifts out of Park City proper, but be warned that the Town Lift is for sure slow. There are express chairs out of the other side of town, but it won't be any faster to walk to them and take them instead. So just be aware on your way to the bottom that you might want to avoid the Town Chair unless you're looking for a long ride to rest or something else.

The Snowboarding

Out of the whole mountain, my favorite lines that I got to ride were off the 9990 Chair. This is not something that most people would enjoy on a snowboard, because all the steep parts are covered in bumps. But if you like moguls, they're some of the best I've ridden. Though the fact the troughs were filled with wind blown pow has something to do with this. But Canyons and Park City are just as you've heard: a lot of cat tracks. I found enough fun terrain that I could play tour guide and entertain a high caliber rider for about a day. It's not that there isn't good terrain, it's just that it's short lived. There are also a lot of great trees, but they suffer the same issue. The second issue many of the trees suffer is that there are squirrel traps all over the place. The woods are just filled with dead fall that you have to navigate around, over, or under.

The parks on the other hand, are phenomenal. I've never taught in such a great progression park build. I was there just before Christmas so I didn't get to see a full build, but I can't help but imagine that it's solid year round. For hand rails, the kickers just pick you up and drop you on the rails so long as your line is clean. The jumps are well shaped, and over all the park just flows really well. And this is just on the Park City side. The Canyons side has it's own bowl style park that rides just as well. It rides like it was designed by a skater, with the same build quality. But to get to the Park City parks from the Canyons free parking requires riding six lifts. Cabriolet, Red Pine Gondola, Timberline, Iron Mountain Express, Quicksilver Gondola, and then down to the King Con to get you to The Ridge Terrain Park. It's absurd. It is possible the locals know things I don't, but this is the best I found.

But one thing I have to give it up to this resort is the beginners terrain. As an instructor who was here on assignment, I definitely took note of this. The teaching areas on both PCMR and Canyons were quite pleasant. And since there are cat tracks all over every where, green and blue riders have miles upon miles of terrain they can ride. I suspect the amount of green and blue terrain is the appeal for many of the guests who go there.


As you can tell, this place was not for me. I went back in March to ride the terrain off of Super Condor, and at one point my words were "this is the lamest bowl I've ever been in". It's a bit of a frustration to hike out after a long chair ride just to get 6-10 good turns before you're back to a cat track for the rest of the way down. There is no doubt that this resort is great for a lot of people, and it has some great walls, but I see no need for me to go back outside of work requests.

Finally, the condition of the Red Pine Gondola made me uneasy. I think it's supposed to be replaced this year, or soon, but it should have never have been allowed to get to this point. There were several cabins out of operation, it's noisy, and felt of questionable safety. Not long after I was there, an employee was tragically killed when a tree fell and struck the haul rope of the "short cut" chair and they were bounced off of the chair to the ground. Safety of operations are often an assumed part of the guests experience, but as an instructor, safety is always front-of-mind.

So between the lack of local snowsports culture, the difficulty of getting around the mountain, and the janky gondola, I didn't really enjoy myself. And if you're going to go there to ride park, you're probably better off just going to Woodward Park City, which is it's own separate business.