We lived in Park City for about 13 years, both of us having moved there with other spouses, Jan from San Francisco and myself from Toledo, Ohio. Park City back in the ‘80s was really just a ski town, and not a very well known one at that. But it was a spot just waiting to get discovered, and did it ever big time.
The license plates in Utah used to have the line “greatest snow on earth” on them until the druggies stole too many of them. But it is true, Utah does have the greatest snow on earth and some 600 hundred inches can fall on the Wasatch in a good year. We skied as early as October in good years and not stop until Easter, which in a good year was towards the end of April. The snow had very little moisture in it, which made for great powder skiing and easy grooming and corduroy runs.
Back then Deer Valley was just beginning, what is now The Canyons was Park West, and Park City had a gondola that took 20 minutes to reach the Summit Lodge.
I think there were a couple of triples and a lot of double chairs. Park West was where the school district had a deal and the kids could get a season pass for under $100. Park City’s pass was around $350 when we first got there.
The infrastructure was minimal; it was a two-lane road from I-80 at the junction into town which was comprised mainly of Main Street and a little section to the east where there were a few businesses. When we moved there Summit County had just over 3000 permanent residents and when we left there were over 30,000.
Several events triggered this wild growth. First was the purchase of old Western Airlines by Delta and the subsequent relocation of many Delta families from LA and Atlanta to Utah and they brought a lot of money with them from the gains they made in real estate. Park City would never be the same again. At almost the same time there was a movement afoot to bring the Winter Olympic games to Salt Lake City and when they were awarded the 2000 games life changed for everyone in the area.
But perhaps the most compelling reason for the growth was the beauty of the area, the ability to get out of town in 5 minutes and into the mountains and nature and to be alone with all that beauty.
The nearest fast food joint was at the junction, too far for kids to go and hang out, there was no internet yet and the kids had nothing to do but play outside most days. They became excellent skiers and eventually boarders when that sport became popular and it wasn’t long before they were on their own most days.
It is said that you move to Park City for the snow and you stay for the summers. After Easter the town would be deserted until the following Christmas, and there was mountain biking, fishing camping and water skiing in any number of reservoirs around the area to be had. We had a boat which we used in all the reservoirs and when we discovered Lake Powell we would spend a lot of time there exploring the 2500 miles of shoreline.
It is amazing how much the area has changed. The junction, which was merely an exit off the interstate is now a huge shopping complex with an outlet mall, tons of small businesses and the worst traffic in Utah. Well maybe not the worst, but certainly a very congested area. Housing has moved out of Park City and into the county. The sleepy little town of Heber is now a booming city, the north side of I-80 is full of homes and the Jordanelle Dam area is also booming with new homes.
But all this growth is not bad – the Olympics left the Winter Sports Park in Park City which is now a year-round training facility not only for the US ski team but for other countries as well.
The cross country events left beautifully developed areas in Heber Valley and at Soldier Hollow and in Salt Lake the indoor events helped develop a light rail system that eased a lot of the traffic problems.
And no one can ever take away the natural beauty of the area.