Living the "All-Access Pass" Life

By Yeti Mar 9, 2012
Utah boasts 11 resorts less than an hour's drive from Salt Lake City Int'l Airport. Impressive, although journalist Bari Nan sheds light on the unparalleled access off the slopes.
Living the "All-Access Pass" Life

When my friend Bari Nan Cohen and her husband moved from the BIG City to "Park" City 10 years ago, many of their friends thought they had lost their minds. Cohen, a Freelance Writer who covers Celebrities, Fitness and Lifestyle, was used to a city that never slept. How would she survive in a sleepy mountain town?

Frequently, I get calls from out-of-town pals, in which they tell me, “I’m going to Deer Valley for a long weekend—I hope we’ll have time to come to Park City to see you.”

I try not to laugh. In my informal research (ie, fielding many of these such calls each ski season), I have found that one of the biggest misconceptions about skiing in Park City is that Deer Valley is its own town. Of course, Park City Mountain Resort is presumed to be a part of the town—there’s a chairlift that operates from Main Street! And Canyons Resort, with its festive resort village, reached by open-air Cabriolet, can feel like it’s a world apart. Yet a quick look at a map would readily inform a traveler that the ten mile radius that encompasses the three resorts is, in fact, a nice, compact easy-to-navigate resort town. But it’s hard to fathom unless you’re here.  

My first (and only) vacation to Park City was planned with the idea that we’d sample the three resorts as interchangeably as we sampled the dining, shopping and nightlife available in town. Along with a group of eight other friends, we descended on one of their Park City condos, with the intent to sample the skiing at each resort in much the same manner we planned to explore Main Street’s shopping, restaurants and nightlife. As we excitedly unpacked our gear in the condo on the first night, distributing the lift ticket vouchers and planning our attack on the mountains, we tossed off the comment that we’d surely need to plan to buy an additional day ticket at one of the resorts—how could we possibly pass up a sixth day of skiing?

That question hung in the air as we tackled Deer Valley for two days in a row, then PCMR, then Canyons—for a day each. Our après ski hours were spent in the hot tub, then sampling restaurants and nightlife on Main Street. We couldn’t believe our luck, having an entire town so devoted to skiing that the three resorts were encouraging sampling. Before bed on day three, we assured each other we’d be ready for first chair in the morning, but that we could decide which mountain on the fly. Dawn broke and we each crawled to the kitchen. It was eerily quiet, save for the burble of the coffee pot, the sizzle of bacon and the “pop” of the toaster. Morning greetings, robust on the previous three days, were mumbled this day. The most die-hard skiers in the group eyed each other with anticipation—but there was an undertone I couldn’t quite identify. It became clear when someone piped up, “What’s the plan?” and the least-hardy skier among us asserted, firmly, “I’m taking the day off to check out that outlet mall we saw on the way into town from the airport.” She was nothing if not decisive. And then—dominoes. That undertone was hope—the sincere hope that someone would be the first to set of the chain reaction of relief for our sore, sore quads. Immediately, the most aggressive, hardy and enthusiastic male skier in the group piped up, “Shopping sounds awesome.” This was not the kind of statement I’d ever heard this man utter. After that, a cacophony of assent. “Let’s make sure we get back from shopping with enough time to hot tub before dinner,” someone called out. Sold!

The seemingly faraway outlet mall took a mere ten minutes to access. We shopped ‘til we dropped then returned to the promised land of the hot tub, and then made our way to dinner on Main Street. We reveled in the fact that we could accomplish a fun vacation day without skiing in a ski town. And we rested our legs enough that we were ready to tackle another two days on the hill—with groups dispatching to their favorite mountains in pairs, trios and quads, no road trips required.

The variety of experiences we could sample in that one week was enough to convince my husband and me that we could make a life here—and as town has grown to include the Redstone/Newpark live/work/play complexes near Kimball Junction, I have reveled in sharing all of the non-skiing fun with visitors.

I get to explain that the very reason that Park City is an awesome vacation destination is the same reason it’s a great place to live—within a compact 10-mile radius there are activities both adrenaline-producing and relaxing, often in the same venue. A visit to the Utah Winter Sports Park can include a tour of the Alf Engen Museum, some awesome Olympic competition sites, a freestyle ski show or a crazy zip-line ride. Ski resorts offer access to spas and dining. The town has a year-round commitment to showcasing performing arts acts—local and national. And there are dining choices to fit nearly any palate—from gluten-free pizza to indulgent fine dining, slopeside. What makes visiting here fun is what makes living here fun—it feels like one big resort with a lot of awesome choices.  I’ve yet to find a vacation destination that centers on one experience that doesn’t feel stale or manufactured after a few days. Nearly eleven years later, I’m still living the resort experience.