We just got back from a fun and sun vacation in Park City, Utah, followed by Palm Springs, California. A winter break ski trip with friends has become a new tradition and while you certainly pay for it, nothing beats all-day ski school for the kids to become technically fluent skiers and provide some guilt-free, much-needed adult time!
After spectacular trips to Vail-owned resorts like Vail, Beaver Creek, and Heavenly last winter, I was happy to see Park City Ski School as an option for this year's trip to Utah. On a recommendation, we decided to stay in Canyons Village, which turned out to be very convenient and family-friendly. Here's what you need to know and what we recommend.
Getting to Canyons Village Park City
After braving the treacherous drive from Denver to Vail last winter break, the less than 40-minute drive from Salt Lake City Airport to Canyons Village was a delight. The roads are wide and well-kept and the trip is short. We debated whether to rent a car or not for the duration of our trip but since the kids were going to be in ski school all day in the Canyons within walking distance of our resort, we just used Uber throughout the week. Main Street, Park City is only 4 miles away.
Where to Stay in the Canyons
There's an abundance of family-friendly options in and around Canyons Village, all within walking distance of the gondola. We wanted to stay at Grand Summit on a recommendation but it was booked by the time we got our act together (the day care center is located on the ground floor). Sundial Lodge overlooks the base of the mountain and Westgate Resort, where we stayed and liked very much, is adjacent. Friends of ours stayed at the Silverado Lodge across the street, which they enjoyed as well. The Waldorf Astoria Park City, Wyndham Park City, and WordMark Park City share a gondola up to Canyons Village.
Vrbo is a real game-changer when it comes to looking for lodging, especially ski trips. That's how we found our unit at Westgate. The amenities were fabulous for the kids: an arcade, indoor/outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, and game area. It also houses Drafts Sports Bar, which was a great place for bar food. It's ski in/ski out and a two-minute walk to the ski school drop off area.
Ski School at the Canyons
Since we'd had such positive experiences with the ski schools at other Vail-owned properties, I didn't give much thought or worry to enrolling the boys other than being thankful that they would again have the opportunity for high-level, small group instruction. I wrongfully assumed that Park City Ski School would run similar to its sister resorts, but there are notable differences.
Reservations need to be made in advance. While discounts are typically given for registering online, in advance, I don't recall ever having issue registering for classes, even during busy season, but when I called Park City, many of the small classes were already booked and we had to hope for cancellations (which did pan out but it was nerve-wracking). Past experiences were more laid back and flexible ("You want to skip a day?, Sure! No problem).
Morning drop off is a process. Previous experiences entailed showing up, saying hello, and leaving (Beaver Creek and Vail have indoor drop off). Not Park City. Drop off is outdoors and lines are long. Each day regardless of what time we arrived, we waited a good 15-20 minutes in a cue to be matched up with a group and an instructor. Thankfully, there were two of us because there are separate lines for 7+. Parents were noticeably irritated to be standing in lines, in the snow, with children crying, etc.
You are responsible for children's equipment rentals. If you rent equipment, it's with you for the duration of your rental. Which means you are responsible for hauling around their gear in addition to yours. This was new to us as well and had always been handled without our participation. Not a big deal but extremely strenuous with small kids that have trouble walking in boots and carrying their own stuff. One more child and we would not have been able to do it.
Instructors vary day after day. Consistency for small children is always good but unfortunately both our children had different instructors throughout the week. Overall demand must have been so high this week.
I know this is a long list of complaints but I do think there's room for improvement and my expectations were misaligned. There are many positive aspects of the ski programs at Park City as well. All of the instructors we encountered were very friendly and the kids had a blast. Neither had any complaints at all. I always felt comfortable leaving them and that they were safe and looked after. Sebastian mentioned that they had a choice each day for lunch, which I don't think is always the case so we all appreciated that and the evaluations/report cards at the end of each lesson were thorough and at the high standard we've come to expect.
It's also worth noting that Park City has a daycare with an optional 1-hour "Ripperoo" ski lesson. We initially thought Lucas might like this option better since the forecast called for snow and cold temps, but when I learned that Utah requires a mandatory 2-hour nap/rest time, I switched him to full day ski school. We didn't travel across the country for him to sit in the dark for 2 hours on a cot. I visited the daycare when the curtains were drawn and very antsy kids were relegated to cots for rest and a movie and it wasn't a fit for him.
Après-ski at Canyons Village
While compact, Canyons Village has some great Après-ski options to warm up and refuel. When the weather allowed, we sat outside at Umbrella Bar for hot chocolate, burgers, and hot dogs. We also liked Drafts Sports Bar in the Westgate Resort (tater tot nachos!), Murdock Cafe for pizza and pasta, and The Farm, for seasonal dishes celebrating the best of Utah's local ingredients (bison chili!). Timing is everything getting a table at these restaurants but after ski school we always found a spot. Dinner time can be a bit more complicated but you may want to venture out of the village or order in. One of the nicest aspect of staying in the Canyons is that it's always bustling and every place is family-friendly. There were post ski school meltdowns everywhere and no one batted an eye.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Canyons Village. Leo and I ventured over to Deer Valley and Main Street on a couple of occasions, and friends of ours skied on the Park City side and made the trip to Alta. It's all easy and very accessible depending on your needs and wants. I'm looking forward to skiing at Deer Valley on our next trip, but I wouldn't rule out a return to the Canyons.