A boy flies down a snowless ski jump in Utah.
Park City in the summer is a winter playground dressed for warmer weather. Wheeled bobsleds rattle down runways. Aerial freestyle ski jumpers spring from plastic inclines—twisting, twirling, and pirouetting before splash landing in a swimming pool. It isn't the season for parkas or fresh powder, but that hardly matters. As I quickly discovered in this tidy resort town a half hour's drive from Salt Lake City, some people are so mad about all things alpine that they keep strapping on their boots and bindings even when the snow is gone.
On a sky-blue afternoon, as the sun baked down on the Wasatch Range, I stood in my ski gear at a Park City landmark: Utah Olympic Park. The site of 14 events during the 2002 Winter Games, Olympic Park today is an athletic training ground that doubles as a fantasy camp. Real Olympians come to hone their skills. Non-Olympians come to try their hand at sports like bobsled and luge, which only seem like they're restricted to guys with umlauts in their names.
I'd shown up for Freestyle 101, an introductory class in aerial ski jumping that the park holds six days a week. My instructor was known for his triple-twisting backflips. My classmates were young boys named Thayne and Dakota who looked as if they'd been born on skis.
On my maiden jump, I slid down a ramp of artificial grass and belly flopped into the training pool. Dakota giggled; it was entertaining viewing. But Park City in the summer months is all about taking part. Wherever you go, there are things to ride here—horses and hot air balloons, merry-go-rounds and mountain bikes. Wrapped around Park City are 300 miles of cycling trails.
At Park City Mountain Resort, I eased toward the summit on a six-person chairlift. At a midmountain station, attendants wrapped me sausage style into a harness and hurled me back down on the exhilarating ZipRider, a rig that works like a ski lift in reverse, only speedier. Dangling from a cable, I soared through the treetops like a flying squirrel. The pace is a little slower on Main Street, a historic district of gift shops and upscale dining. But even downtown, there's no avoiding the mountains' pull. Art galleries sell paintings of spread-eagled skiers. The local historical society and museum has a room given over to downhill sports.
All around town, you see the tousled hair and ruddy cheeks of people who spend most of their time outdoors. They look healthy and contented, though I suspect they're merely biding their time, waiting for the change of seasons, when the snow begins to fall in downy blankets and winter starts to look like winter again.
Silver, not Olympic gold, was the precious metal that lured the first big wave of adventurers to Park City. The Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center leads fascinating light-hiking tours of what's left of those early mines. For more information, call (800) 649-5322 or visit www.outdoorcenter.org.
Photography by David Breslauer
This article was first published in May 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
For information on lodging, activities, and special events, call the Park City Visitors Bureau at (800) 453-1360 or visit www.parkcityinfo.com.
Park City Base Camp $25 per person or $85 for four people. In downtown Park City, on historic Main Street. Walk to mountain hiking trails, art galleries, restaurants, and nightlife. Hostel-like atmosphere is perfect for groups and budget travelers. (888) 980-7244, www.basecampparkcity.com.
Goldener Hirsch Inn $100-$250. Authentic European alpine inn nestled in the mountains of Deer Valley. Features king-size beds and Austrian antiques. Wood burning fireplaces in most rooms. Continental breakfast included. (800) 252-3373, www.goldenerhirschinn.com.
1904 Imperial Hotel $80-$145. Bed-and-breakfast inn on Main Street with comfortable Western-Victorian decor. Rate includes full breakfast. Steps from shops, restaurants, galleries, and some of the West's best hiking and biking. (800) 669-8824.