Skiing is something I’ve always wanted to do as a family but it just seems so intimidating as a beginner, doesn’t it!? Well, we bit the bullet this past season and came out the other side better for it. Today I’m guiding you through what to think about as a beginner and also recommending Park City, Utah as a beginners destination. Here’s the scoop!
Okay so my boys (5 and 7) had NEVER skied before and me and my husband are complete novices. I never would have selected Park City as a beginner destination but my friend who used to live there (and has two small children) highly recommended it so we just went for it! And after a 5 day trip I have to say I’m so glad we did. Here are some things I learned, would do differently, what I recommend for beginner skiers, skiing with small children and pros/cons about Park City as a location. Check it out.
There are three main mountain bases to ski out of in Park City. The Canyons, Park City and Deer Valley. The cool (and I think unique) thing about skiing in Park City is you can literally start at one base and ski across/take lifts to another base. You can even plan to end (or start) the day by taking the lift right from Main Street. It’s all connected!!! We couldn’t do this yet as beginners because we were sticking to green trails only but it’s a goal for next year. FO SHO!
Where to stay and ski; Pros + Cons
The Canyons – This location is about a 35 minute drive from the airport making it super convenient travel-wise. You can touchdown and be at your hotel in less than an hour! We didn’t even rent a car because it was easy to ride-share everywhere. This is where we stayed but we won’t stay here again.
The Canyons offers an amazing ski school and has a quaint après area at the base with fire pits, a stage and a couple of bars. They even had fireworks the first night we arrived. It also has all the equipment stores too so if you forget ski socks for your 3-year-old or need goggles for yourself, they’ve got you covered.
The food overall at The Canyons left a lot to be desired. Like, over priced $6 pizza slices and previously frozen grilled burger patties galore. One night we ordered out 1 cheese pizza, 1 gluten-free pizza, 1 salad and 1 glass of wine at Murdocks and it was $75 which is absurd. That being said, there is one restaurant called The Farm which seemed like a viable option but you couldn’t get in on a whim – totally booked out with reservations which I can now see why! If you stay at The Canyons, be sure to make a reservation here in advance. I should probably add we were traveling on a holiday weekend so that could have been why they were booked out. Either way, something to consider.
We ended up getting an AirBnB at The Sundial which is LEGIT about 50 paces from the Red Pine Gondola that takes you mid summit at The Canyons. Being this close was super convenient with kids and “easy” to manage logistics with all of our equipment.
Our main complaint was that The Canyons had little to offer for green trails. (Ski trails are color coded: Green being the easiest trails and best suited for beginners. Blue being more difficult, Black being hard and Double Black for experts.) If you are a new skier, having a diverse amount of green trails is critical unless you want to ski the same trail all day long for 3 days straight. And you don’t. Trust me. It gets old.
Park City – The Park City base is about 15 minutes further away from the airport than The Canyons base but you could still easily ride-share and manage without a car during your stay.
Park City base has a more robust après scene offering a larger selection of shops/restaurants/bars than The Canyons. We didn’t eat here so I can’t comment about the food quality.
The ski school is managed and run by the same ski school as The Canyons so I assume it is just as good.
You can ski The Canyons and Park City with the same lift ticket. So Jason and I skied day 1 at The Canyons and took a ride-share over to Park City on day 2 to compare. Park City. Was. Awesome. Why was it different? First of all, you can ski a green from the very top of the mountain all the way down to the base without stopping. THAT WAS SO FUN! The trails here are wider, the views are better and there are just a ton of lift and trail options. A beginner could easily ski Park City for 3 days and not get bored.
We went on President’s Day weekend and there were minimal and sometimes no lines to get on the lifts at either at The Canyons or Park City. It’s a big enough mountain with a ton of lift options so even when it’s “busy,” crowds never form.
Deer Valley – We didn’t ski here but we were sure to sneak in a visit because it has a reputation of being the most fancy out of the three bases. This is where the St. Regis is and also Stein Erickson, the most exclusive hotel in all of Park City are located.
I checked out the trail map and, same as Park City, you can ski a green from top to bottom – several in fact. We will definitely plan on skiing a day here next time. And snow boarding is banned at Deer Valley which some consider a perk. Also, my chiropractor said the Blueberry Mojitos at the base at Royal Street Cafe are the best so….
Deer Valley also seemed to be the most secluded and quiet out of the three bases with less going on in general.
Bottom line: We would totally stay at Park City next time. Or maybe even Main Street at the Marriott Summit Watch which is in walking distance to the Main Street lift. I mean there is probably nothing like ending the day coming off a lift onto Main to après. You totally get the best of both worlds this way!
What we learned
Do ski school! Honestly, this was the best thing we did for our kids. My 5-year-old had never skied before and he was running blues in just two days! At $400/day/kid, it ain’t cheap but the teachers make it fun, the kids learn and the parents get time to enjoy the mountain too. It’s really a win, win, win.
Park City, Utah has Uber Ski so if you don’t plan on renting a car but want to ski out of different bases you can! Uber Ski is a little less than double UberX – so if it was $9 to Park City base from The Canyons in UberX, it was $16 with Uber Ski. Regular Ubers won’t necessarily take ski gear. And the public shuttles where kind of a pain to plan around IMO. Both times we took Uber Ski, they stored our gear inside like in their trunk or truck bed.
If you are renting equipment, plan to arrive with enough time to get fitted and pick up your gear the day before. This way you eliminate the stress of standing in line the day of along with everyone else, plus getting up earlier to make sure you don’t have to wait in line…. The key to success on a family vaca is taking any and all opportunities to eliminate stress from the equation and trust me. This is a huge one.
Our AirBnB had a ski valet where we could store our skis and boots overnight – and I’m sure most hotels do too. So once you get your gear you can “valet” it or keep it in your room and you have it when you need it. If you are staying somewhere fancy, you can ask if the valet will warm your boots so they are toasty when you pick them up.
Included in the rentals are skis, poles (for adults only because the little kids don’t use poles), boots and a helmet. What it doesn’t include is goggles, gloves, socks and any outerwear.
I was petrified about my kids getting too cold or wet and then in turn, hating the experience and never wanting to go skiing again so I was obsessed with making their first time as comfortable as possible (again eliminating a potential stress factor here). See below for a list of what I packed for my kiddos. They were 100% comfortable, warm and dry for three days straight.
The overall takeaway when dressing kids to ski is; layer and make the most outer layer waterproof.
What I would do different next time
Invest in some walkie talkies. Jason and I would text each other but sometimes the signal wouldn’t go through or we didn’t hear each other’s texts which was frustrating at times. So anyways…walkies = better communication = reduction in potential stress factors.
Maybe even get walkies for the boys too. Quinn is 5 and he was screaming for independence telling me not to follow him down the trails. This was hard for me because it was legit his third day and what if he fell, got stuck, what if he got lost or a bear jumped out of the woods….I mean really. So I stayed back as far as I could but where we were, he would have been safe on his own if I’m being honest with myself. The walkies would have been insurance and an opportunity for him to learn and grow.
Make reservations. The good restaurants book up. This is true on Main Street too. We learned this the hard way. But even as I type this – we personally hate being boxed in with time commitments so I’m recommending making reservations but also not sure if I will do it. Maybe the answer is to make reservations at your top pick for one night and just go with the flow the rest of the time. Depends on your style.
Buy a bottle of wine for the room. We got in on a Saturday and I wished I grabbed a bottle of wine from the grocery then. Because come Sunday you can’t buy wine/booze/beer in Utah. And you also can’t buy wine/booze/beer on a holiday either which happened to be the next day too. #whywhywhy
Stay at either Park City base or Main Street for access to more green runs and to be in closer proximity to all the haps.
Sign up for ski school IN ADVANCE!!! OMG you guys. I almost blew the entire vacation because I waited until the Monday before we were traveling to call and inquire about ski school reservations. Ski school books up and when it’s full. It’s full. Quinn literally got the last spot for his age group and Cole was boxed out so he had to do a youth group instead of a smaller ratio lesson – anyways, now you know!
Check when the last lift runs and plan around that. This will definitely reduce the stress of taking your kids up the gondola so they can show you what they learned after two days – only to get to the top and realize the lift we needed was closed. It will also avoid all the crying that ensues after that.
I also want to check out Gorgoza Park for tubing. And maybe a guided snow shoeing excursion….one that has lunch planned in a summit cabin or something.
And it would be fun to hit up the sleigh rides on Park City Mountain after a day of skiing.
Speaking of eats. Here are a few places we tried and loved and a few that are on my list for next time. Like I mentioned, food at the bases was pretty crap in our experience. It takes some effort to seek out the good stuff but we’ve got you covered with a few options.
Mid Mountain Lodge – A fun surprise on Park City Mountain, this restaurant is about half way up the mountain and accessible by skis only. They offer superfood bowls, grains, greens and more. One of the best meals I had the whole time I was there. Plus the snow topped table and view didn’t hurt either!
Five5eed – In a small strip mall about 5 minutes from Main Street, Five5eed is serving up local and seasonal. I got the hollandaise brisket…I mean, come. ON.
The Lounge at St. Regis – I got a yummy bowl of gluten-free buffalo chili here. And taking the required Funicular up to the hotel is also “FUN” too. I’m pretty sure you can ski in/ski out this lounge on one of the Deer Vally trails which…is…let’s be honest, what it’s all about!
Next time I want to try:
- Stoked Coffee
- Harvest Cafe
- Twisted Fern
- Riverhorse On Main which also has a small market upstairs that carries some gluten free and organic goods too.
(These are all reader recs, thanks guys!)
I was also told that the Jazz Brunch at Stein Erikson is not something to be missed either. NOTED! And PS, Stein Erikson has a FREE arcade for guests with a LIFE SIZE old school Packman game, pinball, ski ball and video car racing games. My kids were in heaven! I personally banged out 26 rounds of Packman but that’s neither here nor there.
What I packed for the boys – An organic ski packing list for kids
1.A good base layer that will stay dry when they sweat (not cotton). I got them a pair at Patagonia – I had to go in store to have them order it fore me. I couldn’t find it online. I bought two of each kid but one pair for 3 days was fine.
2. Insulated and waterproof ski pants. Waterproof is KEY and getting an insulated pair was ideal because they only needed these and the base layer on the bottom.
3. An insulated and waterproof coat. The boys already had this thin down jacket so I just bought a waterproof rain shell to wear over it and it worked out perfect. Plus now they are not stuck with a huge jacket they will never use in Atlanta.
4. A dry fit mid-layer for their core. This is a layer they can take on or off depending on their comfort level. Quinn wore his everyday but Cole was too hot with one on. We used a couple of old long sleeve zip ups but if you are buying new, opt for something dry-fit if you can find it. (Again, getting wet will ruin the whole day!) I like this one because it doesn’t have a bulky hood.
5.Goggles – make sure they have UV protection because the glare is so strong sometimes, you need them to act as sunglasses too so you can actually see.
6.Smart Wool Socks – SO IMPORTANT. Someone told me to buy these because they are “the best” but I didn’t actually know what that meant until now. Wool socks are THE ONLY option for skiing because they keep feet dry and warm. And these ones have a little extra padding to them too. (My feet were sore and my shins bruised after skiing for three days so these helped add a little extra comfort.) My kids never complained of cold feet. I bought two pairs but they wore the same ones for 3 days straight because we roll like that and they never got wet so… ALSO! Don’t layer their base layer under or over their socks. This creates wrinkles which can be painful. It happened to me!
7.Neck protection – KEY!!!! This is one of the last things I bought but it was ESSENTIAL. The kind that goes around their head and protects their neck at the same time are the best and they seal in all the gaps for where air could sneak in. I bought these ones but I ended up not liking them because the fleece shed all over the place. Next time I will go with something like this. (And I bought my 5 year old a kids size and it fit perfect while my 7 year old wore an adult size because the kids size was too small).
8.Lip balm with SPF – Apply before the kids head out but also stick one in their pocket especially if they are going to be away from you all day in ski school. Both my kids reapplied on their own.
9.Sun screen – I was like are you serious!? There is only one little sliver of skin sticking out at this point. But yes, the mountain is very serious. The sun and it’s reflection with burn the crap out of whatever gets exposed. I like this nontoxic sunscreen for the boys.
10. Mittens – Go with mittens over gloves. The heat from their fingers will help keep their hands warmer. These worked well for both my kids.
11. Also pack a pair of waterproof shoes or boots for the walk to and from the lifts. One wet foot and you are done-for! I got a cheap pair of rain boots for $20 at DSW.
What we didn’t need was hand/foot warmers. It was 4 degrees one day on the mountain and we still didn’t need them – I’m telling you, it’s the Smart Wool Socks! The kids also don’t need hats on the slopes either just FYI because they will be wearing helmets.
What I packed for me and Jason – An organic ski packing list for adults
1.A wool base layer – top and bottom – this base layer IS EVERYTHING. Made from Marino wool, this layer keeps you warm in chilly temps and cool in hot temps. Don’t ask me how – all I can tell you is it works in cold weather. This is the only thing I needed under my insulated ski pants and it was perfect. Legs were never cold. But the best part? It has a cowl neck that you can leave loose or pull up over your head and cover everything leaving an exposed face circle. Cute and functional. DONE!
2. These insulated/waterproof ski pants and matching insulated/waterproof jacket. You could totally upgrade and spend more on something Gore-Tex which is more durable but for the occasional skier like me- this fit the bill. Like I’m not planning on skiing more than a couple times each season nor are moguls or off-trailing in my vocab. Done and done.
3.A mid layer – I grabbed an athletic zip up I had laying around which worked.
4. Mittens – These are awesome because they come with a thin glove layer or “skins” to wear inside the mittens and because I was always taking my hands out of my gloves to take pics and video this was key! Other than that they kept my hands warm. Jason got these.
And by the way, Patagonia has a site called Worn Wear where you can buy second hand Patagonia. I checked it and they didn’t have much inventory at the time I was shopping but it’s worth a shot. Cheaper and more eco friendly!