Skiing Park City With Kids: The Good and the BAD!

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Park City is the largest ski resort in the United States, but how good is it for skiing families? Does having a bigger ski resort make it better? Yes, and no.

Our family lives in the next valley over from Park City. For years, we drove through Park City on our way to ski the Cottonwood Canyons in Salt Lake, since we thought we could find better terrain, and they receive significantly more snow in the Salt Lake Canyons than Park City does.

family Skiing Park CIty With kids

However, after lots of begging from our kids to ski at Park City with their friends, last year we bought the whole family season passes to Park City…and we regretted it almost the entire season. While there are some great things about Park City, it can be a really difficult place to ski with kids, unless you know exactly what to expect.

Park City Ski Resort Review for families

My Experience At Park City

Not only did our family spend dozens of days at Park City last season, but I also used to be a professional ski instructor at The Canyons (which merged with Park City in 2015), so I know the resort and area incredibly well. I’m sharing not just my experience with my own family, but what I saw and learned about the area as an instructor.

Skiing Park City with teens

Park City Stats

Skiable Acres: 7,300 Acres
Vertical: 3100 Feet
Total Number of Ski Runs: 114
Terrain: 17% Beginner, 50% Intermediate, 33% Advanced, 3 Terrain Parks
Chairlifts: 33 Chairlifts
Family Ski Deals: Kids 4 and under ski free
(check out other Kids Ski Free Resorts)

Lift Ticket Prices at Park City

Prepare for some sticker shock, as Park City is one of the most expensive US ski resorts! Skiing on a budget isn’t really possible here, unless you have season passes and get creative with your lodging.
Adults (ages 13 and older): $179/day
Kids 5-12: $115/day
Kids 4 and under ski free (but still need a free lift ticket from the ticket window)

park city ticket window

Best Deals For Skiing In Park City

If you plan ahead, you can purchase an Epic Day pass before the season starts, starting at $95/day. This is the best deal you’ll find. If you’re skiing for more than a few days a season, it often just makes sense to get a season pass, since they’re relatively inexpensive, compared to day lift ticket prices at Park City. If you’re skiing with teens, the Park City Youth Season pass is for kids 13-18 and costs only $369. This is a huge saving since for regular lift tickets for teens, they’re charged as an adult (this is what we buy for our teens).

family skiing together

Access To Skiing Park City

One of Park City’s claims to fame is that you can get from Salt Lake International Airport to Park City in about 30 minutes. The airport access for skiing in Utah is better than anything you’ll find almost anywhere in the world.

The airport access is where the ease of getting to Park City ends. If you’re skiing in a ski-in-ski-out accommodation (typically over $1,000/night for double occupancy, or $2,000+/night for a family room), you’ll be fine. If you can’t afford on-the-slope accommodation, you’ve got a lot of waiting in your future.

ski in ski out lodging park city

What Makes Park City Great in Winter

We love living near Park City in the winter since there are so many fun things to do. It really is the only place you can go skiing in Utah that has a SKI TOWN feel. And boy is it incredible. Park City Main Street is so fun to explore, but best of all, there are so many family-friendly activities and outdoor adventures (I’ve got a huge list at the bottom of the article with AWESOME SUGGESTIONS). The apres ski atmosphere is fantastic in Park City.

Park city main street at night

Major Downsides of Skiing Park City With Kids

As I’ll go into depth below, the biggest downside to skiing Park City with kids are the massive crowds. For our family, that often goes beyond annoying to just feeling dangerous. Slopes are so crowded, that we’ve been hit by out-of-control skiers riders multiple times on one run (thankfully, we teach our kids to be defensive skiers so they always avoided the worst collisions).

Park city ski crowds

With little kids or kids just learning how to ski, you have to be pretty cautious, especially in main resort areas. My 4-year-old is a very solid intermediate skier and I HOVER LIKE CRAZY to protect him from the crowds, so he doesn’t get barreled over. It got so bad last season, that if we knew the crowds were going to be bad, we would leave the younger kids home with a babysitter because it was so stressful for us as parents and dangerous for them.

I can honestly say, Park City is the most crowded ski resort I’ve ever seen which creates not just problems on the slopes, but it’s difficult to find parking, ski school is often fully booked, and getting a table between 11-1:30 in a lodge is next to impossible on the weekends.

Is Park City The Best Utah Ski Resort For Families?

Overall, NO, but it also depends a bit on what you’re looking for. If you want a cute ski town with a little bit of skiing on the side, Park City is for YOU!

family skiing together with kids

If you want a true, UTAH SKI VACATION where the focus is to get some great skiing in, go somewhere else. Most other places have better terrain, more snow, and fewer crowds. We love Solitude, Brighton and Alta for beginners, and Snowbird will blow your mind if your kids are better skiers. For beginners, save your money and head to Nordic Valley until kids learn some of the basics (skiing there is SUPER CHEAP). Snowbasin is also pretty great and has much smaller crowds than Park City, but the disadvantage of no on hill lodging.

How Park City Is Set Up

Park City is the largest ski resort in North America, but in reality, it’s two separate resorts joined in the middle, so plan on picking a side to ski. Park City is the original side that can be accessed from downtown Park City. The Canyons is farther west and has its own set of runs and lifts. When Vail merged the two resorts, they added a few lifts, Iron Mountain and Quicksilver Gondola.

We’ve tested it several times, and we can’t get to the Park City side from the Canyons base in less than two hours with our family. That makes for a lot of lift riding and waiting time and not much in the way of real skiing. For families, the best option is to pick one side, and stay there for the day.

Park City Map for skiing with kids

Parking At Park City

Parking is an absolute NIGHTMARE at Park City. The available parking that they have is far to limited for the size of the resort and makes for a difficult start to the day.

inwter snow traffic to the ski resort

At Park City Mountain, the free parking is almost always full by 8:15 during the week and it fills around 7:30-7:45 on weekends. The paid parking lot there usually fills quickly after the free lot is full (typically within 5-10 minutes). The advantage to parking at Park City is that you can walk directly to the ski slopes, which you can’t do anywhere else.

Parking at the Canyons is a little bit easier, but still far from ideal. The Canyons parking lot is significantly bigger, though it usually fills by 9:30 on a weekend. The problem with parking at the Canyons is that it’s a long time to get to the ski slopes from the parking lot. From the Parking Lot, you have to take the Cabriolet lift to the Canyons Village, and from there, you have to walk across the village and then take either the Red Pine Gondola or the Orange Bubble to get to skiing. On a fast day, it takes our family 30 minutes to get from the car to a ski run, but if there are crowds (especially on weekends), it takes at least 45 minutes.

Park City Cabriolet to getto the canyons base village
Cabriolet lift to get to Canyons village from the parking lot. From here you must take another long lift to get to skiing

Park City does claim to have overflow parking on weekends at the Park and Ride and at Park City High School, but the shuttle system is pretty bad. Truthfully, there is no resort shuttle system, you just park far out and hope you can get a ride on the free shuttles around town to take you to the resort. One day last winter, my husband waited for a shuttle at the high school for over an hour and a half before calling it quits and coming home (there were still close to a hundred people in front of him).

inwter snow traffic to the ski resort

At most other ski resorts, you will find parking open back up starting around 1 pm, but not at Park City. I often bring my kids up after school and even at 2:30 pm on a weekday, we have a very hard time finding a parking place because there is just SO MUCH demand!

Long story short, Park City ski parking is a disaster, and even with free public buses, it’s very difficult to get to the ski resort, which makes the overall experience much less pleasant.

When To Avoid Skiing At Park City

Park City is going to be busy any time you ski there, but weekends are extra busy. The absolute worst time to ski Park City is from the week before Christmas until the week after New Years. The crowds are so big it’s dangerous. I took my older kids (ages 10, 12, and 14) skiing the week before Christmas last year and conditions were terrifying.

There were so many people on the mountain that we had to wait at least an hour to get on each lift, and any time we were one blue or green terrain, it was so crowded that people were crashing into each other left and right. On one run, between the 4 of us, we were run into 7 different times (none of them worse than knocking us off our feet). Thankfully, my older kids are all expert skiers and avoided a lot of near collisions, or the number would have easily been double that. If I had been there with my preschooler, it would have been a nightmare.

Ski crash at park city utah ski kids
Our son after a crash (luckily he wasn’t badly injured)

I absolutley DO NOT recommend trying to learn to ski around Christmas in Park City. Group lessons that we saw all had at least 10 kids in them (most with an instructor and what appeared to be a teen helper), and with how crowded the slopes were, it’s just dangerous. I saw one group who had lost a couple of kids from the group and couldn’t find them anywhere and the instructor was terrified. Truthfully, I’ve been a ski mom for 15 years and I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own 5 kids, so I can’t imagine how those instructors handle 10 kids that they don’t know, and on terrain that’s brand new to them. To me, it just feels like a recipe for disaster!

If you’re an expert skier, plan to go early, and go to the far corners of the resort ASAP to avoid the crowds.

double black skiing kids

Ski School At Park City

Ski School at Park City is a great option and a good way for kids to learn to ski. Both The Canyons and Park City have ski school offices located at their base, so it’s easy to jump into lessons. Lessons here are incredibly popular, so as soon as you have your trip planned, book ski lessons ASAP. We recommend doing 2 consecutive days of ski school and then skiing with the family for a bit after that. For kids, we never recommend skiing for more than 3 consecutive days, but think that 2 days of skiing and then a break day is best for most kids.

As I mentioned above, we absolutely do not recommend going to ski school here over the Christmas Holidays!

Ski park city utah ski kids

Ski Rentals at Park City

Both Canyons and Park City have fantastic rental shops, and they’re one of the best operations on the mountain. They’re extra large, and have lots of staff, so they’re easily one of the best on mountain ski rental shops I’ve ever seen. As an added benefit, for kids in ski school, there is a ski school rental shop so that you can skip the bigger shop and have someone help your kids directly and get them to their lessons.

ski rental shop at the ski resort

Where To Ski With Kids at Park City

Since Park City Mountain Resort is SO HUGE, it’s easy to get lost or turned around, so I’m here to point you in the right direction. Take our tips below to learn where to start skiing with your kids so your day can be as successful as possible.

family skiing with kids in Utah Park city

NOTE: The black diamond terrain at Park City is quite a bit easier than what most other Utah resorts would classify as Black Diamond, though a bit more difficult than what would be considered a black on the east coast. If you have kids who are used to skiing blacks, start with the easier ones (or even advanced blue runs), before you try them out.

Best Beginner Terrain on the Park City Side

If you’re in Park City Village, the First Time Lift and run are where you’ll want to start, once you graduate from the magic carpet surfce lift. It’s just what it sounds like: a run that is ideal for first-timers, but also is where you’ll want to spend most of your time until you can stop and turn really well.

Ski park city utah ski kids
Beginner Skiing Park City

Best Beginner Terrain on the Canyons Side

The only place I recommend skiing (after the magic carpet to the right of the Red Pine Gondola), is High Meadow. I’ve taught hundreds of kids to ski on this run and it’s perfect for beginners.

skiing High Meadow With Kids
High Meadow

Best Intermediate Terrain on the Park City Side

For beginning intermediate skiers, start with the Pay Day lift. There are lots of intermediate trails that range from a gentle slope to steeper blue runs. Once you’re ready to go up higher and explore more, you’ll want to ski on Bonanza. Make sure to check out the tree trails right under the lift at the top, which are a great place to introduce kids to tree skiing and small jumps.

King Con also has some good blue terrain (though steeper than Bonanza), but if there hasn’t been snow for a couple of weeks, stay away from here as these runs get icy pretty quick.

Skiing Park CIty with Kids Bonanza Run
Bonanza Run

Best Intermediate Terrain on the Canyons Side

For beginning intermediate skiers, you’ll want to start off your day on Saddleback. It’s got runs that will give kids good practice without being too difficult or steep. Once you’re comfortable there, head down Chicane run to Tombstone lift.

The best intermediate terrain at the Canyons is on the Dreamscape and Dreamcatcher lift, but they’re both really far out and hard to get to. If you want to ski there, plan on going early in the day, and you’ll be rewarded with the smallest crowds on the mountain.

Kids skiing Park City Saddleback
Saddleback Lift

Best Advanced Terrain on the Park City Side

The easiest black diamonds at Park City are off of the Payday lift (in fact, I’m shocked that most of those are rated black because they’re not too difficult). This is where we introduce our kids to black skiing, and it’s a good confidence boost, but not truly indicative of advanced terrain. Once they’re confident there, we take them over to the Motherlode and SIlverlode lifts. For double black skiing, head to Jupiter or McConkie’s. Jupiter is a super fun, open bowl and McConkies has more trees, and both are great options depending on what type of skiing you’re looking for.

skiing Crested Butte with kids

Best Advanced Terrain on the Canyons Side

For easier blacks, start by skiing the blacks off of Saddleback. While they can be intimidating since they’re in full view of the chairlift observers, they’re not overly difficult for teaching kids advanced techniques. After that, head over to the east side of Tombstone for more practice on black terrain.

For double black terrain, there’s nothing on the mountain that beats Ninety Nine Ninety, so if your family is at expert level, you’ll love skiing there (and it’s a great place to escape the crowds…except on a powder day where it will be NUTS).

kids skiing squaw valley

How To Escape The Crowds at Park City and The Canyons

If you can’t tell from everything I’ve shared, overcrowding at Park City is a major problem. You’ll also notice that most of our photos DON’T show crowds. That’s because we’ve gotten REALLY GOOD at getting away from the crowds and finding the uncrowded areas of Park City. If you have your heart set on skiing Park City, here are our best tips for avoiding the crowds at Park City:

  • Get there EARLY! We go super early, and eat breakfast in the parking lot while we’re waiting for the resort to open. If you’re going on a weekday, be there before 8am and on a weekend, be there at 7:30 or earlier. Lifts open at 9 am.
  • Be in line when the lifts open. That means getting to the lift at 8:45 or earlier. If you’re skiing The Canyons, go up the Cabriolet and wait there to get on the Red Pine Gondola or Orange Bubble at 8:45. For Park City, get on the Payday Lift first.
  • Don’t play around, just get FAR – FAST! At The Canyons, you’ll want to make your way all the way to Iron Mountain or Dreamcatcher to avoid the crowds. At Park City, you’ll want to ski Thaynes or Motherlode.
family skiing with kids in Utah Park city

What To Do BESIDES Skiing In Park City

The activities OFF the ski hill are what I feel are the best things to do in Park City. You’ll never be lacking for fun winter adventures with kids in Park City. If you’re coming for a ski vacation for the week, we don’t recommend skiing the entire time, especially with kids. Most kids can’t handle more than 2-3 consecutive days of skiing, so make sure to plan in some break days. There is SO MUCH to do in Park City in the winter, that it’s impossible to do it all, but these are our top recommendations.

park city in winter with kids

Dog Sledding with Luna Lobos

This is our top recommendation, and it’s a truly bucket list worthy experience. My daughter told me it was the highlight of her winter.

dog sledding park city with kids

Ice Skating

There are lots of options for ice skating around Park City. The most well known is the tiny little resort center rink at Park City Village. This rink is cute, but small and expensive. For indoor ice skating, head to the Park City Ice Arena, or head to Midway (20 minutes away), for the cutest outdoor skating rink in Utah.

midway outdoor ice skating rink utah

Tour Utah Olympic Park

The UOP has a great venue where you can learn all about where the Olympics was held in 2002. There’s a free Olympic Museum and the kids will get a kick out of the Ski Fashion Museum as well. On good weather days, you can also do the ropes courses.

utah olympic park museum park city utah with kids

Tubing at Woodward

Woodward is just west of Park City and has the area’s best tubing hill. Reservations are required and nights and weekends are the most crowded, so if you can make a midweek time slot work, that’s the best way to maximize your time on the tubing hill.

tubing with kids woodward park city

Action Sports At Woodward

Woodward has a HUGE indoor action sports complex where they offer all sorts of classes for kids on everything from skateboarding, parkour, aerials, ninja classes, trampoline, and more. For the best deal, look at their weekly schedule and sign up for one of their scheduled classes (starting at $20/ class), or book a private lesson. This one is my kid’s favorite indoor activity in Park City. The instructors are incredible, and my kids always learn SO MUCH. Most of their classes are open to kids from 6-18, and private family classes are also available!

Heber Creeper Railway

The Heber Creeper is a fun train experience and is fantastic for kids. There’s always some sort of onboard entertainment, and there are often themed trains at different times of the year. The absolute best time to go is in November and December for the North Pole Express train – it’s simply MAGICAL!

heber creeper railway with kids

Cross Country Skiing with White Pine Touring

If you want to mix things up, head out for a day of cross country skiing with White Pine Touring. We took our kids for a 1-hour lesson first and then spent the rest of the day exploring groomed trails around the area. Make sure to check out our tips for cross-country skiing with kids to make your day even easier.

groomed cross country skiing with kids

Snowshoeing With Kids In Park City

There are lots of great trails around Park City, but if your kids have never snowshoed before, head to Round Valley. It’s not too steep and is a great place to introduce kids to the sport.

winter snowshoeing with kids

Fat Biking In the Snow

Head to White Pine Touring and rent some fat bikes for the day to bike around some of the Park City trails in the snow. Most of their rentals are bigger bikes, so this is best for kids who are confident bikers at at least 10-12 years old.

fat biking in the snow in utah

Go For A Sleigh Ride

We took our kids on an evening sleigh ride and they absolutely LOVED IT! This is a great all-ages activity and is perfect for even little babies!

winter sleigh ride with kids

Apres Ski With Kids in Park City

There are TONS of great apres ski activities and places to eat with kids in Park City. Here are our favorites to do with kids:

Visit The Midway Ice Castles

The whole family will be blown away when you visit these incredible ice castles in Midway.  Inside you’ll find tunnels to explore, ice slides, and plenty of incredible picture spots.  The Ice Castles are the best in the evening when they’re all lit up!

midway utah ice castles with kids

Ice Cream at Java Cow

This legendary Park City ice cream shop is an absolute blast and a great place to reward kids for a hard day of skiing. Don’t worry, they also have lots of hot chocolate options too!

java cow park city ice cream

Park City Escape Room

We took our older kids here, and it was seriously so much fun and the perfect way to bond as a family. There are all ages rooms, so everyone can participate in this apres ski activity in Park City.

Park city apres ski escape room

Jupiter Bowl

Not your average bowling alley, this upscale bowling alley has a Park City touch, complete with gourmet food and class!

bowling park city jupiter bowl

The Paint Mixer

Our kids love going here to paint their own pottery. If you’re on a quick turnaround, you can even make arrangements for them to mail your ceramics to you after they’re fired. This makes a fantastic souvenir for any Park City ski trip.