Editor’s note: This season Park City Mountain celebrates its 60th winter season. As the season approaches, we’re looking back on the rich history of Park City Mountain from its earliest days to the world-class destination it has become today.
Between 1993 and 2003, as our country headed into a decade marked by technological advancement, prosperity and the rise of some of my favorite music genres, both Park City Ski Area and ParkWest would see significant changes and bring global events to Park City’s doorstep. We welcomed the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, expanded terrain with the installation of lifts including Ninety Nine 90 Express and McConkey’s Express, and embraced snowboarding on our slopes. Both resorts would also undergo ownership and name changes during this decade.
In 1994, Nick Badami sold Park City Ski Area to POWDR Corp, a Salt Lake corporation owned by Ian Cumming. POWDR Corp changed the name to Park City Mountain Resort in 1996 and invested in four new high-speed six-seat chairlifts over the next two seasons. Silverlode Express, the resort’s first high-speed six, was installed in 1996 to replace the four-person Prospector chairlift.
Park City’s original 1963 gondola and the existing Payday chairlift were removed in 1997 and replaced with detachable six-seaters Payday Express and Bonanza Express. McConkey’s Express was installed in 1998, providing lift access to McConkey’s Bowl for the first time. McConkey’s Bowl and McConkey’s Express are named in honor of Jim McConkey, the first ski school director when the resort opened in 1963.
The 1996-97 season saw one of Park City’s earliest openings when lifts started spinning on Oct. 26, 1996, thanks to significant October snowfall. This was also the first season the mountain opened to snowboarding.
ParkWest changed hands twice between 1993 and 2003. Kenny Griswold and Michael Baker bought the area in 1994, renaming it Wolf Mountain, renaming many of the trails after endangered species and investing in infrastructure upgrades. In 1997, Wolf Mountain was purchased by American Skiing Company, which renamed the area The Canyons.
American Skiing Company invested heavily in The Canyons, expanding skiable and rideable terrain and adding and upgrading a total of 11 lifts between 1997 and 2003. Red Pine Gondola, Saddleback Express, High Meadow chairlift and Tombstone Express (a four-seat detachable, predecessor to today’s six-seater) were installed in 1997, significantly expanding terrain to the south.
Terrain expansion continued in 1998 with the installation of Ninety Nine 90 Express, followed by Peak 5 in 1999. Lift access to terrain in the area of White Pine Canyon opened in 2000 and 2001 when Dreamscape and Day Break were installed.
The Cabriolet was installed in 2000 to improve the guest experience and provide a unique way to transport guests from parking to the main village area, known today as the Canyons Village Forum.
“Opening so much new terrain at The Canyons in the late ’90s was an exciting time to be a ski patroller,” said Lynne Offret, Park City Mountain director of mountain operations, prior ski patroller at Canyons Village. “There was a lot of work needed to assess and understand all the new terrain that would open when we expanded to the areas off Tombstone Express and Ninety Nine 90 Express. We had to create new avalanche mitigation routes in terrain that had previously been part of the backcountry. This was a team effort that required our Ski Patrol to use our collective experience in avalanche forecasting to create and implement new routes to keep our guests safe in the newly expanded terrain.”
The 2002 Winter Olympics
The 2002 Winter Games brought the world’s eyes to Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons.
When Salt Lake City won its bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City was an ideal venue in part due to its long history as host of World Cup events and as the home of the U.S. Ski Team. Park City’s vibrant Main Street also made the town attractive not only for athletic competition, but also as a place for spectators from around the globe to gather for live music and other events.
Park City Mountain Resort hosted the men’s and women’s halfpipe, men’s giant slalom and men’s and women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom events in its Eagle Race Arena. Spectators could view the events from temporary grandstands constructed at the end of the race area. This stadium could accommodate 16,500 spectators per event.
“The 2002 Salt Lake City Games were incredible, and a special time to be part of the resort team,” Mary Flinn Ware, senior manager of Park City Ski School. “It was so impressive to witness so many outstanding athletes in person here at our resort. The number of guests who were able to attend each of the events we hosted was really amazing.”
The men’s and women’s halfpipe at Park City was a historic moment for Olympic snowboarding. The 2002 event was the first appearance of a 22-foot halfpipe in the Olympics, following the event’s debut on a smaller half-pipe in 1998 at the Nagano Games. Americans Ross Powers, Danny Kass, and Jarret Thomas made Olympic history when they swept the medals in the men’s event, while American Kelly Clark won gold in the women’s event.
The men’s giant slalom took place on CB’s Run, and American Bode Miller won silver. Men’s slalom and ladies’ slalom runs were used for the snowboard parallel giant slalom races, and American Chris Klug won bronze in the men’s event.
Throughout the Games, The Canyons served as the backdrop for coverage by NBC’s “Today Show.” The popular morning show shared information and updates daily from the Games and interviewed athletes from the beautiful Grand Summit Hotel.
Many thanks to Sally Elliott from Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History, Connie Nelson from the Alf Engen Ski Museum and, Morgan Pierce and Dalton Gackle from the Park City Museum for their help with the history and stories of Park City Mountain over the past 60 years.
Deirdra Walsh is the vice president and chief operating officer of Park City Mountain.