Park City Mountain Resort began making summer hay early in 2000s
As it’s located entirely on former mining property, not federal land, Park City Mountain Resort was at liberty a decade ago to embark on summer activities. In a sense, it is a prototype of the future.
“I think we recognized the summer opportunity a lot earlier than most of our peers, an exception being Jiminy Peak (in Massachusetts),” says Tom Pettigrew, director of skier services at Park City Mountain Resort.
Instead of looking at mountain biking and hiking as key to summer operations, the resort began looking at more activities that required less robust physical conditioning. It had alpine slides, and added two tracks in 2002. That same year, it installed ziplines, with the top speed of 55 mph. It also created various forms of miniature golf and a carnival-type carousel-ride for children.
Then, in 2004, it installed the alpine coaster. At the time, says Pettigrew, he knew of only one other in North America. The Glenwood (Springs) Caverns Adventure Park advertises the alpine coaster as being among its thrill rides.
“It’s a completely self-contained ride. In other words, you don’t need to get onto a lift. It is similar to a detachable chairlift, as cars are pulled up via cable and then you slide down,” he says. But similar to an alpine slide, you can control your top speed.
That alpine coaster was a tremendous success at Park City. Based on winter operation of 60 such coasters around the world, Park City kept it open during ski season.
“We found that by operating it in winter, it really answers some of our non-skiing guests’ desires to participate,” says Pettigrew. Plus, some winter destination visitors will use the slide on either their first or last day, when they prefer lighter activity.
Also in 2004, Park City installed an amusement-type activity called a Flying Eagle Zip Line. It is described by Pettigrew as a hybrid of a zip and a chair lift. It accelerates in speed up to 20 mph and is available in winter.
And Park City has not forgotten mountain bikes. It operates three chairlifts in summer, and every fourth chair is outfitted with racks for uphill transport of bikes. Still, Park City sees opportunity for more of downhill mountain biking, similar to what Winter Park has at its Trestle Park.
With the one million people of the Salt Lake Valley nearby, Park City has a close-in market for its summer amusements. Summer visitors, however, are a broader spectrum demographically, “from high wage earners to more working class customers,” says Pettigrew.
Park City now has a 155-day summer season, starting on Memorial Day and continuing until mid-October.