What It's Like to Live in Park City, Utah
Nestled in the Wasatch Mountains, Park City, Utah offers all the benefits of resort living, with the conveniences and opportunities that can only be provided by a major metropolis. At 7,000 feet above sea level, Park City (Pop. 7,500) is a short 35 mile drive from the Salt Lake International Airport, enabling it to remain one of only a handful of resort destinations, worldwide, that can provide such accessibility advantages. As some locals like to point out, “it is possible to leave New York City in the morning and ski the fresh powder of Park City by noon!” The convenience, accessibility and most importantly the lifestyle of Park City living are the reasons people live here, but I will get to that in a minute.
Park City was originally a mining town. In an effort to bring non-Mormons into the Utah Territory, Colonel Patrick E. Connor of Fort Douglas commissioned a search to explore the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City for mining opportunities. As records indicate, the first mining deed recorded within the Park City Mining District was the “Young American Lode” in December 1869. By the mid-1870s, production within Park City had begun in earnest, fueled by the discovery of a large vein of silver ore in what would later become the Ontario Mine. At its peak, the mine was considered the largest and most productive silver mine in the world.
In May of 1872, an early settler, George Snyder, brought his family to the mountainous area that is now Park City. Inspired by the beautiful wildflowers, lush vegetation and picturesque setting, he appropriately named the area, "...Park City, for it is a veritable park." In 1884, Park City was incorporated.
By the late 20th century Park City had changed into a resort community. The Park City Ski Area had opened and the old mines had begun to operate as museums for tourists, school children, and locals. As a tourist hot spot, the city currently contributes an average of $529,800,000 annually to the Utah Economy. Since the rise of the skiing and tourist trade, Park City houses more tourists than residents. It has become a place of fame through the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Sundance Film Festival is another drawing card and affords more recreational and employment opportunities than ever before. Park City is small with a population of 7,500. The average number of tourists in Park City is 600,000 per year.
There’s an old saying in Park City, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” One of the most attractive things about living in Park City is the full spectrum of weather we experience here. Summers in Park City are mild, with chilly nights, while winters are cold with lots of snow. The temperature on average exceeds 90 degrees (F) only five times a year and drops below 0 degrees (F) only twelve times per year. In my 17 years of living here, the coldest temperature I have experienced was minus 18 degrees (F) — a reading I noticed on my car’s thermometer as I took my daughter to school one morning. This is the exception though, not the rule. By and large, the climate here would be considered mild; it is not uncommon to sit on your deck wearing a T-shirt and shorts on a warm January afternoon, soaking in the 55 degree sunshine.
Park City is located in Summit County, Utah and is considered to be part of the Wasatch Back. The Wasatch Mountain Range, with its towering 12,000 ft. peaks is widely considered to have the “Greatest Snow on Earth”. Its light fluffy texture is a result of the areas low humidity, its ideal temperatures, and its geographic location relative to the mountains. This unique marriage of weather conditions truly provide for an unparalleled skiing and snowboarding experience that is known the world over. So what's it really like to live in Park City? Read on to learn how locals adapt to this unique area.
With Park City and Summit County's transit system, locals and tourists alike are able to travel throughout the city without ever getting into a car. On many occasions, the transit system has proved a reliable and convenient way for my kids to travel to a friend’s home or to one of the three area ski resorts as they also transport skis, snowboards, and bikes. The transit system provides easy access to recreational areas, our historic district, shopping areas, and to virtually all of the neighborhoods within the Park City area. From a convenience and fuel saving perspective, this is hard to beat. It’s also good for the environment, something most Park City residents are conscientious about. Oh and did I mention, it’s free!
If buses are not your thing, Park City offers a number of private shuttle and taxi services that operate around the clock and are priced moderately at an average rate of about $15 per trip. As an addition, Park City Transit has recently partnered with the City of Salt Lake and now provides bus transportation between cities. It is now possible to take a bus from SL International Airport to your hotel room in Park City for the incredibly low cost of just $5 one way.
Although the public transportation in Park City is excellent, owning an automobile in Park City is a must. With the 400 inches of annual snowfall, coupled with the mountainous terrain, it is of paramount importance to own a four-wheel drive vehicle. Simply put, if you do not own one, you had better have a friend or neighbor that does, or there will be days that you will not be getting home.
Owning a Home
Park City consistently ranks as one of the wealthiest areas of the country and continues to attract people from every corner of the United States. It naturally follows, that real estate is reflective of this, not only in the type of homes that are built, but in their cost as well.
Homes within the Park City area range in price from the low $300’s to well in excess of $20M, and the average price of a home falls in the mid $700’s. Park City has not been immune to the recession of 2008 – 2009, and has experience a 10%-15% overall decrease in home values during that period. Home prices stabilized by the second quarter of 2010 and have remained stable ever since, according to Sheila Hall, an Associate Broker and Realtor with Equity Real Estate Luxury Group. “Overall sales volume has been up 24% during that same period of 2010, as compared with the second quarter of 2011. Sales of distressed properties remain a significant part of our market, but have dropped to 27% of all sales, down from 35% at the end of the first quarter 2011. It is interesting to note, that our second quarter sales are the highest we have seen since the fourth quarter of 2007.”
Sheila Hall also states, “Park City consistently sells at a lower price than other ski resort properties within the Western Mountain Resort Alliance. With the ease of our airport proximity (only 30 minutes away) and lower priced properties, Park City is the clear choice for both primary residence and second family home buyers.” To confirm this sentiment, Roger Knight, Owner and Developer of the “Woods at Parley’s”, a gated community in Park City, reports that they are seeing buyers that understand the huge advantage of resort living while still being able to take advantage of everything a big city can offer. He believes that this has been the number one determining factor in the success of his project.
There is not a simpler way to say it; people live in Park City because of the lifestyle it offers them, and more specifically, the wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities it provides.
Park City offers just about every imaginable type of outdoor recreation that the heart could possibly desire. I would be terribly remiss in my duties, however, as a Park City resident, if I did not begin with the skiing. Park City boasts three world-class ski and summer resorts, Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and The Canyon’s. Perhaps long time Park City resident, Xander Porterfield sums it up best, “I get to ski the best terrain and the most incredible snow on earth, I talk with people from different parts of the world every time I ride the chair lift, and all just minutes from my door. It just doesn’t get any better than this!”
As winter transitions into summer, Park City blossoms with endless choices of mountain activities for the outdoor recreationalist. The hills surrounding Park City offer more than 150 miles of public trails ideal for hiking and biking. The beautiful valleys and rugged mountains provide the perfect setting for a leisurely walk/hike or an adrenaline-raising, heart-thumping mountain biking experience, all literally accessible right out your front door.
If mountain trails are not your cup of tea, other activities easily found in Park City include; golf, fly-fishing, water skiing, and horseback riding to name but a few.
Variety is the order of the day when it comes to dining. Park City has many award-winning restaurants, offering many different culinary styles and influences. With over 100 restaurants and bars, there's something for every appetite. During the warm summer months, a resident favorite is to attend one of the numerous free outdoor concerts that are offered almost every night of the week.
Tallying the Cost of Living
Due to the popularity and high demand of its resorts, Park City consistently ranks as Utah’s most expensive place to live. In spite of the corrections of the economic recession, buying a home in Park City demands a relatively high level of income. But the news is not all bad.
Because of the close proximity to Salt Lake City, Park City’s cost of living has remained relatively low. With the exception of housing costs, fuel, food and utility expenses are on a par with those of Salt Lake City, which ranks 95th out of the 353 metropolitan areas studied, in the Kiplinger’s Best Valued Cities Report.
As a resident, it is easy to recognize what is most incredible about Park City, and that is the diversity of its residents. Whether introduced to the area through the Sundance Film Festival, the 2002 Winter Olympics, or a family ski vacation, people from all regions of the country now call Park City home. Drawn by the world-class, year round recreational opportunities, clean, fresh air and employment opportunities, the people that have relocated here bring with them diverse cultures, a wide variety of religious and political ideas all of which coexist respectfully and peacefully and yet provide a rich array of topics for many lively conversations.