Park City and Vail are two of the biggest and best-known ski resorts in North America. So how do the two giants measure up against each other when it comes to choosing a winter destination?
Getting to Park City and Vail
Park City is just over 30 miles from Salt Lake City in Utah and 37 miles away from Salt Lake City airport. Salt Lake City centre can be reached by light rail service from the airport. From here the PC-SLC bus service connects to Park City. Drivers can access the ski resort easily by taking I-80 east from the city and then heading south towards the ski resort.
Vail is somewhat further from the major international airport at Denver. Denver International Airport is located to the east of the city and is just over 120 miles from Vail ski resort. There are regular private shuttle services from the airport during ski season. Vail is located directly on I-70, although the interstate can be crowded at busy periods and requires winter driving equipment. The regional airport at Eagle is an alternative: 35 miles to the west of Vail.
Comparing Park City and Vail
Park City or Snowbird – discover which of the Utah ski resorts is right for you
Ski infrastructure at Park City and Vail
Vail and Park City share a similar vertical drop when it comes to the ski terrain, with Park City at 3226 feet losing out slightly to Vail’s 3450 feet. The big difference however is in the elevations of both the ski resorts and the top stations.
Park City is located at 6800 feet above sea level and the top station is at 10026 feet, while Vail Resort is at 8120 feet and the top station at 11570 feet. This makes a difference when it comes to the length of the ski season, with Vail having a consistently earlier start and later finish to the ski season.
Park City however does have a much larger amount of skiable terrain, with the integration of the Canyons ski area boosting it to 7300 acres. They also have the lifts to serve the terrain, with a total of 43 ski lifts, including four gondolas and 16 high-speed chairlifts.
Vail Resort’s ski area is almost 2000 acres smaller and has fewer ski lifts. The infrastructure at Vail has 39 lifts, including two gondolas and 17 high-speed chairlifts.
Ski resort accommodation at Park City and Vail
Park City ski accommodation
Accommodation at Park City Mountain Resort can be found in three different areas: downtown Park City; Park City Mountain Village and Canyons Village.
Downtown Park City includes the historic Main Street area, which is located in between the Park City Mountain Village and nearby Deer Valley ski resort. This is the main area for shopping and restaurants and has its own lift access into the ski area.
Park City Mountain Village is where the ski accommodation at the base of the lifts was originally built and includes plenty of resort hotels and condominiums.
Canyons Village at Park City is the former base area for the Canyons Resort and offers accommodation with good ski area access.
Check accommodation availability at Park City
Visitors looking for resort accommodation or hotel rooms or private apartment rentals may like to take a look at the availability map below. Enter the dates of planned arrival and departure and use the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs to zoom in or out to see more accommodation availability. Click on the accommodation to see more details and prices for the dates chosen.
Vail ski accommodation
Vail Resort’s accommodation is based on the theme of Bavarian-style village architecture and is split into two different main settlements: Vail Village and Lionshead Village, both built around Gore Creek between the main interstate and the skiing. The two villages are planned to be walkable but are still connected by resort shuttle services.
Check accommodation availability at Vail
Looking for accommodations near Vail? Use the search box below to enter your travel dates and you will get an overview of available accommodation options. Click on the accommodation you like and you will be taken to the booking page where you can choose your preferred room type and view additional information about the property. On the resort booking page you can also filter the results by price range, number of guests, star rating and amenities offered.
Skiing in Park City and Vail
The ski resorts at Park City and Vail are part of the Epic Pass lift ticket scheme run by Vail Resorts. In the case of Vail, the Epic Pass also offers up the option of skiing at the nearby resorts of Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge. Visitors can choose from buying an Epic Day Pass for however long they wish or purchasing a season ticket giving access to additional US and Canadian resorts during the winter.
Skiing for beginners at Park City and Vail
Absolute novices in Vail will do best to start with ski school and the lifts over at the Gopher Hill area just at the edge of the Golden Peak base area. Once the idea of going higher up the mountain holds no fear, either the green runs off the Sourdough Express lift or the Eagle’s Nest area reached by the Eagle Bahn gondola are good options for further exploration.
Over at Park City, the beginner skiing is a little more limited. To be honest, however, beginner skiers do not need much terrain when starting out. The best options are the comfortably-named First Time lift and trails above Park City Mountain Village. Once beginners have confidence in their abilities they can head all the way up the mountain to the top of the Bonanza Express chairlift and take the lengthy green Homerun all the way down to the base. The Canyons Village side has little of interest for beginner skiers.
Intermediate skiing at Park City and Vail
Both of these ski resorts near the top of list for the ‘largest ski resort in the USA’ are dream destinations for intermediate skiers.
Vail offers long top-to-bottom intermediate-level runs on the front side off the Eagle Bahn gondola and, further over and up the mountain, a concentration of blue trails off the Mountaintop Express chairlift. China Bowl over the back is also renowned for its intermediate skiing.
Park City has an abundance of mid-mountain intermediate runs and both the areas above Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Village will leave the average skier happy for days.
However a potential problem for both the ski resorts is that the attractions of the intermediate-level skiing can lead to overcrowding on the lifts and the slopes, especially during high season and at weekends (or if other terrain has been closed for weather or snowfall).
Advanced and expert skiing at Park City and Vail
Much of Park City’s expert and advanced terrain is located furthest away from the base area, with a number of bowls on both sides accessing steep chutes and glade skiing. On the Park City side, the Jupiter chairlift and McConkey’s Express six-seater access much of the advanced terrain, with even more available for those prepared to hike up to Jupiter Peak.
Combining Park City with the Canyons ski area increased the expert and advanced area exponentially, with most of the highest chairs access some serious tree and bump skiing.
Over at Vail, expert skiers tend to head for the legendary Back Bowls, which is where the best powder can be found after a snow fall. However, the world and his wife are likely to have the same idea and popular lines can be quickly tracked.
An alternative can be found at Blue Sky Basin off the Skyline Express chairlift with some great tree skiing on either side of the lift.
If the bowls are crowded there are some challenging bump runs on the front side and the Northwoods Express chair offers the steepest run in the resort with Prima Cornice.