Learning local history adds to vacation memories

Old ski image from the Montage in Deer Valley

DAY 5 — Who says history can’t be fun?

Here in Park City, whether you visit in winter or summer, there’s a lot of history to be learned.

Since we’re here on a girl’s getaway, we find it amusing that at the height of the mining boom in the 1900 census, there were 22 seamstresses in Park City but only two sewing machines.

We’re also impressed that  the woman who employed all of the seamstresses, provided health care and taught them to read and write, explains Michael O’Malley, an amateur historian who in summer offers historic hikes at Deer Valley and in winter, imbues is complimentary  mountain tours with local mining history.

We learn The Montage Deer Valley’s newest hotel and where we are staying is actually built right where one of the area’s famous mines was located. From the hot tub we see part of a mining structure that has been preserved.

Both Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort are built above hundreds of miles of mining tunnels where over $500 million worth of silver, lead, and some zinc, copper and gold came out of the ground.

The newly renovated Park City Museum on Main Street is a great way to appreciate the town’s history–from mining to snow sports to the Olympics. Visit the Utah Olympic Park.  It wasn’t until after silver prices declined in the mid 20th century that Park City reinvented itself as a ski town famous these days not only for the slopes but for the Sundance Film Festival held every winter.

The celebrity packed streets are a far cry from what is downstairs here at the museum—the stone Dungeon and Park City’s original territorial jail that was used until the 1960s. Check out the two story Mega Mine’s mill and aerial tramway. There’s a stagecoach, an old-fashioned “market” impossibly long wooden skis and more.

Silver was first discovered here in 1868 and two decades later, the tiny town had grown to a city of more than 5,000 people—one of the first in the state to have electric lights and telephone service.. By 1898 10,000 people lived here including many immigrants.

Remind the kids that long before Park City became a ski resort, locals would get outdoors in winter-skating on ponds, sledding down the streets, ski jumping.

The first winter carnival was held here in Deer Valley in 1936 and the next year, WPA workers cut the first ski runs.  The first lift was built alongside those runs in 1945 by two locals. It wasn’t until 1963 that the first ski resort opened—what is now Park City Mountain Resort followed by Park West (now the Canyons) in 1968 and Deer Valley in 1981.  A lift pass in 1963 cost just $3.50!

Whether you visit in winter or summer, take time to learn about how this community high in the mountains came to be.  You’ll be glad you did.

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