Figuring out how to do an affordable ski vacation presents a conundrum for active budget travelers. Even if you can snag a discount on lift tickets online, how can you afford accommodations that aren't miles away from the mountain? And how do you avoid the overpriced bowl of chili?
With Utah celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games next year, a PR team representing Deer Valley, The Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort came to town. We put the question of affordability on the table. How, we asked, can budget travelers do world-class ski resorts and not break the bank?
They hit me with a bevvy of ideas, based on their local knowledge. And they were quite convincing that Park City, with advance planning, can fit into the budget category — except, perhaps during the Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 19-29, 2012), when the historic silver mining town fills up with celebrities and onlookers.
Big news: You can now cut rental car costs. Just launched last month is public bus service between Salt Lake City and Park City, a distance of about 30 miles. The service is a cooperative effort between the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), Park City and Summit County. Bus stops include ski resorts. The fare for the express coaches is $5.50 each way, and the buses even have WiFi.
There are of course budget chain hotels — Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, et al — but Park City also has some fun hybrids. Chateau Après Lodge is only 150 yards from the main Park City Mountain Resort lifts, with rates from $110 per night for two, including private bath, HD TV, free high-speed wireless access and continental breakfast. For the truly budget-conscious, there is a dorm available for $40 per night per person.
For a B&B; experience, the Star Hotel is right on Park City’s historic Main Street and serves up 11 rooms with shared bath and living room. We're told it’s like going to grandma’s house. Rates from $95 to $190.
Skip the $10 chili. Park City has a wealth of dining in the cheap eats category including a bunch of ethnic eateries and bakeries.
Favorite local spots include A Wok Away in the Prospector Square area, serving up Chinese food, with dishes under $11. The Bridge Café and Grill, located on the Town Lift Plaza in downtown Park City, features Brazilian cuisine — a Prato Feito platter with a grilled 8 oz. Certified Angus Steak, black beans, saffron rice and collard greens, is $11.25.
Near downtown, Davanza's is a top choice for hand-tossed pizza, $7.50 for a personal-size pie, $2.75 for a slice. And the locals' choice for Mexican is El Chubasco, located in the Prospector Square area, where you can get a "giant" chicken burrito for $6.95.
Our sources also suggest visitors check The Park Record, the local newspaper, which frequently has 2-for-1 dining coupons.
Packages and online savings
The "ouch" comes for those who plan to spend more time on the slopes than après ski — a full-day lift ticket at Deer Valley, for instance, is a whopping $96. But you can save with multi-day passes, by buying lift tickets in advance, with Stay and Ski packages (if you can find one that meets your specific needs) and by checking ski discount sites — Liftopia for one has Park City Mountain tickets for December skiing from $44.
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