40 Years Later in $alt Lake City

The snow in Park City, Utah, was the best in decades for an end-of-January ski trip that also inspires these observations:

*Utah was a cheaper and sleepier alternative to Colorado mountain resorts when I started going there 40 years ago. It has ceased to be that, for the most part.  And not just at luxurious Deer Valley (which doesn’t miss a beat now–$17 a day to leave your shoes in a secure basket). Even after the Sundance Film Festival leaves town, Park City is replete with costly shops and restaurants along with several of the old honky-tonks. Some of the fine dining is a disappointment, including the long-favored Riverhorse, which is put in the shade by the newer Firewood.

*Tourist areas of Mormon-influenced Utah no longer have quirky liquor laws that years ago had you joining “clubs” at an eatery (for an extra fee) to get a drink. But the state still has a monopoly on wine and spirits sales, and the official store in Park City has all the marketing charm of a county jail.

*The ski canyons have always enjoyed under-an-hour access to Salt Lake City airport, which has helped to foster the boom in expensive homes that underlies the commercial upgrades, but the airport itself is now one of the busiest I remember. The fast-food outlets often have lines 10 people long at many hours of the day.  But there are still some seemingly provincial gaps:  on a Thursday morning, I could not find a Wall Street Journal at any of the news-and-sundry shops…and got blank stares when I asked.

*For all of the gathering sophistication, the local TV news programs out of Salt Lake City are amateurishly folksy and littered with ads that are worse still.  There must be higher-quality local programming but I could not find it on the cable.

*Simple population growth–better than doubling in Utah over these 40 years–explains much of the change a longtime visitor apprehends. But a youth culture–the youngest median age among the 50 states–is part of the dynamism. That combines with a bent for outdoor sports (Salt Lake wants to host another Winter Olympics after managing it in 2002) to occupy attention…and space. The ski mountains seem to sport more competitions than ever. That’s great unless you have a $200+ day pass and one of your favorite runs is roped off.

In so many ways, the price of popularity is rising in the Wasatch Range.



Published by timwferguson

Longtime writer-editor, focusing on topics of business and policy, global and local.

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