4th of July in Park City
Summer is the new high season, in my opinion. And the thing is, no one else has figured it out yet. So prices are lower but the get-aways are just what your doughy desk-jockey body needs. I think that especially pays off in Park City, Utah -- where it doesn't empty to "ghost town status" in May like other ski resorts. Park City has a thriving year-round community -- with some of the finest schools in the state of Utah. And it's only a 30 minute drive to Salt Lake City, so you have plenty folks who live up there and work downtown. There's tons of mountain biking, golf, picnics, rugby games, and chairlift-accessed hiking for views. But the best thing? It's 20 degrees cooler than down in the scorching Salt Lake valley, and has a bit of a mountain breeze too. You even need a fleece jacket on most nights. In 2002 Park City became known for its status as the coolest location ever for the Olympic Winter Games. So people came for the skiing and liked it. What they didn't realize was how much they would love the summers. There's an old saying in Park City: "You come for the winter but you stay for the summer." And that's about right -- you come to check out the skiing, but once you spend a summer in Park City you end up buying a place there. A yearly tradition for my wife and me is to spend 4th of July in Park City. Let me share with you what this year's 4th was like for me, accompanied by tons of photos at the right, and you'll see why. First, get up and go for a mountain bike ride while the sun is still cresting the Uintas. Last year I hit Mid-mountain, and this year it was the Flying Dog trail out by Kimball Junction. The trailhead starts just a few turns down the road from the Backcountry.com headquarters, and quickly leads up over a ridge and drops down into "Bob's Basin" on the way towards the idyllic town of Jeremy Ranch. Once you crest the ridge there are 3 downhills to choose from, each with progressively challenging terrain. They have small wooden bridges and drops, rock berms, and built-in bunny hop jumps. Nothing too nutty -- but just the right kind of enjoyment for an aggressive rider who isn't in the mood for a serious high-risk situation today. All the downhills funnel back to the same trail, which loops back up the other side of the basin and treats you to a view towards the ski resorts and the Olympic Park. That's where the Nordic jump, bobsled, and luge events were held in 2002. The view at the top of the basin is the first picture you see at right, followed by a shot I snapped of a couple riding on the mellower parts of the trail. Next, enjoy the 4th of July parade down Main Street and Park Avenue. First there is a low altitude fly-by of a formation of jet fighters from Hill Air Force base, and then at 11am the parade starts at the top of Main Street. The parade is what fills most of the rest of my photos for you at right -- just click "View all pictures" and it will open a window with all the pictures for you to scroll through. To close the pictures, just scroll to the top of the pictures & click "Hide images." The parade descends Main Street all the way before bending onto Park Avenue. Our spot is always right in front of the Fire Station on Park Avenue because they grill up a barbecue -- and for a $5 dollar donation in the fireman's boot, you get a big juicy cheeseburger with all the chips, cookies, and sodas you want. The parade is very small-town -- with most floats towed by pickup trucks. There's the local high school marching band, the Luge Club float, and the Park Silly Sunday Market float with guys walking on stilts in clown clothes. There's the Rossignol/Dynastar/Lange float --- since they've made this the new home of their corporate headquarters. There's the Roxy+Quiksilver truck, the Mountain Trails float, the Park City Trolley, and lots of classic car caravans with 1950s Corvettes and the like. There's even the SkiUtah van towing a trailer full of snow that came from the remaining patches left on Alta's slopes ---- and they are lobbing snowballs into the crowd to cool everyone off. It's just the most enjoyable, family-friendly small-town parade you could want. Watch the rugby games at the Park City rugby field. Rugby has always been a key part of Utah, with both BYU and the University of Utah having two of the finest programs in the nation. Berkeley always gets a run for their money from either the U or BYU every year. And that love of rugby has led to a smattering of club teams that have cropped up to play some summer sevens. The best of the clubs is the Park City Haggis team. Head over to City Park, walk through a few of the booths & music shows, and then settle down with a slushee at the rugby field to watch the friendly competition. It's not unusual to see local guys like Mark Numbers, Alan Short, Matt Griff, and Ryan Dunyan trading team jerseys between games just to get a chance to play in as many games as possible. Browse the sales at Jans and ColeSport. The two best ski shops in Park City are on Park Avenue. ColeSport has good bike stuff, lots of Napapijri clothes, Armada skis, and some high-end patio furniture to browse. Jans is directly across the street and has a similar selection of high-end bike & ski stuff, but also has a great selection of fly fishing gear and youth outdoor clothing. Both of them have big 4th of July sales where you can pick up the barely-used demo skis from the year before for just $250 with bindings. Sweeeeeet way to get a pair of skis that you don't mind using when the November snowpack is barely covering the rocks. Take a nap. What more is there to say? Find some shade, bust out a book like "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, and read until you get snoozy. Find your own vantage point to watch the fireworks that Park City Mtn Resort sets off at their base area. Our spot is the 17th or 18th fairway at the Park City golf course, and that's the final pic you can see at right if you click "View all pictures". The long fairways of those two holes point straight towards the Resort Center base area. Everyone from the Park Avenue, Three Kings, and PayDay condos come out to the grass around 6pm to play bocci, frisbee and flag football on the golf course. Each family sets up their blankets & camp chairs pointing towards the ski resort, and some local citizens have the Star Spangled Banner playing on a stereo. Some even light off a few of their own fireworks and then sneak back to their condos for some barbecued chow before the show starts at nightfall. A thrilling fireworks display ensues, and then it's time for everyone to round off to bed. There just really isn't a more mellow, enjoyable way to spend the 4th. And at 80 degrees with blue skies and a mountain breeze, you never want to leave. Our 3 year old was certainly bummed when he learned it was time to head home after the long weekend. Tell you the truth, we felt the same way but just managed to contain our sad feelings a little better. A mountain bike ride every morning, a nap every afternoon, and more leisurely family walks than we usually get in a month. Yep, the mountains are definitely not just for skiing anymore.