-- With ski towns, getting there is rarely half the fun. Many, like Aspen and Telluride, are hours from a major airport. Moreover, small mountain-town airports operate at the whims of nature.
But the ski resorts surrounding Salt Lake City are the most accessible in North America, a city-bus ride away from a major hub airport that rarely closes. Three of the biggest Utah resorts can be found in one place: historic Park City.
"We moved here 28 years ago from Laguna Beach," says Ann MacQuoid of Chin MacQuoid Fleming Harris, Utah's top Prudential real estate agent for many years. "We came then for the same reasons people come here now: We were skiers who went to Colorado or Tahoe but found we could get on a plane in Orange County and be here 2½ hours later. This is what has made Park City so popular. That, combined with the really successful Winter Olympic Games in 2002, started a huge upward curve in second-home sales."
Many Olympic facilities are still widely used, and visitors can bobsled, luge, speed skate and even try their hand at ski jumping and biathlon. Cross-country skiing abounds; in summer, biking and hiking are hugely popular, as is fly fishing, golf and boating on Jordanelle Reservoir.
But by far the main draw is a trio of world-class ski resorts: Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons.
Park City began as a thriving silver mining town in 1869, and though the full-time population has shrunk to about 7,400, the town issues more than 1.3 million daily lift tickets every winter. The other huge draw is the annual Sundance Film Festival.
The very walkable downtown, known as Old Town, is on the National Historic Register and filled with restaurants, shops and galleries.
This combination of small-town charm, ample dining and shopping choices and especially convenience have made Park City somewhat unique: Essentially a suburb of Salt Lake City, it has attracted significant numbers of residents who live the mountain lifestyle and commute into the city for work, the opposite of nearly every other ski town.
A look at three Park City neighborhoods:
•Old Town. All the residences are within walking distance of restaurants, shops and the Town Ski Lift. Older two-bedroom condos built in the 1980s start at about $500,000, and single-family houses run $1.1 million to $3.2 million. The latest addition is the Sky Lodge (theskylodge.com), a luxury condo hotel and residence renovated from several existing historic buildings. Numerous ownership opportunities include fractional deeds starting at $269,000 for a two-bedroom.
•Deer Valley. Anchored by the eponymous ski resort, the master-planned community spans about 3,500 acres with capacity for about 2,000 units, mostly condos and townhouses and a few very expensive single-family houses. Original slope-side units from the 1980s start at about $1.75 million for a three-bedroom townhouse, while new similar-sized townhouses run over $4 million. Single-family houses range from $5 million to $24 million. Also, two-bedroom condos without ski access start at $750,000. At the Talisker Club (taliskerclub.com), a 10,000-acre private community adjacent to Deer Valley, home sites begin at $450,000 and single-family houses at $1.45 million.
•The Canyons. The largest of the town's ski resorts, The Canyons (thecanyons.com) also is the leader in real-estate development. Myriad options range from hotel ownership to condos, townhouses, single-family houses and multi-acre estate homes. "You can get new condo construction for as little as $700 per square foot, less than $1 million for a one-bedroom, and you can get condos from the 1970s for as little as $250,000," says real estate agent Ann MacQuoid.