Park City vs. Vail is a classic ski town showdown because both towns have stellar reputations, resorts, and amenities. It’s extra relevant with Vail Resorts now in both towns. You’re going to have to choose one and I want to help you make the best choice.
A weeklong ski vacation can easily cost $10,000 for a family of four. You might as well get the most out of your investment and choose the best ski town you can find. It’s even more important to know more about a ski town if you’re looking at purchasing a home.
Whether you’re planning a vacation or looking into buying a new home, these are the most important factors to consider when deciding between Park City and Vail.
Both towns have reasonable access to International Airports, but convenience wins. Easy access to travel is vital whether you’re flying in for a vacation or planning on living in one of these towns.
Vail: Denver International Airport is 120 miles from Vail, Colorado and just over a 2-hour drive on I-70 without any traffic. If your flight conflicts with the crowd returning to Denver after a day of skiing, it could be a much longer drive.
Eagle County Regional Airport is 36 miles from Vail and a 40-minute drive, but there aren’t nearly as many flights available. It does provide some direct flights across the country, but they’ll be tough to snag.
Park City: Salt Lake City International Airport is 35 miles from Park City and a 35-minute drive. Traffic from ski resorts won’t interfere on the interstate, though you could get jammed up in the center of Park City during the busy season if you’re not careful.
Convenient flight options and destinations all over the world are a short drive away. You could easily be on the mountain less than an hour after leaving the airport.
Winner: Park City. The SLC International Airport is just too easy to reach. Shut downs and delays also tend to be more common in Denver.
Park City and Vail are both tucked away at high elevations and get lots of snow compared to the rest of the country. Vail sits at 8,022 ft. above sea level and Park City at 7,000 ft. above sea level. Park City winters are also a little milder in temperature thanks to that 1,000 feet in elevation Let’s look at the two Vail-owned resorts for comparison.
Vail: Vail Resort gets 348 inches of annual snowfall to cover it’s groomed skiing and fill in the famous back bowls. Powder here tends to be more dense than in Utah.
Park City: Canyons Ski Resort, Vail’s counterpart on the Epic Pass gets 355 inches of annual snowfall. Utah is famous for the champagne consistency of its powder.
Winner: Park City. While the difference in inches may be negligible, the difference in the quality of the snow is not.
Both towns are close to three world-class resorts, and not far from many others. The skiable acres and quite comparable, but ease of access and snowfall at the resorts less than an hour away tip the scales.
Vail: Vail Resort itself is easy to access from the center town and has 5,289 skiable acres with 348 inches of annual snowfall. Beaver Creek is 19 minutes down I-70 and has 1,832 skiable acres and 325 inches of annual snowfall. Copper Mountain, the next closest resort is 26 miles away, features 2,465 skiable acres and 310 inches of annual snowfall.
Breckenridge, A-Basin, and Keystone are within an hour’s drive down I-70 without traffic and Aspen and Snowmass are almost 2 hours away. All amazing resorts in their own right, the highest annual snowfall is a respectable 370 inches at Breckenridge.
Park City: Park City Mountain Resort 3,300 skiable acres and 365 inches of annual snowfall are accessed from a lift rising from the middle of town’s historic Main Street. Deer Valley, one of the last skier-only mountains in the country and it’s 2,026 acres of skiable terrain are only a 4-minute drive, or 12-minute free bus ride from Park City’s Main Street. Canyons Resort provides access to 4,000 skiable acres and 355 inches of annual snowfall and is only an 8-minute drive or 25-minute free bus ride away.
Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude resorts are all within an hour of Park City. The hallowed Cottonwood Canyon resorts average upwards of 500 inches in annual snowfall and feature every kind of terrain imaginable. Over 500 inches a year, every year. Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, are two other amazing resorts that are just over an hour away from Park City.
Winner: Park City. Sorry, Vail. But, the three Park City resorts are easier to access and a free bus system touches them all. Also, until you’ve been chest deep at one of the Cottonwood Canyon resorts, you just don’t know how good skiing can get.
LIFT TICKETS AND LINES
Both towns get busy with three world-class ski resorts and international airports nearby but there is definitely a difference in the lines at resorts. Also, having an Epic Pass in Vail will get you access to Vail and Beaver Creek, but unless you have one, it’ll cost more for you and your family to ski every day than it would in Park City.
Vail: Vail and Beaver Creek both cost $119 for a full-day lift ticket, if you buy it in advance. $139 if you buy tickets at the window. Your Epic Pass will get you into both resorts and this is a perk Park City doesn’t have. Copper Mountain isn’t any better, at $118 a day, and your Epic Pass won’t work here.
The State’s growing population of 5.188 million and it’s popularity make for some of the most outrageous lift lines imaginable. Did you see the pictures from Vail Resort this winter?
Park City: Park City’s most expensive full-day lift ticket is $108 at Deer Valley, at full-price. PCMR Your Epic Pass will pay for itself at Canyons if you ski 7 days, with their full-price day passes listed at $107.
Utah’s population of 2.855 million is also growing and it’s a popular destination, but the resorts are much less crowded. True, there can be big lift lines on holidays and weekends in the peak of the season, but they’re not that bad.
Winner: Park City. The Epic Pass may pack more punch in Colorado, but it’ll only save you money if you’re skiing at least 7 days a year and waiting in line you can see from space is a huge downer.
Only one town has it, and there are varying opinions on whether it’s a good thing or not. Some people love the idea, some hate it. We’ll leave this one up to you.
Vail: Recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2014.
Park City: The Utah Legislature is likely to never allow it.
Winner: You decide.
Both towns are amazing destinations in the summer and cross-country and downhill mountain biking are popular in both.
Vail: Vail offers some of the best cross-country and downhill trails in the country. Vail Resort has hosted two Mountain Bike World Championships and offers trails for mountain bikers of all experience levels.
Park City: With over 400 miles of well-maintained single-track, multiple bike parks, and world-class downhill courses, Park City is the highest-rated mountain biking community in the world. Its IMBA Gold-level rating takes into account its luxurious resorts and restaurants, but those are simply the icing.
Winner: Park City. It’s the only IMBA Gold-level destination IN THE WORLD for a reason.
REAL ESTATE PRICES
If you’re looking to purchase a ski home or a live in a mountain community year-round, the real estate market is probably the most important piece of the puzzle.
Vail: The average price for a home in Vail was $811,386 in 2013, down 15% year-over-year. Total volume sold was down 19% year-over-year, along with the number of units sold which was down 6%. There was a spike in the number of active listings, up 50% year-over-year.
Park City: The average price for a home in Park City was $690,978 in 2013, which is flat at 0% year-over-year. Total volume sold was up 22% year-over-year along with the number of units sold which was also up 22%. The number of active listings was flat at 0% year-over-year.
Winner: Park City. Prices are lower than Vail and real estate is in high demand. There aren’t as many listings, and it’s a healthier market for buyers and sellers. Having congested interstate I-70 run through the center of Vail is also unpleasant.
Whether you’re visiting or buying a home here, you’ll get more bang for your buck in Park City. I’m obviously partial to Park City because I live here, but I live here because of the reasons above. It just makes more sense than Vail.
If you want to know more about Park City, or have any questions give me (Scott) a call at 435.901.4309 or contact me online.
I’d even be happy to show you my favorite places to get a drink in town. None of them require memberships or secret handshakes to get in. Promise.