Things to do in Park City and Deer Valley this summer and discount lodging specials

Setting out from the base of the mountain for the ski slopes--on horseback (Photo by Bob Nesoff)Setting out from the base of the mountain for the ski slopes–on horseback (Photo by Bob Nesoff)

Special to Travel Smart

A ski slope without snow? Must be a depressed area in the summer.

Not any more. Once upon a time when the snow melted ski areas entered what they called “Mud Season,” a time when you could lose small children and pet dogs in the slushy stuff left over when the slopes closed. But not any more. Most ski areas today have become near 12-month operations with a full slate of activities for the entire family.

Take Park City-Deer Valley-The Canyons as an example of what is offered to family vacationers in what used to be an “off season.”

Without doubt the Park City triumvirate is by far our favorite ski destination in the world. That includes having sampled the Alps in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Nothing against any of those three great locations; it’s just that these Utah winter sports destinations are the greatest.

So it came as a bit of a shock when we looked out as the early morning sun peeked over the mountains and saw the brilliant green where white had once reigned supreme. The streets were crowded and people seemed to be having a good time despite the lack of snow.

At the base of the ski run in Park City we picked up horses and proceeded up the mountain. It suddenly dawned on us that this was the same trail we had come flying down on skis only a few months previously. The steepness made for an exciting horseback ride and the view of the valley was as stunning in summer as it was in winter.

The hospitality folks there are also offering an Ultimate Summer Vacation to one family of four, including round trip air, three nights of luxury accommodations, transportation, activities and event tickets and a $50 American Express gift card for each. For details check out www.facebook.com/ParkCityUT .

While many activities are slated for specific periods, there are some available throughout the entire summer. At the Utah Olympic Park you can take the rides of your life. That’s right “rides.”

The area is famous for training Olympic athletes for such venues as the bobsled. No snow? No problem. During warm weather the bobsled runs on wheels down the same track it does during competition in winter. Put on a helmet and climb aboard for the ride of your life. Your sled will reach speeds of 60 miles an hour or more. Safety is assured with a professional driver and brakeman, but the bumps as you bounce off the walls are as violent as they are during meets.

But that’s the fun of it.

Visitors getting set for the ride of their lives in the Olympic Park Bobsled run (Photo by Bob Nesoff)

Follow that up, if you have the guts, for the steepest zip line in the country. At the summit you are strapped into a harness, sit back with your knees pulled up to your chest and your feet against a trap door. When the door opens you shoot into a void and head straight down the mountain at speeds near that of a jet fighter.

Some people have been known to clear the area of all flying insects as their mouths are open in a sustained scream all the way down the mountain. But it’s a ride you’ll never forget.

Also in the park is the Quicksilver Alpine Slide. This was considered a wild ride some years ago, and it is still exciting, but it has tamed in comparison to the zip and bobsled. Check out www.olympicparks.com for info.

Arts and culture are not neglected in the area, famous for the Sundance Film Festival, actor Robert Redford’s baby. The 42nd annual Kimball Arts Festival will be held from Aug. 4-7 and is attended annually by more than 40,000 visitors.

The festival features more than 200 artists working in a dozen categories from painting and jewelry to sculpture and photography. There are also visual art exhibitions, live musical performances, fine food activities and art focused film screenings.www.kimballartscenter.org/arts-festival-2011 .

Friday and Saturday evenings head over to the base of the ski slope at Deer Valley for the summer-long music festival on Friday and Saturday nights by the Utah Symphony Orchestra and the Utah Opera. This is their summer home and they welcome everyone as family.

This is the eighth season for the public concerts in various venues featuring chamber music, classical, pops and opera. Some of the music this season will be from the Eagles, Von Trapp Children and trumpeter Chris Botti. www.deervalleymusicfestival.org.

There are also music festivals and concerts featuring Rosanne Cash, Melissa Etheridge ad the Goo Goo Dolls www.ecclescenter.org; Mountain Music with free outdoor concerts with picnics and dancing encouraged. If you can’t bring your own, picnic baskets are available for advance purchase. www.mountainmusic.org.

The Canyons will also be celebrating a Summer Concert Series each Saturday with free live music from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Because of the crowds attending this series, the organizers strongly suggest carpooling, walking or riding a bike. Public transportation is a good option as well. www.thecanyons.com .

Food? You like food? Park City’s main drag ain’t so bad for a former Old West mining town. As an introduction on June 25 there will be a celebration of  “Savor the Summit” with diners at the Grande Table giving guests the opportunity to enjoy food, drink and live music while seated in the middle of Main Street. Many of Park City’s finest restaurants will be showcasing their fabulous offerings in an open air community celebration that traditionally kicks off the summer season. www.savorthesummit.com .

The Park City area is very conveniently located about a half hour from the Salt Lake City airport. Major highways are cross the area. Give any of the activities a shot. It’s arguably the most legal fun you’ll ever have.