It's almost showtime at Park City, and the future Olympic site is ready to host the world. The resort is well-versed in delivering not only world-class competitions but world-class vacations as well. Park City's appeal lies in its combination of on-mountain variety, off-mountain attractions and genuine hospitality. Reliably dry Utah powder makes for ego-skiing on the gentle frontside and provides a fluffy blanket on the lift-served and hike-to stashes in the bowls off Jupiter and McConkey's. Free tours of old silver mines add an educational twist to the ski day. Some claim it's "too intermediate," with a preponderance of cruisers like Pay Day. But the hardcores chanting "Jupiter Forever" beg to differ, especially when up to their ears in freshies on the bowls and faces off Pinecone Ridge. One reader complains of "Olympian prices and getting worse," but others know it's money well spent and cite a laundry list of strengths whose common theme is convenience. The fact that you can get from airport to mountain resort in around 40 minutes is only the start. Add the free town shuttle and the centralized dining, shopping and entertainment on Main Street, and all of a sudden the ski vacation sounds less daunting. During the Sundance film festival, meandering celebs soothe their theatrical angst at the Wasatch Brewery, Mikado's sushi or the upscale Grappa, to name a few. By the way, the lights do not go out at night in Utah. Local hangout Harry O's has consistently great music and, on weekends, a hip Salt Lake City crowd. As one reader enthuses: "Great for partying all year long."
WHAT'S NEW The 54,000-square-foot Legacy Lodge, with restaurants and upscale "Main Street" retail area; glading on McConkey's.
A GOOD DEAL The Silver Passport: This multi-day, multi-resort lift pass is good at Park City, Deer Valley and The Canyons. Prices start as low as $27 per day. Must be purchased with a minimum of three days' lodging.
MEDALS GOLD Challenge, Lifts, Access, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; SILVER Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Family Programs.
HIGH/LOW RANK Access (2), Dining (8), Après-Ski (9); Terrain (44), Scenery (50), Value (63).
DON'T MISS America's Opening World Cup races (Nov. 16-19) are the final dress rehearsal for 2002.
READER REMARKS (+) "Great location. Easy to get to." (-) "Too much intermediate terrain. Commercial and snotty."