Park City Opening Day 2014

PHOTOS: Greg Furey

WORDS: Heather Hendricks

Park City Mountain Resort opened for the season on Saturday, November 22, as a newly minted Vail Resorts property. The yearlong legal battle between PCMR’s former owner, Powdr Corp, and Vail Resorts was settled this September with Vail forking over a cool 182 million dollars [http://snowboarding.transworld.net/news/park-city-mountain-resort-just-got-bought-vail-resorts/] to secure all components of the resort. This included former employees, who helped ensure an on-time opening. In an effort to uncover any changes to the resort and see how it was being operated, we ventured PCMR for Opening Day.

Mother Nature did her part to help start the season off, as over 17-inches of snow have fallen so far, compared to the one-inch of natural accumulation at this time last year. This, coupled with around-the-clock snowmaking, allowed the resort to open with three lifts—PayDay, Three Kings, and First Time—along with two parks: Upper First Time and Three Kings.

Jeremy Cooper, PCMR's Terrain Park Manager, and his crew of builders outdid themselves with the opening day park setup that consisted of over 32 features, including a set of 35-foot and 45-foot jumps. The Upper First Time section had five jibs, including a mini wallride, barrel, down bar, ball-bonk, and down rail.

Last year, given the low-snow totals, Park City only opened with one 25-foot jump and ten other features. This season they doubled that amount for double the fun.

“The opening day setup is so sick!" says PC local Sage Kotsenburg. "It’s almost… I don’t know if I want to deem it Holy-Boly-esque, but it is a bit like it. There’s tons of little trannies, tons of berms and super fun hits. And two perfectly-sized jumps. The weather’s been a little crazy, but besides that, I’d say it’s top three best opening parks I’ve ever seen,”

Burton Knowbuddy team rider Michael Wick was also riding and we asked him if he noticed any big changes with the Vail takeover and he said, “It’s kinda crazy, but this is the first season in three years I’ve had to buy a pass for Park City. It sucks, but it is what it is.”

Seemingly, a reduction in comp passes has been the most noticeable difference for some PC locals this season. Numerous riders that received free passes in the past, weren’t extended the same perk this season.

"I know the list of comped athletes was pretty ridiculous, but most of us couldn’t afford a pass and that’s why we tried that route to begin with. Obviously not everybody deserves a free pass, and I get that Vail makes a sizable amount of their money on day passes, but I feel some loyalty should come in to play if they are trying to win over the true local resident," said Madison Blackley, who rides for Bataleon Snowboards and is part of the all-girls, Too Hard Crew. "Vail is good for the overall snow economy by attracting non-experts to ski and ride, and they do offer great employee benefits that attract and keep employees, but it’s bad for the core riders who have grown relationships with their mountains.”

Blackley will ride at Brighton this season and thinks that Park City’s parks might not be as busy since so many Utah-based riders didn’t get passes, but may have gotten comp passes elsewhere.

“Everyone wants to ride with their friends and where their friends have passes. This season it doesn’t seem like Park City will be that place,” she said.

While the majority of comp passes were scrapped this year, season pass prices have gone down with the introduction of Vail's Epic Pass. According to Andy Miller, PCMR's communication manager, an adult season pass to the resort cost 795 dollars last year, while this season, the Epic Pass costs 769 dollars and offers unrestricted and unlimited riding at Park City, The Canyons, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Arapahoe Basin.

The Epic Local Pass is also available for 589 dollars and offers unlimited riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Arapahoe Basin with limited restrictions at Park City, Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, and includes 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek with holiday restrictions.

“In terms of Vail coming in, I haven’t noticed much on my side," said Sage. "I re-signed and will be riding for the resort. I haven’t found anything too much different in terms of the mountain. It has been a really short period of time, so I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait and see if more time brings a bigger change. With passes, everyone has to pay, but I guess that’s just Vail policy. There was probably a different crew up here last year, but I think everything else has been going pretty smoothly."

Other changes to the resort were nominal. The main differences we noticed were lifties who scan passes with RFD guns at the Three Kings lift because the automated turnstiles have been removed. Starbucks is the official coffee of Vail Resorts, so it’s being served in place of local brand, Park City Coffee Roaster, which had previously sold coffee to PCMR since 2001.

Only time will tell what other changes we will see, good, bad, and otherwise. There's no business like snow business.