31 miles E of Salt Lake City

Utah's most sophisticated resort community, Park City, is reminiscent of Aspen, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico -- other historic Western towns that have made the most of excellent ski terrain while evolving into popular year-round vacation destinations, offering a casual Western atmosphere with a touch of elegance.

A silver boom brought thousands to Park City in the 1870s, and that boom continued for 50 years, giving Park City a population of 10,000 at its height, with more than 30 saloons along Main Street and a flourishing red-light district. Then came the Depression and plummeting mineral prices, leaving Park City to doze in the summer sun and under a blanket of winter snow. In 1963, the area's first ski lift was built (rates were $2.50 for a weekend of sledding and skiing), and Park City was on the road to becoming one of the West's most popular ski towns. The 2002 Olympics helped internationally cement its reputation.

Today's visitors will find three separate ski areas, lodgings that range from basic to luxurious, some of the state's most innovative restaurants and best shops, an abundance of fine performing arts events, many of Utah's liveliest nightspots, and plenty of hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and other outdoor opportunities.

As in many tourist towns, prices here can be a bit steep; if you're watching your wallet, avoid visiting during the Christmas season or the Sundance Film Festival in mid- to late January, when Hollywood takes over. Those who are really pinching pennies might want to stay in Salt Lake City and drive to Park City in the morning for a day of skiing, exploring, or adventuring.