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Skip the Slopes and Save in Park City

The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel’s resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She’s always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.

marengm writes, “Here’s a challenge for the deal detective. My family would like to take a trip to a ski or snowboarding location for Spring Break next March. Here’s the glitch, my 13-year-old daughter has a neuromuscular disease and uses a power wheelchair and my husband recently had knee replacement surgery, so they obviously can’t ski–so we are looking for a location that has lots of other things to do besides skiing. For example, a hotel with a great swimming pool, places to go shopping, plays or shows to see, professional sports teams, or other location specific activities for those who can’t ski. Of course we’d need to stay at a hotel or condo that was wheelchair accessible, and be able to rent a wheelchair accessible van. Thanks for your help!”

When someone mentions ski vacations, especially those offering more than just winter sports, one place instantly springs to my mind: Park City, Utah. Granted, this city is just the tip of the ski-resorts iceberg, and there are many other destinations worth mentioning. However, for the sake of article length and keeping things on track, I’m going to focus my attention on this little town in the Rocky Mountains.

Every year, people from all over the world flock here to hit the slopes, but there is so much more to Park City than its killer ski runs. The city originally began as a silver mining town back in 1884, and still maintains the charm of its days gone by. In fact, 64 of the city’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with a large portion of them located along Main Street, which gives Park City a unique historic atmosphere. Today, the city is known for its participation in the 2002 Winter Olympics (visitors can still feel the rush of competition at the Olympic Park), its hosting of the Sundance Film Festival (the town is overtaken each January by independent flicks and A-list celebrities), and its reputation as having the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

There are several options of places to stay, ranging from homey B&Bs to large-scale resorts, and each lodging type has its own benefits. B&Bs tend to be less expensive than the region’s resorts, but vacation rentals might trump both of them price-wise if there are enough people traveling together. A one-bedroom vacation rental starts at about $85 per night, and most include a full kitchen. Rooms at a B&B can be found for as little as $99 per night, but prices fluctuate during the high season.

Resorts, though more expensive, offer a great deal of convenience and services that neither B&Bs nor vacation rentals can match. The Canyons, for instance, is just a few minutes away from the downtown area, and a slew of different available activities are sure to keep you occupied, particularly if you’re not skiing or snowboarding. For example, guests—including those with special needs—can ride a gondola up to the Red Pine Lodge for a western BBQ, go dog sledding, take a dinner sleigh ride, get pampered at the spa, or simply enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains. Rooms at one of the Canyons’ many lodges start at about $247 per night in March. If there are any skiers in your group, the Canyons offers a Ski, Stay, and Play vacation package that starts at $418 per night, and includes two adult lift-tickets each night of your stay and a $100 Resort Gift Card redeemable at the property’s restaurants, stores, ski school, and spa.

If visitors want to explore the area, Park City’s Main Street is filled with boutique shops and delicious dining options. Plus, there are local art galleries, history tours, and movie theaters to keep visitors entertained. Many of the activities are free or cost less than $15 per person, including admission to the park is free, and a guided bus tour is available for those with special needs. An example of other events that happen at the park is the Flying Ace All-Star Freestyle Saturday Show, where Olympians and national team athletes put on a 25-minute freestyle aerial show to music for only $10 per person during the summer. Check the calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.

Every activity I have mentioned above is fit for your daughter and husband. As for transportation, Park City is only 40 miles from the Salt Lake City Airport, where you can rent a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

I wish you the best in planning your vacation, and I hope you have a wonderful time wherever you end up.

As for my other readers: Do you know of another ski spot that might be a good fit for marengm? Where else would you recommend her family vacation for fun activities outside of skiing? Please share your thoughts below.

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