Author Archives: Caleb Payne

1900-1963: The Early History of Park City Skiing

You can’t understand the history of skiing in Park City without understanding the origins of the city itself. The city was founded in 1869 and named for Parley’s Park. Parley Pratt built and maintained the first road heading east out of Salt Lake City. Today, to get to Park City from Salt Lake City, you have to take I-80 through Parley’s Canyon. Used for grazing land by the earliest settlers, silver, gold, and lead ore was discovered soon after. It wasn’t long before Park City became a big mining town.


By the early 1900s, the town was humming and its newfound affluence also gave rise to a new demand for recreation. The population swelled to nearly 7,500. Tunnels were built into the mountainside, and a harness and towing system was devised to create the first ski “lifts.” The first mechanized ski lifts were installed in 1946 at Snow Park Ski Area (present-day Deer Valley). Nevertheless, WWII saw a decline in the output of Park City mining, and by the early 1950s, the outlook for Park City was quite grim. The population dwindled to just over 1,000 people.


Then, in the early 1960s, a plan was concocted to reinvent the city as a ski and recreation destination. The remnants of the mining company ownership and new investors applied for a massive loan earmarked for depressed, rural areas. For a while, it looked like the loan would never come through and that Park City was destined to become a mining ghost town. But then Jack Gallivan, at the time publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune, was able to use his friendship and influence President Kennedy to get the loan approved. And this joint venture created Treasure Mountain and the dawn of Park City as a ski resort town.