Recreation and tourism, most notably skiing, are incredibly significant and relevant to the history and development of Park City and Summit County – as much as any other era, including the mining eras. According to a Park City Council staff report from the Planning Department in 2013, “the ski industry had a profound impact on transforming Park City from a sleepy, dilapidated mining town” into the recreational hub it is today. The onset of recreational tourism is also a significant development in American history, connecting Park City’s local story of revival with the broader national story of America from the 1940s through the 1970s.
Park City’s first ties to skiing can be traced back to both work and play. Emmett “Bud” Wright could be considered the first skier in town. He used long wooden skis to traverse the mountainsides as part of his job checking and repairing telephone lines running throughout Park City, its mines, and over to the Wasatch Front from the 1900s through the 1920s. He taught others, especially kids, how to ski too.
Scandinavian and Germanic immigrants brought their skiing traditions with them from Europe, leading to several ski jumps in town, most notable the Creole Jump just above the 700 block of Norfolk Avenue and Ecker Hill out near present-day Jeremy Ranch and Kimball Junction. Alf Engen set a world record there in 1931. Eventually, Park City would have its own locals only ski area called Snow Park, near the base of what is Deer Valley Resort today. It held a warming hut, a few runs, a handmade J-bar lift, and another primitive chairlift. The local resort ran from 1946 to 1969.
It was not until the mining industry declined and Treasure Mountains Resort opened on Treasure Hill in 1963, however, that skiing really began to transform Park City. The new resort brought a recreational air to town, resulting in the opening of ski shops and new restaurants, and the construction of new recreationally focused and new architecturally-styled buildings. This was accelerated through 1975 as Treasure Mountains changed to Park City Ski Resort, expanding their operations and advertising more heavily.
Notable buildings like Treasure Mountain Inn appeared on or near Main Street. Residential and vacation homes of new styles, like condos, A-frames, and Shed style, were built among Park City’s Victorian and vernacular mining era homes throughout town.
A-frames were originally conceived as vacation homes that offered owners or renters a unique experience. They also did not take up much space and could be built almost anywhere. The homes evolved to have several variations, but their concept never changed, and they remain synonymous with American recreational culture. 124 Park Avenue is one of the earliest A-frames built in Park City and is one of just a handful remaining in town.
Park City’s ski era also brought new unique architectural styles, like the Shed style. Shed homes most often feature slanted roofs and irregular sections, with different wings, dormers, levels, and other features jutting from a main section or offset from one another. Windows are few and generally asymmetric in placement on the building. Siding is most often vertically placed wood siding.
Ski era homes from 1963 to 1975 not only marked a new era, but breathed new life into town. Without these new structures integrating with the old, Park City would not have developed into the recreation and tourism hub it is today, nor would it have the mixed fabric that attracts visitors. Ski era buildings’ existence are just as important to the history of Park City and the town’s development as homes from either the mining boom or mature mining eras are.
Dalton Gackle is leading an historic architecture and historic preservation hiking/walking tour for the Park City Museum on Tuesday, July 12 and again on Sunday, August 14. He will discuss mining era and ski era homes. You must be a Museum member to join the hike. Sign up at parkcityhistory.org.