Treasure Mountain, Park City: The Combination of Mining and Sport

by NATALIE DURHAM HAWKES

Treasure Mountain, a ski area in Park City, Utah, opened on December 21, 1963, with the longest gondola in the United States. The launch of this magnificent facility promised to bring the boom back to the quiet mining town. Park City, with its second bonanza in a century, was about to become a popular year-round destination. The opening of the Treasure Mountain Resort had a huge effect on bringing back life to Park City after the silver rush had subsided.

Before the Treasure Mountain Resort was even a dream, Park City “was first called Parley’s Park, but changed to Park City in 1872. The local silver mines prove[d] to be very rich, and mark[ed] the start of boom times for Park City. … Mining remained an important industry into the 1950s.” (“Park City, Utah”) With silver mining declining, the need to find something that could fill the mountains and city streets with people again was pressing. “As the local mining industry slowed down, United Park City Mines look[ed] to diversify and [began] work on Treasure Mountain Resort (now Park City Mountain Resort) in 1958.” (“Park City, Utah”)

Architectural rendering that appeared with "Crews Alter Park City Scene," The Salt Lake Tribune, August 4, 1963.

United Park City Mines was granted a loan large enough to fund the construction of a ski lift, activity center, mountain restaurant, horseback-riding facilities, and a camping center. The product of this grant would be a new ski mountain resort, Treasure Mountain, nestled in the heart of Park City. “In 1963, Park City qualifie[d] for a federal loan from the Area Redevelopment Agency. The government [gave] $1.25 million and, with other contributions, a total of $2 million [was] used to start Treasure Mountain Resort. A gondola, a chairlift and 2 J-bars [were] installed.” (“A Little Park City History”)

In fact, the construction of Treasure Mountain exceeded expectations of the mining company that built and owned it. The first year that Treasure Mountain was open, there were almost 50,000 skiers that were logged with lift passes costing $3.50 per day. (“A Little Park City History”) After the ground on which Treasure Mountain would be built was broken in May 1963 (Ringholz 14), the media raved about the possibilities of the new resort saying that “by the time work is finished, Park City will have recorded its second bonanza in a century — the first a mining boom, this one a recreation boom.” (“Crews Alter”)

The major benefit of this “second bonanza” was that it brought visitors and locals alike to participate in the year-round resort skiing and summer activities, breathing new life into an old mining town. As opening day crept closer, the gondola and some of the lifts were opened for brief periods of time to test them out and start to show off the property. The first people to try out these lifts were Nancy Ryan and Ben Clark, “both University of Utah students, the first skiers not affiliated with the resort or work crews to ride to the top of Pioneer Ridge, upper terminal of the 2-1/2 mile long tramway.” (“Park City Tramway”)

On December 21, 1963, Utah’s newest ski resort was formally opened when Mayor William P. Sullivan cut the ribbon and declared that the event was comparable to the discovery of silver in the Park City area. (Hampshire, 321) The Summit County Bee & Park Record reported that “the long awaited grand opening of the Treasure Mountain Recreation Center was most appropriately celebrated at 9 am Saturday morning December 12, in the breezeway of the beautiful new center when Park City’s Mayor William P Sullivan cut the ribbon and declared the 10,000 acre recreational facilities open to the public to enjoy to its fullest.” (Hurley)

Many prominent people came to attend this event, including politicians Senator Frank E. Moss, Senator Wallace F.  Bennett, and representatives for Congressman Laurence J. Burton and Representative Sherman Lloyd. Festivities included a gala reception with music by the Park City High School Band that was hosted by the United Park City Mines President John M. Wallace. A special breakfast, social hour, and an inspection of the center were provided to the honored guests following the primary festivities. (Hurley) In a stroke of genius, the architects for Treasure Mountain Resort also included center houses for lockers, administration offices, a day care center for children, a ski rental and repair shop, and ski school headquarters. (“Local News”)

According to the Summit County Bee and Park Record, “the full impact of the years of planning this great project, and the brains and ability and man-hours of skilled workmen of many trades have all come to a most wonderful completion in the west’s newest and finest play land, Treasure Mountain’s Year Round Resort in Park City.” (Hurley)

Treasure Mountain was the beginning of a new experience in skiing in Utah. The revolutionary new resort hosted two J-Bar Tows, and the prospector double chairlift was Utah’s longest lift to date. It served 4-1/2 miles of slopes, stretched 1-1/4 miles and raised 1,300 vertical feet. Treasure Mountain also installed “the $636,000 gondola tramway, [the] feature attraction of the multi-million dollar ski complex rising here will be open for its first customers Thursday morning. …The tramway is designed to carry 92 four-passenger cabins… The gondola is the longest of its type in the United States. It is in two sections, stretching up the mountains for two and a half miles, serving some 18 miles of ski trails.” (“Gondola Lift Rolls Today”)

The new technology constructed in this mining town was awe inspiring to the local population. Rhea Hurley described the newest attraction: “The gondola ride is an experience ‘out of this world’ and must be taken to be fully realized and appreciated. One realizes they are not on a plane, nor a ‘flying machine’ of any sort, and are tempted to feel their shoulder blades to see if wings have sprouted while they are still here on Mother Earth.” (Hurley) The attraction of the gondola was revolutionary to the time and opened the doors to skiing much more terrain than before. Also, having the longest gondola in the United States prompted outdoor enthusiasts from around the country to come enjoy the new Treasure Mountain.

Following the opening of Treasure Mountain, one article noted key changes in the Park City area, including media coverage, revenue, and population. The most notable media coverage events that followed the opening of Treasure Mountain for the Park City area included: a 1966 Sports Illustrated magazine article, Park City’s television station TV45 began broadcasting in 1986, and in 1995 Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Winter Olympic Games where more than 40 percent of the events were held in Park City at the Utah Olympic Park, Deer Valley, and Park City Mountain Resort.” (“A Little Park City History”)

Due to the construction of Treasure Mountain in Park City, later renamed Park City Mountain Resort, the popularity of the resort made it a primary location where the events were hosted for one of, if not the greatest, series of international media events in the world, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. In addition to the media popularity, money began to pour into the community as people came from far and wide to play in the newly built skiing playground. With 500,000 skiers a day attending the Park City Ski Area in 1974 and a day pass that cost $26, revenue was up and continued to increase as the years rolled on. (“A Little Park City History”) And last but not least, the population was dynamically affected. Statistics showed that the population in Park City was a grand total of 164 in 1870. Statistics showed that the construction of Treasure Mountain and the development of the area increased people traffic in dramatic numbers. In 1990 the population had jumped considerably with resident population at 5,000 and skiers within the resort measured at over 850,000. (“A Little Park City History”)

Park City evolved through the building of Treasure Mountain. Although there were already hills to ski, the introduction of the United States’ longest gondola, the Treasure Mountain center, ski school, and other attractions brought a pulse back to the slowly fainting silver mining town.

“The storied village offers skiers and sightseers a gay mood which is a carry over from its famous boom town mining days. Remember December 21, 1963. It’ll be an historic event for Park City, Utah and the intermountain area.” (“Local News”) That day proved to be the beginning of a skiing dynasty in the West, with Park City at the top of it all.

Natalie Durham Hawkes is a senior at The University of Utah, graduating in mass communication in 2012.

Sources

Mike Korologos, “Crews Alter Park City Scene,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, August 4, 1963.

“Gondola Lift Rolls Today,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, December 12, 1963.

Mike Korologos, “Park City Tramway Carries Pay Load,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, December 13, 1963.

“Local News,” The Summit County Bee & Park Record, December 19, 1963.

Rhea Hurley, “Stupendous, Unbelievable Treasure Mountains Consensus,” The Summit County Bee & Park Record, December 26, 1963.

David Hampshire, et al., A History of Summit County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998).

Raye Carleson Ringholz, Diggings and Doings in Park City (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah, 1970).

A Little Park City History,” Old Town Guest House.

Philip F. Notarianni, “Park City,” Utah History Encyclopedia, The University of Utah.

Treasure Mountain Inn,” Park City Real Estate.

Park City, Utah,” Western Mining History : Reliving the Industrial Revolution of the West.

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