Geography, weather and a culture burgeoning with festivals and seasonal opportunities make Utah’s Salt Lake City and Park City great group destinations all year-round. While it may be famous for its world-class skiing, the area is packed with other stellar options the rest of the year, plus lodging rates are seriously ratcheted down outside the winter season.
“Geography gives us incredibly cool situations,” says Mark White, vice president of sales at Visit Salt Lake. “Weather plays in our favor for year-round recreation. Salt Lake City is on the edge of the Great Basin Desert at 4,200 feet. We have very little precipitation because the Wasatch Mountains stop clouds and storms. It snows up to 42 feet in the mountains, but there’s almost no snow in town.”
Carolyn Creek-McCallister, senior national sales manager at Visit Park City, agrees.
“Without question, it’s a four-season destination,” she says. “For groups who don’t want to ski, golf or mountain bike, there are the concerts, the festivals, the spas. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.”
In spring, mild temperatures make it a perfect time for outdoor adventure. As the trees begin to bud, prices fall in Park City.
“Winter sells itself, from a group perspective,” says Creek-McCallister. “We focus on spring, summer and fall. You can get incredible values here from mid-April through June, and from October through mid-December.”
Golf season kicks off in March and lasts through November, though winter golf is sometimes possible. Salt Lake City boasts six full-service public golf courses, with nearly 20 courses in the region. Of the city’s public courses, Bonneville, Forest Dale, Mountain Dell and Rose Park golf courses welcome group outings for tournaments at affordable prices.
By April, the weather is warm enough to host group fun runs to City Creek Canyon and Nature Preserve from Salt Palace Convention Center. The paved trail, reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, begins just three-quarters of a mile from the center. Within the canyon, an important watershed for Salt Lake City, there are 30 picnic areas with capacities ranging from 12 to 200 people.
Each May, the Salt Lake City Arts Council presents the Living Traditions Festival. The colorful three-day celebration highlights all of the cultures that have contributed to Salt Lake’s vibrant heritage. Japanese taiko drumming, mariachi music, Latin and Scottish Highlands dance, Maori pottery, Belarusian woodcarving and artisan foods from around the world are on offer downtown at Washington and Library squares, and admission is free.
Salt Lake gets hot in the summertime, but it’s reliably dry and quite pleasant. In fact, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is holding its annual meeting and exposition in the city this August, and the opening and closing receptions will take place outdoors.
If it’s too hot in town, take groups up into the foothills, where the higher elevations offer cooler temperatures and golfing. Wasatch Mountain State Park offers four golf courses, including the highly rated Mountain and Lake greens, at a cool 6,000 feet. Banquet facilities can accommodate nearly 300. Wolf Creek Resort, an hour’s drive north of Salt Lake in Eden at 5,000 feet, overlooks Ogden Valley and Pineview Reservoir. Groups can golf the 18-hole championship course and gather in 3,700 square feet of event space.
Also thanks to elevation, it’s possible to get some skiing in on weekends from May through Independence Day. Groups can take the aerial tram up to 11,000 feet at Snowbird Resort, where the final snows of the year linger on Hidden Peak. Other summer adventures at Snowbird include the exciting mountain coaster, the 1,300-foot Alpine Slide and the giddy heights of the Vertical Drop. A climbing wall and ropes course are available for more traditional teambuilding opportunities.
Biking is big in Park City. In fact, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has named the town a Gold Level Ride Center for its terrain, scenic views and extreme bike-friendliness. There are more than 450 miles of biking trails in the area, and facilities spend a combined $1 million on trails each year. Park City will host the opening and closing of the seventh stage of the Tour of Utah cycling race in August this year.
Other summer activities available in Park City include guided group hikes, fly fishing on the Provo River, river rafting and hot-air ballooning. Those who are less inclined to active sports can enjoy chairlift and gondola rides to take in the majestic mountain vistas.
Summer is also the peak of festival season in both Salt Lake and Park City.