Ski through history
March 15, 2011
The quickest and, arguably, most enjoyable way to learn first-hand about Park City’s mining history is to embark on one of the guided historic skiing tours with the Park City Museum.
The tours are free and open only to museum members who are at least intermediate skiers. They get to see the remains of shafts, process plants, ore bins and cages where Park City miners pulled silver, lead and zinc from the mountains.
Sandra Morrison, executive director of the Park City Museum, came up with the idea.
"I was working at the museum in 2000 and was new to the area," Morrison said "To learn more about the Park City history and help me get familiar with all the Park City Mines are located, I began skiing with friends who showed me around."
Sally Elliott and Hal Compton took Morrison to the abandoned and sealed mines and gave her mini history lessons.
"I thought it was fabulous," Morrison said. "I was able to ski around all the sites where history happened.
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"We gave the tour to our board of directors and they loved it," she said. "We then thought to open it up and invite the museum membership to participate and it’s been going on ever since."
Within the past decade, the tours have became more popular, Morrison said.
"We had more people sign up than what we could manage, so we began doing two tours for each resort," she said. "We also do the tours in the summer, starting in June, but they’re hiking tours, and only cover a couple of the mines because it takes all day to get to the places."
Morrison likes the fact that some of the mining structures still stand, after years of disuse.
"At Deer Valley you can see to the Daly-West head frame," she said. "That one’s fun because the cages are still in the head frame, hanging off the hoist. They’re exactly the same as the cages we have at the museum that we let people climb in and feel what it was like.
"We also like to go to the Three Kings at Park City Mountain Resort," she said. "We like to go to the King Con and then ski down to the mills, like the Keith-Kearns Mill and then the California-Comstock Mill, which are also still standing."
Other points of interest during the tours include the Silver King, Jupiter and Crescent mine sites, Morrison said.
"While these structures are sill upright, all the mines are closed, Morrison said. "We don’t want people to fall in and get trapped."
The tours are designed for adults who are intermediate skiers.
"We do try to stick to groomed trails, but there are a few places that get pretty steep," Morrison said.
The tours can take up to four hours as participants ask their guide questions.
"We say the tours are three hours, but a lot of it depends on how many questions people have and how involved they are in the conversation," she said. "If there are a lot of questions and the guides start getting deep into mining technology, the tours will, obviously, take longer to complete."
One enjoyable aspect is comparing the area to photographs obtained through the Park City Museum’s historic photo collection, Morrison said.
"We have a lot of interesting photographs of all the different mining sites," she said. "Part of the beauty is you can recognize the surroundings and match up the ridge lines with the photographs and see, instead of being a ski resort, the photo depicts an industrial mining site."
The Park City Mountain Resort tours are given by David Gorrell, and the Deer Valley Resort tours are lead by Michael O’Malley, Morrison said.
"They are both volunteers with the Park City Museum and do a fabulous job," she said.
The Park City Museum’s next historic ski tours are Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 26. The tours begin at 9:30 a.m. Tours are open to Museum members. Year-long memberships are $55 per individual or $100 for a family with up to four children. For more information on becoming a Museum member, call (435) 649-7457 or visit http://www.parkcityhistory.org .