One of Park City's gems, especially in the summer months, is the Utah Olympic Park. It's a great combination of educational, entertaining, and thrilling that the whole family can enjoy.
In 2002, Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympic Games with many venues in the area. Park City and the Utah Olympic Park each hosted events for both the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Today the Utah Olympic Park honors that heritage but also works hard to develop the next generation of athletes.
WHAT: Flying Aces Show, Museum, Zipline, and Ropes Course
- Utah Olympic Park is free to visit the museum and walk around the grounds and facilities. Activities require purchasing a ticket.
WHERE: Utah Olympic Park, 3419 Olympic Parkway, Park City
WHEN: Flying Aces Aerial Show - Saturdays and Sundays in the summer at 1 pm
WHO: All Ages
COST: Adults $15, Children ages 3-12 $10
If you're visiting the Olympic Park, first head into the welcome center. Inside is a free ski and Olympic museum, as well as the main ticket purchasing and information center. Entrance to the park, museum, and playground are all free, but there is a fee for participation in their activities. Starting at the museum will give you an excellent idea of the park's history as well as a bit of the legacy they are creating.
We took our kids ages 2-12 to the museum, and it was a great fit for them. The main level of the museum is the Alf Engen Ski Museum. There were several different displays and exhibits about snow, racing, and the history of winter sports in the area. Some of the highlights there for kids are seeing one of the first chairlift chairs, the ski jump simulator, the avalanche exhibit, and the extensive trophy collection. Of course, when we got to the ski fashion area, the kids all thought it was hilarious to see what kind of ski fashion was popular when mom and dad were their ages!
The upper level of the museum is dedicated to the 2002 Olympic Games. This was our favorite section of the museum because it made the Olympics come to life for our kids. They've seen them on TV, but actually visiting where they were held and learning some of the stories of the athletes and competitions made the whole Olympic Park take on a different meaning for them. We learned about the torch run and the bearers of the torch and saw figures from the opening ceremony. Suddenly as we were there, the people we were learning about became real to our kids, and they started to understand that these were regular people with serious ambition.
Freestyle Aerial Pool
Once you leave the museum, you'll be entering the more thrilling and adrenaline pumping areas of the Utah Olympic Park. Directly outside of the welcome center is the freestyle aerial jump training pool, and it's probably unlike anything you've ever seen before. It's an aerated pool where skiers go off giant plastic coated jumps that look and behave a lot like a regular snow ski jump and land in the water. It's used as a training tool to teach athletes new skills and tricks while limiting the danger of a bad landing (the water is aerated to break the surface tension). During the summer, you'll regularly see athletes there training (they start kids as young as age 6 on the jumps), but the spotlight is really on the Flying Aces Team.
The Flying Aces is a team of ski jumpers that put on aerial ski shows on weekends throughout the summer where they jump up to 60 feet in the air while performing aerial tricks. Many of the Flying Aces team members are nationally ranked skiers, and there are even some former Olympic medalists as well. The show is really well done, and by the end of it, most of my kids were convinced that they should become freestyle aerial skiers. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 3-12.
One thing that sets the Utah Olympic Park apart from a lot of other sporting venues is that it isn't just open to professionals - anyone can train there. Not only do they have the freestyle ski pool, but there is also a bobsled track, and Nordic jumps where young (or not so young) athletes can train throughout the year.
For visitors who aren't quite ready to try their hand at an Olympic sport, there is still plenty of adventure to be had. The most popular options are zip lines, extreme tubing, and ropes courses. The ziplines all have a weight minimum of 100 pounds, but since the ropes course had a minimum weight of only 35 pounds, we took the kids to try that out.
There are three different ropes courses of varying difficulty. We took our 5-year-old on the Discovery Course, which is an excellent beginner ropes course. For starters, it's right next to a climbing based playground, so that's a great place to get warmed up before you start, and also was a great place for our 2-year-old to play while we watched his brother. All climbers are hooked into a safety system from the time that they start the course until the end (which was a huge relief to me as a mom!). It's not as high off the ground as the more advanced courses (probably about 15 feet off the ground on average), but it still has a lot of the same types of obstacles to move along as other courses. The highlight for my son was the giant zip line at the end where he got to fly right over my head!
We took our older kids on the Canyon Adventure Ropes Course, which is the intermediate ropes course at the Olympic park. This course varies from about 15- 35 feet off the ground with a good mix of beginner and more advanced obstacles. Our kids absolutely loved it, and since they were tied into the safety line the entire time, they were all pretty confident. However, we had a friend with us, who got to the second obstacle and absolute froze up. She couldn't go forward or backward but just stood there shaking. In less than a minute, the staff noticed her fear and immediately came over to help. The sweet woman who worked there literally held her hand the entire way, continually reassuring her and encouraging her to keep going.
Finally, on the last obstacle, she was feeling confident enough to do it on her own, and she left the Canyon Course with a massive smile on her face knowing that she had just conquered a major fear. While it's probably not a good idea to attempt these ropes courses if you have a significant fear of heights, sometimes the panic doesn't set in until you've already started, and we were so impressed with how the staff at the Olympic Park handled the situation. They helped this to be a positive confidence building experience instead of a traumatic one.
Tickets for all ropes courses is $22
Activities for younger kids
Younger kids will really enjoy the setting of the Utah Olympic Park, and especially some of the displays and exhibits. We went with our 2-year-old, and the museum was probably his favorite part of our visit. There are bobsleds to jump in, luge and skeleton sleds to test out and plenty of fun little videos and displays.
Once you're outside, it's important to know that the Olympic Park is pretty spread out so getting between activities and areas will require a good amount of walking, though the paths are mostly stroller friendly. For activities suited well to younger kids, head to the Discovery area down the hill and to the east of the pool. Here you'll find the playground, beginner ropes course, scenic chairlift, and perhaps most importantly a snack shop that sells ice cream! None of the adventure activities are really suitable for young kids, though once they reach 35 pounds, they can go on the Discovery ropes course with an adult. The scenic chairlift will allow younger children on the lift, however for kids under age 3 they ask that they be in a child carrier. If the timing works well for you to go to the Flying Aces show on the weekend, it's an excellent choice for all ages so make sure to plan that into your day.