LGBTQ-friendly travel might sound like a redundant term, but for those within the community who do their research, feeling safe and welcomed while adventuring in a new city is as much a part of the vetting process as securing a direct flight.
For many LGBTQ travelers, Park City, Utah may not seem like the obvious first choice, what with Utah’s reputation for housing a largely conservative populace. But don’t let stereotypes deter you, Salt Lake City is just 45 minutes away and home to the 7th largest LGBT population in the US.
When to Visit
It’s well known that the only bad time to visit Park City, is when you don’t have enough days to enjoy all this mountain escape has to offer. But if you’re making a decision based on community alone, there are specific times of the year where the subtlety of Park City’s diversity takes center stage.
One of the hottest and most well-known times to visit (also the most expensive) is during the Sundance Film Festival. A time when the entirety of Los Angeles descends upon Park City and transforms this historic mining town into a little piece of Hollywood. Aside from playing host to one of the largest film festivals in the world, it’s also a time of year when Main Street welcomes visitors from every age, race, gender, and sexual orientation to celebrate the art of storytelling and the diverse backgrounds and communities they represent.
But if the glitz and glam of the spotlight is a week you’d prefer to avoid, Elevation Utah invites all members of the LGBTQ community to attend their annual Gay Ski Week the last week of February. Unfortunately the events this year are canceled due to Covid-19. Let's hope for a week in 2022 complete with meetups, night club transformations, and a thriving LGBTQ community enjoying the slopes and sun by day, and some truly memorable theme parties by night.
What to Expect from locals
The first thing to know about Park City residents, is that most locals aren’t natives to Park City. In fact, many have hopped, skipped, and jumped their way across the country before landing in town, bringing with them a myriad of progressive beliefs surrounding gender equality and sexual orientation. “In moving to Park City, I got a job as a lifty,” says Daniel Potter, Regional Coordinator for Equality Utah, “Immediately seeing different people every day, I made quick friends and found that…everyone came to get away from whatever the rules from home were in a way. We have more people visiting and living here from all over the country and the world. People who are exposed to greater diversity.”
And in this mountain town, the outdoors reign supreme, drawing like-minded individuals with histories and experiences that keep the focus on the sports. “Anytime you get a tourist town,” says Lynn Ware Peek, Community Engagement Liason, “especially when it’s centered around outdoor recreation, people are a just more laid back.”
And, if nothing else, Park City is a town built on tourism, sitting snuggly at the base of the largest ski resort in the US. More often than not, it’s the repeat tourists who become locals. “Most people are imports,” says Mayor Andy Beerman, “They’re better traveled and have broader experiences, they’re more accepting. We all move here to have fun and escape reality too, which I think makes us a bit more lighthearted.”
What to Do
If you’re looking for that LGBTQ night out, the scene is largely in Salt Lake City, just a quick Lift or Uber ride down Parley’s Canyon while still enjoying your days on the mountain. But if you’re looking for a thriving nightlife, a gold star trail system, amazing après, an alpine view, and a community where all are welcomed, Park City is waiting. “They expect it’s more touristy,” says Potter of those who have never before visited Park City, “but I think there’s just kind of comfort everywhere. There’s such an influx of everyone at all times. It’s a good place to find your people and to strike up a conversation with whoever’s sitting next to you. It’s great to see that so close to skiing, hiking, and mountain biking.”