Park City, Utah started as a mining camp in the 19th century, transferred business from silver mining to skiing in the early 1960s and never looked back. These days Park City Mountain Resort, owned by Vail Resorts, has about 1,200 miles of underground tunnels and shafts and mining structures all over the mountain that you ski by and over along 348 trails.

In 1963 United Park City Mines, the last active operation in Park City, opened Treasure Mountain Resort on the 3,700 acres it owned. Relying on mining engineering know-how, it put up J-bars, a gondola, and a Skier’s Subway.

Now in the Park City Museum, this “subway” car used to transport skiers into the mountain, where they would enter an elevator and travel to the base of the Thayne’s chair.

In what has to be the most unusual lift in skidom, the Skier’s Subway ran from January 1965 to July 1967, starting near the spot where the Silver Star chair is now located. Skiers rode more than three miles through the west end of the Spiro Tunnel on repurposed mining carts, water dripping onto their parkas, to the Thaynes Shaft where they got hoisted 1,700 feet up to the Thaynes chair lift. From out of the dark depths…Voila!, the slopes. The ride took about 25 minutes. Most skiers did it once for the novelty, once for the kids, and that was enough.

Early March, I skied to the Silver Star base area and discovered this bit of mining history: In 1917, owner Solon Spiro built a tunnel 21,675 feet into the mountain to draw excess water down and away from mining operations above.

The town now uses the tunnel to provide about a quarter of its water for drinking, snowmaking, and golf course irrigation. To protect this resource, a few years ago the town removed debris and shored up the first 400 feet of the tunnel to prevent cave-ins.

On a guided skiing tour of Park City’s mining history.  Photo: Tamsin Venn

The very active Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History collaborated with the town to open a commemorative plaza in the fall of 2021 with signage at the fenced-off tunnel entry at Silver Star Village. It’s a delightful starting point to the day, away from the crowded Park City Mountain Resort’s nearby free parking area. The Silver Star chair  gives easy access to King Con chair. The village has a small lift ticket booth, friendly lift attendants, the well-equipped Silver Star Ski & Sport, located in an old mining building, and the Silver Star Café that transforms from skier-patio-lunch-spot to award winning restaurant at night.

For a fuller view of Park City’s mining history spread throughout the mountain, take the Silver to Slopes Historic Tour, a complimentary two-hour visit led by PC’s mountain services guide (See SeniorsSkiing article: There’s Silver in Them Thar Hills!).

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