The Park City Guide to Acting Like a Local

Just in time for ski season, it’s our Guide to Acting Like a Local, Park City Style. You might think the internet has blurred cultural lines across states and regions in the United States, but the reality in Park City is quite different. The culture in Park City is still fairly well defined, if shifting. Park City’s culture is a blend of laid back adventure seeker, helpful citizen, and sophisticated world traveler.

Park City’s culture wasn’t always this way. In the 90s, when there wasn’t a single traffic light in Park City, the culture could be best described as rugged, friendly, adventurous and wild ski bum. There were dogs roaming Main Street unleashed, locals poached hot tubs in the buff, drinks flowed freely if you knew where to go, and you could still walk up to the booth at most Sundance movies and buy a ticket.

In late 90’s, the 2002 Olympics put Park City on the map and the culture shifted. The ski bums were growing up needing to find meaningful employment and families, fortune seekers, and tourists descended on Park City. This meant fewer naked bodies bouncing between hot tubs and more attention to things like building the trail system and growing the resorts. People still waved when you drove down the street and there was a fairly well defined shoulder season where everyone could relax and prepare for the next season. You could still bump into all of your friends at O’Shucks drinking schooners of beer and eating $3 burgers after a Tuesday afternoon mountain bike ride. Park City in the Aughts was friendly, still had plenty of ski bums, and people were bringing their ideas from all around the world. This meant that Park City established a huge number of outstanding nonprofit organizations during this time, adding to the helpful culture of the town. It also meant more development, traffic and people.

From 2010 to the present, the town has grown dramatically which has led to a notable culture shift for
many. Dogs are tightly leashed, many local shops have been replaced with corporate conglomerates,
and, at certain times of day, traffic creates a mini rush hour. People from all over the country and the
world have discovered Park City and want to make it their own. This discovery has lent the town an air
of sophistication that the 90s ski bums could never have imagined. It has led to higher end stores,
hotels and homes, and even sleek clubs where skilled employees curate and tightly monitor adventures
for visitors. Given all of these changes, you would think Park City’s culture would have eroded to
something unrecognizable. Instead it has retained a lot of its ski bum tenets while embracing a new
audience. This is why it’s so important to respect Park City’s culture and see if you can take these easy
steps to act like a local when you’re visiting.


  • 1. Do The Right Thing. Park City is still a small town and everyone knows each other after a while. This means that you might be sitting next to someone you’ve wronged on the chairlift or at a friend’s house the next day. It also means that others will hear about your behavior at some point. If you plan to live in Park City, and even if you’re visiting, don’t burn others or there is a strong chance you’ll have to face your actions in person.


  • 2. Helper Bees. Parkites are an extremely helpful bunch. This may be why Park City has one of the highest rates of nonprofits per capita in the United States. We don’t have an aggro, me first attitude and we don’t take kindly to those who do, although we can’t be bothered to fight with you about it. If you’re visiting, take a backseat and let others go first. This means in line, on the ski hill, on the mountain bike trail, and in the stores. True locals don’t race around putting themselves first and they get pleasure from being helpful.


  • 3. Friendly First. Parkites are descended from a raucous bunch of fun loving ski bums who wanted everyone to partake in their shenanigans. This means that we’re still very friendly and outgoing, which can be disconcerting to people hailing from more reticent regions of the country. We say hi to strangers, chat with shopkeepers, and ask people if we can help them. We don’t do that head down on the trail avoiding people while looking at our phone thing, efficient cashier checkout looking at our phone thing, and pretending we don’t see someone in distress due to the phone. Sometimes we have to, but for the most part, we don’t. We might not notice if you’re uncomfortable making conversation so tell us if there’s somewhere you need to be.


  • 4. Slow Your Roll. Whoa Nelly at the Deli. This is not a competition to see who can have the best, most efficient, most epic firsts vacation. You come to Park City to relax and enjoy and slow it down. Don’t waste your time and energy getting enraged about waiting for things or the lack of efficiency or logic. Find someone to talk to while you wait if you’re feeling impatient. Chances are you’ll learn something from a friendly Parkite or meet a new person from somewhere else in the world. If you’re an introvert, well, you can bring a book and pray no one tries to talk to you about it. Either way, slow it down and don’t expect others to race at your hometown pace.


  • 5. Don’t Honk Your Horn. To me, this is the number 1 way to tell if someone is a local. Unless a person or animal is in immediate danger of getting into an accident that could be thwarted by use of the horn, we don’t honk our horns. Ever. True locals also don’t swear at people out of anger, make rude gestures, or act in a threatening manner. Leave that baggage at home.


  • 6. Don’t Be Afraid. True Parkites aren’t a judgmental bunch so if you don’t know how to find the base of Park City, how to pronounce Glitretind, or the fastest way to get off the hill, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid of being judged harshly, period. If someone is judging you and you’re acting like a local, they’ve lost the spirit of Park City and should be whisked away to the nearest ski shop for an attitude adjustment.


  • 7. We Take Trash Seriously. Our endless miles of trails and sidewalks are pristine because we don’t litter and we try to pick up litter when we see it. We know that plastics impact critical wildlife habitat and that litter is depressing. It’s not a good look for a resort town. We also take our recycling very seriously and know we can recycle everything from wine corks to cds to batteries to plastic bags at Recycle Utah. If you’re visiting, think about taking care of your and other’s trash to make it nicer for everyone.


There are so more ways you can act like a local, but this is a great start. The overarching cultural concept in Park City is the Golden Rule – do unto others. So when you’re exiting the highway to start your new life in Park City or getting your skis at the airport for an incredible vacation, you might want to take a deep breath, slow down and open up. Not only will others thank you for it, you’ll have a much better time when you’re here.