1963 – 1973: Treasure Mountain and the Skier Subway

60 Years of Park City Mountain

Posted October 13, 2023

This season Park City Mountain celebrates its 60th winter season. As the season approaches, we’re looking back on the rich history of Park City Mountain from its earliest days to the world-class destination it has become today.


The 1960s were a defining time in American history across culture, politics, and art. In Park City, local leaders made a bold decision to redefine Park City's history and place in America, laying the groundwork that would change the area from a fading mining town to a world-class winter sports destination.


Park City Mountain opened its slopes on December 21, 1963, as Treasure Mountains by United Park City Mines. It featured the world’s longest gondola at the time, the Prospector double chair, and Silver King J-bar as well as base and summit lodges.


The mountain’s story began two years prior to its opening when members of United Park City Mines hatched a plan to revitalize Park City’s economy and transform the mining town into a year-round recreation resort. Mining officials applied for a $1.2 million loan through the 1961 Area Redevelopment Act, a federal program that targeted business development in urban and rural depressed areas. There was no movement on the application until August 1962, when a group of Utah publishers were invited to the White House for lunch with President Kennedy. Among the invited publishers was Jack Gallivan, then-owner of the Salt Lake Tribune, who mentioned the unfulfilled loan application to the President. Two weeks later, loan in hand, United Park City Mines began construction for Treasure Mountains.


When Treasure Mountains opened, it boasted the country’s longest gondola. Multi-colored gondola cabins carried four passengers each, two and a half miles up the mountain from the base area at what today is the Mountain Village base area to an angle station near the top of present-day Town Lift, and on to the top of the mountain, where Summit House is now located. The gondola transported thousands of skiers 2,300 feet up the mountain until it was retired in 1997. 

After Treasure Mountain’s first season, United Mines installed a new chairlift, the first iteration of  Thaynes chairlift. Access to the original Thaynes chair has earned a place in ski resort history, as the old mine workings of the Spiro Tunnel were retrofitted with subway-style cars to transport guests nearly 3 miles underground from what today is Silver Star Plaza to the Thaynes hoist building near the present-day Thaynes chairlift. Skiers would then ride an elevator (or hoist) 1,800 feet up to the surface to access the chair lift. The “skier subway” was only in operation until 1969 but remains a unique moment in Park City Mountain’s history. You can still sit in one of the original subway cars and view a hoist today at the Park City Museum located on Main Street. In 1966, Treasure Mountain was renamed Park City Ski Area, and it would go by that name for the next thirty years.


Skiing continued to grow in popularity across Utah, and on December 20, 1968, Ski Park City West, another ski area, opened nearby. The new resort featured a Wild West cowboy theme, with chairlifts Tomahawk, Iron Horse and Short Swing. There were also four Mitey Mites rope tows: Boomerang, Pony Express, Tumbleweed, and Pathfinder The ski runs also reflected the Wild West theme with names like Ambush, Wagon Trail, Bronco and Sixshooter. Ski Park City West would later become The Canyons and was based in what’s now Canyons Village.


After several years of running a recreational enterprise, United Park City Mines sold Park City Ski Area in 1971 to Edgar Stern, a real estate developer from Aspen. Stern recruited his good friend, the legendary Stein Ericksen, to promote skiing in Park City. Under Edgar Stern, three new double lifts were installed in 1971: Payday, Lost Prospector, and Crescent, setting the stage for the next era of skiing in Park City.


Many thanks to Sally Elliott from Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History, Connie Nelson from the Alf Engen Ski Museum and, Morgan Pierce and Dalton Gackle from the Park City Museum for their help with the history and stories of Park City Mountain over the past 60 years.