My Town: Park City, Utah-Based Age-Grouper Gives Us The Inside Scoop

With the USA Triathlon Winter Triathlon National Championship coming up on Jan. 15 in Midway, Utah, we get the inside scoop on training and racing in the Salt Lake City and Park City areas.

Beth Melville originally moved to Park City, Utah, for the skiing but never left. Now she’s a strong age-grouper in her sixth triathlon season—she’s was seventh in the W40-44 age group at the 2010 ITU World Championship Grand Final in Budapest, she was the 10th-place masters athlete at the 2010 USAT Age Group National Championship and a USA Triathlon All-American in 2008 and 2009. With the USA Triathlon Winter Triathlon National Championship coming up on Jan. 15 in Midway, Utah, Melville shares with her take on the Salt Lake City and Park City areas.

Written by: Bethany Leach Mavis How long have you been racing triathlon?

Beth Melville gives us an age-groupers perspective on living and training in Utah.
Beth Melville gives us an age-groupers perspective on living and training in Utah.

Melville: I think this will be my sixth season racing, so not that long really. But amazingly enough, even though Park City’s the middle of the desert, there’s tons of local races to choose from, even more now than when I started. It’s been easy to fit in the racing in the summers without having to travel anywhere, which is cool. Park City is really an incredible place to live and train, except for these three or four months, which is a long winter. How would you describe the local triathlon scene?

Melville: I think it’s more of an active, outdoors-y kind of place to live. There are a couple of triathlon clubs—there’s a Park City Triathlon Club, and then there’s Desert Sharks Triathlon Club, which is more in Salt Lake. There’s Masters swimming up in Park City at the aquatic center. And there’s also one 40 minutes away down in Salt Lake at the Steiner Aquatic Center. They have a 50-meter outdoor pool, and in the summer the place is just packed with swimmers. It’s a good kind of mountain community. I remember going to Boulder [Colo.] for the first time, and I remember being so surprised at the sprawl of Boulder. I just assumed it would be just like Park City. But Park City has an actual mountain town kind of feel, and Boulder just felt a little different to me. What are some of your favorite spots for bike training?

Melville: There are so many places you can ride right from Park City because within 15 minutes, you’re out into sort of the countryside—there’s a lot of farmland out there, so you don’t have to deal with the traffic of a city environment. You can ride from Park City all the way over to Midway, where the Winter Triathlon Nationals are. My favorite loop ride is the Kamas-Browns Canyon loop. There’s some decent climbing past the Jordanelle Reservoir with views over to Mount Timpanogos and then fairly quiet farm roads through Oakley/Peoa (if you take the Democrat Alley shortcut), and it ends with another nice climb up Browns Canyon. It’s about 45 miles. You can also add an out-and-back along the Weber Canyon for another 25 miles round trip—my absolute favorite place for time trialing. Or instead you can go nuts and add 60 miles round trip on the stunning Mirror Lake Highway by riding up to Bald Mountain Summit (10,700 feet) from Kamas. And if you like to mountain bike, you’re in heaven too, once you get used to the 7000-plus foot elevation, that is. What are some good running spots around Park City?

Melville: For me, I often go down to Salt Lake, which is 4300 feet elevation versus 7000. They have a couple parks there that have about a 1.5-mile loop for flat running or hills, depending on what you’re after. Again, not having to deal with traffic and sidewalks and that kind of thing is nice. The two parks I go to are Liberty Park and Sugar House Park. But then in Park City, the trail running is just phenomenal. My favorite is the Mid Mountain Trail, which is single-track, mostly flat, that starts mostly at about 8000 feet. The elevation makes it a bit challenging, but it’s so beautiful and it’s a marathon distance, so you can go for a long ways. Favorite local races?

Melville: It’s funny because my actual favorite race is the Battle at Midway, which is put on by the same organizers of the [USAT] Winter Nationals. It’s just a beautiful venue, and it’s really well organized. It’s a beautiful pristine lake with a beautiful view of Mount Timpanogos. Fully paved transition area, which is always nice, and the bike course is beautiful as well. My new favorite is put on US Trisports—the Stansbury Triathlon. It’s just another great venue and a well-run race. But there wouldn’t be a triathlon scene if it weren’t for TriUtah—they’ve been putting on races for a decade now, which is pretty amazing because a decade ago, triathlon wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen here in Utah. Best tri or bike shop in the area?

The Park City area sits at an elevation of aorund 7,000 feet.
The Park City area sits at an elevation of aorund 7,000 feet.

Melville: The mechanics at Contender Bicycles—they’re just incredible down there. That’s really the shop for high-end bikes. For just buying stuff—clothing and that kind of thing—I go to, which is a local online retailer down in Salt Lake. Favorite restaurant in Park City?

Melville: Oh yeah, for sure. My favorite is High West Distillery—they have a great kind of a saloon, it’s on the main street in Park City. Great cocktails, great food, and I think they’re in their second year now. Favorite coffee shop?

Melville: Yes, I do. The best coffee in the state is at 9th & 9th [the intersection of 900 South and 900 East] at the Coffee Garden, which is actually in Salt Lake. It just happens to be right across the street from Contender Bicycles, which is awesome. Best ski resort?

Melville: I think, if you like backcountry skiing—the non-groomed kind of variety—The Canyons is the best. I’ve never done it, but you can easily access the backcountry at The Canyons without having to hike for hours and hours and hours. If you like groomed skiing, Deer Valley is my personal favorite. [Note to snowboarders: Deer Valley doesn’t allow snowboarding.] If I’m only in Park City one day and one night, what do I need to do?

Melville: Oh that’s a hard one. If I had one summer day, I’d work up my appetite with a long early morning trail run along the Mid Mountain Trail—it’s so quiet and peaceful high up in the mountains at dawn. Then I’d jump in the car and head over to Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort for Sunday brunch—awesome brunch in a very cool rustic setting. Afterward maybe hike up to Stewart Falls. Then back to Park City, stop for gelato at the Spin Café in Heber and take a walk down Historic Main Street, catch the tail end of the Park Silly Sunday Market, and end up in the Saloon at the High West Distillery with a Mountain Summer cocktail. Anything to add?

Melville: There’s also great open-water swimming in the area (in the summer, obviously). It’s really easy to get to because of all the manmade reservoirs that are around here. That’s kind of cool—once a week, I’ll go to the East Canyon Reservoir, and groups of triathletes from Salt Lake come up and go to East Canyon as well. It’s a beautiful place to also do a swim/bike/run or a swim/bike brick. So that’s kind of surprising—when you think of Utah, you don’t usually think of water. Park City has a lot to choose from as far as training venues go.