New Alternative Debuts in Park City, Utah

Mountain Times is the Brainchild of Salt Lake City Weekly Publisher.

“Mountain Times” doesn’t sound like the name of an alternative paper, and it wasn’t … until John Saltas turned it into one.

Saltas, publisher and majority owner of Salt Lake City Weekly, unveiled his new creation earlier this summer in the bedroom community of Park City, Utah, a burgeoning locale that will play host to many events when the Olympics roll into the Salt Lake area in 2002.

Originally founded as a monthly in 1995 by current City Weekly Editor Christopher Smart, Mountain Times was bought by Saltas in April ’97. Saltas continued to publish the paper — which mostly covered environmental issues — on a monthly basis until this February, when he closed it down for three months to refashion it in the image on an alternative weekly.

“Utah’s High Altitude Alternative” debuted June 1. It’s 10,000-plus copies are distributed across a three-county area with downtown Park City serving as the hub.

“It had never been a big paper, usually running about 16 pages,” explains Saltas. “But the area is just going to mushroom — especially with the Olympics coming…

“We knew we wanted to have some kind of presence there. We already were distributing some copies of the Weekly [in Park City], but we felt it would be better to have a paper with a Main Street address instead of being just some kind of interloper.”

Situated 35 miles east of Salt Lake City, the Park City area has a current population of 35,000. Mountain Times Editor David Madison — formerly the editor of Boise Weekly and a staff writer for Saltas’ Salt Lake paper — describes the Park City area as “part Aspen, part suburb.”

Park City used to be a ski resort town, says Madison, but urban sprawl has transformed it into a high-dollar commuter community. Today it is also home to a hopping club scene and some of the state’s high-end restaurants.

Park City was already a saturated newspaper market before Mountain Times’ weekly inauguration. According to Madison, the area boasts seven publications, including a pair of suburban papers, a monthly tabloid and a pseudo-alternative that comes out every other week.

But Saltas says the area was ripe for an alternative: “We saw a void. No one was going after the hip, young, articulate reader — the person who likes [the comic strip] Red Meat instead of cheerleader and youth soccer stories.”

While the downtown Park City editorial offices produce Mountain Times’ copy, the paper is taken to the Weekly’s production staff in Salt Lake City to be laid out. For such a young paper, Mountain Times already boasts a healthy classifieds section. That’s because the paper and the Weekly share the same classified ads, Saltas explains. However, each paper maintains its own personal ads.

In its two-month existence, the Madison-led editorial staff has written about the Olympics’ effects on the real estate rental market as well as the state’s crusade to tighten its grip on booze distribution in local bars.

“We’re depending on our umbilical cord to Salt Lake to help us become successful,” says Madison. “… Our goal is to make it a good read every week because the other papers in the area aren’t doing that.”