Praise for Park City
Former silver mining town is year-round gold
Posted on March 22, 2019
We’ve had our fair share of winter this year, by San Diego standards. Still, you must admit it’s sometimes fun to get a taste of real winter, replete with snow, sub-freezing temps, and winter sports, on a slightly larger scale.
For me, that fix comes in a trip to Park City, Utah. The combination of a commercial flight to Salt Lake City that’s less than two hours long and a short jaunt up the mountain even beats the flight and subsequent drive in to Lake Tahoe from Reno, making Park City one of the most convenient mountain destinations for us outside of Southern California. Private flights landing at the Heber Valley Airport get you on the ground and ready to take on the slopes or Park City’s adorable Main Street in even better time.
I have been coming to this powder-lover’s haven in the Wasatch mountains for decades, and though it’s experienced tremendous growth and, yes, change, over the years, its charm is unwavering. The small-town feel and friendliness of the locals is as much a part of the fabric of Park City as the ski lifts that trace the faces of the mountains that overlook it. There’s a lot of history and tradition in that fabric as well. Take the world-famous Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. Named for the legendary Norwegian-born Olympic skier often referred to as a pioneer of his sport, the lodge first opened more than 36 years ago but remains the premier destination for discriminating travelers.
Designed in the style of a traditional European mountain lodge, the lobby is a not-at-all-stuffy welcome to the property, but don’t be fooled: everything on the inside of the front door is superlative. Stein Eriksen Lodge is intent on ensuring it caters to the desires of its guests. A recently-completed $14 million renovation added even more luxury to this spot renowned as one of the finest ski resorts in the world. A new family-friendly pool, a Champions Club that features Pac-Man, air hockey, pool, and Skee-Ball, and an outdoor Champions Plaza that serves daily s’mores in the evenings reinforces the family-friendly atmosphere that this area is known for.
The hallmark of the hotel has always been service, but you wouldn’t expect anything less than perfection from a property that is consistently named one of the best mountain resorts globally, and it delivers. Heated sidewalks lead you to your room, and surprisingly, the rooms that make up the Stein Eriksen Lodge are actually all privately owned, making each room unique. The Lodge then provides all the management and amenities to create the Five-Star/Five-Diamond property, and takes steps to ensure that each space lives up to its standard, including a requirement that the room’s décor is updated every three years.
For those who’ve come to enjoy the slopes, the ski-in/ski-out location at Deer Valley is second to none. On-site equipment rental is available, and friendly attendants will help you to don your boots — they’ll even apply your foot warmers to your socks to ensure nothing gets too chilly up on the mountain — and lead you to your skis that await just outside. Those same kind souls are there when you return, ready to remove your boots for you. Then, they happily bring in your skis from outside and stow them in your locker with your gear to await the next day’s adventure. You’re then free to après (it is definitely a verb here) at your leisure.
For even further reassurance that the decision to lodge at Stein’s was a good one, head to the property’s award-winning Glitretind Restaurant for a decadent meal. A word to the wise: the more people who join you, the more items off the jewel-laden menu you might have a chance to sample. The Maine Sea Scallops took top honors at our dinner table, but everything is delectable, including a flavorful Hazelnuts & Farro Risotto. Leaving without dessert would be nearly criminal. Even if you think you’re keeping it simple with the Chocolate Box, you’ll be enjoying house-made bonbons that took three days each to confect.
The resort provides shuttle service every 30 minutes to Park City’s Main Street, a quick five-minute ride down from its mid-mountain location. Packed with both local boutiques and galleries plus familiar brands like Patagonia, Lululemon, and The North Face, it is a shopper’s delight. Dining options are endless, which might not make choosing a spot such an easy decision, but you’ll never go wrong with the Four-Star/Four-Diamond Riverhorse on Main, one of Main Street’s oldest restaurants that is steeped in recognition of excellence, year after year. The food is amazing, and live music only enhances the experience.
This is no sleepy mountain village either. Main Street bustles after dark if you’re looking for a real après après experience at popular spots like No Name Saloon & Grill and Wasatch Brew Pub. Just off
Main Street is High West Distillery, which bears the distinction as Utah’s first (legal) distillery since 1870. A classic whiskey sour does not disappoint, though it’s the Mordecai, a bourbon/gin/lime concoction, that gets — and gives — a lot of buzz.
While it’s tempting to go big on a night out, don’t forget the fluffy powder famous the world over that awaits in the morning. The state boasts 14 ski resorts, but almost half of Utah’s skiing takes place on Park City’s two mountains: Deer Valley and Park City Mountain. Devout skiers pledge their eternal allegiance to Deer Valley for the beautiful corduroy on its master-groomed, ski-only slopes. Park City Mountain Resort, which merged with the neighboring Canyons Resort in 2015 to become Park City Mountain, is the largest ski resort in the U.S. The sheer magnitude of this mountain plus extra-long runs and high-speed lifts and gondolas means less waiting and way more skiing is packed into every day. With top-tier instruction at both spots, I highly recommend a lesson even if you have been on skis or a board your whole life. It gives you the best guide without ever consulting a map, and the ultimate win: front of the line at every lift.
Ski season comes to a hard stop here this year on April 7; not even the best, biggest spring snowstorm will entice them into a late season, so you can save the shorts-and-t-shirt skiing in July for Mammoth. However, becoming less and less of a secret is that this winter wonderland is as enchanting in the warmer months as it is during its snowy peak season. The mountains are still a playground when covered in verdant green rather than sparkling white. Lifts provide mountain bikers access to miles of trails, while Park City Mountain’s alpine slide prides itself as being one of the world’s longest at over 3,000 feet. The alpine coaster delivers speed on a higher track, offering stunning views of the runs below as you zip down. Away from the mountain, fly fishing is a huge draw on the nearby Provo, Weber, and Green rivers.
It’d be a huge oversight not to mention Park City’s Olympic pedigree, as it’s not something Utahns take lightly. At Olympic Park, visitors can relive the excitement of the 2002 Winter Games at the Alf Engen Museum, packed with relics of the games as well as the great history of skiing and its local pioneers, some actual pioneers and silver miners. Athletes train here year-round, and in the summer it’s a thrill to watch the ski jumpers take practice jumps into a giant pool.
A packed summer schedule that stretches into fall keeps everyone busy. The 12-week-long Deer Valley Music Festival draws celebs from all genres. In August, the Kimball Arts Festival closes historic Main Street to street traffic, and the Tour of Utah cycling race often marks its finish line on Main Street as well. As fall sets in, the Autumn Aloft hot air balloon festival underscores the majestic beauty of this area as leaves begin to turn and prepare for another stunning Park City winter, leaving visitors to choose not when they should return, but simply how often. visitparkcity.com, steinlodge.com, deervalley.com, parkcitymountain.com Deanna Murphy
Stein Eriksen Lodge & Glitretind Restaurant: Photography courtesy of Stein Collection All other images courtesy of Visit Park City