By Chris Schulz, Photo courtesy Park City Mountain
What do you call a destination that boasts two world-class mountain resorts, historic tours, and Olympic heritage at 7,000 feet above ski level? Paradise … or Park City, Utah. Best of all, you can get there in half the time it takes to drive to Mammoth.
Two resorts and two experiences
Deer Valley is credited with making skiing a luxury experience—from ambassadors who take your skis off your roof rack to meticulously groomed runs. For the VIP treatment, sign up for the Ski with a Champion program and explore the trails with a former Olympian ($1,200 for a half day). Leave the snowboards at home, as they are not allowed at Deer Valley. Gourmet on-mountain dining options abound, including at the Royal Street Café in the Silver Lake Lodge—try the Dungeness crab tower or the barbecue bison burger for a real treat.
The Park City Mountain Resort is vast and caters to skiers and snowboarders alike. With 41 lifts and 348 trails spread over two mountains, it’s the largest ski and snowboard resort in the U.S. Take the Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour, where an expert guide showcases the mining buildings and glimpses of what brought wealth to Park City a century ago. The tour is free, offered daily, and geared toward intermediate skiers.
Luxury options abound, including a Waldorf-Astoria, St. Regis, and the Stein Eriksen Lodge. The Montage Deer Valley ($276 and up) has its own bowling alley and the largest spa in Utah, but the ski-in, ski-out access makes coming and going easy. Families will delight in nightly s’mores by the fire pit, horse-drawn sleigh rides, family yoga, and concierges to help kids with their ski boots.
For a new kind of luxury, try the Washington School House Hotel. Built in 1899 and located only a block from historic Main Street, this boutique hotel features 12 unique rooms and suites ($405 and up), a fantastic outdoor pool tucked into the hillside, and a farm-to-table restaurant.
The days of Utah liquor laws forbidding alcohol sales in restaurants and bars are long gone. The High West Distillery features locally distilled whiskies available in a flight ($14) or in cocktails such as Hang On Sally with bourbon, pineapple rum, pear brandy, lemon, and sour beer ($14). Enjoy the drinks while you cool your heels at the bar and submit to the inevitable wait for your table; it’s worth it.
For something memorable, 350 Main restaurant offers a chance to make your own gin under the eye of the professionals from Alpine Distilling. Create a personalized bottle of gin by flavoring neutral spirits with a combination of botanicals and spices.
Yurt place or mine?
The Viking Yurt experience begins with a sleigh ride up the slopes at the Park City Mountain Resort. In a nod to the 21st century, a snow cat tows the sleigh. After climbing 1,800 feet above town, you’ll enter the yurt to the sounds of a grand piano. You’re greeted with mulled cider, followed by a six-course Norwegian-inspired dinner. Reserve early, as space fills fast.
Each January, Park City welcomes the Sundance Film Festival—10 days of films, lectures, and star sightings. This year’s dates are Jan. 24 to Feb. 3. While restaurant reservations and hotels will be at a premium, the slopes will be empty as attendees make movie deals.
Park City was a major venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Now open to the public, the Utah Olympic Park boasts an outstanding museum, as well as the chance to watch aspiring Olympians train on the bobsled run and ski jumps. Visitors can ride down the bobsled run with a professional ($75). It’s a one-minute ride you won’t forget.
It’s easy. The Salt Lake City International Airport is a major Delta hub, and is less than a two-hour flight from Southern California. Park City is a 40-minute drive from the airport, meaning you can literally fly in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Paradise, indeed.