Park City’s star quality shines brightly in winter
Every winter, visitors flock to Park City from around the world, vying to experience the top-ranked ski resorts and Sundance Film Festival. But we in Utah have it good: Most of us can enjoy the movie-star charms of this mountain town in less than an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City via Interstate 80.
Park City caters to a broad demographic from high-end skiers and boarders to family recreationists, movie buffs to on-the-cheap ski bums. In our suggestions for a weekend getaway, we’ve highlighted dining, accommodations and activities that range from splurges and pampering to affordable family outings.
Salt Lake City to Summit Park
Head east on I-80 out of Salt Lake and, on your way up the canyon, take exit 140 to do some tubing at Gorgoza Park (3863 W. Kilby Road, 435-658-2648). This is a great stop if you’ve got kids, or you’re someone who craves an outdoor winter activity but lacks the balance to be great on skis or a snowboard. With three different levels of tubing hills, you’re sure to find the Goldilocks option that fits you just right. Don’t worry about hauling your tube up the hill. They’ve got a tow line for that. When you’re done, head into one of the heated warming yurts for some hot chocolate.
Summit Park to Park City
After tubing, hop back on I-80 and continue east to Kimball Junction/exit 145 and follow UT-224 into the heart of downtown Park City. There, you’ll find any number of lodging options. For those on a budget, consider a stay at Park City Hostel (1781 Sidewinder Dr., 435-731-8811), which opened in 2016 in Prospector Square. Just as in European hostels you may be familiar with, there is a large public area for hanging out and a full kitchen for cooking.
For a boutique hotel that’s close to everywhere you want to be, book a stay at the Washington School House Hotel (543 Park Ave., 800-824-1672). Built in 1889, and, as is implied by the name, it was one of three original schools in Park City.
Summit Park to Park City
As soon as you’re unpacked, take a five-minute walk on Park Avenue to High West Distillery (703 Park Ave., 435-649-8300), a gastro-distillery located in two adjoining historic buildings. One serves as a saloon, while the other is a restaurant where servers will recommend whiskey pairings for your dish, or bring you a whiskey flight to sample. High West opened in 2006 as the first (legal) still in Utah since 1870 and has been making award-winning bourbon, ryes, whiskeys and vodkas ever since. Try some bacon and pecan caramel corn for an appetizer, grilled pork tomahawk as a main course and save room for a dessert called the “Grillswith,” which consists of a Krispy Kreme Donut topped with ice cream, cinnamon and whiskey caramel.
Deer Valley/Park City Mountain
Wake up to breakfast provided right at the Washington School House Hotel. Since you’re in Park City, you’ve got to spend at least one day on the slopes at some of America’s favorite resorts.
Deer Valley (2250 Deer Valley Dr. South, 800-424-3337) offers a mix of old and new for 2018. The resort is being acquired by a new ownership group. As such, the new owners will inherit a place that’s won the World Ski Award as best U.S. resort for five straight years, while also being named the top destination in North America by the readers of Ski magazine.
Meanwhile, Vail Resorts purchased Park City Mountain (1345 Lowell Ave., 435-649-8111) and the former Canyons resort, and, in 2015, literally linked the two together with a gondola line running between them. Skiers now have one unified experience on 7,300 acres.
If you’re skiing at Park City Mountain, one quick and easy lunch option is at Davanza’s. (690 Park Ave., 435-649-2222). Located just off the Town Lift, you’ll find the lunch crowd is typically decked out in ski gear and is just grabbing a slice of pizza, burger or sandwich before heading back to the slopes.
Park City Main Street
After a full day of world-class skiing or boarding on the slopes, head to Park City’s Main Street for the sustenance of Firewood (306 Main, 435-252-9900), an eatery that’s become one of the town’s favorite après-ski spots. As the name indicates, the entire menu is cooked over a wood fire on a 14-foot long stove. Start off with baked gnocchi before moving on to coal-roasted beets combined with blue cheese, cinnamon and sherry vinaigrette, before finishing up with classic cherry wood-smoked brisket. There’s also a full bar serving up cocktails with names like Her Remedy, Fire Line and Hot Hooch.
To keep the party going into the evening, head to The Cabin (825 Main, 435-565-2337) for live music and DJs along with a choice of cocktails, beer, wine and bottle service. Don’t leave before solving the mystery of what an “elkupine” is.
Thaynes Canyon Drive
Start your day with a hot cup of Joe at Campos Coffee (1385 Lowell Ave., 435-731-8377) Campos made a name for itself in Australia with multiple locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, before making its first foray into the States in December 2016, opening its Park City store. Food is also on the menu, with avocado toast being a popular selection.
While Park City is beautiful up in the mountains, it can be just as gorgeous to be in the valley looking up at the hills while cross-country skiing. If you’re new to the sport, check out White Pine Touring, which can rent you skis and even offers you the use of a 3-kilometer track at its Nordic Center (15415 Thaynes Canyon Drive, 435-649-6249) that’s perfect for beginners. Lessons and guided tours (local and backcountry) are also available.
Park City Ice Arena
If you follow the old rule of “eat where the locals eat,” you’ll feel right at home at El Chubasco Mexican Grill (1890 Bonanza Drive, 435-645-9114) where you have a choice of 19 salsas at the salsa bar (yes, really) on fresh-made tacos, burritos and fajitas.
After lunch, head over to the indoor Olympic-size ice sheet at Park City Ice Arena (600 Gillmor Way, 435-615-5707) for a public open-skate session, drop-in hockey or, on certain evenings, learn the sport of curling when the Park City Curling Club holds one of its “Learn to Curl” nights.
Feeling like you want to splurge? Drive up to the Deer Valley area and spend the night at the St. Regis (2300 Deer Valley Drive East, 435-940-5700). From the moment you ride the funicular up to the front lobby, you’ll be living in the lap of luxury. After getting settled, make a reservation at J&G Grill (St. Regis Deer Valley, 2300 Deer Valley Drive East, Park City, 435-940-5760). The J&G initials are for the restaurant’s renowned chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Since it can be hard to choose between selections such as roasted lobster fennel bisque with bitter cocoa brandied cream, roasted bone marrow or Snake River Farms pork chops, consider ordering off the “Tasting Menu,” which features four courses along with wine pairings.
After dinner, you don’t even have to walk outside to appreciate the St. Regis Wine Vault, housing more than 13,000 bottles (with sommeliers at the ready) or the St. Regis Bar. Since the bloody mary was invented at the St. Regis in New York City, every sister property has its own version of the drink. In the case of Park City, the 7452 Mary (the number tells you the altitude) uses local High West vodka and black salt around the glass rim to celebrate the town’s mining heritage. This showstopper is topped with a Wasabi-celery foam.
Stein Eriksen Lodge
When you wake up at the St. Regis, you’re not far from Stein Eriksen Lodge (7700 Stein Way, 435-649-3700) where Sunday brunch at the Forbes four-star Glitretind Restaurant was the first of its kind offered by a luxury hotel in Utah. The meal here is an institution that draws visitors from far and wide, so don’t miss out if you’re this close. Go ahead and sleep in, as brunch doesn’t start until 11 a.m. (but make advance reservations to ensure prompt seating).
Utah Olympic Park
To top off your Park City winter staycation, when driving toward I-80 en route to Salt Lake City, turn off at Utah Olympic Park (3419 Olympic Parkway, 435-658-4200). Take a tour to learn about Utah’s Olympic history and get a look from the top of the ski jump to see just how steep it is. Winter activities also are available, including hopping into a bobsled behind a professional driver and taking a ride down the very same track that was used in the 2002 Olympics.
While you’re in the neighborhood, before you head back home, make one last stop at Sushi Blue Grille & Sake House (1571 Redstone Center Drive, 435-575-4272) in the Redstone Center. This restaurant is the creation of Bill White, the man who also brought you Park City classics such as Grappa, Chimayo and Wahso. At Sushi Blue, besides plenty of sushi options, you’ll find unique offerings such as Korean street tacos, charred octopus, Vietnamese wings with garlic fish sauce or kimchi gazpacho.
Park City is a star, no doubt. With its colorful history and a Main Street buzzing with boutiques and galleries, it remains at its core a small town with a golden heart. Its natural beauty, diverse activities, high-end amenities and family-friendly attractions will more than grant you a memorable weekend.
Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin host the Travel Brigade Radio Show podcast.