Park City, Utah – Travel Review
Park City, Utah
by Richard Jones
Trundling down the ice, it all seemed quite sedate at first. Then, as we hit a sharp right, it felt as if someone had just given us a massive shove, and the sled rocketed from nought to 65mph. For the next 45 scream-inducing seconds, my insides were turned inside out.
I ducked my head down into my shoulders to lessen the impact of the G-force and prevent my crash helmet slamming on the sides of the bob. It all reminded me of a very, very fast rollercoaster, except there were no rails, mechanical fail-safes or harnesses, and my life was solely in the hands of a pilot, albeit a very talented one.
I was taking part in the Winter Bobsled Experience at Utah Olympic Park just outside Park City. The popular winter resort, home to Robert Redford’s world-famous Sundance Film Festival every January, first attracted prospectors who travelled the 30 miles east to Summit County from Salt Lake City during the 19th-century silver boom. Then in 2002, long after the mines had closed, a new wave of visitors coveted gold – as Park City became one of the host venues for the Winter Olympic Games.
“Three distinct alpine resorts”
Nowadays, it is seen as Utah’s version of Aspen, albeit cheaper and more laid-back. Its main attractions remain the 7,000 acres of Olympic-level ski terrain, as well as hundreds of miles of cross-country trails, some of which we experienced with White Pine Touring at the Nordic Centre.
Traditionally, there were three distinct alpine resorts in the area, all with a very different vibe. There is posh Deer Valley, snowsports party central Park City Mountain and the family friendly Canyons (the latter two have now been merged by a new gondola).
My first destination during my week-long stay in the Beehive State was the luxurious Chateaux Deer Valley. A complex of alpine-style buildings at the foot of the slopes, this high-end hotel features an outdoor heated pool and an elegant Italian restaurant that serves one of the best breakfasts in the city.
I arrived on a mild and rainy evening, and was initially concerned that the snow conditions would rapidly deteriorate. However, after an overnight dump of powder on Bald and Flagstaff Mountains, the groomed slopes were ideal.
Deer Valley is a skiers-only resort and once you step off the heated sidewalks, there are uniformed valets, complimentary tours from Mountain Hosts, overnight equipment storage and gourmet dining in three elegant lodges.
The people who run Deer Valley cap ticket sales, meaning that the lifts are quiet and the queues virtually non-existent.
After breakfast at Snow Park Lodge, I headed out with my guide for the morning, Jessica, who introduced me to tantalisingly named runs such as Hidden Treasure, Legal Tender and Star Gazer. The other members of my group went off-piste and scoped out secret powder stashes with three-time American Olympian Heidi Voelker.
You are spoilt for choice as far as lunch on the mountain goes, although the cuisine in Stein Eriksen Lodge’s Glitretind and the mid-mountain Royal Street Café is much more upmarket than the cafe-style fast food in most European resorts.
During the afternoon, we regrouped and headed up the Wasatch Express charlift, before skiing down Ruins Of Pompeii and Tycoon and pausing to take pictures of the breathtaking Jordanelle reservoir.
That night we shared stories of our day’s skiing around a table at Snow Park Lodge as we tucked into their weekly Seafood Buffet. I had crab legs as big as my elbow, shrimp as big as the palm of my hand, sushi, steak and ribs, all washed down with a couple of Moscow mules.
Free and efficient shuttle-buses run around the area day and night, so it is easy to find your way around. We explored more of Park City itself the next day, picking up bargains at Tanger Outlets and Kimball Junction, before a munching on a burger at Red Rock Brewery.
The fact the Park City is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sin City of Utah’ may be a bit strong, but with its colourful old buildings, lively pubs and superb restaurants, Main Street, makes nonsense of Utah’s Mormon image.
I dined at three very different restaurants during the week – the rustic-chic Handle, French-Asian bistro Wahso, and my favourite, the historic High West Restaurant and Saloon, which houses a working whiskey distillery.
And as far as after-dinner drinks go, you are spoilt for choice in ‘North America’s No.1 mountain town’. We ended up at popular local bar The Cabin, home of Cowboy Karaoke, as patrons sang along to ‘She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy’; and the youthful nightclub, Downstairs.
Meanwhile, in the famous No Name Saloon, half a dozen of us were also coaxed into a round of Ski Shots, downing measures of Fireball whiskey from an old ski.
After departing Deer Valley, we spent a couple of days exploring the largest ski area in the US – Park City Mountain Resort. We checked into an amazing luxury condo in Silver Star Resort, conveniently adjacent to Silver Star Café, the Silver Star chairlift and Todd Fischer’s rental shop.
Over a foot of fresh snow had fallen on Jupiter mountain, although the reduced visibility at the top of the King Kong chairlift made it tough going. However, once the clouds and fog had cleared, we hopped on the new Quicksilver gondola over to the Canyons area.
Skiing down runs such as Harmony, Tranquility and Crowning Glory, we were amazed by some of the rich Americans’ holiday homes that resembled mini castles, some which even have their own personal chair lift.
In my last few hours before driving back to Salt Lake City and jetting back home, I relaxed with a beer in the hot tub back at the condo. With steam rising and snow falling outside looking out over Iron Mountain, it was like a scene from a winter wonderland Christmas card.
There was even a sleigh ride taking place nearby – the screams were a giveaway.
For more information on holidays in Park City, Utah, please go to visitparkcity.com.
Flights to Salt Lake City from Manchester via New York JFK or Atlanta available through Virgin Atlantic (virginatlantic.com) and Delta (delta.com).