DON’T GET US WRONG: we love Mount Hood as much as the next powder hound. And Bachelor. And Rainier. But every now and again, we yearn to stretch our skis beyond the Northwest’s familiar terrain. With three ski resorts—Deer Valley, Park City Mountain, and the recently overhauled Canyons—plus six nonstop flights from PDX to Salt Lake City per day, Park City promises an easy way to scratch that itch. Opt for the 6 a.m flight, and you can be slopeside by noon.
High-octane Hood-ites could be forgiven for assuming the edgiest thing about this quiet town of 8,000 tucked in the hills of mild-mannered, Mormon-led Utah are gold medalist Stein Eriksen’s skis. But you’ve got to watch out for the quiet ones.
Park City’s wilder side isn’t a modern invention.
Only 30 minutes from Salt Lake City, PC boasts nearly 10,000 acres of powdery runs, four terrain parks (including a newly updated one at Canyons), and a lift that will pick you up from the sidewalk smack in the middle of town (the “Town Lift”). Plus, invigorated by recent changes in Utah’s liquor laws* that make it easier to imbibe in public (no more confusing membership requirements at bars, for example), Park City’s après-ski scene has come alive: in addition to more than 100 bars and restaurants, PC now boasts three microbreweries and—since 2009—the state’s first whiskey distillery in a century. Even the newest hotels are upping their après ante. The Montage Deer Valley, for example, just introduced a chocolate and wine pairing menu in its Vista Lounge—three decadent house-made chocolates accompanied by chardonnay, cabernet, and port.
Of course, locals know Park City’s wilder side isn’t a modern invention. A silver mining boomtown in the 19th century, Utah’s renegade Rocky Mountain burg went by another name, “Sin City,” with more than two dozen saloons for its then 4,000 residents. What was once a row of flophouses called “the line” now leads to the entrance to Deer Valley, North America’s no. 1 ski resort according to the readers of Ski magazine. Today the town’s funky, rebellious spirit remains intact alongside the high-end eateries, spas, and hotels. The cops drive Harleys. The mayor plays in a rock band. And now, mere hours after leaving Portland, you can cap a day of alpine adventure on Park City’s pillowy black-diamond runs with a low-maintenance drink on par with Portland’s best.
*But don’t dally getting there. Utah’s conservative legislature is always tinkering with its laws.
Stein Eriksen Lodge
steinlodge.com; from $639
Named for 1952 Olympic gold medalist skier Stein Eriksen, who still frequents the lodge almost daily, the building was one of Park City’s very first luxury properties in 1982. It’s been remodeled and renovated multiple times, most recently in 2009, but always maintains the Norwegian charm that made it famous: hand-carved alder cabinetry, luscious carpets, and grand stone fireplaces. When you’re ready to hang up your skis (Deer Valley’s Viking lift drops you just yards from the lodge’s door), a 20,000-square-foot spa awaits, as do three—yes, three—sommeliers who lead private wine and cheese pairings in the 10,000-bottle wine cellar.
Treasure Mountain Inn
treasuremountaininn.com from $195
Situated right on Main Street, this 1960s-era eco-hotel was remodeled in 2003 and became Utah’s first 100 percent carbon-neutral hotel. Owners Thea Leonard and Andy Beerman provide elegant but unpretentious suites from one to three bedrooms decked out in warm hues and leather and accompanied by a kitchenette. Don’t feel like cooking? Just roll out of bed and wander to one of the many breakfast joints lining Main Street.
In Park City’s mining days, town officials enforced a children’s curfew, marked by the 10 o’clock whistle. Today, the action’s just getting going then at Shabu, a seven-year-old restaurant that moved into a new, belowground space last year. The late-night menu (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) exemplifies brother owners Bob and Kevin Valaika’s interpretation of “freestyle Asian cuisine”: sushi, small plates like blistered green beans (flash-fried with sweet and spicy miso sauce and peanuts), and Firecracker Shrimp (tempura rock shrimp, creamy-spicy sauce, tobiko, and green onion). And, of course, delicious, creative saketinis. Our favorite? The Green Dragon: sake, citrus vodka, green tea, and fresh lemon juice.
Canyons launched a massive “re-creation” this year that included completion of a social “ski beach” (a snowfield at the base of the lifts dotted with beach chairs and dining patrons), the only heated chairlift in North America, 300 additional acres of skiing terrain, and seven new dining options. One of them, the Farm, procures the ingredients for its “New American” cuisine from within a 200-mile radius. Worn out from one too many runs down Talus Garden? The Burger Trio, three locally harvested lamb, beef, and turkey mini burgers, will give you the lift you need to get back on the mountain.
Learn the secrets of high west distillery’s 11 award-winning varieties.
High West Distillery
On a tour of this two-year-old distillery—Utah’s first since 1870—you’ll see the 300-gallon copper still and learn some of the secrets of producing High West’s 11 award-winning varieties of whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and rye (which won Best Rye Whiskey at the 2010 American Distilling Institute’s American Craft Whiskey Competition). Of course, no tour is complete without pairing your tastes with hearty menu options, like the whiskey-cider-braised short ribs, in the restaurant’s restored Livery Room, part of what landed this building on the National Register of Historic Places.
The early bird doesn’t just get the worm at Canyons and Deer Valley Resorts; he gets the whole mountain. Reserve a place in either resort’s First Tracks program, and you’ll be guaranteed first pass through the powder, accompanied by a ski guide, an hour before the lifts open to the public.
Park City Mountain Resort’s Historic Mountain Tour
Get a slopeside view of Park City’s wild and woolly days with a historian-led ski tour of Park City Mountain Resort. On the two-hour intermediate slalom past historic mining structures, ask your guide to share tales of haunted mines, like the Daly-West and Ontario Mines, where 34 men were killed in a 1902 explosion. Deer Valley, on the other hand, offers a self-guided glimpse of Park City’s colorful past with 13 historical markers along its runs, like McHenry’s, a major thoroughfare to the Wasatch chairlift that was lined with a handful of illegal whiskey stills during Prohibition.
Park City Balloon Adventures
The best view of Park City isn’t from the top of Park City Mountain Resort’s Jupiter Peak (the tallest in town), but rather from about two miles above sea level. That’s the peak altitude for the local fleet of hot air balloons, which launch at sunrise over Park City’s golf courses, playing fields, ranch land, and preserved open space. Drink in the view of Utah’s rugged mountain ranges and snow-covered meadows dotted with elk and fox before landing and raising a glass of bubbly to your high-altitude adventure.