While spring and warm weather can’t seem to come soon enough, there’s one snowy destination that makes us pine for a longer winter: Park City. From its excellent ski slopes to its laidback mountain-casual vibe, the Utah city is a place you should visit right now. Here’s why:
1. It’s your last chance for skiing. Whether you’re a ski newbie or seasoned pro, you’ll find your place in the Park City slopes. Weather permitting, Park City Mountain Resort and Brighton end their season on April 20, Deer Valley and Canyons finish on April 13, and Sundance Mountain Resort wraps up April 6. Of course, if you aren’t into skiing, there are other wintry sports to try, including snowboarding, snowmobiling, dog sledding, snow shoeing and snow tubing.
2. You miss the Olympics. For those who wish the late-night Sochi competitions didn’t have to come to an end, you needn’t wait another four years to get your fill. Visit Park City and you just might run into the numerous Olympians who call it home, including gold medalists Sage Kotsenburg, Joss Christensen and Ted Ligety. But go beyond celebrity sightings to learn from Olympians themselves. At Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The St. Regis Deer Valley, arrange to ski with two-time medalist Shannon Bahrke. The vivacious blonde-and-pink-haired athlete is a lot of fun, and she shares her expertise in half- or full-day sessions (the latter comes with lunch at the hotel’s J&G Grill). Or head to Four-Star Waldorf Astoria Park City to sign up for two-hour skating lessons with Olympian Patrick Meek. The speed skater, who also moonlights as a valet at the Park City hotel, offers one-on-one instruction.
3. You love winter comfort food. All of that exercise on the slopes entitles you to some high-calorie fare. In fact, you don’t even have to change out of your gear; ski in to High West Distillery & Saloon. It’s the hottest spot in town — there was a two-hour wait when we visited the no-reservations gastropub, with crowds huddling around outside heaters and an alfresco bar until a seat in the exposed-wood-ceilinged dining room opened up. And while the drinks are an attraction (you’ll also see the distillery’s spirits in bars around the city), this is a place for foodies with dishes such as whiskey-braised short ribs with fried polenta. But for the ultimate comfort food meal, start with the mac and cheese bites. The fried balls’ smoked cheddar and bacon filling gives them a great smoky flavor, and the savory and slightly spicy/sweet dipping sauces are addictive. For the main course, choose the popular and satisfying burger. On top of the bison-and-beef patty, there’s Gruyère, blue cheese and caramelized onions. Be sure to order a whiskey drink, whether it’s the tasting flight or a sweet (but not too sugary) housemade lemonade that’s spiked with High West’s Double Rye. For more spirits, drop into Four-Star Montage Deer Valley’s Burgers & Bourbon restaurant, which serves more than 100 bourbons and whiskeys. Try the Mountain Derby with Woodford’s Reserve, honey and grapefruit, or opt for the small-batch and single-barrel flight with Wild Turkey, nine-year-old Knob Creek and 12-year-old Elijah Craig.
4. You want go shopping. More than 250 shops, restaurants, galleries and other businesses line the city’s historic Main Street, which makes the walkable district a prime place for shopping (most resorts offer shuttles here, and a free trolley runs up and down the street, too). Gourmands should stop at Mountain Town Olive Oil Co. to try its more than 40 extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We liked the bright, fruity tang of the white peach balsamic (the clerk recommended mixing it with white wine or drizzling it over fruit) and the flavorful coconut balsamic (which would taste good with shrimp, fish or dessert). Among the galleries, don’t miss the new Bret Webster Images, which opened in June 2013. A former rocket scientist, Park City photographer Webster snaps landscape pictures with vivid hues. His oversized photos, mounted in acrylic, zoom in on cascading waterfalls in Tahiti, aspen trees with bold yellow leaves in a Park City forest and the red crags of the Grand Canyon piercing an azure sky. For wearable art — brilliant diamonds, Mikimoto pearls and other fine jewelry — pop into O.C. Tanner.
5. It’s Park City Mountain Resort’s 50th anniversary season. As part of the celebration, the property will host Skiing History Week (March 31 to April 5), which includes the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame induction ceremony (April 5) and the Ishpeming International Ski Film Fest (screenings take place April 1 to 4). Bring the family to Snowasis, an annual festival that runs from March 22 to 30. There, take your pick of après-ski entertainment, including a carnival with jugglers, magicians and face painting; snow bowling and snow mini golf; and live entertainment from acts such as reggae/ska band Tribal Theory out of San Diego (March 29).
Photo Courtesy of The St. Regis Deer Valley