Many people’s familiarity with Park City, Utah might begin and end with Sundance, but this mountain town offers plenty more than its world-famous film festival.
For starters, there’s silver, saloons and snow.
Discovered in 1868 and incorporated as a city in 1884, it was the lure of silver that first brought adventure seekers to Park City, perched more than 7,000 feet above sea level.
A great place to start your visit and learn about the town’s colourful history is the Park City Museum (parkcityhistory.org), housed inside the historic city hall (check out the old jail, dubbed “the dungeon,” in the basement). The town’s mining heritage is recapped through engaging exhibits like the one about the Ontario Mine, which was the last to close, in 1982. George Hearst, father of William Randolph, bought the claim for Ontario in 1872 and the mine’s great success formed the basis of the family fortune.
The town’s reinvention from mining to a tourist destination for skiing (even transforming a mine drain tunnel in 1963 into the world’s first underground ski lift) and its contentious relationship with Mormons (who weren’t welcome during the peak silver years as gambling, liquor and prostitution flowed) are also recounted.
At one point there were 22 saloons on Main Street. These days there are still plenty of places along the strip to wet your whistle, such as No Name Saloon (nonamesaloon.com) with its extensive brewed-in-Utah and imported craft beer selection and plethora of eye-catching decor.
Another must-visit is Wasatch Brew Pub (wasatchbeers.com), which was Utah’s first brew pub when it opened in 1986. Try the playfully named Polygamy Porter with the slogan “Why just have one!” Don’t forget to order the tater tots.
Charming Main Street is definitely worth wandering for its many shops, historical plaques and restaurants — have French-European-inspired cuisine made from local ingredients at fine dining Courchevel Bistro (courchevelbistro.com), named for Park City’s sister city in the French Alps.
“The Greatest Snow on Earth” — Utah registered the trademark nearly 50 years ago — is the main winter draw for skiers and snowboarders, and for good reason, as I found out. It’d been decades since I strapped on skis, but I had a blast on the slopes with lessons from beginners’ instructors at both Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain.
After a morning working up an appetite on Park City Mountain (it was good I was slow — gave me more time to enjoy the incredible views!), we warmed up with a hearty lunch onsite at The Farm at Canyons Village, then got our tired muscles unknotted with a massage at Westgate Park City Resort Spa, a full-service mountain retreat day spa.
Lunch on our ski day at Deer Valley Resort was at Royal Street Cafe, located mid-mountain at the Silver Lake Lodge and offering global flavours along with creative American cuisine. Order the Deer Valley turkey chili and relax with a spectacular view of the slopes.
Both outdoor and indoor adventure can be found at Woodward Park City (woodwardparkcity.com), a year-round action sports complex that opened in late 2019. The 50-hectare campus offers tubing, mountain biking, snowboarding and skiing as well as BMX, skateboarding, cheer, parkour, and more.
WHERE TO STAY
Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley (steinlodge.com) was voted the U.S.’s Best Ski Hotel 2022 by the World Ski Awards. The mid-mountain five-star hotel and spa with ski-in/ski-out access to Deer Valley Resort is named for the Norwegian Olympic ski legend, who developed the lodge. Years after his 1952 Oslo Winter Games fame, Eriksen would perform a forward somersault on skis every afternoon for Park City spectators in the 1970s.
The Spa at the hotel is a Norwegian sanctuary offering a myriad of decadent services and a year-round outdoor heated pool and hot tub with the slopes as the backdrop. And, of course, fine-dining options abound including Glitretind Restaurant. Try the Rocky Mountain elk or Norwegian shellfish while enjoying stunning views of Deer Valley.
IF YOU GO
Park City is high altitude so you may initially experience signs of sickness as your body adjusts to the lowered oxygen content and dryness. TIP: Oxygen in a can is a handy purchase!
Take airport shuttles such as Canyon Transportation (canyontransport.com) from the Salt Lake City airport 30 minutes to Park City instead of renting a vehicle. A free transit system and hotel shuttles will get you around the town of less than 9,000.
Find out more at visitparkcity.com and visitutah.com.