Thanks to Bravo’s recent Après Ski reality show, which follows a multicultural staff at a luxury ski concierge company, skiing and snowboarding may be finding appeal among a broader (read: browner) demographic. If you’re part of the growing throng of alpine sports enthusiasts planning to hit the slopes for the first time, then beware: Not all winter resort towns are created equal. Those new to the scene should seek out a venue with a well-planned mountain trail system but also a lively après-ski atmosphere. And fortunately, you don’t have to trek to the Swiss Alps to enjoy both. Park City, Utah, one of the country’s top winter resort destinations, offers vacation highpoints that extend from the slopes to Main Street.
“Park City is the perfect backdrop for a winter vacation,” says Linda Jager, director of communications at the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau. “From the charm of our historic mountain town to our vibrant culinary, nightlife and arts scene, there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy.”
Convenience and Cool People
Forget the long winding-mountainside drive up to the ski resort; Park City is a simple 35 minutes from Salt Lake City’s airport and easily accessible off I-80. That convenience coupled with a range of accommodations (from economical motels to AAA five-diamond lodgings) lures winter sports enthusiasts from around the world. Perhaps because of the Sundance Film Festival, the renowned star-studded gala held in the town each winter, a loyal celebrity crowd flocks to its slopes, too. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, aka Kimye, have been spotted over the last two ski seasons, and Michael Jordan and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith reportedly own property in the area.
But it’s the idyllic snow conditions (400 inches annually) and two world-class skiing resorts that are the former mining town’s leading draw. Visitors can opt for the Deer Valley Resort, a ski-only compound of more than 2,000 skiable acres covering six mountains (this February 3–6, Deer Valley hosts the annual FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup, where spectators can watch the world’s best freestyle skiers compete), or guests can choose the newly expanded Park City Mountain Resort, which merged with Canyons Resort last year to make the largest ski and snowboard resort in the United States.
Main Street Magic
With more than 400 trails ranging from beginner to the formidable double black diamonds—i.e., those suited only for expert skiers and snowboarders—you could spend countless joyful hours exploring new terrain on the mountains, but after a few tough topples on the slopes, you’ll likely want to spend a recovery day sans your ski and snowboard gear. And best of all, you’ll find all your après-ski ambitions easy to navigate with the city’s free bus and trolley system. In the winter, the bus line runs between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and stops at or near most of the city’s hotels. You can go just about anywhere you need to, including historic Main Street. It’s here you’ll find an abundance of shopping, restaurants, bars and nightlife.
MOUNTAIN MUST-DO TIPS
Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, follow these pointers to navigate the Park City Mountain Resorts for fuss-free fun.
RENT YOUR GEAR—Serious athlete or not, it’s easier to rent gear at your destination. Ski Butlers equipment rental service will come to your lodgings to fit you for your boots, skis, snowboards and accessories (skibutlers.com). You can even rent or buy winter apparel and have it delivered right to your door.
DRINK DOUBLE—The negative effects from the mountain elevation (Park City’s highest peak is 10,000 feet) can quickly ruin your vacation. Help ward off high-altitude dehydration and sickness by drinking plenty of water, and start before you arrive. Remember to keep tabs on your alcohol and salt intakes, which can also lead to dehydration.
SEEK SUITE REFUGE—Sore muscles inevitably come after a day on the slopes. Take advantage of your accommodation’s spa, or book a suite with its own hot tub, such as at the Hotel Park City (hotelparkcity.com), where all suites feature jet tubs and the cottage suites include six-person Jacuzzis.
GET SCHOOLED ON THE SLOPES—Novice? Sign up for lessons at the ski and snowboard schools and learn the basics. The more experienced may want to consider lessons to help refine techniques and navigate tougher terrain. Rumor has it that actor-rapper-celebspawn Jaden Smith, a black diamond-level snowboarder, still hires a guide to take him around the mountain.
Be sure to check out some of the city’s best after-skiing highlights.
Dine and Dash
Eat-and-goes are the typical options for hungry skiers and snowboarders, but you can opt for more upscale dining if you’re arriving straight from the trails. The Farm restaurant at the Canyons Village base in the Park City Mountain Resort provides a cozy setting to end your day on the slopes. Plush blankets are at the ready to embrace diners over a spread of hearty sustainably sourced options such as rabbit meatballs, poached duck eggs and creamy grits (parkcitymountain.com). If you’re skiing Deer Valley, dip into the Royal Street Café for the crab tower or a burger with the house-made cheese (deervalley.com).
Feast on the Finest
Share a romantic meal at the award-winning Mariposa restaurant in Deer Valley. The intimate fine-dining venue offers small plates, wine pairings and a to-die-for flourless chocolate cake (deervalley.com). Head downtown to Handle restaurant and grab a seat at the chef’s table to see the kitchen staff prep prized dishes such as the buffalo-style cauliflower, which comes with a yummy blue cheese cream (handleparkcity.com). New on the scene: Tupelo, boasting their special artisan products, including cheese and locally raised lamb (tupeloparkcity.com).
Booze and Brews
High West Distillery (highwest.com) touts the titles of Utah’s oldest and the world’s only ski-in/ski-out distillery. In addition to its craft whiskies, the venue serves up small plates and western nostalgia. Beer drinkers with a taste for the eccentric can head to No Name Saloon and Grill (nonamesaloon.net), where an eclectic collection of antiques adorn the walls and ceilings and a crowd flocks to watch sporting events on the many TVs.
Top 3 Instagramable Moments
With panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and amazing feats ahead of you, you’re sure to max out on social media with these photos. Camera ready?
Dan Leeth/Alamy Rob Crandall/Alamy; Corbis Ian G Dagnall/Alamy; Courtesy of Billy Yang; Courtesy Park City Utah