Precious metals, mountain gem

72 Hours in Park City, Utah

January 31, 2014 Culture By
Photo by Joseph DePalma.
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Things have come a long way for Park City, a town of fewer than 8,000 residents nestled in Utah’s Wasatch Back and once the largest silver mining operation in the U.S. When the market for the precious metal hit the skids in the mid 1900s, Park City Consolidated Mines changed tack and opened the first ski resort, Treasure Mountain, in 1963 — and the rest, as they say, is history. Park City’s reputation as a winter resort is outsized: It was the home of skiing and snowboarding events during the 2002 Winter Olympics in nearby Salt Lake City; it remains the training grounds for the United States Ski Team; and it plays host to the Sundance Film Festival. We came for the latter, but we found an idyllic mountain town where the sun shines almost every day, an unironic trolley rambles along Main Street and beautiful women wear leggings and fur vests. Need a little help planning a long weekend there? We’ve got you covered.

MORE SUNDANCE COVERAGE GP’s Guide to Sundance | Best Films of Sundance 2014
Washington-Schoolhouse Where to Stay
Where you want to stay in Park City is really a function of your intended recreation. For the Sundance Film Festival you’ll want to drop a pin right in the heart of downtown, within walking distance of the Egyptian Theatre and all the bars, restaurants and parties on and around Main Street. The Washington School House is a preposterously nice boutique hotel housed in a gut-renovated limestone building from 1889. There’s antique furniture, white marble baths, and an outdoor fireplace made of an Olympic torch. For skiing, snowboarding and cracking beers in hot tubs, options abound near Canyons (e.g., Waldorf Astoria), Deer Valley (St. Regis) and Park City Mountain Resort (The Lodge at the Mountain Village), all of which offer a range of lodging options, from single rooms to condos. There are also management companies like Resorts West that can set you up with private homes that make your own abode seem like a wet cardboard box. Solo travelers would do well to shack up with locals via Airbnb.
High-West Where to Eat
We’re partial to Reef’s on Main Street, an excellent Mediterranean spot where the owner (dad) will squeeze you in at the bar without a reservation, the chef (son) will throw you a free plate of seared scallops if he doesn’t like the plating, and where we sat next to Don Johnson (Sonny). Within eyeshot is High West Distillery & Saloon, known for their bison burger and eponymous whiskeys, one of which — Campfire — is the gustatory equivalent of schwing. All the way at the top of Main Street, the Wasatch Brew Pub’s own beers supply the taps, and during winter the Polygamy Porter is the right choice to put down with a plate of roasted garlic mashers and gravy. Finally, the salsa bar at El Chubasco Mexican Grill has the deepest bench since the ’88-’89 Detroit Pistons.
Park-City What to Do
For anyone heading to Park City for Sundance, seeing films at Eccles, Egyptian, The MARC and all the other theaters is a special experience (minus the $4 water). Beyond that, you’ll want to get out of doors. Park City has three ski resorts: The Canyons is the largest ski resort in Utah, and the best for advanced riders; Park City Mountain Resort is the town’s backdrop and has terrain for all levels, plus great parks; Deer Valley only allows skiers, so let your conscience guide you. A remnant of the 2002 Olympics, the Comet Bobsled run at Utah Olympic Park will cost you $200, but you’ll get up to 80 mph and experience 5 gs of force (by contrast, a proton in the Large Hadron Collider accelerates at 190 million gs). Less sphincter-tightening adventures are also available, like dog sledding behind a team of huskies, winter fly fishing and cross-country skiing from the White Pine Nordic Touring Center. At night, Park City Live pulls some fairly big music talent, especially during Sundance.
Powder-Cats Venture Out
Not jazzed on the Comet? Seen your share of films shot in Brooklyn? In better shape than a husky? Get in a helicopter and head to the Uinta Wilderness to ski open bowls at 11,000 feet. Park City Powder Cats flies one chopper per day (for up to six skiers and snowboarders) into the Thousand Peaks Ranch, 40,000 acres of privately owned land, in pursuit of pow. At $7,500, you’d better believe lunch is catered.

Jeremy Berger

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