When Robert Redford introduced the world to Park City, Utah, in 1978 via the United States Film Festival, it still felt like an old silver-mining town. But in the last 30 years Redford’s festival—renamed Sundance in 1984—has become the country’s most important showcase for independent films, and this once sleepy valley just 35 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport now has three of the very best winter sports resorts on the planet. Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), Deer Valley, and The Canyons have taken advantage of the prosperity to carve out niches for themselves. PCMR, which rises immediately above Main Street in Old Town, has harnessed the popularity of snowboarding. It played host to that sport’s events at the 2002 Olympics and now has the largest terrain park in the state. Deer Valley, five minutes down the road, has banished snowboarders completely and created a skiers-only paradise, limiting daily ticket sales to ensure tiny lift lines. The result is blissful all-day skiing on empty, powder-washed slopes, earning the resort Ski Magazine’s top ranking in the United States. The Canyons, five minutes in the opposite direction, is Utah’s largest ski and snowboard–combination resort, offering an excellent change of pace and fresh trails to explore.
Where to Stay
Regardless of where you decide to lay your head, the proximity of the resorts ensures easy access to all three. If you’re the type who prefers ski-in/ski-out living, then the maplewood-and-sandstone Stein Eriksen Lodge (from $805; 7700 Stein Way; stein lodge.com) in Deer Valley is your best bet. Situated at the base of Deer Valley’s main run, the hotel’s 175 rooms are clustered in more than 40 classic two- and three-story chalets interspersed among frozen creeks and snowy pine trees.
A world-class spa and restaurant (be sure to try the hearty Sunday brunch and a warming après-ski hot buttered rum) are fabulous, but it’s the nearness to the slopes that makes this place truly special. Each morning after you call down to the locker room to have your skis waiting for you in the snow, it’s a short glide downhill to one of three lifts.
If you want to be closer to the action of the snowboard-friendly PCMR and the scene on Main Street, head to the Hotel Park City (from $699; 2001 Park Ave.; hotelparkcity.com). A member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World Association, it has 100 suites with fireplaces and balconies overlooking a golf course (great in winter for cross-country skiing) and the mountain. Most rooms contain a kitchen, a bar, and plush leather couches, giving them more of a condo feel. The hotel is not ski-in/ski-out, but the concierge will arrange for your equipment to be handled for you and there are complimentary shuttles to the lifts of all three resorts.
Myriad private houses are available to rent as well, but two in particular stand out. The Bellemont Home ($6,355)—a six bedroom, ten-bath, multifireplace chalet with a wraparound porch—features an outdoor hot tub and ski-in access to Deer Valley. The Ski Dream Home ($12,000; resortwest.com) is a bit over the top. It’s a six-bedroom, 16-fireplace, 13,000-square-foot castle that provides ideal ski-in/ski-out access from Deer Valley’s peak. There’s also a screening room, two bars, a dance floor, and two outdoor fire pits for your own après-ski.
For those looking to find a more permanent property, Talisker (talisker.com) is the It spot. A private community of homes and more traditional resort-style condominium units, Talisker is on the same mountain as Deer Valley, which means direct access from your front door to the resort’s multiple lifts. In fact, the club shares a friendly relationship with Deer Valley and even has a little members-only outpost at the peak. The Cabin at Red Cloud—a rustic-chic structure offering hot coffee, snacks, and a patio barbecue café—serves the best turkey chili we’ve ever tasted.
The homes, ranging in price from $1.5 million to $12 million, are very family oriented. The club is the brainchild of Jim Thompson, a former president of Vail’s Development Council. The 2,000 acres of reserved wilderness (by choice of ownership, not state law) provides endless room for exploration: back bowl snowmobile tours, horseback riding, and snowshoe nature hikes with the in-residence mountain man Chas Rauch. This spring Talisker will open a new Mark O’Meara golf course in the valley, at Tuhaye.
The place to start your day if you want to mingle with locals, celebrities, and environmentally conscious mayor Dana Williams is the Java Cow Café & Bakery (402 Main St.; 435-647-7171). Cows, as the place is known, serves sustainable, fair-trade coffee, blueberry muffin tops made from scratch, and, later in the day, the best ice cream around. "If you want to know what’s going on, don’t read the paper—just come here," jokes Bill Shoaf of the Sky Lodge. "You will see everyone in town solving the problems of the world on a daily basis." Over the years owner Ken Davis has served everyone from Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Begley Jr. to Sylvester Stallone and Bill Murray, who left one happy server a $500 tip.
Our favorite lunchtime spot—owned by Mr. Park City himself, Robert Redford—is Zoom (660 Main St.; 435-649-9108). The updated American menu features fun twists on old favorites such as spicy Buffalo onion rings and pumpkin seed–crusted trout. Be sure to grab one of the few choice tables on the sunny front patio. Here you can watch the town go by in the afternoon, then move inside for a fireside cocktail and immerse yourself in the see-and-be-seen après-ski hour. (We recommend making a reservation during high season.)
The Blind Dog (1781 Sidewinder Dr.; 435-655-0800) is an amiable sort of place consisting of Blind Dog Sushi and the Blind Dog Restaurant. Although one wouldn’t necessarily think an outpost in the middle of the Rocky Mountains would be a great spot for raw seafood, the owners here also run Park City’s only fish market, Deep Blue Seafood and Grocery (1792 Bonanza Dr.), whose catch is airlifted in daily. In a town where access can mean everything, this arrangement gives the Blind Dog the corner on the sushi market.
The restaurant side is slightly more upscale but still relaxed (Food & Wine named it Best Casual Dinner in 2005). The fare is decidedly steakhouse-traditional: Chops, dry-aged beef, lobster, and oysters on the half shell are all prepared simply and elegantly. Blind Dog is a bit off the main drag in Prospector Square, but this geographic challenge allows the restaurant to have its own parking lot—no small perk as Main Street can be a parking nightmare.
At Chimayo (368 Main St.; 435-649-6222), where the rustic decor features glazed terracotta shingles and exposed beams, you’ll find some of the best cocktails in Park City. Indeed, the downstairs bar can get pretty raucous in the evening. Upstairs, however, rivals the best dining in the area. A unique mix of southwestern flavors translates particularly well in the variety of daily soups: black bean, avocado gazpacho, spicy chicken. And the pineapple-chipotle glaze on the crown roast of spareribs is the perfect mix of smoky and sweet. Reservations for the upper-level room are a must.
Celebrating its 20th year on historic Main Street this New Year’s Eve, Riverhorse (540 Main St.; 435-649-3536) has long been the prize pony of Park City’s fine dining. The luxuriously low-lit second-floor space with large front windows creates a sexy ambience. The rack of Colorado lamb, grilled buffalo tenderloin, and Utah red trout are all superb, and the nightly piano music or occasional acoustic ensemble keep the sexy vibe. Riverhorse is often booked far in advance.
Up the mountain a bit and close to the slopes of the Deer Valley resort sits Mariposa (7600 Royal St.; 435-645-6715), which could be described as carnivorous chic. For the adventurous diner, the house specialty is a dish with a tasting of lamb chop, bison tenderloin, sausage de toulouse, and elk fillet. The young waitstaff wear name tags that state their hometown, a touch that feels more charming than gimmicky. The atmosphere is romantic and, for casual Park City, a bit formal; most men sport jackets.
When you need a break from the double-cut pork chops, buffalo burgers, and steaks that are on so many menus in town, head to Wahso (577 Main St.; 435-615-0300) for well-executed Asian-French fusion. The restaurant draws on numerous influences from the East and dishes such as tuna tartare and the "Burmese" mustard chicken are notable. There is a focus on discreet dining with velvet-cloaked booths, dim lighting, and a delicate attention to detail that includes warm tea in bone-china mugs and hot finger towels after each course. Leave the children at home as the dining room is quiet and sophisticated.
Shops and Galleries
Park City’s commercial surge is perhaps most obvious in the sophisticated shops along Main Street. Spanning three electric-blue and chocolate-brown buildings, Chloe Lane (556, 558, and 562 Main St.; mychloelane.com) is one of the few places where you’ll find designer denim from Rock & Republic and True Religion as well as Dolce & Gabbana, John Galliano, and Nanette Lepore. There is also a section for casual urban-cowboy wear and a shoe salon with more than 20 designers, Roberto Cavalli and Marc Jacobs among them. Owners Valerie and Michael Gribetz didn’t overlook anyone, providing separate departments for men, women, and children. And an espresso bar upstairs provides a respite for tired tagalongs.
For more classically southwestern flair, the Turquoise Door (537 Main St.; turquoise doorjewelry.com) sells a vast array of wearable art: American Indian–influenced turquoise and silver jewelry skillfully juxtaposed with glamorous gold, pearls, and diamonds. Owner JoAnne Hall started buying and selling turquoise in the seventies, then began crafting her own pieces. "Everyone wanted the squash blossom necklace and concho belts I made," she says. Cut to the present day and Ralph Lauren is using the same style of belt in his couture collections. The shop stocks Kevin Randall, the artist Ralph Lauren has contracted. "We only carry the best and buy direct from the artists," says Hall.
One of the few stores worthy of a trip away from Old Town is Paisley Pomegranate (1750 W. Redstone Center Dr.; paisleypomegranate.com), which is about a ten-minute drive from Main Street. According to co-owner Kimberli Brown (her business partner is good friend Michelle Giolas), the concept is eclectic: "We sell a lot of one-of-a-kind stuff—funky shoes, jewelry, art." The boutique features a beautifully curated selection of housewares, furniture, unique clothing items, and imported bric-a-brac. Some of its top-selling pieces come from Aki Rahman of Indus Imports in Scottsdale, Arizona. Rahman comes from India, where he made a business breaking down mansions and bringing them piece by piece to the States to make intricate armoires and coffee tables out of the former balconies, window glass, marble, iron, and stone salvaged from the exotic and palatial abodes.
Coda Gallery (804 Main St.; codagallery.com), back in town, is an interesting, if slightly commercial, foray into fine art. The proprietors, Connie and David Katz, split their time between the sister galleries in New York and Palm Desert, California. Popular works include David Dornan’s still life paintings of paintbrushes and cans on canvas; the late John Kennedy’s (no relation to Camelot) elongated, angular bronze sculptures of women; and Danish chandeliers of handmade glass and wrought iron by Ulla Darni. In addition, "stick pieces" by Sarah Hutchinson—her signature chests, tables, chairs, and mirrors—have been sold here for 15 years.
At the three-year-old Terzian Gallery (309 Main St.; terziangalleries.com), all the artists are local and hand selected by owner Karen Terzian. Although she has a penchant for works on canvas, "it just depends on what strikes me," she says. A recent exhibit showcased a trio of young Utahans: Justin Taylor, Zachary Proctor, and Emily Chaney. "Sometimes you need to look in your own backyard," she says. Year-round Old Town gallery strolls, which feature lectures and meetings with local artists, begin at Terzian at 6 p.m. on the last Friday of every month.
Coming Soon: Sky Lodge Park City’s Old Town has been in need of an updated luxury hotel for some time. Finally Bill Shoaf, the founder of CloudNine Resorts and a longtime city resident, stepped up with a boutique lodging and fractional residences in one. Straddling three historic buildings at an old railyard, the 33-room property has a warehouse–cum–urban loft design akin to something you might find in SoHo or San Francisco. The original 110-year-old wood columns, hand-planed hickory floors, and oversize windows have been integrated into the architecture. A glass-and-timber elevator shaft looks over the mountains as you’re whisked to your contemporary room kitted out with plasma televisions, slab granite countertops, and a Kohler tub with a cascading waterspout. Sky Lodge will also feature a spa and a trio of restaurants. Zoom, in one of the previously existing storefronts, will keep its space and remain open; the intimate Fin will debut next door with fresh seafood. The Easy Street Brasserie will focus on breakfast in the third space, but the best spot may be the backyard patio that spans all three. Here guests can choose from any of the menus in addition to such bar selections as sliders. From $925; fractional memberships, from $269,000. At 660 Main St.; theskylodge.com.
The Canyons Although it’s just four miles outside Old Town, The Canyons has several lodges and res-taurants in its own village, making it feel a little less like a part of the Park City action. This is not to say that the skiing and boarding are less than ex-cellent. As the largest combination resort in Utah, The Canyons features 17 lifts, eight peaks, and an unbelievable 155 runs. Adult lift tickets, $76 per day; thecanyons.com. Lifts are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., from November 17 to April 13.
b Because the resort limits the number of tickets sold daily, lift lines on its 22 chairs—which feed some 99 runs—are basically nonexistent, even during peak times. This fact, along with the six bowls and 2,026 groomed acres, earned Deer Valley Ski Magazine’s top resort in 2001, 2005, and 2007. Adult lift tickets, $79 per day; deervalley.com. Lifts are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., this season from December 8 to April 13.
Park City Mountain Resort The oldest property of the three here, PCMR might also be the most forward- thinking. What sets it apart are its four terrain parks, a giant superpipe for snowboarders, and the city’s only night skiing. Ranked among the top ten resorts by Ski Magazine, PCMR has 106 trails and 3,300 acres of groomed terrain. Adult lift tickets, $79 per day; parkcitymountain.com. Lifts open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., from November 16 to April 13. Check Web site for night-skiing information.
Although Park City lacks a guide outfit that will tour all the mountains, the individual resorts are masters of accommodation. For cruising fresh powder with an Olympian, we love the First Tracks program at The Canyons ($125 per person; 877-472-6306) and Deer Valley ($1,400 for up to eight; 800-424-3337). Call in advance to reserve a spot—only about a dozen are open per day—and meet former Olympians such as Heidi Voelker, the legendary Stein Eriksen, and Picaboo Street at 7 a.m. to get a tour of the peaks before the lifts open to the general public.