The Greatest Snow on Earth™ is a good start, but can you party in Park City? We sent SnowAction’s resident 80’s remix, and seasoned veterans of a misspent youth in KitzbÜhel, Greg Sadil & Greg Cansdale, to put the Utah myth to the test
What better way to start the holiday than with a Buffalo Burger and fries, washed down by Cutthroat draught beer followed by a Jaegermeister chaser?
Fresh off a cyclonic tailwind assisted super fast V-Australia direct flight to LA (enjoying all the hospitality for which the Virgin crew are renowned), and a seamless connection to Salt Lake City, we arrived at 2.30pm Friday having left at 11am. But be warned about luggage fees being charged by American carriers, two pieces will cost you around USD$60 in addition to your fare.
A short 40min shuttle ride later we were at Park Plaza Hotel in Park City, settling into a massive 2-bedroom unit. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to anywhere you wish to go in the area. So to beat jet lag we decided to take a shuttle and head out on our mission immediately. It was about Friday afternoon happy hour time anyway.
Keen to find out more about Park City and Utah’s famed drinking laws we spent some time interrogating our voluptuous waitress Daria. In between more Jaegermeister and Tequila shots she tells us that Park City has over 70 shops, 30 art galleries and 50 restaurants and bars, most running along or parallel to Main Street.
Our first stop, a western style bar called No Name Saloon and Grill on historic Main Street, is a Park City icon and one where all the locals choose to drink.
Later in the evening we discover that closing time is at 1am throughout Utah State, and recognising that we are Aussies, we are politely advised that in Utah “God knows when you don’t tip”, 15-20% being the norm.
The next thing we know the alarm is waking us way too early. However, a sunny blue-sky day awaits so the hangovers can wait.
Park City has three unique resorts within minutes of town – Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and The Canyons. Deer Valley has been voted the number one ski resort in North America for the last three years running [to 2010*] so we decide to find out why.
After a short 5 minute free shuttle ride we arrive at the resort and are greeted by numerous mountain hosts willing to assist us. Following a quick breakfast at Snow Park restaurant we hook up with our mountain guide, Brandon, a volunteer, who is a pilot in his other life.
Cloudless azure blue skies, crisp mountain air and 75 of the most immaculately groomed slopes you can imagine await us. It is spring but still cold. We decide to follow the sun around the mountain to keep warm, let the snow soften and to make the most of Brandon’s local knowledge. Off we head into the unknown with a pilot who has his afterburners on. High speed, groomed runs, it’s a blast.
You’ve got to love spring skiing in this place. The sun is shining, the corduroy is amazing, the slopes uncrowded, the cold temperature ensures the snow condition doesn’t deteriorate. Not a T-bar or Poma in sight, just padded high speed lifts with footrests and safety bars. Snowboarders are not allowed. Deer Valley is only one of three resorts in the USA that doesn’t permit snowboarders. The Resort even offers you the opportunity to track your day’s skiing using GPS.
On-mountain dining is varied from Snow Shoe Tommy’s to the sumptuous Silver Lake lodge. A stop at Stein Erikson Lodge for an après drink on the ‘beach’ is a must for the views, and we don’t mean just the mountain views. Service is the focus of this resort and it delivers. Every day Deer Valley opens later and closes earlier than the other resorts in the area to maintain snow conditions at a premium. The Deer Valley experience is something else and something we will never forget. Unfortunately we never did see any deer.
Another night in Park City and we decide to try a couple of the local breweries starting at the Wasatch Brewery at the top of Main Street. The range of beers is impressive, with many being named after fish. There was one that stood out from the rest considering the neighbourhood. ‘Polygamy Porter’ is a dark flavoursome brew that we can recommend. After several testers we move to our next watering hole, the High West Distillery. Our ignorance was confirmed when we were told that no beer is brewed here. The High West Distillery is renowned for its Vodka, Whiskey and menu. The food here is fabulous and not expensive, the spirits superb. The next thing we know the alarm is waking us way too early, however, a sunny blue-sky day awaits us yet again.
We commence our day at Park City Mountain Resort with a ski tune up at ‘Ski’n’See’, some boot modifications at Sure Foot, and a chat with a mountain host who explains the different levels of grooming around the resort. It seems there are two levels of grooming: that completed before midnight and that commenced after the witching hour. Our mountain guide, Troy, advises his preference is to ski the later groomed slopes. A 15-year veteran ski patroller he knows the resort like the back of his hand. Troy explains that Park City was originally a silver mining town and that the area has evidence of past mining activities such as abandoned mines and sealed mineshafts visible around the resort. Off we go once again into the unknown, with a mountain guide who likes first tracks in the morning, skiing at high speed and who throws dynamite for a living.
With 3,300 acres of diverse terrain that includes steeps, glades and chute skiing, long wide groomed runs and abundant parks this resort truly has something to offer everyone irrespective of ability. The trees are gladed to provide greater accessibility and the parks and pipes are 4 of the best in the USA. Park City is the training ground for Shaun White, Tom Wallisch and Torah Bright.
We can only imagine how good this resort must be when its bowls are filled with powder. Tomorrow’s forecast threatens to deliver the trade mark white stuff so we may get a chance to find out.
We finish our skiing day with a run off Jupiter’s Peak to view Deer Valley across the ‘DMZ’, where two boundary ropes separate the resorts by a mere 15 metres, providing nothing but challenge to errant snowboarders willing to risk the $500 fine for venturing into forbidden terrain.
Back at the resort base we quench our thirst at the Corner Store, where there is live music, a sunny courtyard and cold beer.
After a sauna, spa and swim at the Park Plaza we take the advice of some locals and search out the best Mexican restaurant in town, ‘El Chubasco’ at Prospector Square, otherwise known as Chubby’s. It’s sensational. Shrimp Diablo with refried beans and guacamole awakens the senses and is easily extinguished with an ice-cold Corona. All this for just $10. No wonder it was full.
After dinner we head to Flanagan’s Irish Bar for a nightcap or three and discover that the temperature has dropped significantly and the chance of precipitation seems good.
Just 20 meters from our hotel we jump on a local bus for a short trip to our final adventure at The Canyons Resort, Utah’s single largest ski area. With 3700 acres of snow (and still growing), 167 runs, 18 lifts, 6 natural half pipes, 2 terrain parks and six inches of fresh snow on the mountain we are expecting a good day.
Our host for the day, Hannah, turns up to breakfast at Alpine House on crutches and explains she injured herself at St Patrick’s Day celebrations, which we found very impressive. Replacement host Libby has a sense of humour matched only by the speed at which she skis. At last we experience the famous TM Utah powder. Straight over to G-Force for some fresh tracks and then into The Pines off Saddleback Express and the backcountry off the top of Ninety-Nine 90 Express for even more delights. Sun shimmers on the snow dust as it floats off the trees, we lay fresh tracks through steep glades and there’s hardly another person around.
After a sumptuous lunch at Lookout Cabin, voted one of the 10 best on mountain dining experiences in the world, we went searching for moose that are known to inhabit the glades and canyons here, an excuse to ski as many runs as possible in this big resort.
The Park City area offers a wide variety of activities if you aren’t first lift/last lift die hards. Spa treatments including herbal wrap massages, shopping, heated pools, excellent dining and a plethora of bars to suit every taste. You can even book your child in for a snowcat ride with the grooming team while you and your wife go to dinner.
We feel it fitting to spend our last night at a local establishment known as the ‘Saloon Bar‘ for a feed of Baby Back Ribs and Jacket Potatoes big enough to challenge the most ravenous boarder. Finally we find our moose.
After dinner we venture back one last time to the ‘No Name Bar’ where our journey started to say goodbye, only to meet a group from Chicago who, believe it or not, recognise us from our Londoner days working in Austria. Oh well, we still have a myth to bust …
These three resorts have been a revelation, surpassing our expectations. With a strong dollar, amazing Utah snow, fabulous weather and hospitality, massive variety of terrain and same day access from OZ, it is hard to think of a better place to ski. March is renowned for its powder and spring in the Park City region rules. As for that no-party myth, we pronounce it seriously “BUSTED!”