Mention Utah and vast stretches of desert and national parks spring to mind – and perhaps the Mormon Church. Skiing might not be top of the list, but it should be. The state is home to the largest winter resort in the country, Park City, with three distinct base areas and world-class ski facilities thanks to a US$50 million infrastructural investment in 2015. It’s America’s most accessible major ski town, with the resort a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City airport, an international hub that is rarely affected by weather.
Park City began its life as a wild silver mining town. Remnants of that history are scattered across the snowfields, contributing to the charm of Main Street, where heritage buildings now house upscale restaurants delis and fashion boutiques. There are more than 300 trails, eight terrain parks, 14 bowls and 41 lifts across almost 3000 skiable hectares with a good mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain. But if time on the snow here is part of a bigger American adventure, you can still enjoy the resort’s best runs and après offerings in as little as two days.
Check in to Main & SKY, Park City’s only hotel on historic Main Street. The 33 luxury suites are individual in design, and most come with fully equipped kitchens, gas fires and hot tubs set on patios overlooking the resort town.
It’s an easy walk from here to restaurants and bars, as well as the Town Lift to transport you up the mountain in the morning. Be sure to book a massage in the basement spa – after a full day of skiing, it’s absolute bliss. skyparkcity.com
Ease into Park City’s nightlife with a pre-dinner drink at No Name Saloon & Grill on Main Street. The bar’s three lounge areas and heated outdoor deck are perennially packed, with live music and eclectic décor, adding to the fun vibe. For something more refined, Fletcher’s is all about craft cocktails and local wine. Head to the downstairs lounge where you can sink into leather sofas and sip Winter Martinis by the open fire. nonamesaloon.net, fletcherspc.com
A minute’s walk down Main Street is Zoom, a split-level dining room opened by Robert Redford. Occupying the 1886 Union Pacific Railroad station, the restaurant is a celebration of hearty American cuisine – think truffle mac and cheese, buffalo ribeye with a loaded baked potato, and a wagyu burger with fries and slaw. The chocolate pot de crème with toasted banana bread and Chantilly cream is well worth the extra hour you’ll need on the slopes to justify the calories. zoomparkcity.com
One of the best places in town to start your day is Campos Coffee, the first international incarnation of the Sydney café chain. Superb coffee made from ethically sourced beans is the perfect partner to smashed avocado on sourdough or an acai bowl with fresh berries and house-made granola. And, yes, the menu does have Vegemite on toast. The café is at the base of the mountain and just steps from the Town Lift, a long slow chair that runs right from lower Main Street. us.camposcoffee.com
Pick up your rental equipment from Legacy Lodge, opposite Campos Coffee – you can order online (rentskis.com) before you visit. Park City offers free guided group mountain tours daily, on both sides of the resort to help familiarise you with the runs and lifts. Book one that departs from the Park City Mountain Resort (10am or 1pm), as it not only gives you your bearings but also offers invaluable insights into the region’s mining history.
The newest restaurant on the mountain is Miners Camp, a huge, light-filled dining room at the base of the Quicksilver Gondola. Soak up the sun overlooking fields of pine while fortifying yourself with homemade soups and chilli or bulging sandwiches. If you happen to be at the base of the mountain for lunch, try Legends Bar & Grill. Legends has a full service menu as well as alfresco dining for when the weather is fine.
Connecting Park City with Canyons is the new Quicksilver Gondola, a high-speed lift that runs in both directions and takes just over eight minutes from end to end, with a mid-station atop the ridge. If you do jump off in the middle, be prepared for expert-only trails leading down to the gondola’s base in Canyons. When you get here, there are runs suitable for all levels of expertise, from beginners to advanced. Beautifully scenic, the Canyons side of the mountain has trails that run through forest, under bridges and past mansions owned by many of the fir-trimmed celebrities that flock to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival.
The world’s only ski-in, ski-out distillery and Utah’s first since Prohibition, High West Distillery & Saloon is the ultimate place to warm up after a day on the snow. A trail runs right down under the Town Lift straight to the saloon, which gets high marks for its small-batch whiskeys and vodkas as well as its menu of nouveau cowboy fare such as three-bean and poblano chilli. If you’re here for brunch, don’t miss the whiskey-soaked French toast. highwest.com
You get to the Viking Yurt in an open-air sleigh, which pulls you through the snow, with incredible night sky and forest views, to this unique on-mountain restaurant. Inside the candle-lit, fir-lined tent, diners pull up benches at long wooden tables, ready to sample a Nordic-inspired meal of glogg (a warm drink of berry and spice) as well as braised short ribs and local cheeses served on an Aspen tree slab. vikingyurt.com
Another Australian import, Five5Seeds is as popular for its imported Antipodean coffee as it is for warming breakfast dishes such as shakshuka (baked eggs topped with goat’s curd and aromatic dukkah), and oatmeal loaded with cinnamon and fruit. Nearby is fellow Australian café Harvest, where homesick travellers can tuck in to orders of Vegemite on toast and baked beans topped with poached eggs. There are Asian-inspired flavours as well, including the delicious Buddha bowl of goodness with brown rice, pumpkin puree, roasted tomato and fermented cabbage in a miso ginger dressing. five5eeds.com, harvestparkcity.com
Built for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the vertiginous Utah Olympic Park remains an active training centre for Olympic-class skiers, and chances are you’ll see someone barrelling down the K120 Nordic ski jump when you visit. You can also sign up for intermediate ski clinics here, or try the Comet Bobsled – the 1.6-kilometre track will see you hurtling along at almost 130km/hr. About half the pace is Park City Mountain Resort’s Alpine Coaster, with its elevated track looping through more than a kilometre of snow and forest. olyparks.com, parkcitymountain.com
It’s worth visiting the Canyons side of the resort for at least one meal at The Farm, regularly rated as one of Utah’s best restaurants. Everything on the menu here is fresh, seasonal, prepared from scratch, and sustainably raised and sourced. parkcitymountain.com
A 20-minute drive from Park City, Blue Sky Ranch’s 40 luxurious suites are located on 1400 hectares of postcard-perfect wilderness. Even if you don’t check in you can make the most of the ranch’s numerous diversions, from snowshoeing to fireside yoga in a Norwegian yurt. The property is also home to the distillery for High West, where you can learn how some of the world’s most storied beverages are made from rye, wheat, oat and malt, in massive copper stills imported from Scotland. blueskyutah.com