Artsy, eclectic, a downright fun little ski town – that, my friends, is Park City. Framed by the craggy Wasatch Mountain range and bordered by the Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resorts, it’s a mere 35 minute drive from the Salt Lake City Airport. The town is home to many world-class art galleries, a lively restaurant and bar scene, unique boutiques, and, on historic Main Street, the wonderfully quirky Park City Museum where one can learn about the past – silver, saloons, and snow. It has the buzz of a big city with a small town vibe. Perfect!
I visited Park City in the fall, and though it is the area’s shortest season, it is surely most colorful, an ideal time to experience nature’s paintbrush at play. A cascade of colors enfolded the canyon maple, aspen, hawthorn and more. Because the forests are located at different elevations, they receive varying amounts of rainfall and this, in turn, creates a multitude of peak viewing times. But, winter, spring, summer or fall, for sure Park City has it all.
I was gearing up for the Aloft Hot Air Balloon Festival, psyching myself into getting in that little basket and going up, up and away (and hoping fervently to return!). Because hot air ballooning is weather dependant, and because this particular day had a pretty strong, gusty wind, I needn’t have worried as I was going nowhere. The decision was wisely made by the powers that be that it was unsafe to launch so instead we had the chance to mingle among the colorful, albeit flat balloons and chat with the pilots. They were glad to explain what they do and to give us a better understanding of how a hot air balloon works. Ok, so we were not aloft, but spending time with the balloonists was… elevating.
Help! Houdini I’m not!
Not even close. Another adventure, this one Escape Room Park City. For those unfamiliar with the Escape Rooms concept now so popular across the country, here it is in a nutshell: a group is put into a room (the theme of this one was “Mine Trap,” fitting for Park City’s silver mining past.). The door is locked and you have 60 minutes to figure out how to escape from a mine tunnel collapse. One is challenged to think outside the box (or outside the room, if you will), work through puzzles and solve clues. Teamwork and communication with one another is essential and, discussing this later with the event manager, he confided that this “mining room” was rated as the most difficult of the many themes offered. Thanks. It was not, repeat not, a piece of cake, and we had to be given an extra 10 minutes to finally find the way to freedom. A different kind of fun, and, yay, we met the challenge.
During my stay, more enticing experiences awaited: an engaging hike (Park City boasts more than 400 miles of trails). Our scenic encounter with Mountain Aspens and postcard-worthy views of creeks and meadows was a super way to spend an afternoon, made all the more pleasurable as we donned new Altra hiking shoes for the trail.
A Gentleman of Distinction
Stein Eriksen was an Alpine ski racer and Olympic Gold Medalist from Norway. He won the Gold Medal in the giant slalom at the 1952 Winter Olympics held in Oslo and also won three gold medals at the 1954 World Championships in Are, Sweden. Among his many accomplishments, Eriksen served as a ski instructor at many different ski schools; at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont, he would combine his gymnast background and skiing to demonstrate a flip on skis. It’s said that Eriksen was skiing’s “first superstar,” since he was handsome, stylish and charismatic. Despite his fame, he maintained a very down-to-earth personality and is quoted as saying “Be tough, be confident. But you will never be a whole and happy person if you aren’t humble.”At his famed Stein Eriksen Lodge wine cellar, what fun it was to cruise through a maze of underground rooms containing more than 10,000 bottles with a value over $1M and experience an elegant wine tasting. Then, on to dinner at the Lodge’s Forbes Five Star Glitretind Restaurant - an enchanting end to a very fine day.
Continuing to imbibe the next evening (oh dear), there was the Gin Experience at Alpine Distillery. This micro-distilling facility is located downstairs in the historic Mercantile Building on Main Street. Not knowing what to expect, the Gin Experience essentially involved choosing specific botanicals for a personal gin creation. Having a hand in crafting firewater – that’s a rather distinctive privilege. I, whose drink of choice was never gin, found that what I had concocted that night was imminently enjoyable.
My Park City stay was enhanced by the Westgate Park City Resort & Spa. The property has been awarded the “Best of State” honor in seven categories including “Best Ski Resort.” The Edge Steakhouse, with its hearty fare, was a happy experience; happier still, my memorable massage at the hotel’s Serenity Spa This mountain retreat day spa has fourteen treatment rooms and a waterfall! Immersing oneself under falling water will wash cares away – promise
From Silver Mines to Gold Medals
A bandana on a stick marked the discovery of silver in Park City by prospecting soldiers in 1868, fueling a boomtown economy that thrived for nearly a century. From those rowdy beginnings, mining gave way to burgeoning ski resorts in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the arts became the town’s other defining feature. Bodacious boutiques and artsy stuff sprang up as well as seriously good restaurants and a string of spirited watering holes. In today’s Park City, the riches lie above ground and the prospects are looking good!
If You Go:
Park City www.visitparkcitycom