Adrenaline and après-ski — that perfect mix of thrill and chill — finds an ideal home in Park City, Utah. This harmony between adventure and serenity is what earns snowy Park City its bucket-list status as a place where everyone from Olympic athletes, families and leisure enthusiasts, to film buffs who flock in for the annual Sundance Film Festival, find their ultimate winter getaway. From extraordinary mountain views to the historically quaint downtown, this city is a must-visit destination in 2023.
Worried About Altitude?
It’s important to note, especially for non-athletes, that the elevation in Utah can change drastically. For travelers who land at Salt Lake City International Airport, the elevation is 4,200 feet and a less than one-hour drive to Park City drastically boosts the elevation number up to 7,000 feet. To avoid falling victim to altitude sickness, visitors are encouraged to rest up, take anti-sickness or headache medication when needed and stay alert about their health. Portable oxygen products can also provide a quick pick-me-up — try Boost Oxygen — a canister of 95% pure oxygen that can be administered when needed — or NanoFit Water — which “infuses Oxygen Nanobubbles that are so small, they hydrate the body on a cellular level.”
Where To Stay
One of the first hotels built into the side of the mountain in Park City, Westgate Park City Resort & Spa offers on-mountain access to snow sports and gear, a shuttle to and from town, multiple in-house restaurants, luxury spa services, an indoor/outdoor pool and recreation area, and stunning vistas from guest suites — all inside the spacious lodge-style hotel.
For some R&R after hitting the slopes (or in lieu of a day on the mountain), book a package at the in-house Serenity Spa. A calming pre-treatment relaxation room and after-treatment pool and waterfall bookend the blissful treatments, which include customized facials, pedicures, full-body massages and more.
Other Luxury Accommodations
Ideal for skiers, St. Regis Deer Valley allows winter athletes to ski in and out of the hotel via tourist-free slopes since the snowy runs are tucked back in the private Deer Crest community. And as for hotel amenities, it boasts “unparalleled views” of the surrounding mountain range; a split-level infinity pool; in-house restaurant; plus, it is pet friendly. Additionally, and across all Deer Valley resorts, they are committed to environmental sustainability, which includes “Investment in alternative energy and energy reduction; resort-wide recycling, composting and sustainable purchasing; participation in local, state and national sustainability efforts and advocacy; [and] education of staff and resort guests regarding the importance of sustainability.”
At Montage Deer Valley — also in the Deer Valley collection of hotels — guests can enjoy “unrivaled” ski in and out access; five in-house dining options; and the largest spa in Utah, Spa Montage Deer Valley. Spread across 29 treatment rooms, the spa welcomes guests to a number of services, including couples’, Thai and pre-natal massages, to list only a few of the many.
A part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, this “European-style chalet with modern mountain residences” is excellent for those who want the full resort experience. Newly-renovated and family-owned, Goldener Hirsch has called Silver Lake Village home for over 30 years, and is still going strong. Old world architecture meets all the modern luxuries — like, in-room massages and private yoga classes or the Austrian-influenced in-house restaurant. For Auberge Resorts Collection, developing a “social purpose that aims to enrich the lives of their local communities through education and learning” is critical. They establish a connection with each community and offer mentorships; fundraise for local nonprofits and scholarships; and volunteer “time and resources to uplift those in need.”
What To Do
For travelers who crave an adrenaline rush or just want to keep the blood pumping, Park City is a prime destination. Best known for their soft, powder-coated mountains and extensive access to winter sports, the city lives up to its status as a visitor favorite.
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Topping the must-do list is Park City’s premiere skiing and snowboarding scene, which includes 10 snow sport resorts within an hour-plus drive from the SLC International Airport. Here are a few of the area’s most popular recreational parks.
Whether you’re a veteran on the snowy trails or a first timer, you’d be hard pressed to find a resort more catered to the needs of skiers and boarders than Park City Mountain Resort. Since this corner of town is home to multiple hotels and resorts, PCMR shares its slice of the mountain with a plethora of tourists, and they have the accommodations to prove it. From the quaint ski gear shops staffed with experts at the base of the mountain to the community-style lodge and eatery at the top, all who hit the slopes here are sure to enjoy themselves — and that includes the scenic trek up the hill via gondola lift, where patrons might even catch a glimpse of local wildlife. Gear, classes and lodging can all be secured through PCMR, with group or individual lessons available for everyone of any age — a great place to kick-start a child’s love of winter sports.
At the intersection of indoor and outdoor play is Woodward Park City — a park that boasts pristinely powdered hills, the thrill of snow tubing and an indoor “action sports paradise.” The indoor park is equipped with a drop-in skate park; countless tracks and obstacles for trick skating or biking; a foam pit; adventure space for especially young kids and more. Did we mention, for the parents, that they have a bar, too?
Back outside you can get right to the skiing and boarding, or try your hand at snow tubing. With a bunny hill and regular lanes available, individuals or groups up to four can whizz down the frozen hill as fast or as leisurely as they like.
Moving away from the micro-focus on ski resorts and winter activities, tourists will find the charming downtown worth the trip as well. Aside from countless eateries and watering holes, the shops that line the picturesque streets of downtown Park City are pleasantly Norman Rockwell-esque, not to mention full of goodies. Woven into the lively streets are plenty of business fronts eager to help you assimilate to mountain life — fine leather and fur products; rare and unique home decor; multiple art galleries; novelty shops; and candy stores are among the most popular offerings. Not into shopping? You’ll still want to take in the town’s sense of whimsy, from its dolled-up moose statues to the one-of-a-kind Snow Globe Stroll, each designed with a winter-themed display and music, to the pastel-colored post office and cheerful locals.
Prime skiing and a charming community aren’t the only things bringing people to Park City in droves. The Sundance Film Festival, hosted by the Sundance Institute, first premiered in the Park City area in 1978 and this elite annual event continues to welcome A-list and up-and-coming filmmakers, actors and press from around the world. This year’s festival runs Jan. 19-29. See a full line-up of films — the majority of which can be viewed virtually — and featured guests at Sundance Film Festival.
Nosh and Sip Around Town
More to the credit of the term après-ski, if you venture to Main Street or into other pockets of the area, you’ll find a robust, enticing food and dining scene of over 150 restaurants. From home-style breakfasts and local distillery cocktails to envy-inducing dinners and desserts, guests are sure to find not just something they like, but something they’ll come back for.
- Lovers of a deliciously hearty breakfast needn’t look further than The Eating Establishment — a three-generation diner on Main Street, owned by Ty Burrell (Modern Family). They have all your hot griddle favorites, and some healthier options as well, in an environment that’s as friendly as you’d expect from this humble mountain town.
- Just outside of downtown Park City is Hearth and Hill — a family-owned restaurant with a surprisingly eclectic line-up of American and culture-specific cuisines, including a number of vegan options. Start with Shrimp Shumai or Truffle Mac and Cheese, or move on to the other fan-favorites like the Bison Burger or Mushroom Rueben.
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- If you’re looking to spend a sophisticated night out downtown, head to Riverhorse on Main. This second-floor dining space — considered Park City’s top-rated restaurant — allows guests to mingle, sip and nosh in the open-air space, which often features a live musician. Here, it’s the little details that matter, like their extensive wine and cocktail pairings; fresh-baked herb focaccia; seasonally-influenced courses and more. Advance reservations highly recommended.
- For a delicious marriage of contemporary and modern Mexican cuisine, try Dos Olas near Westgate Park City. Chef Seguro has incorporated family recipes into the menu, and the result is flavorful dishes, thirst-quenching cocktails and desserts that are as Instagrammable as they are decadent.
- Sure, you could get a butter-like steak or roasted vegetables a few places in Park City. But no other meal comes complete with the extensive courses featured at EDGE Steakhouse — an up-scale restaurant and dining experience located inside of Westgate Park City. The menu comes from the mind of Chef Wayne E. Christian, an award-winning chef who is to blame for the dastardly delicious creations coming out of the kitchen. Enjoy courses such as Butternut Squash Bisque, Spanish Octopus or the Japanese A5 Wagyu, and end on a sweet note with the Frozen S’more.
- Can’t decide between dessert or a night cap? At the New Orleans tradition-inspired Park City Social Aid & Pleasure Club, formerly Alpine Distilling, you don’t have to, thanks to their line-up of house-made spirits, exclusive cocktails and, the best part, a number of scratch-made pies that are served warm and delicious. Whiskey and gin are their claim to fame, but it doesn’t stop there, not with the addition of apple or pecan pie — and don’t forget to try it with a slice of sharp white cheddar cheese, a tasty and unique pairing to contrast the pie’s sweetness.
When the success and enjoyment of your destination is dependent on annual weather — or, in Utah’s case, guaranteed snowfall every year — it’s in everyone’s best interest to protect those resources for years to come.
To this end, Park City has some of the most robust future goals and environmental practices to date. This includes their mission “to be net-zero carbon and run on 100% renewable electricity for City operations by 2022, and for the whole community by 2030.” To meet this lofty but attainable goal, Park City has outlined their plan — including reducing waste and shopping local — which covers four major areas of focus:
- Energy Efficiency: Focusing on net-zero for new buildings, waste management and more.
- Electrification: Swapping fossil fuel powered vehicles with renewable electricity-based cars.
- Renewables: Ensure the grid is supplied with enough “renewable-generated electricity for Park City’s annual consumption.”
- Regeneration: “Regenerating natural ecosystems and enhancing carbon sequestration” so that the local community can survive and thrive.
Park City is ahead of the curve, not only in regards to sustainability practices, but when it comes to anticipating the needs of their highly valued visitors. Head over to the Visit Park City website to plan your visit.
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Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.