Saturday, November 22, 2008

From Sundance to Olympic Dreams

Park City, Utah

OK, Lets just admit it, Park City is perfect.  

It has world class skiing in Winter and perfect dry, not-too-hot weather in summer. It is also a breeze to get to via a beautiful all weather freeway from the Salt Lake Airport. 

While I have enjoyed family winter breaks to ski in winter, I must admit I enjoy it most as a break from hot old Phoenix in the summer.

I really like renting mountain bikes and riding the abandoned railway corridor. Although the altitude can sure sneak up on you (my poor daughter found that out the hard way). Another option is to carry the bike up the mountain on a chair lift and then ride it down a cat track.  

In the fall, just before the snow descends, the aspen trees lining the mountains around the city just twinkle.

For the skier there is something for everyone.  From the family oriented ski hills: The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort, to the elegant snowboard free "skis only" runs at Deer Valley Resort where ticket sales are monitored to assure that there will never be any lift lines. Deer Valley valets take you your skis from car to mountain and will inform you if the condition of your favorite ski attire is inappropriate to the resort.

At the complete other end of the spectrum is Park City itself. This is a town where the Town Lift allows you to ski to and from the very foot of Main Street. In fact when the town lift starts each day the power in businesses on Main Street flickers. School children in Park City go straight from school to the lift. 

When you mention its role in the 2002 Olympics to a resident they turn very wistful. It was a life affirming and unforgettable event that they obviously took great pride in hosting.

As one would imagine, there are world class lodgings in each of the various ski venues and lots of condos for rent (as long as you don't try to come over a the Christmas/New Year holiday or during the Sundance Film Festival).

Park City started life as a mining town so Brigham Young advised his followers to avoid it. This has given Park City a different character from the rest of the state. It is still a work in progress. From the ski-in multi-million dollar estates emerging at Empire Pass at Deer Valley to the mixed use hotel, condo, retail, entertainment developments near Kimball Junction. So far development has not gotten as tacky the way many Colorado ski areas have gone. So I have high hopes that it will remain livable and beautiful.

As for favorites. For a hotel, the best is the Stein Erickson Lodge. Its huge comfortable rooms offer views, fireplaces and big soaking tubs. While the lodge is starting to show the signs of its age, the staff here is first rate. Its rates are as breathtaking as its altitude in winter and it is a complete bargain in the off season.  Its layout makes it feel intimate. 

The Hotel Park City is also first rate. It lacks the mountain hugging location of Stein Erickson but has direct access to golf in summer. 

The incredible new kid on the block will soon be the amazing new Saint Regis presently under construction in Deer Valley. This hotel will actually be two large european style chalet style hotels connected by an elaborate funicular railway.  

For families their are two very nice ski-in Marriott timeshare / hotel properties in Park City itself. I have stayed in both and appreciate their abundant features, but I find the rooms in both suffer from really poor sound isolation. The lock-out feature for the timeshare function means you get to hear EVERY noise created in the adjoining unit.  The full service Marriott hotel itself is pretty tired. 

At The Canyons the Miners Club is the by far best place to stay. It has its own lift and offers huge, ranch elegance, condo units. The Grand Summit Hotel is a big timeshare resort and is way overrated and way overpriced. The Sundial Lodge is a bit more modest, but actually much more family friendly.

Restaurants change with the seasons.  Most all of the restaurants on Main Street will empty your wallet and leave you feeling ripped off.  They are trendy, over priced and marginal. The exception is the Wasatch Brewery that serves fairly priced, hearty food and great beer. Yes they do sell Polygamy Porter..........

I really like the Windy Ridge Cafe. Don't let its industrial park locale put you off. The Mexican food at El Chubasco is first rate. It is in a strip mall not far from Windy Ridge. The best restaurant in Park City is probably the Middle Eastern fare at Reefs Kitchen. A small family run cafe where everything on the menu is an adventure that tastes wonderful.  Frankly, when we get to the end of our rope in Another option is to just graze the Whole Foods Market deli in Kimball Junction. 

When I win the lotto I will buy a house here.

Roadboys Travels © 2008

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