Greatest Snow on Earth: Park City, Utah

By Marla Horn Lazarus

“There is just as much magic off the mountain as there is on.”

Can one town really have it all? Two world-class resorts, Park City Mountain and Deer Valley, award-winning dining and a vibrant nightlife, all within one historic silver mining mountain town. Filled with laid-back charm that makes you feel at home, any ski town would be fortunate to be the home of two mountain resorts within its limits, but Park City isn’t just any town and the two mountain resorts aren’t just any resorts. Park City Mountain is distinct for having the largest ski terrain in the United States and Deer Valley is consistently rated at the very top of the rankings in the USA for its 5 star service, landscape and culinary excellence, to name just a few.

From mining silver to mining snow, Park City is steeped in rich colorful history and was put on the world map as it hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, home of the last games on U.S. soil. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world filled the town during those 17 days to watch the world’s best athletes compete for Olympic gold; yet more than 130 years ago, a rush of people flocked to Park City seeking a different precious metal…silver. The mountains’ abundant silver veins attracted adventurers from around the world in the late 1860s. During its mining height, those mountains surrounding Park City yielded $400 million in silver and created 23 millionaires, including the father of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. However, with mineral prices falling in the 1930s, the boom years ended and residents began “mining” the treasure on the mountains, discovering what would later be termed The Greatest Snow on Earth®. Today, Park City is a unique blend of the old and new. Sixty-four of Park City’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which are located along Historic Main Street, and more than 1,200 miles of tunnels wind through the surrounding mountains, remnants of the mining era.

Park City, home to two world-class ski resorts, is filled with famously light Utah powder. Now, are you getting excited? Park City Mountain Resort, the largest resort in the United States, is located in the heart of Park City, only a 35-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport and steps from Park City’s historic Main Street. Park City Mountain bustles with activities year-round with two distinct base areas, thrilling family adventures, a world-class ski and snowboard school and an abundance of restaurants. In the summer of 2015, Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort combined to create the largest single ski and snowboard resort in the United States. With 7,300 acres, over 300 trails, 41 lifts, 8 terrain parks, one super pipe and one mini pipe, Park City Mountain offers endless adventures for every level of skier or snowboarder to enjoy. Coming from South Florida, we are not skiers and just the sound of this intimated us just a little. As we are always up for new and exciting adventures, off we went for an exhilarating experience.

We decided to escape and make our first stop at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Park City. From the breathtaking beauty of the Wasatch Mountains to the extraordinary heritage of a luxury resort, The Waldorf Astoria offered an unparalleled experience. Along with our own fireplace, we were treated to wonderful personalized service and attention to detail that they are known for and never disappoint. We were off to great start…

Dividing up our time between Park City and Deer Valley we began with 401 runs on 9,326 skiable acres to explore. Experiencing the exhilaration of snowmobiling with a guided tour at Summit Meadows in Deer Valley was spectacular. Located on the beautiful Garff Ranch Scenic views of the Wasatch Mountains made this an unbelievable adventure, not to be missed. Deciding where to go for dinner is definitely not a problem with the extensive list of outstanding restaurants. Naturally we wanted to try as many places as possible, so for our 1st night we enjoyed The Mariposa at the Silver Lake Lodge, Deer Valley Resort, rated #1 for food and service in Utah by Zagat. With an intimate setting and crackling fireplaces, our mood was set for a romantic evening. Along with outstanding service and savoring a variety of dishes, we explored the world of flavors from their small plates menu and delighted in every bite. With an early start the next morning, we were up and out for our private ski lessons at Snow Park Lodge in Deer Valley. Our instructor, Michelle, was fantastic and very patient with us. By the end of the session we became more confident in the beautiful powder snow and worked up an appetite for the Royal Street Café at Silver Lake Village. Riding the ski lift, we were in awe of the pure magnificence of the mountains (and it was getting colder by the minute). In a contemporary lodge setting, we indulged in wonderfully creative American and international cuisine. Warming up by our fireplace, we relaxed and decide to take a trip to the European Alps at Fireside Dining, located near the top of the mountain in Empire Canyon Lodge. Featuring delicacies served from stone fireplaces, we thoroughly enjoyed, my favorite, warm Swiss raclette cheese, along with traditional accompaniments and dessert fondues. You can also take a horse-drawn sleigh ride or an adventurous trek before dinner on snowshoes. As the snow began to fall, we felt as though we were in a snow globe as the magic of the surrounding mountains drew us in.

Our private ski lesson just wasn’t enough, so we decided to sign up at Park City Mountain in Canyons Village for another one. A gondola trip took us to the summit showcasing the expansive majestic mountain. There was so much to learn that extended well beyond the basics and our privately guided ski experience allowed us to reach new heights on the slopes and we had another perfect day.

We decided to take a break from the outdoor adventures as a flurry of shopping opportunities were waiting on the vibrant and meticulously nostalgic, historic Main Street. With old world charm, this is the centerpiece of town lined with quaint shops and galleries showcasing their great local flavor. You can find everything from handmade furniture, books and sportswear to art collectibles and Western antiques. As the center of commerce for Park City, Main Street, 150 years young and it’s still providing ambiance for good time and memories for everyone that sets foot there. Being in a town with a taste for award winning dining, we came across flavors both familiar and intriguing offering a diverse range of dining establishments. After hearing a lot about Riverhorse On Main, we couldn’t wait for dinner. Known as a true culinary gem and one of the oldest and most distinguished restaurants we made sure to try a Riverhorse classic, the yummy macadamia nut crusted Alaskan halibut. After a busy and adventurous trip, we refreshed our mind, body and spirit with a much needed relaxing couples massage at the Waldorf Astoria spa.

Park City’s adventures off of the mountains are endless amid the slopes, shops, and mountain landscapes; you are sure to find your own personal sanctuary. The internationally celebrated mountains also offer unparalleled snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. Aiming even higher? Hop in a hot air balloon for an exhilarating bird’s-eye view of Park City’s panorama. Prefer to slow things down? Take a tour of Park City’s Historic District or a cozy ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. Or do you want to try something new? How about extreme tubing or snow biking? Is your head spinning now and you can’t decide what to do? You can also visit the Utah Olympic Park and experience Utah’s Olympic legacy! Explore the George Eccles 2002 Olympic Games Museum and interactive Alf Engen Ski Museum to learn about the history of skiing in Utah, and to relive the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games. As a year-round U.S. Olympic training site, active with athletes training for Nordic Ski Jumping, Freestyle Skiing, Bobsled, Skeleton, and Luge, take the ride of a lifetime on the Winter Comet Bobsled and experience what it is like to go down the Olympic track.

All in all, Park City feels like a Colorado ski town dropped into Utah’s 12,000-foot Wasatch Range, with one significant difference, it has a major city, Salt Lake, and an international airport 30 minutes away. When the weather is warmer, there’s climbing, hiking, and camping in 500,000 acres of wilderness in the nearby Uinta Mountains, 370-plus miles of trails and a blue-ribbon trout stream (the Provo River). However, Summer is a hidden secret and with nearly 500 miles of trails, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has given Park City accolades for its top-notch mountain biking, which is accessible from downtown. The diverse terrain includes everything from high desert to aspen groves and dense pine forests. It’s not uncommon to see fox, moose, wild turkeys and grouse wandering throughout the town. Feeling the need to chill? Park City is the summer home of the Utah Symphony and the outdoor concerts at Snow Park Amphitheater bring headliners from the worlds of opera, broadway, country music and rock. Past concerts have included Elvis CostelloLeAnn RimesGladys KnightFrederica von StadeJewelTony BennettBen Folds, the Mormon Tabernacle ChoirPink MartiniRandy TravisIdina MenzelKansas, and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Park City truly is an all-year destination now and on the map for all seasons. After an amazing trip, we are already planning another visit back, possibly when the leaves change color and the weather is a little warmer.