Your winter wardrobe and ski gear might still be in storage — after all, it’s only October — but now is the perfect time to fit in one last snow-free visit to Utah’s mountain paradise of Park City before the flakes start falling and Hollywood types begin flocking there for that certain festival which shall not be named.
In fact, when there’s no snow on the ground, there are plenty of great nature activities to enjoy for all fitness levels, and lots of luxurious excursions to take. So grab a seat on the next flight and prepare for a fall getaway in Park City.
Getting there is simpler than ever. Salt Lake City is a major Delta hub with plenty of daily flights from cities all over the U.S. (and it’s just an hour flight from the West Coast). Though much higher in elevation, Park City is just a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake along a well paved and perfectly maintained highway.
Once you’re there, settle into the tony Sky Lodge, right in the heart of town. It’s a great situation in winter because you’re in the middle of the action, and just steps away from a chairlift up the mountain to the skiing trails outside town. In summer and fall, you’ll still want to be in the center of town so you have access to all the great little boutiques and restaurants, as well as nearby activities.
Before you take advantage of those, though, settle into your spacious room at the Sky Lodge, a boutique 33-suite property. Though it’s a full-service luxury hotel, all the urban loft-like rooms include touches that cater to more independent travelers as well, such as full-size kitchens where you can have a private meal catered (and a huge refrigerator to store all that champagne, as well as a dual-zone wine fridge), a separate sitting room with a gas fireplace, flat-screen television with Bose sound system, and even a separate dining area. Our one-bedroom suite had a balcony deck running the full length of the suite with an outdoor hot tub.
In the bedroom, meanwhile, you’ll find a king-size bed, another flat-screen and fireplace. In addition, the bathroom is stocked with Aveda products, whose signature feature is a center-of-the-room bathtub with a spigot that sends a stream of water cascading from the ceiling, just like having a waterfall at your command.
On the ground floor of the hotel, you’ll find the Japanese-inspired Amatsu Spa, with small pathways bisecting a Zen sand garden. All spa guests are invited to come early before their treatments to pick out the scented oils that will be used and to soak in one of the traditional wooden ofuro baths.
All that relaxing works up an appetite, so head to the hotel’s Easy Street restaurant for French-style cuisine including an incredibly rich French onion soup, a gorgeous seafood platter stocked with the bounty of the sea, and main courses like seared Utah trout with flash-fried tomato and corn salsa, jumbo lump crab and seared polenta. Then maybe you’ll have time for one last nightcap at the hotel’s happening Sky Blue lounge on the top floor.
Out in Nature
Once you’re acclimated to the high altitude, it’s time to take on some more strenuous activities. The resort can arrange a morning or afternoon of mountain biking in nearby Deer Valley, which is home to luxury resorts like the Montage Deer Valley, Stein Eriksen Lodge and the St. Regis Deer Valley.
Another great way to spend a day out in the woods is to head 45 minutes deeper into the countryside into the Uintas range, where you can hire a horseback-riding tour at Stillman Ranch (you might recognize the scenery because the Disney film Grizzly Adams was partially shot here). As you ride among the trees and meadows with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, the cowboy guides will regale you with stories of the area’s history, along with plenty of tips and tricks to keep your mount in line. When you reach a special clearing, they’ll set up a picnic lunch to enjoy at your leisure alongside a babbling brook, then it’s a quick ride back down the mountain (the back route!) and off to the next adventure.
Definitely plan to spend an afternoon zipping down the mountainside at the Park City Mountain Resort, just a five-minute drive from town. When the weather’s fine, you can take the chairlifts up the mountain, then race down them in plastic luges along the infamous Alpine Slide; or get in line to experience the pulse-pounding speed of the Zip Line. The other popular ride is the Alpine Coaster, where you rush down a pre-set track in your own personal bumper car, taking the turns as fast as you like (judge your fellow riders’ velocities from the pitch of their screams).
Time for a Stiff Drink
Once you’ve caught your breath, head back to town for a tasting at the cozy, saloon-like High West whiskey distillery. You can see the huge copper still that they use to make their distinctive spirits and sample the full line along with notes and commentary (if you ask for it) from one of the friendly bar staff.
For dinner tonight, go a little more southwest with gourmet Mexican dishes at Chimayo, like the honey and chile-roasted duck enchiladas with red peppers and grilled onions in a green chile-tomatillo sauce. Or try the rustic-chic Zoom housed in a former Union Pacific Depot just down Main Street from the Sky Lodge, where you’ll find menu specialties like baby back pork ribs with cornbread, and poppy seed cole slaw.
The air is fresh, the sky is clear, the eating is good and the mountains of Park City beckon for one last autumn adventure, so get there before the snow arrives!