Park City

By Nicola Clayton

A Gem in Utah’s Crown.

Park City, Utah, a gem of a resort town in the Wasatch Mountains with a rich history, has mostly been recognized since the late 30’s for its stellar winter sports especially amongst die-hard skiers. However, as I soon discovered during Park City’s Tour of Utah – the top international cycling event after the Tour de France – their winter season is only part of the whole story.

In addition to the superb Park City Ski Mountain, the first snow park that changed to Dear Valley in 1981 boasted a small exclusive ski-only resort and soon became a must destination for ‘in the know’ Hollywood and the jet set crowd.

In that same year, Robert Redford who lived nearby chose Park City to host the annual star-studded Sundance Film Festival, giving the quaint town tremendous press and bringing it notoriety on the world stage.

By 2002, as host to the Winter Olympic Games, the destination was solidified as one of the top ski resorts in the world.Of course, to the seasoned adventure traveler, Park City is, and has been known as a booming year-round resort town. As Linda Jager, Communications Manager for Visit Park City noted, “Summer visitor numbers in Park City are now almost equal to that of the winter thanks to an abundance of outdoor activities, spas, award winning restaurants and a rich cultural scene.” Just a 30-minute drive from Salt Lake City’s International Airport, the easy commute makes it a pleasure for travelers who want to get to their destination as quickly and simply as possible.

Today, Park City has five star hotels, breathtaking views and a multitude of delicious culinary, recreational and spa offerings making a visit at any time of the year into a special retreat. These slices of heaven include the original Deer Valley Resort, home to the swanky Montage, the luxurious Stein Eriksen Lodge and the St. Regis Hotel with its time honored traditions of a signature Bloody Mary along with its impressive use of a Saber sword to open a bottle of champagne each evening; The Canyons Resort, host to the coveted Park City Farmer’s Market; and the Park City Mountain Resort, where the US ski team currently trains on the slalom course built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Of course, there are many places to stay ranging from modestly priced motels to private homes to these grand luxury resorts that could fit the budget of anyone who has the desire to experience what the area has to offer.

It is for precisely the rolling mountain terrain and high elevation that makes The Tour of Utah the first choice for professional cycling teams after the Tour de France. Billed as ‘America’s toughest stage race’ and organized under the regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI), the Tour of Utah draws UCI Pro Teams from around the world. Lasting seven days or “Stages” as they are called, covering 753.8 miles in total, the race starts in Cedar City and ends in Park City.

I had the pleasure of spending the exciting Stage 7 and final day of the race in Team SmartStop’s car for a bird’s eye view of the  race. Gord Fraser, Assistant Director for the team and a cyclist with an impressive cycling pedigree on the Canadian Olympic Team, was at the wheel of our fully electric BMW X1. Gord carefully followed the cyclists all the while doling out water bottles, food and encouragement and generously explaining to me the logistics of the race and the scientific calibration for optimum performance knowing how the athletes are fairing each day; ensuring their caloric intake and water intake fits their output and that their bikes are in fine working order. Team SmartStop did not disappoint and scored the second best prize in the race with Jure KocJan crossing the finish line wearing the White Points Jersey. The White Points Jersey is based on stage placing of points accrued every single day.

And, I too, was able to experience the cycling excitement of Park City on the same course as the pros. The day before on the 6th Stage of the race, I rode in a portion of “The Ultimate Challenge – a total distance of 117 miles. Now in its fifth year, the Ultimate Challenge is co-presented by the University of Utah Health Care and the Utah National Guard, and is considered one of North America’s most challenging non-competitive amateur cycling events. And, yes to the challenge – what a ride! Uphill for miles, at altitude and at times so challenging I had to stop and walk a bit. Christiaan Boer with Visit Park City kindly arranged for White Pine Touring Mountain Biking (who offer winter and summer sporting services) and Jan’s Mountain Outfitters to kit me out with a fast Specialized-brand bike. I felt like a pro. It was great fun, and a highlight of the trip, and my respect for the cyclists and their overall athleticism has gone sky high.

With all this exercise, our hosts made sure we were treated to amazing culinary and spa experiences to ensure our bodies were ready for the Ultimate Challenge. On Race day we were treated to Brunch at the J&G Grill, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten masterpiece, at The St. Regis Deer Valley one of the most luxurious hotels in Park City accessed by a funicular, affording stunning views of the landscape.

Over Brunch we learned that, according to St. Regis folklore, in 1934 (and yes, it’s the Bloody Mary’s 80th anniversary this Fall!) Fernand Petiot, the bartender at The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar, perfected the recipe for a vodka-and-tomato juice cocktail he dubbed the Bloody Mary. Deemed too racy a name, it was rechristened the Red Snapper but later changed back to its original namesake. To this day the Bloody Mary remains the signature cocktail of the St. Regis brand, with each hotel around the world crafting its own interpretation.

The St. Regis Deer Valley’s 7542 Mary – named for the elevation of the restaurant is impossibly delicious and we all agreed that this was arguably the best Bloody Mary any of us had ever tasted. This version contains premium vodka and homemade tomato juice in a glass rimmed with black lava salt and finished with a wasabi and celery espuma, a little cayenne and an individual dosage of Tabasco and spices to be administered according to taste.

Breakfast highlights included a delicious starter of homemade yogurt topped with local honey, fresh fruit and granola and a trio of freshly prepared carrot, grapefruit and orange juices. Our second course was a tasting plate of three of J&G’s most popular items.

The egg white frittata with zucchini and basil was light and perfectly flavored for a healthy breakfast. Eggs Benedict with niman ranch smoked ham was one of the finest eggs benedict we had ever tasted – the hollandaise sauce was rich yet light, and the local smoked ham topped off the dish with the right amount of salty contrast.

The highlight and favored dish by far, however, was the hearty niman ranch short rib hash sunny side up eggs. The short rib hash melted in our mouths and combined with the egg yolks made for a perfect start to a day of cycling, skiing or white water rafting. We stayed at the luxurious and modern Sky Lodge in the center of town (where General Manager Jim Mikula and his team treated us like royalty) and home to the Ayurvedic and Japanese inspired Amatsu Spa and Wellness Center offering world-class spa services. Treatments at the spa include an organic Hydra-Facial and specific Ayurvedic treatments including Abhyanga, a specialized massage from India that includes essential oils and two massage therapists. A couple’s treatment room is also available for side-by-side massage and Japanese ofuro tubs that are recommended to be taken before a massage.

Amatsu’s authentic wellness program is designed for visitors and for Park City residents who need a “stay-cation.” The spa also offers guests programs featuring juice cleansing, yoga, Reiki, acupuncture and customized menus. It truly is a one-stop re-boot paradise. If you go, it’s an easy flight into Salt Lake City a short drive to Park City and the summer weather in Park City is spectacular. Do remember you are at high altitude so more sunblock is needed and lots of water to keep you hydrated. The recommendation is 3 times what you normally drink in a day. Bring hiking boots, running shoes, bathing suits and any sport specific clothing you might need. A light cardigan or jacket is a wise idea for the evenings but the days are quite hot so dress in layers. I know I left a piece of my heart in Park City and I’m sure you will as well. It’s is truly a gem of a town to visit at any time of year.