Though we travel quite a bit, my husband’s favorite trip each year is his annual winter ski trip out west. Each year he tries to go somewhere new or some place where he has not been for a long time. This year, he chose skiing Park City during the Sundance Film Festival.
My initial instinct was that skiing during Sundance was not a good idea as I expected it to be very crowded. After all, over 100,000 people descend on Park City, UT over the course of the two week film festival. I figured that they would also want to go skiing.
It turns out my assumptions were wrong, and we learned that skiing Park City during the Sundance Film Festival is actually one of the best times to go because all the visitors are watching movies and not many are on the slopes.
We flew into Salt Lake City on Saturday and planned to stay for three full days, and then head back home on Wednesday. This was our first time visiting and skiing in the Park City area.
I should clarify – my husband does the skiing (I no longer ski), and I do après skiing. I think I have the better end of the deal – no painful boots, no cold bum sitting on the chair lifts and no falling and trying to get up on slippery skis. But I still get to enjoy the hot chocolate or the hot buttered rums at the end of the day in front of a hot fire.
During his three days of skiing across all the mountains covered by the Park City lift pass, my husband said it was remarkably uncrowded, even on Sunday or in the afternoons when it is a little warmer and usually gets busier. He never had to wait in line for a lift; in fact, the lifts I saw at the base seemed quite empty.
Skiing Conditions at Park City
It did not snow while we were there, but the mountain had developed a good 60-75 inch snow base by then end of January. The runs were groomed every night so that in the morning my husband said he was able to get first tracks on quite a few of the runs. (Apparently, getting on the mountain first is a competitive sport, and by getting first tracks you win).
The Park City lift pass covers three large mountain areas all of which are interconnected by lifts or gondolas. Note that you need a different lift pass for the Deer Valley Resort next door, which appears to be connected to Park City but is not. Also, there is a fee to just use the lift for sightseeing, so unfortunately, no free joy rides to the top to take in the views or meet up for lunch.
Where To Stay in Park City
As usual, I booked through Hotels.com (I like their book 10 nights and get a free night policy). Our primary criteria were at least a one bedroom condo within easy walking distance to the lifts. We settled on the Shadow Ridge Resort Hotel which was across the street from the Park City Mountain Resort (you will be paying for the prime location here). While the condo was not ski in-ski out, it was the next best thing – it was only about a five minute easy uphill walk to access five different lifts.
Our one bedroom condo was more than adequate for the two of us. While not luxurious, it appeared to have been updated recently. The kitchen had all that we needed for the short time we were there. One nice feature was the two full bathrooms. Of course we did not each need our own bathroom, but it was a pleasant little extra.
The only disappointment was the wood burning fireplace. We like having a wood burning fireplace at home, but at the condo it was a hassle having to buy and carry wood, kindling and matches in order to have a fire. In this case, a gas fireplace would have been much more convenient.
Where to Eat in Park City
We ate mostly in the Park City Mountain Resort area. We did walk into the center of town one night and quickly decided we would not do that again. The town was extremely crowded with all the Sundance Film Festival goers.
The Hungry Miner Donuts and Dogs
This is not your typical donut shop. You get to build your own personalized combination of flavors by choosing the glaze, the toppings and then a final drizzle. The toppings range from the typical sprinkles and cinnamon to M&Ms or bacon. Of course, there is nothing that says you can’t put on some of the hot dog toppings like jalapenos or sauerkraut.
Mojos is at the base of the lifts in Park City Mountain Resort and was a good place for my husband and I to meet up for lunch. For a small fast food type of restaurant, the choices were quite broad and the food was surprisingly good. The chili with jalapeno cheese bread was particularly warming on the cold day.
Legends Bar and Grill
We had dinner here on our first night. Legends describes itself as a gastro-pub. The servings were huge, the food was quite good and my husband enjoyed the micro-brew selections,
Butcher’s Chop House
We walked into the center of town one night for dinner but had not made any reservations. With the town full of Sundance Film Festival goers, the restaurants and bars were packed. We were fortunate to be able to get a table in the lower level bar area of Butcher’s Chop House. This steak house offers the expected variety of meat cuts and seafood. Considering how packed the place was, the service was quite efficient and the steak and chicken dishes we got were tasty.
The Viking Yurt
The culinary highlight was our evening at the Viking Yurt. This was not just a dinner, but a four hour evening experience. A sled pulled by a snow cat took us 1800 feet up the mountain to a real yurt. There, we enjoyed a six course Norwegian inspired dinner. The most interesting course was the sorbet palate cleanser that was served in a hollowed out rock brought over from Norway. The food was delicious, the service was extremely attentive, and the evening was one of the most unique and memorable dining experiences I have ever had.
Each evening’s dinner on only seats 40 guests, so we were very fortunate to be able to get last minute reservations. I suggest booking way in advance if you want to do this experience.
What We Liked
- One of the things that we really liked about going to Park City was its proximity to the Salt Lake City airport. We reached our condo from the airport in less than 45 minutes, even during rush hour.
- My husband appreciated being able to easily walk to the ski lifts from the condo in his ski boots, especially at the end of the day when he was tired.
- As the one skiing, my husband really enjoyed skiing Park City. He felt he had a lot of options and variety because the site was so large. He also really liked how uncrowded the mountains were and that he did not have to wait in any lift lines.
What We Would Do Different
- Unfortunately, the time savings of not having to drive very far to the airport was more than made up for by the fact that we did not have a direct flight from Philadelphia on American Airlines. Our flight connected through Dallas which was an issue on the way back home. The flight from Salt Lake City to Dallas left an hour and a half late which meant we missed our connecting flight home. We were not able to get booked on another flight till very late at night which turned our trip home into an unnecessary 22 hour day. Next time, we’ll consider giving up getting frequent flyer points and the minimal benefits of having status with American, and take a non stop flight with whatever airline has one available.
- Purchase lift tickets online before we got there – they would have been slightly less expensive (we forgot).
- Pick up groceries on the way out of Salt Lake City. The few things we bought (eggs, milk, cheese, butter and bread) were obscenely expensive at the little market in the Park City Mountain Village.
- Make dinner reservations in town before we left. The restaurants were packed with all the Sundance film goers and getting a walk-in table was a challenge.
- Book accommodations much earlier than October so that we have a better selection for the (slightly) less expensive options near the mountain.
- Could probably get away with not renting a car and just getting a shuttle to and from the airport if we are only planning activities in the Park City area. It was an easy walk into the center of town from our condo. I would not recommend driving into town-the streets were packed with traffic and film festival goers.
- Also, it would have been nice to be able to stay longer than just three days.
Overall, we both enjoyed the trip to Park City very much. For my husband, it became one of his top three favorite skiing destinations in North America (along with Whistler and Beaver Creek). For me, I enjoyed visiting and discovering a new location. We’ll definitely be going back.
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