For decades, busy North Texans seeking a quick alpine getaway have favored popular Colorado spots like Aspen, Vail, Telluride, or Crested Butte. These days, though, more and more locals are discovering Park City, Utah, an upscale, historic silver-mining town that’s just 35 minutes southeast of Salt Lake City International Airport.
Located at an elevation of 7,000 feet in Utah’s Wasatch mountain range, Park City is easily accessible from Dallas, with the flight to Salt Lake from DFW Airport taking just two-and-a-half hours. “My wife said, ‘I’m not going to spend 14 hours in a car driving to Crested Butte!’ ” recalls Wichita Falls business owner Mark Prothro, a longtime Park City fan and the son of Vin Prothro, the late CEO of Dallas Semiconductor.
Prothro says he “got sold on” Park City in the mid-1980s, when he discovered the Deer Valley resort there. Rated North America’s top ski resort five recent years in a row by SKI magazine, Deer Valley is one of three world-class ski resorts in the Utah town, and the most luxurious. The other two ain’t too shabby, either. Canyons Resort, the largest offering skiing and snowboarding in Utah, also boasts North America’s only covered, heated chairlift (called the “Orange Bubble”). And Park City Mountain Resort offers 19 lifts, 3,300 skiable acres, and an outstanding ski-instruction programs for kids aged 3-½ to 14.
Park City has no shortage of lodging options, including more than 100 multifamily private homes, bed-and-breakfast inns, condos, and full-service hotels. Among the best are Montage Deer Valley, St. Regis Deer Valley, and the Stein Eriksen Lodge. The latter is Utah’s only Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond lodging. In 2011, its Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge was ranked the No. 1 resort spa in the continental U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. I stayed in a beautifully rugged cottage once occupied by actor Eddie Murphy at Hotel Park City, which received a 2012 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. Hotel Park City also boasts a championship-rated, 18-hole golf course.
The Deer Valley, Canyons, and Park City Mountain resorts all played roles in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, whose legacy facility, Utah Olympic Park, is located on 400 acres not far from the Canyons. Besides hosting multiple Olympic events in ’02, Park City is probably best known as the main location of Robert Redford’s famous Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s biggest independent cinema festival. Scheduled in 2014 for January 16-26, Sundance not only offers great film and celebrity-spotting opportunities, but a rare chance for skiers who aren’t film buffs to enjoy the slopes unmolested. “The best time to ski is during Sundance,” confides Hotel Park City general manager Bill Ekblad, “because no one else is skiing then.”
Although Park City’s abundant and feathery snow—Deer Valley claims to get 300 inches of it a year—is obviously a major attraction, the town of about 8,000 souls has plenty to offer year-round. “Summers here are more fun than winter,” contends one Dallas CEO who has owned a second home in Park City for years. Among the chief summertime activities: the three-day Kimball Arts Festival; a downtown celebration of food, drink, and live music called Savor the Summit; and the Deer Valley Music Festival. The music festival features education events as well as performances by popular artists (Tony Bennett, LeAnn Rimes), the Utah Opera, and the Utah Symphony.
Dallas residents accustomed to fine dining won’t be disappointed by Park City’s more than 100 restaurants. Mark Prothro recommends three at Deer Valley alone: The Mariposa at Silver Lake Lodge (Zagat rated it Utah’s No. 1 restaurant); the Royal Street Café at Silver Lake (its signature dish is a bison burger); and the Seafood Buffet at Snow Park Lodge. Everyone raves about the crab legs at the buffet, which flies in fresh, sustainable seafood daily. I also enjoyed a wonderfully spicy bowl of buffalo chili at The Farm at the Canyons resort (Salt Lake Magazine called The Farm Utah’s best new restaurant last year), and an exquisite dinner at Apex, the super-refined signature restaurant at the Montage Deer Valley hotel. Don’t miss Apex’s trout from Koosharem in southern Utah or its handcrafted-cocktail menu, which includes a killer Smoked Old Fashioned. Other favored eateries when price is no object: the J&G Grill at The St. Regis Deer Valley, and the Glitretind at Stein Eriksen Lodge.
Dan Howard, the Montage PR director, is a Utah transplant who learned to ski years ago in Vermont. Like many, he was attracted to Park City by the quality of its skiing. Once he fell down in the Utah powder, Howard remembers, and “just started laughing,” reveling in the area’s natural beauty and his good fortune being there. Park City seems to have that effect on people.
A version of this story appears in the October 2013 issue of D CEO. Trip was provided by the Utah Office of Tourism and the Park City Chamber/Convention and Visitors Bureau.