Can any other outdoor sport match snow skiing in terms of exercise and exhilaration? With only skis, poles, and the force of gravity, skiers are able to spend countless hours slicing through the snow in a pristine environment with no other goal than just pure, clean fun and adrenaline.
Of course, leaving Columbia and heading to the mountains is a prerequisite, and one of the ultimate skiing destinations is Park City, Utah — a charming, century-old mining town, capturing visitors with a mountain range of outdoor adventure, first-class luxury, 9,300 skiable acres, and more than 100 bars and restaurants.
This past winter, we took an easy flight with only one connection to Salt Lake City, arriving around midday. We were met at baggage claim by an airport transfer and were quickly on our way in a comfortable SUV for a short 35-minute drive to Park City and the Stein Eriksen Lodge. This Forbes five-star lodge and spa, named after the legendary Norwegian gold medalist in the 1940s and ‘50s who was also the lodge ski director for 35 years, provides true luxury on a grand scale.
First, its location is situated right on the slopes for easy in and out skiing. No commuting to the slopes is required, with all the frustrations that entails. Our room had all that a guest would expect from a five-star lodge: a very comfortable king-sized bed, a wood-burning fireplace with plenty of logs, a large living space, and an over-the-top bathroom. It also had large windows and a balcony with a hot tub. What more could we want for after ski relaxation and restful deep sleep? Plus, the lodge lobby and restaurant areas are tastefully done in beautiful wood and stone with great views of the slopes. They provide a wonderful place for hanging out during a ski break or before a meal.
After we checked in and toured the lodge and The Spa, a rental service called “Ski Butler” brought ski equipment to our hotel room to fit us out with boots, skis, and poles. Once settled and refreshed by hot tea and a unique blend of granola and homemade chocolate, a special treat the lodge had in our room, we got ready for dinner.
The lodge shuttle took us to historic Main Street in downtown Park City where we dined at tupelo, a fun and chic Western restaurant. We started off with an appetizer of Maine crab fritters lightly fried and served in a spicy sauce, Chef Matt Harris’ specialty. This was superb, yet filling and almost ruined my appetite for the entree. We had a sumptuous sea bass and squash spaghetti along with the grilled ground elk-buffalo mix that was hearty and flavorful. A sticky toffee and ice cream dessert topped off the meal and sent us out warm and content into the cold night and ride back to Stein Eriksen Lodge.
With our bodies still in tune with Columbia time, and in anticipation of a fun day ahead, we were up rather early. The 2017 snowfall in the Park City area was exceptionally heavy this past March, and when we woke that first morning, our view out the window was of a dense snowfall onto a ridiculously deep base. Things were looking great for a super day on the slopes. We started with a delicious breakfast at the Glitretind at Stein Eriksen, where they served a buffet of eggs, potatoes, bacon, muffins, fruit, and good, rich coffee to charge up the day. The restaurant has a magnificent view of the slopes, and a giant fire warms the room.
We decided to try out the Park City slopes a short drive away from the lodge on our first day and the Deer Valley slopes adjacent to the lodge for the remaining two days. Park City Mountain is the largest resort in North America in terms of ski terrain, offering loads of options for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, while Deer Valley is consistently the highest-rated ski-only resort in the United States.
Our ski legs were a little wobbly the first couple of runs having gone three years off the slopes, but we soon regained our normal form and enjoyed many of the adventurous slopes. The falling snow created a hushed silence that was pervasive. This silence coupled with the incredible scenery made our first day of skiing a terrific experience. In addition to this winter wonderland, the slopes were not crowded, and the lifts moved efficiently. We also enjoyed having a choice of various restaurants for lunch. They were easy to find and offered indoor and outdoor dining or a quick hot chocolate or a relaxing beer.
That afternoon we headed back to Stein Eriksen Lodge and immediately went for a swim in the heated outdoor pool and then quickly (very quickly) jumped out and dashed inside to the spa. Large, luxurious robes engulfed us, and we were pampered with soothing music and tantalizing aromas as well as a sauna, Jacuzzi, and steam room.
That night we had dinner in Canyons Village at The Farm restaurant. Small and intimate with modern decor mixed with western cowhide chairs, this restaurant serves fresh and delicious cuisine. We both started with oxtail onion soup, which we agreed was the best we had ever tasted. For entrees, we ordered the beef tenderloin along with a bed of sweet potato puree and barley with sauteed tiny carrots. The beef was so tender that the knife was not needed. We followed with a creme brulee cheesecake for dessert. When we returned to our room, the bed was turned down with chocolates waiting and a cozy fire burning in the fireplace.
Tuesday morning, after another core warming breakfast, we descended downstairs to the ski locker. A ski locker with personal attendants to help put on the ski boots was definitely a new experience for me, but one I got used to very quickly. After boots and gear were on and ready, we simply walked outside and our skis were there waiting for us. Away we went down to the lift, where we met Lara Brucker of Deer Valley, who took us on a tour of the slopes. She informed us that at Deer Valley, two-thirds of the slopes are groomed every night, the number of skiers is limited, and snow boarding is not allowed. These elements, along with the excellent Deer Valley slopes, guarantee a superb skiing experience. Unlike the day before, this day was sunny; with the fresh groomed snow, the skiing was exceptional.
The Royal Street Café, located mid-mountain in Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Lodge, is the place to recharge for lunch. Their famous turkey chili not only delights taste buds, but also warms the body down to your toes. After lunch, we still had half a day to ski, so off we went exploring the numerous Deer Valley slopes with more than enough variety for all levels of skiers.
One inconvenience that is normally unavoidable with skiing is having to wait in line at the ski lifts. Not so at Deer Valley, where the wait was non-existent. How nice to whisk down a fun run, glide up to the lift, hardly ever come to a full stop, take a seat in the lift chair, and head back to the top.
There are two different types of “tired” in my opinion. One is the type experienced from a hard day at work where exhaustion comes from pressure and stress. The other comes from an enjoyable physical activity like skiing that leaves me drained with an exhaustion that is wrapped in contentment. After our second day of skiing, we were experiencing the latter as we coasted up to the Stein Eriksen Lodge. Greeting us outside was the ski locker team who took our skis and escorted us to our lockers. They even helped us get our boots off!
Après ski was spent in the outdoor heated pool and hot tub watching skiers swoosh down the slopes. This was decadence at a whole new level. My sore middle-aged muscles and tendons were gently massaged by the pulsating hot tub jets. Relaxing with drinks in hand, we found a new state of nirvana. Afterward, we had reservations in town at High West Saloon, a restaurant and distillery. Before our meal, I had to try one of their signature whiskeys –– Camp Fire. It was very smooth, much like a fine single malt scotch. We had the fondue for an appetizer, and for my entree, a 10-ounce steak served with grilled brussel sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. The meal was huge, but fortunately I had enough room for their wild berry cobbler, a la mode. All those calories burned while skiing were happily heaped back on.
Our last full day in skiers’ paradise started with huevos rancheros at Stein Eriksen Lodge. Assessing our options, we decided to ski the upper half of the mountain. Snow from the night before provided light and silky conditions that made our final day there a pleasurable one. Burning thighs towards the end of the afternoon compelled us to head back to the lodge with enough time to clean up and get ready for dinner at Fireside Dining, located in the Empire Canyon Lodge not far from the Stein Eriksen. The restaurant has five large fireplaces where the food is cooked over the flames. Patrons simply walk from fireplace to fireplace choosing whatever culinary offering looks appealing. The first two fireplaces had melted cheese from large blocks situated close to the heat of the fire. Close by was a table with smoked meats and other delicacies to put on the cheese. Another fireplace had elk medallions, trout and potatoes, soup, and duck gumbo. Lamb shanks were suspended over another fireplace, and the last had melted chocolate fondue with strawberries, pineapple, bread, and cookies to dip into the chocolate.
After dinner we took a sleigh ride driven by Justin with his two draft horses, Ann and Lavern. A quarter moon and billions of stars created a beautiful night view. We rode by a group of trees decorated with white lights, a magnificent site against the snow. Justin put the horses in a tight turn to slide the sleigh in a circle. What an ending to such a memorable trip. We both agreed that we respond well to being pampered.