There was a point, I’m pretty sure it was 23 seconds into my 47 second journey down the Park City Utah Olympic Park four man bobsled run, when I had second thoughts. We were hurtling round turn five and the g-forces kicked in making my shoulders feel they were supporting the entire western hemisphere. Of course by the time my second thoughts were processed, turn ten had come and gone and it was all over, leaving me desperately wanting to do it all again.
The thrilling bobsled ride was just one of Park City’s many intoxicating features, a destination perhaps better known for its world-class winter fun,( the powdery snow runs , 35 minute access from Salt Lake City and outstanding lodging make it one of the top skiing destinations in the world), but factor in those spectacular Utah summers and the Sundance Film Festival and you’re looking at year round leisure opportunities.
So with such promise and potential in the offing, I took an opportunity to see for myself just what lies behind the Park City legend.
Downtown Park City
Just a 40 minute ride up into the Wasatch range of the Rocky Mountains from Salt Lake City airport, Park City’s charmingly posh village feel is very evident from the minute I arrive. Art galleries, jewellery shops and bodacious boutiques hold hands with trendy restaurants and bars along Main Street and Park Avenue; I spot a piece of genuine Banksy graffiti art inscribed forever on an alley wall, here and there pristine bronze statues commemorate Park City’s rich mining past, and the Java Cow is doing brisk business as a purveyor of some very fine coffee indeed. I drop in to see Susan Meyer owner of the Meyer Gallery who promotes works from many local artists.
It was once the site of the town’s first brick building the First National Bank and its two huge safes are still used at the gallery only these days instead of gold and dollars they store the art. Then again, art is a form of currency is it not? Susan tells me ” When I was a little girl growing up here it was far from glamorous, a real working mining town. I remember picking up the groceries every day for mum and dad and they paid at the end of each month. It was real old town trust.”
I get another splash of the town’s past down at the museum where the story of Park City’s fabled silver mining unfolds . There’s even the restored town jail there, where I’m told Butch Cassidy was rumoured to have spent a night or two. Back on Main I forgo the Egyptian Theatre, (the town’s homage to art deco) which is running a production of Fiddler on the Roof, for a cold beer at the No Name Saloon perhaps one of the more colourful bars in town.
After dark the town puts on its party frock to welcome visitors from nearby lodging including the upscale Deer Valley set from the Stein Eriksen or The Montage. They head straight for Park City’s signature restaurants like High West Distillery, Talisker or Forbes’ Four Star favourite Riverhorse on Main before perhaps enjoying a drink or three at the No Name or a touch of the Irish at Flanagans.
Enjoying significant investment from new owner Vail Resorts, Canyons is set to catapult its pulling power and that of its neighbour Park City Mountain Resort with a new eight passenger Gondola connecting the two Vail-owned resorts making them the largest single ski resort in the entire USA. The Canyons Resort has 182 trails across nine peaks with heat seated enclosed chair lifts called the Orange Bubble Express.
Away from the slopes
Canyons Zipline Tour will slide you over 2,000 feet across its Red Peak and Lookout Lodge canyons. The zipline uses the latest trolley and line technology with body harnesses and self braking systems to ensure a safe ride. My party had three staff on board with us at all times and I found the 90 minute tour a great fun experience.
There is a brand new 18 hole golf course opening in May 2015 winding through over 90 acres of the Canyons. This 6,300 yard par 70 course features over 550 feet of elevation and some stunning views along with the added backdrop of the Wasatch range.
Park City Mountain Resort
The one that began the legend as Park City’s original ski resort, it’s connected to downtown PC by the Town Lift, making it very easy to get from the slopes to the shops and back again. The proposed new gondola service across to Canyons Resort will put a pair of fresh wheels on this slice of skiing history.
Away from the slopes
As a little taster to the four man bobsled at the Olympic Park , Park City has its own one man version called The Alpine Coaster. It’s a toboggan type ride cut around 4,000 feet of the resort’s mountain scenery utilising bends loops and curves reaching speeds of up to 30mph. You are able to brake if you feel the need but frankly, once you get cranked up to the peak, you just need to sit back let gravity take its course!
Deer Valley Resort
Specifically created for high end luxury appeal, the type of service and style synonymous with a luxury hotel, Deer Valley Resort’s manicured winter slopes (the same ones that hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics slalom) are restricted to mainly guests from the clutch of five star hotels, lodges, private homes and condos around the valley. With ski in and ski out facilities at both Stein Eriksen Lodge and Montage Deer Valley, uniformed ski valets, gourmet dining and onsite childcare this is a resort for discerning high end visitors who want to experience mountain hospitality at its very best.
Away from the slopes
Deer Valley’s collection of top drawer dining is akin to a bottomless pit of culinary opportunity. From the bounteous splendour of the Stein Ericksen and Montage daily lunch buffets overlooking the stunning mountain scenery, to fine dining journeys to suit all tastes. My personal favourite is Fireside Dining in Empire Canyon Lodge, a feast of local and alpine dishes cooked from five different stone fireplaces. Everything from Swiss raclette to fire roasted leg of lamb.
Utah Olympic Park
The 2002 Winter Olympics was a big deal for Park City and many would also suggest Salt Lake City and Utah as a whole, with many changes to traditional legislation as a result. The Olympic Park complex hosted bobsleigh, skeleton, Luge, Nordic Ski Jumping, and Nordic Combined events during the Games. Today, the venue is an active Official U.S. Olympic Training Site and a proud reminder of the 2002 Games with an excellent museum and a number of exciting outdoor attractions including of course, my aforementioned thrilling four man bobsled run. The park is just a ten minute ride from Park City and well worth an afternoon visit
Hiking and Biking
All around Park City, the old west Utah scenery sucks you in; the mountains, the prairie, the rugged contours, the natural vegetation and wild moose, goats and perhaps a bobcat or two. The best way to experience it is up close hiking or mountain biking and there are many guided tours on hand to give you that ultimate pioneering experience. All Seasons Adventures provide a variety of tours depending on your skills and needs, from fly fishing and white-water rafting to hiking and biking. You’ll get an experienced guide and all the equipment you’ll need. I tried Fat Biking, the latest type of mountain biking using “fat” tyres to soak up the rocks and ruts giving you better traction and a more comfortable ride.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Park City and although it was just at the end of the ski season, the weather was in the high 70s and I could see summer looming. This is a stunning outdoor destination that has made its name in winter but for me, works all year round. I just wish I could try that four man bobsled every week.
All images except featured image and orange express (c) Andy Mossack
I want to visit Park City how can I find out more?
To find out more about the Utah Olympic Park visit here Olympic Park
Getting to Salt Lake City
From London Heathrow, United Airlines offers daily nonstop service to its hub at Houston, with onward connections to Salt Lake City and over 300 other destinations across the Americas. Return fares in Economy from London Heathrow to Salt Lake City via Houston start from £873.26 (including taxes). For latest prices call 0845 8 444 777.