Winter Wonderland: Escape to Park City

Skiing down a perfectly groomed run at Park City's Deer Valley Resort, there's that magical moment when it's just you, the snow and the scenery. The run, framed by snow-capped Alpines on both sides, is picture-perfect as your skis glide effortlessly across Utah's famous powder, the sound of light friction like a rhythmic lullaby, whisper-soft in the otherwise ambient stillness.


A former mining town nestled against the majestic Wasatch Back portion of Utah's Rocky Mountain range, Park City has become a popular destination for Houstonians lately, thanks to a number of factors, the most compelling of which is ease of access. Whereas winter destinations like Lake Tahoe or Whistler require a two-hour trip by car in addition to flight time, Park City is just a 40-minute drive from Salt Lake City (SLC) airport. And this year, thanks to the debut of an expanded international airport, getting there has never been easier, with direct service from Houston by three airlines: Southwest, United and Delta.

But the allure of Park City goes well beyond accessibility. Home to two world-class ski resorts — Deer Valley, a ski-only resort famed for its pristine, capacity-controlled runs; and Park City Mountain Resort, which merged with Canyons Ski Resort under the Vail Resorts umbrella in 2015 — Park City is a veritable winter sports wonderland, a fact bolstered by the number of Olympic athletes that call this 17.56-square-mile town home.

For ski-goers, Deer Valley Resort is a must. In the way of lodging, Montage Deer Valley, St. Regis Deer Valley and Stein Eriksen Lodge all provide ski-in, ski-out access to the mountain's 21 lifts and 100 trails.

At Montage, rent equipment on-site at Compass Sports. A ski concierge will carry your gear out into the snow without you having to lift a finger. And the property's Ski With a Champion program pairs up to six people for lessons with an Olympic skier.

When it's time to quit the slopes, check out the largest spa in Utah: a 35,000-square-foot facility with a full range of services like Tata Harper facials and deep-tissue massage. Or hit the on-mountain, Veuve Clicquot-branded Après Lounge, where guests can indulge in gourmet bites of caviar while sipping on bubbles.

Speaking of Champagne, Park City's food scene continues to grow. For a family-friendly meal, nothing beats the lobster rolls at Freshies Lobster, the sandwiches at local fave Backdoor Deli, the burgers at No Name Saloon, or the French onion soup at High West Saloon.

On the fine dining side, Courchevel Bistro, named for Park City's sister city in the French Alps and one of Utah's best new restaurants of 2020, provides a Rhone-inspired experience by executive chef Clement Gelas. Meanwhile, the new Rime Seafood + Steak offers the best of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. And Deer Valley's Fireside Lounge offers an all-you-can eat, intimate dining experience in a mid-mountain lodge setting — booking a sleigh ride to get there is half the fun! — featuring Alpine faves like fireside-melted raclette cheese served with potatoes and cornichons.

There are other diversions, of course — dog-sledding, snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, fat-tire biking and ice skating. The Comet Bobsled at Utah Olympic Park is a unique experience. And Woodward Park City, an action sports park and the best spot in Park City for snow tubing, will enjoy its first full winter of operations this year.

And then there is historic Main Street, where vestiges of the city's mining heritage are still preserved. Get in some boutique shopping at high-end retailer Gorsuch, and browse the boot selection at Burns Cowboy Shop, a landmark since 1876. Take the Historic Park City Snow Globe Stroll, on display until Jan. 3, and marvel at nine life-sized, interactive snow globes stationed along the main drag. Or, plan your trip to coincide with the annual Sundance Film Festival, when A-list sightings along Main are a daily occurrence.

Due to Covid, Park City is enforcing mask-wearing in public spaces; hotels and restaurants are capacity-controlled; and lift tickets must be purchased online prior to arrival. The mantra here is "Let's All Stay Safe to Stay Open," ensuring your visit to the City of Champions is a safe and memorable one.

People + Places

“I WISH I came here sooner to experience this amazing city,” says advanced sommelier Rachel Van Til of her move to Houston just one year before the pandemic lockdown. When Covid appeared in 2020, along with layoffs and closings, it led to a career swerve for Van Til, a working mom who was a sommelier at Pappas Steakhouse. She took over the wine program at The Clubs at Houston Oaks, a posh (initiation fees can range into the six figures) members-only club northwest of the city with 10 lodges, 17 lakes, 900 acres and six dining options. Speaking of lots of good food and vino, the club’s 2022 Wine and Food Classic is this February 12 — it’s a great chance to taste hundreds of wines from around the world and learn about them from winemakers and professionals. “It’s our largest event of the year and it’s open to the public.” In our Q&A, Rachel dishes on her favorite date night, best wines to try this year and her brush with the me-too movement!

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