Park City, Utah is chock-full of frolicking celebrities and shearling-clad shutterbugs on standby every year around this time. From Jan. 19–29, the Sundance Film Festival kicks off the 2012 season with a roster of new films and plenty of A-list gossip, but there’s more to this former mining town than meets TMZ’s eyes.
Saddling the western Rocky Mountains and the eastern Great Basin region is a cozy ski-town destination full of swagger all its own. Home to the U.S. Ski Team and location for many of the 2002 Winter Olympics events, this liberal Utah city with not one, not two, but three mountain resorts — Canyons, Deer Valley, and Park City Mountain — proves that Park City isn’t merely a playground for celebrities. Plus, if you hop a morning flight from most any U.S. city to Salt Lake’s international airport (a mere 30 minutes from Park City), you can ski free by converting your boarding pass into a same-day lift ticket.
So whether you’re there to see the season’s best films (read: spot celebrities) or hit the slopes, here’s our guide to a long weekend in the snowy city.
Friday: Park City Mountain
Right in the center of the action, Park City Mountain is the town’s most accessible mount. Whether you grab a morning coffee at Java Cow and jump on Main Street’s Town Lift or hit the slopes after lunch at base level Legends Bar and Grill, you’re guaranteed a great day of skiing on some 114 trails.
On the slopes, Park City Mountain boasts one of the cooler eateries in the city: The Viking Yurt. Reached by snowcat-pulled sleigh, this winter wonderland experience is not to be missed; while for a quick bite after a morning of runs, hit the Snow Hut, grab a bowl of soup, and soak up the sun on the outdoor deck.
At the end of day, hit the world’s only ski in-ski out distillery, and the first in the state since the 1870s, High West. Located just off of Main Street at the base of Park City Mountain, this super-cozy spot — the interior of which looks like an ad for Ralph Lauren Home — makes a really great high-end whiskey (Rendevous Rye) and vodka (Vodka 7000'). Pair your cocktail with snacks like hand-cut potato chips, spiced almonds, and shishito peppers, or settle in for some shared larger plates; always packed for après ski, this is the spot in Park City to get your post-ski drink on.
Take some time to cruise Main Street, discovering where the locals go. Though beloved establishments like Cisero’s and concert hall Park City LIVE (formerly Harry-O’s) are taken over by headlining Hollywood studios during Sundance, these low-key spots are great spots to catch local music on non-Sundance weekends. For chill drinks and two-handed burgers, No Name Saloon is littered with kitsch like old movie posters, Christmas lights, and ceiling-hanging antique bicycles, and for elevated high-end fare in a multi-room space, head to Talisker on Main (pictured). The menu changes regularly, but if they’re serving it, don’t miss the fried chicken and the Brussels sprouts. (Photo courtesy of Talisker on Main)
Unlike Canyons and Deer Valley, Park City Mountain doesn’t offer dedicated lodging, but central Park City digs include the Marriott Park City — the command center for Sundance — the ski-in, ski-out condos at Snow Flower, and charming boutique Club Lespri. With an intimate spa offering guest specials and some of the city’s best sushi at Prime Steak Sushi Bar, Club Lespri is, hands-down, one of Park City’s undiscovered gems.