* We hit the Wild West for a weekend of skiing and trucking
* What to eat, do, drink and see in the Olympic city
* Bobsledding and whiskey-tasting are at the top of the list
I had my sights on cowboy country this winter. I wanted to venture outside of Denver, my current place of residence, and into one of America’s true mountain metropolises, Salt Lake City, where the population of 200,000 grows every day. The city has claimed a name in the tech industry, it offers millennials a place to study at the U along with a collection of colleges and not-to-mention is an oasis for winter-sports enthusiasts to ski and snowboard in some of the softest powder in the region. Just 45-minutes outside of SLC sits the renowned ski town of Park City in the Wasatch Valley—and a place we would call home for the weekend.
What to Do
Park City is a town of just under 8,000 people, making it a cozy destination for those looking to have a relaxed—yet luxe—vacation. I spent an afternoon skiing the slopes of Park City after getting hooked up with some fantastic equipment from the generous shop keepers at Legacy Sports Rentals. Although the snow had been warmed up by an exceptionally sunny day, the tree runs were a fantastic way to get a feel for the mountain’s terrain, which has both double-black diamond runs and some steep shoots on the backside of the mountain. Avid skiers may like to know that Park City Resort is owned by Vail Resorts so if you have a Vail pass (Ikon, Epic, etc.) you get a handful of days on their hill as well as Deer Valley, a skiers-only resort just a skip away.
Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, which secured its name on a short-list of cities that can claim that they participated in the global event. Park City happened to play a big part in this celebration and their 400-acre Olympic Park proves it. Built right on the mountainside to host events like the Nordic ski jumps and bobsleigh event, the entire venue is a gorgeous construction that invites international visitors to participate in winter and summer events as well as an immersive gallery and museum that walks you through the stories and personal successes from the 2002 games.
To amp up our adrenaline and get inside the mind of the Olympians we put on our helmets and eyewear, switched on the GoPros and snuggled into the bobsled to ride the infamous ice track. For $175 you hit speeds upwards of 60 MPH as a trained professional drives the gravity-powered sled through a series of turns and chutes. Pro-tip: Keep your shoulders shrugged high and your head straight so you can enjoy the g-forces without becoming too much of a bobblehead.
Where to Stay
Cozying up to the mountainside is highly recommended if you are planning on shredding the spring slush this season. We found our way to the Grand Summit Lodge, a hotel perfectly poised below the hills for quick access to squeeze in a few runs before the end of the day. Having a ski-in / ski-out hotel is a non-negotiable if you don’t want to waste your time commuting to-and-from the mountain. With an on-site spa, restaurants and bars, the hotel was a great place to traipse from the pool to the bar in my plush robe without having to even put on real shoes. Some of the locals told me this spot has one of the best pools in the area, so you know a late-night hot tub session was in full swing.
I loved the location of the hotel as it is a quick Uber to get to the charming and bustling Main Street but close enough to the great outdoors to please my adventurous streak. Getting to take the newest four-wheel-drive GMC truck out for a horse-powered jaunt beyond the main roads for a cruise up the switchback trails was a high point of the trip. Park City is such a special place because one moment you can be indulging in a five-star meal fireside and the next you can be off-the-grid hauling up a hillside that feels like it was built for you.
Where to Dine & Drink
Make reservations at The Farm at the very base of the ski resort and request to be seated out in the ‘Farmbrella’ dining space. We savored gourmet charcuterie plates and custom cocktails in the heated arena with floor-to-ceiling windows to watch skiers cutting the runs from above. For carnivores, there are tasty options like smoked bone marrow and striped Colorado Bass for a sumptuous entree après ski.
We spent an evening at the lovely dining establishment, Firewood restaurant, who hosted us in their lounge downstairs where floating candles and verdant flora and fauna were strung along the wooden dining room table. Stacks of freshly cut firewood leaned against the wall to set the ambiance for a time since past while the martinis kept us warm through the night. I enjoyed chatting with the bartenders that night as there is always more to know about a city and its people best learned from those who call it home. Order the martini straight-up and you might get some tips on what lesser-known ski runs to hit from the winsome staff.
After sipping on Park City’s fan-favorite whiskey all weekend, I could not leave the Wild West without heading to the source itself. High West Distillery happens to be the first legal distillery in Utah since 1870 and makes some of the most robust and smooth whiskey I have tasted, including their Campfire Whiskey, which is a rare blend of scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys. After winding my way down Main Street from Firewood, I set foot inside their saloon serving a full menu of food, and of course, an abundance of house-made cocktails crafted from their famed spirits. After savoring a glass of the Campfire (served neat) I rounded off the night with a rowdy toast alongside the locals as they shared stories of the good ol’ days shredding undeveloped terrain on Powder Mountain. My dessert came in the form of bourbon, rum, and cold-brew coffee whipped up with a whiskey chocolate on top—it was like they spoke my secret language.
How to Get There
Park City is a hub for international and stateside travelers as it is situated in the center of the west, connecting folks across the PNW to coastal dwellers in California and those driving up from the deep south. Although we flew into SLC for the weekend, we got to hit the highways to test out the newest rig from GMC, the Sierra AT4 towing truck, for a few days. The truck is made for those customers who need a luxury vehicle with the newest safety features (rear vision cameras and aerial views of the vehicle, driver alerts like vibrating seats and trailer sway control) but are sure as hell going to get dirty and ride rough along unforgiving terrain.
My favorite part about testing out this beastly vehicle was the comfort of the interior, great visibility on the road and my surprising confidence that doesn’t always come when driving a 6.2L V-8 rig with this much power behind it. For those who are used to handling a truck of this caliber and need to tow and transport their equipment (snowmobiles, trailers, Olympic bobsleds, they will definitely appreciate the Multipro Tailgate with six different automatic positions that help with unloading gear, getting in and out of the bed and hosting epic tailgates (integrated Bluetooth speakers are guaranteed to start the party).
The only thing we would do differently is to take the route even less traveled next time and venture deeper into the backwoods beyond Salt Lake for a scenic route from the best seat on the road. Until next time…