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Let it snow

By Leigh Dyer | Photography by Visit Park City

Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012

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What first drew me to Park City, a winter resort half an hour from Salt Lake City in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, wasn’t the lure of zipping down a ski slope, strapping on a snowboard or hobnobbing with sports enthusiasts who became fans of the city when it helped host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

It was a much more sedentary attraction: the Sundance Film Festival. Robert Redford’s brainchild and the largest independent film festival in the country has been drawing Hollywood stars every January since the 1980s. From Kevin Spacey to Ben Affleck to Sarah Jessica Parker, the historic Main Street fills up with big name celebrities and acts like Justin Timberlake or 50 Cent sell out surprise nightclub performances. Film buffs—and tabloid lovers—can buy their tickets ($15) for shows in the 2013 festival starting this month online. And while you’re unlikely to score a big premiere ticket this way, you won’t have any problem getting into the midnight screenings of documentaries and short films. But if you’re determined to catch a glimpse of the red carpet, day-of-the-show tickets are offered each morning at the city’s main box office.

However, there’s no doubt that skiing is the main lure of this picturesque mountain town. This city of about 8,000 year-round residents hosts roughly 600,000 tourists each year, most drawn by the three large ski resorts—though summertime also offers plenty of diversions including hiking, mountain biking, concerts and arts festivals. Resorts like Deer Valley, Park City Mountain and The Canyons draw guests seeking cozy luxury after an exhilarating day in the powdery snow.

Skiing experts can debate the relative sporting merits of the three spots, but I’ll vouch most strongly for Park City Mountain Resort simply because it is the most centrally located. It’s possible to ski down, step off a slope and walk directly into a top-tier Main Street restaurant, still wearing your ski gear. (And don’t bother trying to make a fashion statement with a sleek designer dress or shoes for après-ski —ski jackets and snow boots are the set style here).

The city itself is an intriguing blend of old and new. Its roots are in silver mining: a silver rush led to incorporation in 1884 and left the mountains filled with 1,200 miles of mining tunnels. The first ski lift was installed in 1946, and now 64 buildings in the small town are on the National Register of Historic Places. Interested in learning more about the Wild West rough-to-riches story of the town? A stroll down Main Street will lead you to the newly renovated Park City Museum, full of fun facts on its heritage.

When it comes to dining, Park City’s cuisine scene has gotten a tasty boost in recent years. Restaurants like Talisker on Main, featuring comfort food like like fried chicken and short ribs shepherd’s pie, and the High West Distillery and Saloon with its dry-aged bison offer local flavor alongside modern style. A favorite destination of mine is the casually elegant Zoom, which was opened by Robert Redford in 1995 and is located in a former Union Pacific depot at one of the city’s main intersections.

From its Olympic-caliber skiing (did I mention that the U.S. Ski Team is based there?) to its lively Main Street, this town offers plenty of activities for anyone interested in a luxe winter break. And with the upcoming Sundance certain to draw the stars, there are plenty of reasons to start making plans for your next trek from the Queen City to Park City.

More info:

Carriers including US Air and Delta offer direct flights from Charlotte to Salt Lake City.

For more information on the destination, check out www.visitparkcity.com.

Ticket sales for Sundance begin on Nov. 4 and can be found on www.sundance.org/festival.

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