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Elk Grove Citizen

3 Perfect Days in Park City without Putting on Skis

May 06, 2021 12:00AM ● By By David Dickstein

Park City's Main Street, dotted with unique boutiques, eateries and bars, is the place to be when the slopes aren't calling. Photo by David Dickstein

3 Perfect Days in Park City without Putting on Skis [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Pandemics rarely come with silver linings, but if not for the COVID-19 outbreak, Utah fly fishing guide Layne Edwards wouldn’t be able to share perhaps the most touching fish tale ever told.

While teaching a waders-wearing travel writer how to cast while kneecap high in the clear waters of Middle Provo River, Edwards recalled when two women came out from the East a few months earlier. What the ladies wanted to do most on their ski-free Park City getaway was to fly fish for the first time.

“Everyone was happy and excited, nothing out of the usual,” Edwards said while adjusting the writer’s line for the nth time. “But as I was teaching the basics to one of the ladies, I noticed her friend crouching on the river bank crying with tremendous emotion. I went over to her and asked if she was OK. The woman looked up and her face was drenched in tears. She told me that where I’ve taken her, a majestic and serene spot a half-hour out of Park City, was the complete opposite of what she’s seen over the past several months.”

Edwards eyes showed deep sorrow as he told the rest of the story in hushed tones.

“The woman explained that she and her friend are both nurses at one of the biggest and busiest hospitals in New York City, and they were flooded with COVID-19 patients,” the guide continued. “After experiencing the horror of watching people die one after another and on little rest, the tranquility and natural beauty allowed her to finally release the grief she’s kept bottled up for months.”

The combination of being at one with nature in a setting framed by snow-capped 11,752-foot-high Mt. Timpanogos, then hearing this all-too-real story while engaging in an activity out of your comfort zone is a lot to take on Day 1 of your three perfect days in Park City without putting on skis.

Guests having a cathartic experience on their first fly fishing adventure isn’t uncommon, Edwards noted. As one of the busiest fly fishing guides in the area, he relishes sharing his recreational remedy for recharging with people of all walks of life and skill levels.

“I love introducing people to my most favorite thing to do, taking them to beautiful places and sharing the river as I teach them something they often say they’ll do again,” said the 45-year-old Edwards. “With visitors looking for more outdoor activities as we get out of the pandemic, fly fishing is a great choice. You can’t beat the art of the sport and the serenity of it all. Plus, it’s something that is inherently done with social distancing. People are finding fly fishing as much an adventure as it is a form of therapy.”

Anglers and the brown trout we caught and released aren’t the only ones living the charmed life in and around Park City. From Northern California airports, it’s a short flight to Salt Lake City plus a half-hour drive to this world-famous resort town synonymous with epic skiing and epic movies.

But the itinerary of your three perfect days in Park City doesn’t include the “bluebird” weather conditions that woo skiers from around the world or the wintertime Sundance Film Festival that in non-pandemic years brings out a galaxy of stars of the non-twinkling kind, paparazzi in tow. Perfect means off-season rates and when Park City’s population is closer to the 8,000 it has permanently and not the 60,000 it swells to during the prime tourism season, typically between December and March.

Helping make your three ski-less days in Park City perfect is staying a couple of nights at the St. Regis Deer Valley. Five-star luxury at the exquisite, conveniently located property is much more affordable when the adjacent Deer Valley Resort and nearby Park City Mountain, the nation’s largest ski and snowboarding area, are on hiatus. A standard room that can cost over a grand a night during ski season often runs for a third less while Old Man Winter is out of town.

The flight and drive, followed by an unforgettable half-day fly fishing trip upon arrival, have you tired and hungry. You’ll be soundly sleeping soon enough in the 173-unit mountainside St. Regis (2300 Deer Valley Drive East), but first there’s a collection of fine dining establishments open for dinner just a free five-minute shuttle away from the resort. Tonight, it’s a gastronomic gem on Main Street, pretty much the only thoroughfare you’ll ever explore in Park City with its unique boutiques and vibrant food and bar scene. Graced by rustic décor that is reminiscent of Old New Mexico, Chimayo (368 Main) offers eclectic Spanish-influenced cuisine that scores high on taste and plating. Highly recommended dishes include starters of the ceviche with generous gulf shrimp and mahi mahi, Arturo’s tortilla soup perfectly spiked with Anaheim peppers, and the skewer of coffee-glazed elk; entrees of Puerto Nuevo-style sea scallops, and honey-roasted duck enchiladas; and dessert of the Mexican chocolate fondue with homemade churros and seasonal fruit.

Day 2 begins with breakfast at Rime, St. Regis’ aesthetic indoor-outdoor main dining room that doubles as a popular steak and seafood supper spot. The neighboring table has ordered a pair of 7452s, Rime’s signature bloody Mary named for the resort’s altitude. Coffee suffices as you’re fine holding out for after-dinner drinks at the restaurant’s comfortably elegant and adjoining sit-down bar.

Taking the free shuttle van from your Deer Valley property to the heart of Main Street just down the hill, you arrive as the Park City Museum opens at 11 a.m. Housed partly in the original city hall, completed in 1885, the museum (528 Main) tells the story of the silver rush that led to Park City’s founding, and how the town reinvented itself as a ski mecca after silver prices fell hard. Lunch is a short stroll away at The Eating Establishment (317 Main), a busy diner-gallery frequented by locals and visitors. Favorites on the extensive menu include fish tacos with grilled halibut and either of the two burgers featuring wagyu grass-fed beef.

The specialty shops on both sides of Main are not the yawn-yielding mélange of boutiques one finds in Lahaina, New Orleans and other tourist destinations known for having a principal stretch of pedestrian-friendly road. Among the coolest finds are found at nature-embracing David Beavis Fine Art (314 Main) and silver-specializing Park City Jewelers (430 Main).

Needing a break from eating and shopping, you walk a block off Main for a little escape – as in Escape Room Park City (136 Heber Ave.). Choose among multiple one-of-a-kind experiences, each costing about $37 per person and lasting roughly 70 minutes. Good luck getting out of the signature “Mine Trap” room before time expires. It didn’t make the news, but tragedy struck recently when a certain father and son “died” due to suffocation when the silver mine they were touring collapsed and they ran out of air before solving a series of life-saving puzzles. Despite meeting their doom, the two men, like the silver mine, had a blast.

Shuttling back to the resort, you arrive just in time for a St. Regis ritual: the dramatic champagne sabering that occurs at 5:30 p.m., just as the sun is about to set against a beautiful view of the Wasatch Mountains. Guests who came up from the property’s base arrived via funicular, and that unique mode of transportation is something you’ll need to ride during this stay. Having taken the hotel van, you’re dropped off just a few steps from where you take in a tradition dating back to the battles of Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously opened a bottle of bubbly with his saber in both victory and defeat.

After freshening up, it’s back down the hill for dinner at Riverhorse on Main (540 Main). Park City’s top-rated restaurant doesn’t disappoint. It’s a final evening of flawless fare starting with the tempura cauliflower accented with Thai peanut dust, cilantro and yellow curry. Your entrée, the “Trio of Wild Game” doesn’t taste gamey at all; the venison, elk and bison (here called North American buffalo) are respected in a kitchen that knows how to remove the overpowering taste that often taints such meats. Wild blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream and lemon cookies is a sweet send-off to Park City. Time to return to your resort in neighboring Deer Valley for one last splurge.

If this were after June 6, you’d be enjoying live music, good company and friendly battles of axe throwing, cornhole and Frisbee tossing while knocking back a signature IPA or a seasonal after-dinner libation at the St. Regis’ new Beer Garden. Instead, you’re making do with your beverage of choice while relaxing next to a gorgeous open rock fireplace on the patio.

Day 3 starts with a short Uber ride and breakfast at Glitretind, the signature restaurant of nearby Stein Eriksen Lodge (7700 Stein Way), a luxurious 65-unit resort named after the legendary late alpine skier who is considered both a founder of modern skiing and Park City’s resort industry. After checking out the more quaint competition, an authentic European-style lodge that emphasizes contemporary elegance and nostalgic grace, it’s back to the St. Regis to pack for your flight back home.

While you’ll enjoy the quick plane ride down, many of the Northern Californians you met during your getaway made theirs a road trip. It’s about 10 hours of driving to Park City, with or without an overnight stay in Winnemucca, Nev. Motoring is how 75 percent of Golden Staters paid a visit to Utah in 2020, according to the Park City Chamber of Commerce.

On the way to Salt Lake City’s beautiful new international airport, you see cars with Utah license plates boasting “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” which has served as an official state motto since 1985. “If three perfect days are possible during Park City’s off-season,” you might wonder, “how great would be a longer vacation during peak season?”

And then you remember that both the favorable crowds and hotel rate you just enjoyed could be tripled with the arrival of Earth’s supposedly greatest snow. Skiing in Squaw Valley this winter is probably looking pretty good right now.

If you go ….

  • Visit Park City – visitparkcity.com, 800-453-1360
  • Park City Fly Fishing Guides – parkcityflyfishingguides.com, 435-631-9933
  • St. Regis Deer Valley – marriott.com/hotels/travel/slcxr-the-st-regis-deer-valley, 435-940-5700