Deer Valley ski resort, Stein Eriksen Lodge off the charts when it comes to guest services

Stein Eriksen Lodge is just above the Sterling lift at Deer Valley. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Stein Eriksen Lodge is just above the Sterling lift at Deer Valley. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Park City, Utah.

By Kathryn Reed  

PARK CITY, Utah – Anticipating a guest’s needs and fulfilling them are what sets Deer Valley ski resort and Stein Eriksen Lodge apart from their competitors.

They are the leaders in their respective industries when it comes to guest services. Employees provide the little touches with ease, as though it is normal. The attitude they bring makes it appear they really enjoy their jobs. The kindness seems sincere, not forced or rehearsed. They may be acting, and if they are, then they should be receiving an Oscar tonight.

Deer Valley workers seem to do everything for skiers – except the actual skiing. And they are doing it just for skiers. Snowboarders still aren’t allowed at this resort, which makes a fantastic difference.

A cadre of employees dressed in green and yellow are at the curb of Snow Park Lodge eagerly opening doors, getting equipment out for people.

Valet service at Deer Valley includes multiple people helping unload a vehicle. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Valet service at Deer Valley includes multiple people helping unload a vehicle. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Workers don’t hole up in the liftie booth, they aren’t chatting with co-workers and ignoring the guests, they don’t act annoyed when asked a question from an out-of-towner. They seem to recognize a puzzled look and are quick to offer help. Employees were stationed on the mountain at most of the large maps, giving tips for where to go.

The mountain is known for it’s perfect corduroy. In some ways this makes it the ideal place to be on a powder day because most people here want to stick to the groomers so the untouched stashes of that fluffy Utah powder lasts a while. At many of the nearby hotels the daily grooming report is available at the front desk in the form of a mini resort trail map.

Don’t get the wrong idea about this mountain that has multi-million dollar houses slopeside. It’s not for the faint of heart. There are plenty of steeps, some moguls and blue (intermediate) runs that would pass for black (advanced) in Lake Tahoe.

In 2002, Deer Valley was the host resort for the Alpine slalom, freestyle aerial and freestyle mogul Olympic events. More than 20,000 people attended each competition.

And in January the U.S. Ski Team was training for the Visa Freestyle International that was Feb. 4-6. This was the biggest stop on the World Cup tour. The events were staged at the same locations where the Olympians skied. This was the 14th time Deer Valley hosted a World Cup event. It also was home to the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in 2003 and 2011.

While the base area can get congested, the rest of the mountain isn't because the resort limits the number of skiers. Photo/Kathryn Reed

While the base area can get congested, the rest of the mountain isn’t because the resort limits the number of skiers. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Inside the various lodges that are scattered about the ski hill the workers are courteous, answer questions about local beers and keep the venues spotless – or as close to it as possible. Food ranges from burgers to grilled venison to slices of cheesecake.

Even little things like the racks holding skis outside the restaurants look nicer than at most resorts. Instead of ordinary metal, they are aesthetically pleasing wood devices that fit in more with the natural environment.

Deer Valley limits the number of skiers to 7,500 a day on its 2,000-acre resort. Lift tickets are $120 a day; comparable to Vail Resorts’ properties.

Stein Eriksen's presence is scattered throughout the property. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Stein Eriksen’s presence is scattered throughout the property. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Sitting above Silver Lake Lodge is a hotel named after Stein Eriksen, a 1952 Olympic gold and silver medalist from Norway who died in December at age 88. From 1956-58, he was director of Heavenly Mountain Resort’s ski school.

While Stein Eriksen Lodge is named after the man known as the father of freestyle skiing, he didn’t have an ownership stake in the lodge nor did he make any money off of the use of his name. A trophy case, though, shows off his hardware from his racing days. And there was a time he was like an ambassador for the hotel, mingling with guests and telling stories.

A hotel spokesman said owners are wrestling with how to stay relevant when multiple generations no longer recognize the Stein Eriksen name. They are working on how to keep the name meaningful. And while the service and location are outstanding, I was left with the feeling that the price of the room had more to do with the name and history of the property than the overall experience.

Views from the deck of Stein Eriksen look out to the slopes of Deer Valley. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Views from the deck of Stein Eriksen look out to the slopes of Deer Valley. Photo/Kathryn Reed

This Forbes five-star hotel definitely earned that rating when it came to guest services.

At the end of the day Stein employees are there to assist with the removal of ski boots. What a wonderful luxury that I didn’t know I was missing until that moment. This was after a couple guys hustled down the hill to grab our skis as we were walking up from the ski lodge.

From the valet to the doormen to the restaurant staff – impeccable service, and only worthy of praise. Even the guy who had to come service the television was at the top of the chart for guest services.

Rooms at the Stein Eriksen are comfortable. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Rooms at the Stein Eriksen are comfortable. Photo/Kathryn Reed

What makes this property less than ideal is how it is laid out. The original lodge is where the restaurants are. Through the years it has expanded outward. We were staying about as far away as one could be from the outdoor heated pool, spa, weight room and restaurants. If there weren’t a private hot tub on the balcony of our room (which is the exception, rather than the rule), the communal hot tub across the property would have been inconvenient to get to.

Evening temperatures were in the single digits. This made for a brisk walk to dinner as well as to breakfast.

Casual and more formal restaurants are on property. The scallops are outrageously good, the choices for vegetarians limited, the breakfast good and hearty. The window seats looking out onto all that corduroy are wonderful. A huge wrap-around deck looks like it would be inviting to sit on when the temps are above freezing.

To get to where our skis were stored the front desk staff said the fastest, most convenient route was to walk through the garage. They were correct. But it seemed odd at a five-star hotel to be walking this way. It was another sign that the layout is lacking.

The trophy case belonging to the lake Stein Eriksen. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The trophy case belonging to the late Stein Eriksen. Photo/Kathryn Reed

For a luxury hotel that can fetch more than $1,000 a night for a room in winter – four times the amount compared to summer – there is a relaxed, mountain vibe. The wood and rock décor, along with muted lighting in common spaces even makes it feel a bit rustic – in a good way.

The room itself is spacious and comfortable. But it, too, is laid out a bit odd. A long entranceway is wasted space. While overall the bathroom is almost sprawling, the toilet is tucked into what is like a closet that would seem hard to maneuver in for someone larger than I am. The towels are ordinary – not even as nice as the Park City Marriott, though the robes are the best hotel robes I’ve worn – beyond plush – like being wrapped in a cocoon.

Salt Lake Olympic legacy remains on fast track

Skiers during the summer come off the jumps, landing in the pool on the left. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Skiers during the summer come off the jumps, landing in the pool on the left. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Park City, Utah.

By Susan Wood

PARK CITY, Utah – Hurtling down twists and turns at speeds of 80 mph with complete abandon of the danger if the pilot makes a mistake. The centrifugal force to be reckoned with at 4Gs makes a rookie groan, strain to focus, breath heavy and fight back the wind pushing her head down.

I tell myself to sit upright to protect my back, not realizing that after the one minute ride my elbows jammed inside the sled would be the points of my body to have bumps and bruises while gripping the cables seated directly behind the driver, Olympic silver medalist Shauna Rohbock of Orem, Utah.

At the Utah Olympic Park built for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, I stepped into her vehicle of choice to partake in the second fastest bobsled track in the world. The fastest is at Whistler, British Columbia.

I held on tight to the confidence my four-member bobsled team thrown together with Rohbock at the helm would come out of the open chute surviving and thriving. Jake (the Olympic Park worker in back) told us how rare it is to experience the track without the shade. The sun can wreck the consistency of the track surface in 15 minutes.

The U.S. bobsled team gets ready for the World Cup event in January. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The U.S. bobsled team gets ready for the World Cup event in January. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Team was in town on this January day for World Cup races along with multiple international teams. Before our run from the top, the chatter on the radios reflected a sense of urgency to keep the practice schedule. The track starts with a 400-foot drop and has 15 curves that make even the fastest roller coaster seem like an E-ticket ride. For $175 a person in winter or $150 in summer, the park provides the public rides on the Comet bobsled that start about a third of the way down from the competition start.

“It’s an experience you don’t have anywhere else,” said Sandy Chio, marketing director for the Utah Olympic Legacy.

The legacy foundation that employs 325 employees (60 year-round) was formed to maintain the Olympic facilities and no host events. Venues include the mega Olympic Park just outside Park City; cross country skiing mecca Soldier Hollow southeast of Deer Valley in Midway; gigantic Olympic Oval in suburban Salt Lake City; Maverik Center for ice hockey in West Valley City; Peaks Ice Arena in Provo; Salt Lake Ice Center in downtown; Utah Jazz Stadium in town; Snowbasin ski area northeast of Salt Lake City; The Ice Sheet at Ogden; Deer Valley Ski Resort; and Park City ski resort.

They are staging grounds for Olympians and wannabes. They also provide entertainment for spectators or those who are enamored with learning about the venues.

In January, Lake Tahoe News visited four of the 11 venues, and met with Park City officials and Olympic Legacy staffers to get a glimpse of what it’s like to host the Games, as well as the work involved before and after. Lake Tahoe hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley and the West Shore. For years, a Reno-based group has formed a committee and toyed with the idea of putting on another worldwide event, albeit strategically moving the date every few years to better its chances. The latest quest is for the 2026 Games, of which Salt Lake City has expressed an interest in as well.

The ski jump has different  starting points based on one's skill level. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The ski jump has different starting points based on one’s skill level. Photo/Kathryn Reed

A park for all seasons

On an estimated $26.3 million investment, the Utah Olympic Park opened with the bobsled-luge track, and ski museum in 1991, four years before the state received the bid to host the 2002 Games. (Salt Lake also bid on the 1998 Games.) Upon winning the bid, plans were quickly put into place that with a $48 million upgrade the park would add chairlifts, storage buildings, roads, bridges and water lines, replace its 90-meter Nordic ski jump and accommodate a new 120-meter jump ramp.

At first glance, one can see from the steepness at the top this isn’t for the faint of heart.

The public may experience a scaled-down version of the Olympic bobsled course. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The public may experience a scaled-down version of the Olympic bobsled course. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Tour guide Patrick Rosevear stressed the real slope isn’t as bad as one thinks.

“Every day, we see 12- and 14-year-olds jump. It’s actually the second safest sport,” he insisted, noting jumpers are really only 7 feet in the air despite how it looks on television. Of course, they are flying about 130 feet off a 36-degree ramp at 55mph. If there’s an 8- to 12mph crosswind, jumps are canceled.

At 7,350 feet, Utah Olympic Park has the highest ski jumps in the world.

The freestyle aerial ramps send mogul and hot-dogging skiers 50 feet up in the air. The 40-degree landing is so steep a snowcat must be winched to groom there.

During the summer freestyle aerial skiers train in a 10-foot deep, 1.2 million-gallon swimming pool, which opened last year upon the $1 million donation from Olympic skier Spence Eccles – a philanthropist who also owns the Goldener Hirsch hotel near Deer Valley.

The freestyle venue hosts many after-school programs for children. The park itself boasts more than 400,000 visitors.

Many are fascinated with the bobsled-luge track maintained by a $15,000 cooling system serving 100 miles of pipes. Rosevear noted that even though a participant sits up instead of lying down like the skeleton (considered one of the easiest and safest “by a huge margin”) the luge represents one of the most dangerous sports.

“It’s the steering. If you come into a turn and you miss by one inch at 91 mph, it can eject you off the sled,” the guide said as a hush came over the tour van. In the luge, the riders wear spikes on their gloves to paddle – not to stop.

For a more relaxed experience, guests may peruse the two museums at the park. One is dedicated to the history of skiing and the other to the 2002 Olympic Games. A whole wall displays Park City’s Olympic giant slalom racer Ted Ligety. Another exhibit features Olympic bobsledder Steve Holcomb, who brought home a medal in the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The Oval is used by the U.S. Olympic team to train, but is open to residents as well. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The Oval is used by the U.S. Olympic team to train, but is open to residents as well. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Making the skate world go round

For those who like to get a quad burn on two blades, the Utah Olympic Oval has much to offer for the Olympian, aspiring youth or spectator hoping to catch a glimpse at the next Apollo Ono. The Olympian showed up for an exhibition event last November as part of the Oval’s quest to offer events that bring in visitors. There’s also “cosmic curling” for others wanting to figure out this mysterious sport.

The Oval was built on a 5-acre footprint in Kearns outside Salt Lake City in 1994, a year before Utah received the bid. Olympic revenues were used to cover the up to 4,000-seat oval and build an ice sheet in the center of the track. This sheet is now deemed “the fastest ice on Earth,” Oval Operations Manager Todd Porter told Lake Tahoe News on a special tour. It’s also the highest, at an elevation of 4,675 feet.

Todd Porter, who oversees the Olympic Oval, stands between the running track and ice for racing. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Todd Porter, who oversees the Olympic Oval, stands between the running track and ice for racing. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Porter talks poetically, albeit with a chemist’s know-how, about the Oval’s massive central cooling system, which seems like it could span the globe with pipes. Depending on the event, the ice changes consistency. It’s this control that attracts Olympians such as Jessica Smith-Kooreman, who trains in Salt Lake. She owns four short-track speed skating World Cup titles and came in fourth in 2014 at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

“I moved here for the facility itself. It’s the best and safest ice because it can be controlled. In the Olympic year, we had the ice switched to what is in Russia. Most places can’t do that. The Oval is good for taking care of its athletes,” she told Lake Tahoe News on a break from training. “You’re able to push your limits every day.”

The Oval schedules a host of “learn-to” programs that may spur the next Olympian. It can rent 1,000 skates, but all of the efforts seemed futile in the beginning, Porter admitted.

Olympian Jessica Smith-Kooreman raves about the ability to change the consistency of ice at the oval. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Olympian Jessica Smith-Kooreman raves about the ability to change the consistency of ice at the oval. Photo/Kathryn Reed

“At first, marketing to people around here was tough because they thought it wasn’t for them,” he said.

But getting the word out is paying off. Porter reported a record week of attendance between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, with 20,000 people taking in the large facility the size of four football fields. The place houses 10 locker rooms and a tunnel taking visitors from one side to the other. The concessions are managed in house.

Even the weight room is an experience, with television cameras set up for trainers to evaluate their athletes’ performances.

It’s the Europeans who appear to appreciate the facility the most, making it a stop on their U.S. vacation — with Netherlands television blasting skating events on site.

“To them, it’s like (visiting) Yankee Stadium,” Porter quipped.

The Oval loses about a $1 million year, but “that’s the key part of where the (financial) endowment comes in,” Porter stressed.

Still, Porter is always thinking of new ways to attract revenue and save money. The Oval has adapted a solar program designed to save the facility $2,000 a month in energy efficiency.

Deer Valley lets skiers know where the Olympic events were. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Deer Valley lets skiers know where the Olympic events were. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Patience, perseverance to put on the Games

It takes good fortune, luck, money and will, according to Park City officials in describing handling the Olympics. After all, the region had tried a handful of times.

“The first challenge was no one believed we could actually do it. At the start, we thought it was a joke,” former city staffer Myles Rodeman, one of the architects of the 2002 Games, told Lake Tahoe News.

Rodeman, who was involved with the effort for 13 years, recalled the effort like it was yesterday. Ski racer and then Mayor Brad Olch walked in his office asked, “What do you think of us going in with Salt Lake for the Olympics?” Thus began a transformation of the ski town that was hard to imagine at the time.

The Olympic Oval located a ways from Park City and  Salt Lake City. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The Olympic Oval is located a ways from Park City and Salt Lake City. Photo/Kathryn Reed

This was the 1980s when the ski industry was clawing out of a dismal period, so a boost for the economy seemed like a promising idea if it were to pay off.

Although now it takes at least $20 million to justify the investment of actually staging the Games, the $7 million raised at that time, mostly by private companies, for the bid was a lot of money. A master plan was devised, the local Rotary became a lobbying partner, and the Ski Utah organization discussed who would be best suited to host the ski events. Park City and Deer Valley appeared prime as host resorts – but not without a little power struggle and politics.

“We knew other resorts up the (Big and Little Cottonwood) canyons would be most difficult to serve in terms of transportation and avalanche conditions,” Rodeman said.

The Olympic Oval in Salt Lake seemed a bit problematic with its location being so far out.

There were so many considerations in hosting the Olympics.

Take transportation. During the Games, the Utah Department of Transportation forced truckers to re-route on Interstate 80.

Take parking. It’s no easy task, but up to 3,500 spaces were created in parking lots outside the downtown area of Park City.

“It was an incredible effort. You could not drive a car here,” Rodeman said.

This style of sign is a signature for the Salt Lake Games that is seen at all the legacy venues. Photo/Kathryn Reed

This style of sign is a signature for the Salt Lake Games that is seen at all the legacy venues. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Take the swag. During the bidding process, a “necessary” amount of generous “gifts” are traditionally given to Olympic Committee board members. In these staged events, one might see an assortment of items that exemplify a host city’s profile. At one event, Salt Lake City brought salt-water taffy, pins and hats but lost the bid. Nagano, Japan, won the 1998 bid using violins, computers and cars. Salt Lake won with rifles from Browning, a local company, Rodeman noted. The stakes for hosting appear high.

“Right there, I thought we lost (the bid),” he said. “In those days, you have to get all the (committee) members to support you.”

These days, regulations surround gifting internationally. Much of this came out of the 2002 Games.

Take hometown rules. Utah suspended all drinking laws for the 25 days surrounding the Olympics.

Take housing – which takes creativity as well. The athlete housing now serves as student dorms at the University of Utah.

Take security. The 9/11 terrorist attacks had occurred five months prior. The celebrations were staged in downtown Park City, making city officials and organizers nervous with the feds slow in coming.

“We needed security, but we didn’t want to look like we were armed for the cameras,” said Rodeman, who was in Atlanta on a scouting tour during the 1996 Summer Games when the bomb exploded.

City officials and Olympic organizers toured five Olympic towns to see how they fared in the process – the Georgia city, Nagano, Sydney, Lillehammer and Calgary.

Olch, who served as Park City mayor for 12 years during the Olympic endeavor, recalled how the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary were considered as netting a less-than-desirable “Olympic performance” before and after the Games.

So Salt Lake City decided to plan to build facilities under the supervision of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee ahead of schedule.

“We really stepped up there,” Olch told Lake Tahoe News. “We had the experience (with ski venues), and the community got behind the sports venues and the whole Olympic thing.”

The 40-year Park City resident admitted to spending “a lot of time talking to a lot of people convincing them it’s a good thing,” and in the end, “it worked out incredibly well.” Olch insisted he wouldn’t live anywhere else.

“Sure, putting on the Games is always challenging, but it exceeded all our expectations in how well it went and with what it did for our community – the list is quite long,” he said.

Park City Public Affairs Manager Phyllis Robinson agreed.

The city put out a communitywide visioning process recently and asked its residents what they were most proud of Park City. The Olympics were mentioned often.

“I remember standing on Main Street. We were having this great party. (Comedian David) Letterman was at the bottom of the hill, and I thought this is something really special. I thought: ‘Holy crap, we pulled this off.’ With businesses, everybody put something in the pot to make this happen.”

Her colleague, Economic Development Manager Jonathan Weidenhamer, said it’s possible in the Lake Tahoe region. He visited Tahoe last year during a South Shore tourism forum on economic and community revitalization and turned it into a tutorial.

Deer Valley immortalizes those who medaled in the events at the ski resort. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Deer Valley immortalizes those who medaled in the events at the ski resort. Photo/Kathryn Reed

He pledged the South Shore would find a way to get the loop road project through if the region gets the Olympic Games.

“When you have the mission to get the Olympics, you can move mountains,” he said.

Park City taxpayers faced a slew of bonds and tax measures, while a $70 million endowment kicked off the Utah Olympic Legacy foundation – the driving force behind maintaining the benefit of hosting the Olympics.

The 2002 Games cost $1.6 billion, with a little more than half coming from the state. It ended up netting $100 million. The profit went into the foundation coffers to run the Olympic facilities, Foundation President Colin Hilton told Lake Tahoe News.

While it was an overall winner, Park City businesses lost money during the two-week period. This was expected. The entire Main Street was closed to vehicles the entire time.

“The sole focus is on our continued legacy. We’re not caught up in living in the past. We’re living the legacy with our people and programs, contributing to the Olympic movement,” Hilton said.

The museum focuses on the 2002 Games and Utah's ski history.

The museum focuses on the 2002 Games and Utah’s ski history.

Already, the Salt Lake-Park City region hosts many World Cup events and makes the programs “the fabric of the community.”

Hilton, one of the early architects of getting the Games to the area, was also more than pleased with the outcome. He is thrilled a new generation is carrying on the tradition – from the athletes (with 50 local Olympians living in the region) to those working behind the scenes at city offices who may have worked in other jobs at the time but stepped up to support the effort.

Assistant City Manager Matt Dias worked in a Park City restaurant during the 2002 Games.

“The Olympics are an incredibly important part of our community’s history, story and legacy. We take great pride in all of the hard work done by various community members and stakeholders that made the Games such a tremendous success,” he said. “Unlike other Games, the vast majority of the 2002 venues and infrastructure was either repurposed and returned to their prior uses and/or built new and now house vibrant and robust programs to ensure self-sustainability.”

Dias singled out the Utah Olympic Park for its off-season programs for providing a backdrop for events, boosting the local economy by filling restaurants and hotels and attracting teams to the area.

Deer Valley hotel combines comfort, elegance

Goldener Hirsch at the base of Deer Valley has communal seating throughout. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Goldener Hirsch has communal seating throughout the property. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Park City, Utah.

By Susan Wood

PARK CITY – If a hotel property is only as good as its leadership, then Goldener Hirsch would medal in guest services.

But it’s also about teamwork at this hotel that is steps from Deer Valley, the ski area that has been rated No. 1 in the United States for multiple years.

There’s a distinct reason why this 20-room boutique hotel prides itself on attention to detail and being true to its heritage. It’s owned by a family with a background in the golden experience – the Eccles lineage, with Spencer as its patriarch, and daughter, Hope, as the president.

Spencer Fox Eccles, known as Spence to his employees, is a prominent financier and philanthropist in Salt Lake City. Beyond serving on several boards including the National Chamber of Commerce, Alta Ski Corporation, National Parks Foundation and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, he was one of three people to steer the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee. Because of his undaunted work, he was appointed as mayor of the Olympic Village during the Games and received the Pierre de Coubertin medal from the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic movement’s highest honor.

Goldener Hirsch is walking distance to the slopes at Deer Valley. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Goldener Hirsch is walking distance to the slopes at Deer Valley. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Just visit Utah Olympic Park’s swimming pool used by freestyle aerialists, and see whose name is mounted on a welcome sign. As a University of Utah student, Eccles earned all-American honors in 1957 and was regarded as one of the top amateur ski racers in the nation.

Guests to his hotel in Silver Lake Village, which is walking distance to Deer Valley’s slopes, will notice his stamp of excellence channeled through his employees and the establishment at every turn. Nothing but excellence will do. And Eccles takes striving for perfection to new levels, and meaningful accolades have rewarded him. The hotel gained recent recognition as the No. 2 small hotel in North America by Condé Nast Traveler magazine.

At first glance, the Austrian influence can be found on all floors of this hotel that opened in 1989. The imported, ornate décor is so tasteful and authentic, it feels like one just stepped into a “Sound of Music” production. This is not off base, according to regular Doug Whitney of Park City, who was enjoying the après ski experience at the bar one recent evening with his buddies and sister.

A yodeler used to visit the hotel to sing in the bar in Julie Andrews’s style. There are long alpenhorns on the wall in the bar and the lobby seating area. Upon seeing these unusual specimens, a few guests couldn’t resist chanting “Ricola” to signify the cough drop commercials. It’s a European feast for the eyes throughout the hotel, with sleds and antique bureaus sprinkling the floors, and antlers and horse harnesses dotting the walls. Even the heavy wooden room doors emulate a European castle experience, complete with an oversized key that guests leave at the front desk when they depart the building.

Cocktails and breakfast are served by a fireplace. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Cocktails and breakfast are served by a fireplace. Photo/Kathryn Reed

But first and foremost, it’s the atmosphere that makes this place on Royal Street special. It’s quiet, relaxed, yet amenity filled – with indoor and outdoor hot tubs, and among other things, a fine dining restaurant that even staffers in nearby retailer establishments recommend to their customers. Chef Ryan Burnham, who several years ago worked at Sunnyside in Tahoe City, makes meals to savor.

Dave, the concierge, serves as the consummate host. He and his fellow employees make the experience seem as though you were visiting long-lost European relatives. This guy could move mountains. As a Jersey boy, “fuggetaboutit” means he’ll take care of every whim. He’s quick to start a fire in a guest room or run an errand, even pick up dinner downtown.

And speaking of offerings, the hotel keeps its tradition of the finest in things from providing Aveda products in the bathrooms to better than average ingredients in the bar. Mimosas mentioned on the “specials” board are not made with the cheapest Champagne. They’re made with Gloria Ferrer brut. Come time for breakfast, the whole wheat pancakes are smothered with syrup from Vermont, the connoisseur’s home state of the sweet stuff.

Glance over as you sip your coffee or juice, and you’ll see your skis put out by the staff to beckon you to the slopes. At the end of the day, the turn down staff tucks you in with chocolate mints and a forecast from the National Weather Service. It’s hard to decide whether to stay in the hotel’s comfy seating areas for a game of Backgammon or go out to Deer Valley’s pristine slopes to let the two planks carve perfect turns. (Deer Valley doesn’t allow snowboarders.)

Rooms at Goldener Hirsch are spacious and comfortable. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Rooms at Goldener Hirsch are spacious and comfortable. Photo/Kathryn Reed

“The spirit and camaraderie is authentic,” said Whitney, who’s frequented Goldener Hirsch since 1992. He even recalls a time when much of the staff spoke German. (Note: this Goldener Hirsch bears no ownership relation to the one in Salzburg, Austria.)

Goldener Hirsch stands for “golden stag” – hence the Deer Valley reference.

Still, American ingenuity and lifestyle provide flair to this European experience. Walk into the bar after a day of skiing, and you could hear jazz in the background. Jazz, drinks, good food and off-the-charts comfort – life is good at the Goldener Hirsch.

Park City cuisine — from ordinary to exquisite

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Park City, Utah.

By Kathryn Reed

PARK CITY – With a ski-in distillery, food as satisfying as high-end big city restaurants, along with casual hangouts, it would be hard to be hungry or thirsty in Park City. It’s also easy to leave with a larger waistline and much thinner wallet.

The Farm at the Canyons Village is all about locally sourced food (within 200 miles) that has been raised sustainably and is prepared from scratch.

The open kitchen allows diners to see the organized chaos in motion – with sous chefs keeping an eye on multiple pans, taking pinches of herbs to season the dishes and churning out savory meals to eager diners. Manual Rozehmal took over executive chef duties last fall.

Sous chef Jackie Assaad at The Farm plates an entree. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Sous chef Jackie Assaad at The Farm plates an entree. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The menu is divided into small and large plates, with two of the large plates being vegetarian.

Sharing a variety of small plates did not leave enough room to finish the entrees.

The cheese is made in house with cows milk and the honey is local. It’s so soft and light it almost seems whipped. The apple and Brussels sprouts come with toasted pine nuts, Gold Creek Parmesan, kale and a lemon mustard dressing. Fortunately the dressing was not overbearing, but instead added a delectable tanginess. The roasted beets and honey is refreshing. It includes whipped honey ricotta, toasted walnuts, frisée, and pickled mustard seeds. The ricotta is spread on the bottom, is light and not overpowering.

JT, the waiter, is delightful and patient with answering questions about the menu and the area – as well as keeping the wine glasses full.

The herbed Spätzle pays homage to the chef’s German roots. In many ways it is like a fancy mac and cheese. This ensemble had Emmenthaler, truffle, caramelized onions, crispy shallots and black chanterelles. It was so incredibly rich and satisfying; fabulous comfort food on a winter night.

The Sugar House herb brined tomahawk pork chop comes from a farm outside of Salt Lake City. It is served with savoy cabbage, cannellini beans, tomato concasse and basil. Seasoned perfectly, pieces sliced easily off the bone.

Choices for wine are plentiful, with selections from throughout the world. The Honig Cabernet was a nice pairing with all the food on the table.

Part of The Farm restaurant is in an umbrella bar. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Part of The Farm restaurant is in an umbrella bar. Photo/Kathryn Reed

While eating in the umbrella section is unique and it allows diners to see the snowcats on the hill after dark, it is chilly, at least sitting right next to the window. Being uncomfortable with cold toes throughout a meal should be reserved for true outdoor dining.

Vail Resorts operates this eatery, so those who’ve skied where there are umbrella bars will understand what this was like. There is interior seating, which walking through had an ideal temperature.

Finding the Farm was also a bit difficult even for the Uber driver. No signs point to it in the dark. It’s behind the Grand Summit in Canyons Village, less than a 15-minute drive from the heart of Park City. When skiing this side of Park City it’s easy to find it as it sits almost directly across from the Red Pine Gondola.

Doughnuts for dessert at Troll Hallen at Stein Eriksen Lodge are delightful. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Doughnuts for dessert at Troll Hallen at Stein Eriksen Lodge are delightful. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Stein Eriksen Lodge has two choices for dining – Glitretind is more high-end and described as being like a three-hour experience, whereas Troll Hallen is more casual, with what the establishment calls lighter choices. Troll Hallen’s “lighter choice” for a vegetarian was mac and cheese. Fortunately it was possible to order the mushroom risotto (also not light) off the Glitretind menu. It was rich and cooked exquisitely, but a salad or soup should have been ordered first because it wasn’t enough to be an entrée.

The scallops, perfectly tender in the middle, were some of the best ever, according to an aficionado of this shellfish delicacy.

The extensive wine list on the one hand is a connoisseur’s dream; on the other hand it’s a bit overwhelming. And it’s pricey – with a half bottle of Cab running about $100.

Dessert was a delightful twist on breakfast – doughnuts. Only these are Korean sweet potato doughnuts with sesame chocolate sauce, pickled Asian pear, and miso-shiso ice cream. They are worth saving room for.

Breakfast at Stein comes in two forms. For those staying the night, the buffet is included. It is much more robust than most “free” breakfasts, as well as a higher quality – like the maple encrusted bacon. It’s also possible to order off the menu.

Sitting at a window looking out onto the slopes of Deer Valley one doesn’t want to linger too long because the corduroy is getting skied off.

Ryan Burnham, chef at Goldener Hirsch, has no trouble catering to diner's food preferences. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Ryan Burnham, chef at Goldener Hirsch, has no trouble catering to diner’s food preferences. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The mountains call to Ryan Burnham, chef at Goldener Hirsch. He worked at Sunnyside in Tahoe City from 1999-2000, left for the flatlands, and is now in his fourth winter at this restaurant in Park City.

“You have to cook in the vein of the restaurant and listen to the clientele. The owners here are awesome. It’s a beautiful location, family run, and I have a ton of leeway,” Burnham told Lake Tahoe News.

While the restaurant has overtones of its Austrian roots, Burnham has flexibility with some of the dishes, while the classics like wiener schnitzel are not to be altered. Even though offerings for a vegetarian are limited, Burnham welcomes the challenge to please diners with different diets. He didn’t disappoint. He assembled a plate full of the accompaniments for the meat-fish entrees that became an entrée for a vegetarian.

The mushroom salad is the perfect start to dinner at Goldener Hirsch. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The mushroom salad is the perfect start to dinner at Goldener Hirsch. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Starting the dinner was incredible – warm mushroom salad with Humboldt fog chevre, hazelnuts and Solara sherry. It was out of this world. The pungent cheese, sliced nearly paper thin and placed at the bottom blended well with the wild mushrooms and frisée greens. It was hard to share it. This with a soup would be an ideal meal for those not wanting meat.

The steelhead trout with potato-leek rosti, Swiss chard and preserved tomato nage was perfectly stacked so a bit of the fish and potato could be put on the fork together. While the trout isn’t local, it was fresh.

The Prisoner’s red blend was a fantastic complement to all the dishes, but the $160 for the bottle is about four times what it retails for.

Sticking with tradition, apple strudel is available. It’s not too sweet, which was great. But even better was the chef’s recommendation of the sticky toffee pudding. Don’t leave without having it.

A soft pretzel with mustard is a perfect after ski snack. Photo/Kathryn Reed

A soft pretzel with mustard is a satisfying after ski snack. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Goldener offers an après ski menu – ranging from a Bavarian soft pretzel (yummy) to cheese fondue. Several European beers are available on tap and in bottles.

Breakfast is complementary for guests. An array of cold items – homemade pastries and fruit are on the bar. Hot items are made to order, including eggs, pancakes and oatmeal.

Most of the hotels in Park City have a restaurant associated with it, which makes it nice so travelers don’t have to leave. But they are also destinations for others. At the Goldener Hirsch, with only 20 rooms, the restaurant survives because of people dining there who are not guests.

Even the Park City Marriott has a restaurant and bar. What was nice about coming back to the hotel after a day on the slopes, though, were the hot cocoa and fresh baked cookies available on the first floor by the cushy couches and fireplace. The day started with breakfast upstairs – the choice of hot (eggs and meat) or cold (cereal, fruit, yogurt).

Miners Camp is Park City ski resort's newest dining option. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Miners Camp is Park City ski resort’s newest dining option. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Skiers are presented with several food options at Park City and Deer Valley. Miner’s Camp is Park City’s newest edition. A vegetarian even has choices from the soups to grilled skewers to pizzas. Utah lamb Miner’s pie, part of the Mediterranean station, isn’t something any California resort is going to offer. The three cheese Miner’s potatoes are worth the threat of clogged arteries. The vegetable Moroccan stew is seasoned so well it’s hard to believe this is ski resort food.

Park City (including the former Canyons resort) has eateries scattered about the mountain.

Empire Canyon Lodge offers upscale dining choices. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Empire Canyon Lodge offers upscale dining choices. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Deer Valley’s choices are at several base lodges. The prices are comparable to the Vail Resorts’ owned Park City or slightly less. A main difference is the lodges all seem like a lodge and not a fancy cafeteria. Wood is everywhere. It feels authentic.

The smell of a wood fire fills the Empire Canyon Lodge at Deer Valley. A pint of beer is only $6.50, and most on tap are from the Wasatch mountains. From the specialty grill people may order items like grilled venison, catfish tacos, and fresh made fettuccine. Burgers and fries are at the traditional grill.

Chips, salsa and margarita are the perfect apres ski mix at Baja Cantina. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Chips, salsa and margarita are the perfect apres ski mix at Baja Cantina. Photo/Kathryn Reed

A 42-year local recommended Baja Cantina for margaritas after the ski day. Situated at the base of Park City ski resort, it was a good choice. The restaurant has been around for 31 years. The margaritas – especially with Grand Marnier – are tasty, and the perfect libation with a basket of chips and salsa.

Lights beckon people to Main Street Pizza and Noodle. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Lights beckon people to Main Street Pizza and Noodle. Photo/Kathryn Reed

A plethora of dining choices are available along Main Street in Park City. Music spills forth from some, others offer windows for passersby to get a peak inside, and most have menus out front. Casual and simple were on order this particular night. Main Street Pizza and Noodle fit that description.

It has a super casual ambiance – with diners placing their orders at a counter and then having servers bring it to the table. The openness allows for conversations to carry and loudness to create a bit of a party atmosphere.

Being able to get half orders of pasta – all of those dishes sounded wonderful – and various size pizzas make sharing easy. “Noodle” in the name of the restaurant is a bit of a misnomer if one is thinking an Asian influence.

What left a sour taste was the automatic 12 percent tip, especially for two people, in an era when restaurants are starting to do away with tipping and the fact a server didn’t even take our order. The food was good, but the price was a little more than casual dining.

Another night of low key dining was take-out from Park City Chinese and Thai. Fortunately Dave, the concierge from Goldener Hirsch Inn, did the driving so it was more like delivery.

Menu offerings were pretty standard fare – but the flavor and spiciness – especially on the kung pao tofu – was fabulous. It was great to have leftovers – especially when the vegetable entrees are only $10.

The Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics, Park City officials told Lake Tahoe News, might have been the only time in Utah’s history that state officials didn’t enforce the state’s liquor laws. The need for a membership or to pay a cover charge to get an alcoholic drink in Utah disappeared in 2009.

However, some quirky regulations still exist. Bars-restaurants cannot have a happy hour price for drinks. All prices must be the same throughout the day and be posted.

Royal Street Cafe won awards for these drinks. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Royal Street Cafe won awards for these drinks. Photo/Kathryn Reed

At the Royal Street Café adjacent to the Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley the waiter warns that a second round of drinks will require ordering food – even if it’s the cheapest thing on the menu. He smiled as he said this was the state law, acknowledging it was a bit quirky in 2016.

And while the RSC St. Germain Cocktail – winner of the 2009 Park City Cocktail Contest, and RSC Blueberry Mojito – winner in 2007, were both delightful concoctions, one was plenty to wind down with after a day of skiing. They were equally as pretty as they were delicious.

This eating while drinking law might also have had something to do with the St. Regis serving rosemary oil infused popcorn and a crunchy trail mix like bowl of goodies along with cocktails. It meant a second round could be ordered without the need to look at the food menu.

The 7452 Bloody Mary at St. Regis is worth the ride. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The 7452 Bloody Mary at St. Regis is worth the ride to the top. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The St. Regis in New York is the birthplace of the bloody Mary, so it was essential to have one overlooking the slopes of Deer Valley. The 7452 Mary (named for the elevation) is only available at Deer Valley, whereas the others are available at every St. Regis. The base for the bloodies is the same throughout the world. This one is topped off with a wasabi and celery espuma, cayenne pepper and black lava salt. It also comes with a stick filled with Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco for the imbiber to regulate the heat. The vodka comes from the High West Distillery in town.

It is definitely the way to start the ski day or a good reason to take a break. Sitting in a chair with a modern gas fireplace directly behind and the slopes of Deer Valley in the front, it was hard not to be relaxed. Outdoor seating is available, but flurries and 20-degree temps didn’t make that appealing.

A funicular whisks people to the on-mountain hotel. Skiers and riders can have staff at the bottom take their equipment to the top, which is then waiting outside ready for them to hit the slopes which are just steps from the restaurant.

While staying at the high-priced resorts might be out of reach for many people, their bars and restaurants are open to those who are sleeping elsewhere. And the eateries don’t all come with prices that correspond to what a room night costs.

Marshmallows for s'mores at the Montage in a variety of flavors. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Marshmallows for s’mores at the Montage come in an assortment of flavors. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The Montage is like a classic mountain lodge, the interior grandeur reminiscent of the Ahwahnee at Yosemite. Comfy seating surrounds a fireplace. Farther down is a bar, but the best views of the mountains are reserved for those in the dining room or sitting outside.

Those outside are bundled up, surrounding the fire pit as they roast marshmallows for s’mores. No signs said this was for guests only. The flavored marshmallows – in particular the peppermint – are quite tasty.

Down the hall is the much more casual Burgers and Bourbon restaurant. A wall of windows at least 12-feet high look out on the area near the base of the Empire lift at Deer Valley. A structure left over from when this was a bustling mining town in the 1800s sits on its side, not far up the slope. It toppled over in spring 2015 and officials have yet to be able to do anything with it.

As with most places, plenty of outside seating is available. But when the wind chill makes it feel like single digits, the inside warmth is the logical choice.

It would be surprising if a bourbon-Scotch-whiskey drinker couldn’t be satisfied here. Several varietals of whiskey from the local distillery are available.

High West Distillery makes a variety of whiskeys and vodkas. Photo/Kathryn Reed

High West Distillery makes a variety of whiskeys and vodkas. Photo/Kathryn Reed

High West Distillery is on Park Avenue in the heart of Park City. At the end of the day it’s possible to come down Park City’s Quittin Time run and be right at the watering hole.

Opened in 2007, is has garnered quite a following based on the lines – one for the bar, the other for the restaurant. Built in 1914, the building is listed on the National Historic Register. Upstairs is the bar and off to the side is the aptly named parlor, ideal for sampling a flight of the high-octane liquid.

The quick-talking Chris Dorsey explains how bourbon has nothing to do with Kentucky, a bit of history, the aging process and other subtleties.

The flight consists of American Prairie, Double Rye, Rendezvous Rye and Campfire. A sip of water is recommended in between the alcohol. It’s an experience to enjoy even if this isn’t your usual drink of choice. And it’s a wonderful way to warm the insides before wandering off to further explore Park City.


Ski industry vet embraces challenges in Utah

Bill Rock relishes his role of leading the largest ski resort in the United States. Photo/Provided

Bill Rock relishes his role of leading the largest ski resort in the United States. Photo/Provided

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Park City, Utah.

By Kathryn Reed

Bill Rock is getting used to being the new guy, only this time it’s on a larger stage and in a much more public capacity.

He is the man Vail Resorts taps to be the leader when it acquires a significant property. In 2010 it was Northstar, and in 2014 Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons became his domain.

This, though, is the season where all eyes are on this Utah behemoth, which is now one resort known as Park City. With the Quicksilver gondola being launched in December, it links Park City with what was known as the Canyons. The Canyons was already part of the Broomfield, Colo.-based Vail Resorts’ portfolio before Park City was acquired.

At Northstar, Rock was overseeing a resort with 3,000 skiable acres. Park City has 7,300 acres.

The 47-year-old doesn’t like to talk about himself. But he’s a proven leader.

“Bill was instrumental in our integration of Northstar in 2010, including overseeing a $30 million capital program and building cultural and community engagement and alignment. He has an outstanding leadership track record and a deep understanding of how to elevate the guest experience in close collaboration with our employees that will benefit all of our stakeholders in the Park City community,” Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, said in a statement.

The gondola and mid-mountain lodge are new for the 2015-16 ski season. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The gondola and mid-mountain lodge are new for the 2015-16 ski season. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Rock has been in the ski industry for more than 20 years. Building relationships is one of his hallmarks – with the community the resort is in as well as with his staff. He is also a man who knows how to increase the bottom line.

His approach in Utah has been much the same as it has been other places.

“The No. 1 thing is information,” Rock told Lake Tahoe News. He made it a priority to let people know what was going to change and how. He said it’s the only way to build trust. “I spent a lot of time in the community and with employees explaining what the big plans are, painting a vision.

“With something as complicated as what we are trying to do, it takes time,” Rock said of convincing people Vail Resorts has the community’s best interest at heart.

Less than a handful of people were let go with the merging of the resorts. Not everyone has their same job; some were promoted to the corporate office.

One of the biggest differences between his job in Truckee when Vail took over Northstar from Booth Creek compared to Park City is the publicity. Northstar is a bit isolated and not an integral part of Truckee. While the acquisition made headlines with Vail expanding its footprint in California, having bought Heavenly Mountain Resort in 2002, it was not controversial.

Just the opposite was true with Vail buying Park City. Powdr Corp., Park City’s former owner, forgot to renew its lease. Vail swooped in. The courts got involved, but in the end Vail prevailed.

“Here, Park City is in the heart of the community. There is a passionate feeling about the resort. There was controversy leading up to us arriving,” Rock acknowledged. “The best thing is the community is rallying around our company, and the fact we are part of the community and being very public about that.”

In one year Vail pumped $50 million into its Utah property, created the country’s largest ski area and took control of one of the nation’s premier ski hills.

He’s not afraid of Vail Resorts homogenizing the ski industry with its improvements. Tamarack (Heavenly), Zephyr (Northstar) and Miners Camp (Park City) are all the same design.

“Even though it’s the same shell they present differently at each site. The building is just one aspect of the overall experience. What differentiates the resorts is the overall experience,” Rock said. He doesn’t anticipate half naked women dancing at his mid-mountain lodge for après ski fun like there is on the South Shore.

Plus, the menus – other than the Epic Burger – are also different. Still, Rock said he wouldn’t be surprised if the lodge design is used other places. Then it’s up to each resort to embrace it to be their own. He’s doing that in ways that go beyond one building.

“It feels like the first year of a brand new resort and no one in our generation in the ski industry gets to do that anymore,” Rock said of Park City. “I’m trying to seize the moment and enjoy it.”

An epic ski experience at Park City

Park City is now the country's largest ski resort. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Park City is now the country’s largest ski resort. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Park City, Utah.

By Susan Wood

PARK CITY, Utah – It’s a new PC world where “The Greatest Snow on Earth” meets the largest ski company in the United States.

Vail Resorts, which owns Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood mountain resorts, expanded its reach and portfolio by opening Park City with the advertising tagline: “There is only one.” The marketing reference signifies the Broomfield, Colo.-based ski company’s purchase of the Park City Mountain Resort in 2014 for $182.5 million upon Powdr Corp.’s miscalculation and coerced selling of the Wasatch Mountain flagship ski area next door to Vail’s formerly-named Canyons resort.

What was Powdr Corp.’s misfortune may turn out to represent a fortune for Vail.

Orange Bubble Express is a unique experience the cover. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Orange Bubble Express is a unique experience with the cover. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Vail being Vail – the ski company didn’t waste any time investing in the combined Park City-Canyons resort. A little less than half of Vail’s $50 million commitment went into the eight-person Quicksilver gondola at mid-mountain that combines the two ski areas. The linking lift, which opened in December, provides skiers with 300 trails served by 41 lifts on 7,300 skiable acres. The connection makes Park City the largest resort in the United States.

Take it from this reporter who through the years has spent five weeks skiing Utah – this is massive, exciting and full of potential.

Park City and Canyons have historically been different worlds. Now Vail has the best of both. Park City has runs like Widowmaker, which a skier and boarder can eye from the extremely convenient town lift, and Jupiter Bowl with Volkswagen-sized moguls that can humble an experienced skier. A few decades ago, tourists flocked to Park City because it was the “in” thing and the groomers had their way on powder days. The Canyons ski area has been known as Wolf Mountain and Park City West – where a relatively inexpensive ski experience awaited. If one wanted untouched powder on many runs, this is where you graced the slopes.

Then came a 180-degree turn. The atmosphere evolved under Vail’s wing when Canyons was bought in 2013. In a few years, Canyons became the swank skier experience, with a mini upscale village anchored by Grand Summit timeshare units at the base.

Aspects of Park City's mining history is scattered about the mountain. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Aspects of Park City’s mining history is scattered about the mountain. Photo/Kathryn Reed

While Canyons has catered to snow bunnies and Sundance types in recent years, Park City Mountain Resort managed to keep its just-here-to-ski-and-bask-in-Olympic-glory feel. The giant slalom and snowboard halfpipe events were staged there during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Now Vail hopes to extend its touch to the Park City side after Powdr Corp. forgot to renew its bargain-basement 20-year lease at $150,000 annually with Talisker Land Holdings, the Canadian corporation that owns the land upon which Park City operates. To illustrate the small world of the ski industry, Talisker bought the old Canyons resort from the New England-based American Skiing Company and brought on Powdr Corp. to manage it. ASC once owned Heavenly before its stock was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

The high finance, chess-type negotiations have some die-hard Park City old-time skiers either whole-heartedly enthusiastic or cautiously optimistic about the infrastructure possibilities and transformation.

Jim Hadden – a 44-year Park City resident – remains in a wait-and-see mode.

Miners Camp design is a replica of the lodges at Heavenly and Northstar in California. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Miners Camp’s design is a replica of the lodges at Heavenly and Northstar in California. Photo/Kathryn Reed

“I didn’t want Vail to come in (at first). I wanted to leave the mountain the way it was,” Hadden told Lake Tahoe News while riding the Crescent Express chairlift. The lift offers access to some sweeping views from the Wasatch looking toward town and on a weekday, wide-open black runs.

Now retired, Hadden showed up straight out of college as an authentic ski bum. He fondly remembers the days when “really good skiers” would cover the mountain.

“Now I’ve noticed more beginners with Epic,” Hadden said of Vail’s multi-resort pass. “The ski schools should be full,” mocking the inability of those who now ski at Park City.

He’s open to having more runs and lifts with Vail’s reputation of investing in its ski areas. But like old-timers in other ski areas, he’s concerned Park City will lose its unique character. What’s more, he’s adamant about not paying for parking.

To that, Chief Operating Officer Bill Rock – who ran Tahoe’s Northstar before being tapped by Vail corporate for this large assignment – told Lake Tahoe News no plans are in place to expand paid parking beyond its two paid lots at the Sundial resort at Canyons and the underground lot in Park City. Most of Vail’s resorts have some sort of exclusive paid parking for those who opt into it.

Hadden is not alone in the parking demand.

“They better keep it free,” Josh Salberg of Salt Lake City, who has been coming to the Canyons side for 20 years, said while buckling up his board at the top of the Saddleback Express chairlift. The high-speed quad is tucked away behind the front ridge and represents a best-kept secret on the Canyons side with the ever-lasting long Snow Dancer run off the high ground.

The mid-mountain gondola links Park City to what was Canyons. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The mid-mountain gondola links Park City to what was Canyons. Photo/Kathryn Reed

There are other best-kept secrets. Salberg takes the Cabriolet lift from the Canyons side lower parking lot to the mountain base. The unique, stand-up, flatbed lift is open at the top, offering 360-degree views.

To accommodate a perceived influx of skiers and boarders at the combined resort, Rock pointed to the efficient Park City transit system that with Vail encourages “people to not get in their vehicles, to park and take the shuttle from the (Salt Lake City) airport.”

“One thing as a local that bothers me with Vail is they’ve taken away the local discounts,” Salberg said. He used to enjoy getting free buddy tickets with a pass.

“Now they’re half off, which isn’t bad,” he said.

He also has a 5-year-old child and therefore wants Vail to bring back the kids’ ski free program.

To that, Rock told LTN that the Epic pass combining both resorts represents “a huge deal” with no need to now buy two passes at Park City and Canyons. Also in Utah, there’s a kindergarten-to-fifth-grade pass that provides five days of free skiing, one lesson and rental equipment.

“I love that they combined the mountain and upgraded,” Salberg said. But in the same breath, he admitted the jury is still out on how good Vail taking over the dual resort is if it means everything goes upscale, prices go up, tourists rule and many of the ski area workers he knows can’t afford to live in Park City.

The old Canyons side is much more developed than the Park City base. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The old Canyons side is much more developed than the Park City base. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The Cairns family from Australia offered a different perspective from the top of Tombstone Express. The high-speed six-pack offers an ideal middle ground for skiers and boarders wanting a connection between the steeps at Super Condor Express where an extreme rider may walk up Murdock Peak and the blue-run land near the new gondola.

Lisa Cairns said she likes being able to have family members use the Epic pass since Vail just bought the Perisher resort, which is within driving distance from their home in the Blue Mountains. And the Cairns feel at home in Park City. Father Hayden used to be a ski instructor at Deer Valley, and with that, 17-year-old Zac declared he was born in PC and agreed with mom that he likes “the Vail influence” despite initial reluctance.

“That means we can ski the Australian winter,” the family matriarch said of the opposite seasons from the States to the land Down Under. It’s summer there now.

“I can’t believe how many Australians are here,” she said.

Within minutes of the clan skiing off, another Aussie family skied by.

Jeff Throm of New Orleans got out of the Orange Bubble Express lift on the Canyons side ecstatic about the possibilities of where to go, insisting he had just scratched the surface one recent sunny Park City morning. The Orange Bubble high-speed quad comes equipped with an orange cover that shields riders from the elements.

“I like that they combined the resort, but I’d like to see more lifts for more connections,” he said.

Chairlifts cost a lot of money and can turn even the most tucked away ski area into a hot spot where overpriced food and lodging as well as paid parking may bring in more out-of-towners, but can scare away those who call the region home.

And once again, there lies the delicate balance between appeasing locals and increasing visitation.

With the vast amount terrain, it would be hard to ski everything at Park City in one day. Photo/Kathryn Reed

With the vast amount terrain, it would be hard to ski everything at Park City in one day. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Ski areas are like people

How does a ski industry corporation raise or raze a resort that adapts to its ideals while embracing its unique fingerprint and footprint?

That appears to be the challenge. A Tahoe resident need only look at Vail’s Kirkwood and Heavenly to see the genuine differences.

A skier or boarder might ponder this as they visit Vail day-use lodges. Take Northstar’s Zephyr Lodge and Heavenly’s Tamarack Lodge. Both look strikingly similar to Park City’s brand-new Miners Camp. Miners Camp replaced a funky ski hut amid old mining shafts and aspen trees that dot the resort. Plus, the PC food offerings are vast with unique items such as vegetarian Moroccan stew and three-cheese potatoes, but one can still get a $7 beer there. Despite the homogenous architecture, Vail embraced the lodge’s past by mounting miner axes on the wall at the bar.

While Canyons has grown up on the newer side of the Park City region, the PC old-town side has the feel of an old ski town. Many of the historic landmarks exist, and the ski area has embraced the history with a tour designed to share it.

“I always like to learn,” skier and retired college Professor Jeanne Pankanin said while on the historic tour with guide Chic Carlucci. She enjoyed hearing about the history of the Olympics at the top of the Eagle lift where the giant slalom race was staged.

At the top of McConkey’s Express, the snow is as light as a feather and the bowls as treacherous as the waves at Mavericks. The tour group peered down on Soldier’s Hollow, the setting for the Games’ cross country ski events.

For the most part, Carlucci provided a wealth of background information on the history of Park City mining. More than 1,200 miles of tunnels with up to 1,700-foot drops connected to 70 mines represented a $450 million industry sparked in the 1800s. The resort has even maintained its ore bins for historic reasons, Carlucci said. In some cases, workers have had to prop up dilapidated buildings.

One 1,300 tunnel built to transport water was constructed so well a miner “could see the end of it,” Carlucci declared.

“They built the railroad in four months on just human labor. Normally that would take three years,” the New York guide said at the top of the Crescent chairlift.

Many who ski and board the Wasatch ski area seem hopeful Vail will make infrastructure improvements — especially when it comes to putting in connecting runs and lifts. Some who worked there have already seen the potential. At the top of the Bonanza Express six-pack, one can ski the long ridgetop Jonesy’s run and forget about the everyday working world.

Even Heavenly’s former COO, Blaise Carrig, – who ran Vail mountain resort operations before retiring – has a run named after him. Blaise’s Way runs adjacent to the new gondola at the mid-point stop, smack dab between the old Park City resort and the Canyons side, the ski area Carrig ran before he worked for Vail.

“It looks like the only way,” one skier said of Blaise’s Run, before heading down to the lower mountain from the gondola.

Perhaps the only way for Vail Resorts is progression and innovation. The challenge at Park City may involve harnessing that new growth and creativity without forgetting the ski area’s colorful past.

Opinion: Tahoe needs to find its authentic self

It's easy to walk up and down Main Street in Park City. Photos/Kathryn Reed

It’s easy to walk up and down Main Street in Park City. Photos/Kathryn Reed

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Park City, Utah.

By Kathryn Reed

For years people have been saying Lake Tahoe – the South Shore in particular – is at a crossroads, at a tipping point. Many have predicted this region’s demise if change did not come – and come dramatically and quickly.

And, yet, here we are, still plugging along as the wheels of change turn slowly.

In many ways Mother Nature is as big a player in our future as anything we mortals might do.

Hotels are full this winter because there is plenty of snow to ski on. That is the key difference between today and a year ago today.

Park City's sprawl is easy to see from the slopes.

Park City’s sprawl is evident from the slopes.

But what is different this season compared to winter’s past is more people are coming on the weekends and fewer are here midweek. The traffic boondoggle last weekend involving people heading west on Highway 50 having to sit for hours just in the basin, let alone being able to inch their way over Echo Summit, is testament to an increase in vehicles on the roads. They all leave at the same time, but don’t all arrive at the same time – thus the reason there is chaos only upon departure.

We are not alone in having to balance the needs of locals and visitors. Congestion isn’t unique to Tahoe. But that doesn’t mean we should not be striving to find palatable solutions.

Some people are satisfied with the status quo. That’s too bad. I think we can do better – throughout the basin, but especially on the South Shore.

Park City understands the importance of having a true city hall as well as public art.

Park City understands the importance of having a true city hall as well as public art.

We can build pretty commercial structures, reroute highways and create environmental improvements to keep the lake clear. But can we provide jobs that pay enough for people to continue to live in the Lake Tahoe Basin and not have to drive over a mountain pass to get here? Can we give visitors an experience that has them immediately making their friends jealous with photos and descriptions on social media?

I’m fortunate that I get to live and work in the same town. I don’t commute. Sure, there are meetings and events to attend elsewhere, but that is the norm for most jobs, especially being a journalist.

People talk about affordable housing. I believe that is the wrong discussion. The topics should be jobs that pay enough to live here and employers paying a livable wage. The two are different issues.

Talking with people in Park City, Utah, last month it was hard to find anyone who lives in the city limits. They commute from 30 to 60 minutes away. Many don’t even come into town to shop or eat. It would be sad if Tahoe ever became like that.

Park City embraces its mining past, including a tour on the mountain about its history.

Park City embraces its mining past, including a tour on the mountain about its history.

Park City government officials declined to answer these questions:

·      What percentage of Park City workers lives in town?

·      Where do most live?

·      And how far away is that?

Park City has a cute, walkable downtown. There is a mix of shops and restaurants. Then there is sprawl. But it’s a much smaller town than South Lake Tahoe, let alone comparing it to the entire basin.

In 2013, there were almost 40,000 people in Summit County, in which Park City resides. In 2000, there were 30,000 people. Park City in 2013 had nearly 4,000 residents, which since 2000 has stayed fairly steady. By contrast, South Lake Tahoe’s population peaked in 2009 at 23,567, and in 2013 was at 21,387.

South Lake Tahoe will never truly be walkable – sections, yes, but never the entire city. Tahoe City, Kings Beach and Truckee are more do-able sans vehicle. That is why it’s imperative the South Shore create districts. Creative names – maybe something other than a street (think Ski Run and Harrison) – would be a start to getting people to gravitate to those areas. Obviously they need a mix of interesting things to attract people – a name alone won’t do it. Think about the Gaslamp District in San Diego or Rockridge in Oakland or Noe Valley in San Francisco. The changes South Lake Tahoe wants to make at the Y – and making a concerted effort to call it Tahoe Valley – gives me hope we are on the right path. And it’s even better that it is on the other side of town from where for many years the focus of progress has been concentrated.

No need for money when riding the bus in Park City.

No need for money when riding the bus in Park City.

A great thing about Park City is the free bus service. The city operates the bus system, with Summit County contracting with Park City to operate the county portion of the bus service.

Sales tax dollars pay for the bulk of the system. Park City collects a 0.30 percent transit sales tax on all taxable goods and services, excluding unprepared food, as well as a 1.1 percent resort communities sales tax on all taxable goods and services, excluding unprepared food. One-quarter of the 1.1 percent goes to the bus system. Also contributing to the bus service is a portion of business license fees.

“The transit portion of sales tax collected covers more than 74 percent of the operating expenses of the bus system and business licenses make up 17.5 percent of the bus system expenses. The transit system also receives federal capital and operating assistance from the [Federal Trade Administration],” Nate Rockwood, Park City capital budget, debt, and grants manager, told Lake Tahoe News.

Park City voters have agreed to tax themselves in other ways as well.

There is a 1 percent tax on prepared food, also known as the restaurant tax. It brings in about $2.3 million a year. A committee decides how to allocate those funds based on tourism components, the ability to leverage more dollars, whether the application is promotion or an asset, and whether the application is a new or developing program.

“Lift ticket sales are considered taxable in Utah and fall under the state’s sales and use tax laws,” Rockwood explained. “Therefore, lift ticks are taxed at the sales tax rate in the sales district which they are located.”

Clearly, it takes taxes on what locals and visitors use to be able to provide certain amenities in Park City. Tahoe residents need to decide what they want and then how to pay for it. I’m all for user fees, that’s why I liked the paid parking concept. Only people parking there paid for it. I want a decent return on investment for whatever I’m paying, for the money to go for something tangible and for it not to go to any entity’s general fund. And it’s time to stop, at least for a few years, initiatives that raise property taxes.

Douglas County commissioners in December passed a gas tax that will in part fund improvements related to the loop road if that project goes forward. South Lake Tahoe is contemplating multiple taxes – hotel, sales, amusement – that could be put before voters in November. Recreation and roads are two of the likely beneficiaries of those dollars.

The U.S. Ski Team practices at Deer Valley in advance of this weekend's freestyle competition.

The U.S. Ski Team practices at Deer Valley in advance of this weekend’s freestyle competition.

Park City is also able to draw a large number of people through events. Tahoe knows this is also a way to drive heads into beds, but doesn’t capitalize on this in the winter in a significant way. Park City has global events in the winter. The biggest stop on the World Cup tour, the Visa Freestyle International was at Deer Valley for the last three days and the U.S. Grand Prix was at Park City ski resort. Utah will host the 2019 World Championships in freestyle, freeskiing and snowboarding, which are expected to bring more than 500 athletes from more than 50 nations to Park City and Deer Valley ski resorts. The Sundance Film Festival is an 11-day event that takes over Park City in late January.

Of course Park City was also darn near a co-host city in 2002 for the Salt Lake City Olympics. That is something people need to remember when comparing Park City to Lake Tahoe. Yes, Squaw Valley had the Games in 1960, but that was such a different time. Park City was able to benefit from an infusion of federal and international dollars to improve infrastructure that to this day is paying dividends.

It’s unfortunate the ski cross and snowboardcross World Cup events set for Squaw Valley last March had to be canceled because of lack of snow. Hopefully, the powers that be will recognize Tahoe is World Cup worthy again. Heavenly’s run – World Cup – hasn’t had such an event in decades.

Another major difference between Park City and Tahoe is the quality of lodging. It runs the gamut there, with no visible evidence of one star or less hotels on any of the main roads. The Park City Marriott was equivalent to South Lake Tahoe’s Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel. It was nice to have a mountain feel walking in and a certain coziness not often associated with a Marriott property. The shuttle service at the hotel was excellent, as were other guest services.

Stein Erikson Lodge and Goldener Hirsch are high-end properties. The level of service at these two, which are right at Deer Valley, outshine anything in the Tahoe area, even the Lake Tahoe Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz and Resort at Squaw Creek are the two real high-end properties in the area and neither is actually in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Time will tell if the Lodge at Edgewood will live up to the hype of being the high-class lodging that has always been lacking on the South Shore.

What I was left with after a week in Park City was that it is friendlier than Tahoe. Guest service was off the charts no matter the caliber of restaurant, no matter where we were. It made me want to go back just for that vibe, that positive energy – and it felt authentic. If Tahoe were to emulate Park City at all, it should be to capture that attitude. Maybe from there we could solve some of our other issues.

Opinion: Looking to Park City for inspiration


Park City is now the largest ski resort in the United States. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Park City is now the largest ski resort in the United States. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Planning a trip to Lake Tahoe is not as easy as going to Park City, Utah, or Vail, Colo.

There are more than a dozen downhill ski resorts in the greater Lake Tahoe area that are geographically spread out, so the visitor better do her homework. In Park City there are now two resorts; there were three until Park City and Canyons became one. Vail has Vail, though Beaver Creek is just down the road.

There are plenty of similarities and differences to distinguish these three areas.

A big difference is that for Lake Tahoe summer is the busiest season. The other two barely register with non-skiers.

A major similarity is the presence of Vail Resorts. The Broomfield, Colo.-based company owns Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Tahoe area, Vail and Beaver Creek in Colorado (among others), and Park City in Utah.

Lake Tahoe News spent a week in January exploring Park City. We met with city officials, toured 2002 Olympic venues, stayed at three hotels to get a feel for lodging options, wandered through downtown, ate and drank at a variety of establishments, and skied those famous Wasatch mountains. Every Sunday in February we will be bringing you stories about our experience in Park City.

From there we hope it might spark some debate about where we go as a region and as smaller locales around the lake. By no means are we saying we want Tahoe to be Park City or Vail, but it is pretty clear Lake Tahoe has an identity issue outside of being able to point to that big body of water. Change is inevitable. Are we going to be active participants or let others make the change for us?

Enjoy the series.

            — Kathryn Reed, Lake Tahoe News publisher