If you close your eyes and imagine the green mountains of Salzburg, Austria, or the summer in the Swiss Alps, you sense of the beauty and grandeur of Park City, Utah (www.parkcity.com). Nestled in the mountains 35 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, it is a year around destination filled with award winning hotels, spas, athletic venues, and restaurants high on Zagat's list.

Mountain meadows grace summer
landscapes where in winter
skiers reign supreme.

I flew into Salt Lake City, and found the All Resort Express shuttle(800/457-9457) bound for the Deer Valley Resort; it is a scenic climb, stopping at The Canyons, a new 3,500 acre resort and time-share retreat. From there it is into the heart of Park City, where contemporary chalets line the road what once led to the silver mines a century ago. “See those houses?” the driver said motioning towards a tight row of condos, “Those used to be where the saloons and the girls were."

Being so close to Salt Lake City, the bosom of Mormonism, I expected a relatively dry town. Quite to the contrary, the quaint little burg that took center stage at the 2002 Winter Olympics, has a thriving nightlife.

I selected the master suite on the third level at the condos. The California king-size bed overlooked a hillside of pine trees. A few steps down there are two more bedrooms, each with a private bath. On the second level is a living room with a wood burning fireplace and a jetted hot tub overlooking what would become ski slopes in the coming months; a beautifully presented turn-key abode with daily maid service. 

Deborah Stone, a journalist from Seattle arrived we explored Park City. Just down the hill we caught a complimentary bus to Main Street art galleries, boutiques, a museum, and restaurants. Public transportation in Park City is free and easy to access.

Park City is reknown
for its cuisine.

We had a late lunch at the 412 Bistro, billed as “an American Bistro” the food was decidedly French. I had the Wild Mushroom Strudel — filo wrapped forest mushrooms and goat cheese. Melt in your mouth delicious. Then we browsed Old Town Gallery and we were especially struck by sculptures by Amos Supuni, a Zimbabwean stone carver. We found a wonderful selection of books and handmade jewelry at Joy Barrett’s The Expanding Heart; we vowed to come back to Zoom, Robert Redford’s restaurant for a drink and the signature macaroni and cheese.

The sun is playing peek-a-boo with occasional sprinkles, so it is back home to meet our third housemate, Shannon Lane, a blond, bubbly journalist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We then join our hosts from the Park City Chamber of Commerce, Mark Bennett and Hilary Reiter.

Hilary, a spritely transplanted New Yorker, who loves to ski, picked us up for a winding ride to the enchanting 20 room Goldener Hirsch Inn, with a restaurant that is awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Goldener Hirsch is located at the base of Deer Valley ’s Sterling Lift in Silver Lake Village.

We meet the fourth member of our group, Mitch Garvis, a radio talk show host, actor, and journalist from Montreal, Canada. Bennett introduces us to Executive Chef, Jean Louis Montecot, an animated man with a clean shaven head and a wide, white toothy smile. Montecot previously worked at New York ’s La Cote Basque and was a private chef for both Donald Trump and Michael Jordan. He has also been recognized by the James Beard Foundation.

Fine dining with
European ambiance.

Handmade Austrian furniture and soft lighting create a warm, intimate European ambiance. There is a large wood-burning fireplace with candlelit tables and spectacular views. Chef Montecot starts us with Amuse — yellow watermelon cocktail with wild berry coulis, and fresh raspberries. The menu, printed daily, features unusual combinations: Crab Cake Strudel, fresh crab, peppers, cilantro, and shallots wrapped in phyllo dough with dill aioli; Smoked Salmon Tartar served on a potato pancake with capers, tomatoes, sour cream, and cilantro oil. I enjoyed the Pistachio Crusted Halibut; others praise the Rack of Lamb. Wienerschnitzel is also on the menu. They have an extensive wine list from which we selected the Markum, Napa Valley Merlot, and the Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

The next morning Hilary took us to The Morning Ray, the most popular local breakfast spot, a no frills diner with formica topped tables and healthy, design-your-own-omelets. It’s on Main S treet but somewhat off the beaten path.

The Wasach Mountains overlook Park City;
reservoirs provide
recreation, too!

The sun is shining when we arrive at the Deer Valley Resort where we are welcomed with two choices: mountain biking or hiking. Lunch at the resort’s Royal Street Café is our reward.

Since I haven’t been on a bicycle in 20 years I opt for the hike. Accompanied by John, a Deer Valley Resort guide, I ride two separate ski lifts to the mountain top. The altitude is coupled with awe-inspiring views of the tiny town of Heber and shrinking reservoirs. Now I understand what John Denver meant by “Rocky Mountain High”.

John understands that a visitor unused to thin air at 8,400 feet needs to hike at a reasonable pace. He helps me gain a sense of confidence assisted with the metal prong-tipped walking stick.

Lunch outside on the deck at Deer Valley Resort’s Royal Street Café is a sampling of delicious appetizers: shrimp and lobster margarita with papaya salsa and fresh guacamole in a margarita glass; edamame with natural sea salt and hoisin dipping sauce; and hommus with mini-pita wedges. I order the fresh grilled, moist and delicious salmon. Mitch gives the award-winning Vermont cheddar burger a big thumbs up. Then there are the desserts, the most memorable is a frozen homemade ice cream slice with the best hot fudge sauce I’ve tasted since Rumplemeyer’s in New York City. The Royal Street Café serves through Labor Day.

Got nerve for the Apine Slide?

Pleasantly refreshed we drive to the Utah Olympic Park (www.olyparks.com), site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, now a year-around museum, training facility, and recreation center. We are invited to ride the Olympic bobsled. “The Comet", with speeds up to 80MPH; "keep your shoulders up and hold the straps tight, so your head doesn’t go forward.” I listen to the instructor as squeals from a current run echo uphill. Was this really something I should be doing? I look around at my fellow journalists who approach this 4-G-force, 105 second ride with unabashed enthusiasm. Okay, I tell myself. you’re strapped in, you can’t fly out . . . a professional bobsled driver is in the front seat driving around 15 tight curves. You only live once . . .!

With four people to a bobsled we each climb in and hold our breath. We are pushed to the track and wham — hyperspace with hard curves all the way to the bottom. Yes, it’s jarring; sometimes we need to be jarred out of the routine; meanwhile Shannon and Mitch anticipate the Park’s newest addition, a four-line zipline.

Hilary led us to the training pool where kids and adults learn aerial tricks by skiing down a steep ramp called a kicker, reaching heights of 50 feet. An aerialist has four seconds to do twists, turns, and somersaults before splashing into the swimming pool. Future Olympic hopefuls are also practicing on trampolines at the far end of the water.

It is up the hill to the new Xtreme ziplines that take a 1,500 foot vertical drop along the ski jump hill at 60MPH. Deborah and I opted to watch our friends scream gleefully on their way down. We anticipate a hot rocks massage at the Align Spa.

Spas are an integral part of the Park City lifestyle. Athletic endeavors albeit hiking, biking, or skiing make professional, therapeutic treatments and massage a necessity.  For Deborah and I it is a combination of stress relief and sore muscles.

The Align Spa (866/99-ALIGN) is located in a condo complex next to the Park City Lodge. The mantra is total body wellness. The atmosphere is sanctuary soothing. Adam, my masseur, leads me to a quiet massage room with New Age music to promote relaxation. He uses hot rocks to open tight pressure points. After 90 minutes of artful, heat infused massage I arose a new woman.

Harriet McEntire, Align’s owner, prides herself on a unique range of services that includes: Craniosacral Therapy to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms; the Duet Massage, a beautiful way for couples to enjoy individual bodywork while sharing the fireplace room; and the Russian Sports Massage for increasing blood and lymph circulation.

Wahso, an Asian Grill located on Main Street proves to be one of the highlights of the trip. Due to its proximity, Park City theaters and venues are used to show films during the Sundance Film Festival, a hub of activity from sports to films. We begin with a 2001 Franciscan Oakville Estate Napa Valley Merlot — very smooth — and a Chateau St. Jean 2003 Chardonnay from Sonoma County.

Fresh fish is flown in twice daily
at Wahso (435/615-0300).

In keeping with its self-described Asian fusion menu with New French underpinnings we begin with a classic lettuce wrap. The filling is a tasty Tamazind grilled chicken, shitake mushroom, and crispy fried rice noodle mixture with a spicy peanut garlic dipping sauce. A plate of fresh tuna sashimi served with a leaf and ginger chive ponzu arrives, followed by K obe beef and shrimp satay served with fresh mango chutney. Executive chef Seth Latamier explains that two shipments of fresh fish are flown to Park City daily. 

What is most engaging about this Bill White restaurant is the architectural intimacy that creates the décor. Balancing Asian artifacts with earth tones, soft lighting and candlelight, the atmosphere is warm and cozy. Along the perimeter of the dining room there are private dining alcoves suitable for two or four people. These can be curtained off for romance and privacy.

order the Tea Leaf Smoked Sonoma Duck with soba noodles and sugar snap peas with a passion fruit demi glace. The duck is moist and delicious. The Hoisin glazed, seared Diver Scallops are tender enough to melt in the mouth, and the pressed tofu in Thai yellow curry is served with roasted leeks and Japanese eggplant.

I can not resist the Crème Brule served in a coconut shell. I order a chocolate Martini. The inside of the glass is artistically painted with the most delicious chocolate syrup.

Stein Eriksen Lodge in Winter

Return in winter for superb skiing
at Stein Eriksen Lodge.
(click photo)

Friday morning is an extraordinary meal at Glitretind inside the Stein Eriksen Lodge. Pastry chef Raymond Lammers sends out a basket of muffins and coffee cakes. Allie Kelly, an Olympic-trained skier who is now a Marketing Specialist for the lodge, welcomes us to a dining room with Scandinavian mountain charm. Among the breakfast offerings are an egg white frittata with zucchini, onions, pepper, basil, goat cheese, baby tomato relish, and pine nuts, omelets, pancakes or country walnut French toast with Vermont maple syrup, as well as their specialty, a Norwegian potato and bacon pancake.

During ski season Stein Eriksen, named for the Olympic skier, is one of the best places to stay or visit. Allie tells me that the breakfast buffet brings skiers back year after year. We were then treated to their award-winning housemade chocolates, using Valrhona from France and Callebaut from Belgium, two of the world’s most famous chocolates.

Executive Chef Zane Holmquist volunteers a tour of the downstairs wine cellar. Effusing charm and a passion for food and wine, Holmquist says that they have the largest wine list, and the best selection — about $350,000 worth of wine — in Utah. Glitretind has won the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator 11 times in the last 12 years.

The Alpine Slide at
Park City Mountain Resort.

Ready to work off the delicious breakfasts Reiter drives us to the Park City Mountain Resort where we have time for one ride. It is either the Alpine slide, a mini-self-controlled-bobsled adventure, or the zipline. I look up to see where the mountain meets the sky — I see the wires. Weighing my options I go with the zipline. “If you don’t want to try it, you don’t have to. Just take the lift down," says Reiter. Okay, I have options.

Krista and I climb into our respective harnesses and wait for the trap door to open. ZIP! Down we fly at 60MPH from 110 feet in the air, inhaling magnificent scenery as it whooshes past. I embrace everything. Liberation! I feel as if I have shed a thousand pounds of accumulated fears. I would have happily spent the day ziplining.

Park City from the gondola.

Next is the Canyons Resort (435/649-5400) where we climb aboard a gondola and glide high over the treetops to our mid-mountain destination, lunch at Red Pine.

Wooden and open to views of the awe-inspiring Wasatch Mountains, we enjoy roasted garlic hommus with fresh cut vegetables and pita chips, crab and avocado stuffed Ahi Tuna Roll, and grilled chicken quesadillas before our main courses. I select the sun-dried tomato Caesar with grilled salmon. To round out the menu there is Utah Red Trout roasted on a cedar plank with summer vegetables and red potatoes, an open-faced grilled portabella on herbed foccacio with pesto aioli, and an eight ounce ground sirloin with applewood bacon, and sharp cheddar hamburger.

When we arrive back at the lodge it is a mini-tour of The Canyons, the largest resort in Utah, with eight mountains on 3,500 acres. There are ski-in/ski-out facilities with a large spa offering a variety of luxurious and healing treatments.

I have the rest of the afternoon to explore Main Street ; I visit the downstairs jail inside the Historic Museum, and look at pictures of the early silver miners. William Randolph Hearst was one of the millionaires who made a fortune in Park City.

The Park City Jazz Festival is presented by Fidelity Investments at Desert Park, a phenomenal outdoor amphitheater reminiscent of the famed Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Surrounded by mountains with tall pines, ski lifts, and chalet-style condominiums dotting the upper mountainside, the sound is clean and clear. Every note is appreciated. An attractive group of jazz lovers are sprawling on blankets, sipping wine and eating picnic dinners.

Prepared by the Deer Valley Resort, our individual picnic baskets contain iced gulf shrimp with homemade citrus cocktail sauce, roasted game hen, baby spinach salad with grilled Gala apples, maple glazed cashews, feta cheese and a mustard vinaigrette; Cambozola cheese with a freshly baked demi-baguette and fruit. The piece de resistance is the raspberry truffle brownie.

The Rippington’s play Curves Ahead, Drive, and The South Beach Mambo. Guitarist Russ Freeman, Ripps founder and leader plays with Billy Heller on keyboards, Eric Marienthal, the consummate jazz saxophonist, Scott Breadman on percussion, and Kim Stone of Spryo Gyro, on bass. Their hot blend of sounds sooth, thrill and excite the crowd. They also play Ocean Song, Carribean Breeze, Black Diamond, MR 3, and Avenida.

The Park City Jazz
Festival is held in August.

The sun folds softly behind the mountains and a chill sweeps through the audience, especially those on the grassy knolls. Layered clothing makes everything cozy again as Freeman shares a song he wrote on the road, called Guitarland.  “I thought the Ripps would enjoy doing it.”

Freeman is right. The Ripps play that and then High Life for a standing ovation. The band, even over wine, beer, and brie are thoroughly appreciated by the fans. They leave the stage but return to honor Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze. Russ Freeman shouts, “We love you Park City ” to more applause.

Two gentlemen come out. “The bad news is that Chaka Kahn, due to a medical condition, won’t perform tonight. The good news is that the Lionel Hampton Orchestra is going to put on a fantastic show!” The audience is offered an additional free ticket for the Saturday night David Sanborn show.

Visit Webbandstand.comThe Lionel Hampton Orchestra plays for 90 minutes. They are smooth and hot when they need to be, keeping disgruntled ticket holders in their seats.

The Deer Park Amphitheater is one of the nicest venues I’ve visited. Over the summer they host a variety of groups, from the Utah Symphony to Opera to jazz greats like Al Jarreau.

I highly recommend Park City, Utah for a romantic getaway, a family vacation or as an individual wanting to renew one’s place in the universe.

By Linda Lane, Las Vegas Correspondent.