Love Letter

Skiing Park City, Utah: A Love Story

by Jay Riedl

When Snowbird tells you to risk it, you don't ask questions. Photo: Garrett Grove.

Avid skier and Australian-in-Manhattan Jay Riedl has skied throughout the western United States and Canada, but she has a special place in her heart for the slopes around Park City, Utah. In fact, she's loved them all.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – When you land in Salt Lake City, Utah, with skiing on the brain, you quickly realize that it's hard to be monogamous around here. There are too many temptations within close proximity.

Park City is my first wife. She has all the qualities I'd been looking for in a ski resort marriage: a reliable and dependable partner who challenges me with diverse terrain that can still surprise me, no matter how much time we spend together.

Park City

A cozy ski lift built for two. Photo: Adam Pryanovich/courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort.

She's terrific for going out. Such diverse culinary tastes. Zoom, Robert Redford's classic American upscale restaurant, serves fantastic food in a cozy yet refined interior. That little French place, Bistro 412, has incredible mussels in white wine sauce. From dive bars (No Name Saloon) to cool gastropubs (Tavern), Park City has everything. To say nothing for the annual Sundance Film Festival.

Bedroom-wise, well, talk about variety. Sometimes the mood calls for old-world charm with a not-too-pricey Euro vibe (Zermatt Hotel). Sometimes for posh, fancy, and sleek (The Sky Lodge); sometimes just for posh and fancy (Waldorf Astoria at Canyons Resort).

Deer Valley

Finding love at Deer Valley. Photo: Jackie Anderson/courtesy of Deer Valley.

But, you know, everything gets a little old with time. I had heard about neighboring Deer Valley before I met her. It was her sheer beauty that first appealed to me, and pretty quickly she became my second wife. So very different from Park City. I can't tell if she's high-maintenance or just highly maintained, but everything is custom designed from head to toe and her slopes are groomed within an inch of her life. She's a lady who lunches — at the best lunch, hands-down, I've ever had at any ski resort: Stein Eriksen Lodge. The seafood buffet isn't cheap, but you won't need dinner. Maybe, just maybe, we checked into a fireplace-equipped suite for a stretch. But only because we didn't want to run into anyone skiing into the lobby at the grand and gorgeous Montage or at St. Regis Deer Valley.

Still. Beauty is only skin-deep, and I pride myself on not being too superficial. Perhaps I was looking for a bit more adventure or something just more and different in my ski resort marriage. Things didn't last long.


Alta means business. Photo: Court Leve.


The view downhill at Alta. Photo: Adam Barker.

It's best to move on quickly — don't you think? — so the next day I found myself with Alta, the ultimate transitional girlfriend. Alta is edgier than Deer Valley and more challenging than Park City. We spent a nice bit of time together. She's exclusive (no snowboarders allowed). Not into shopping. And not a great cook: Her dining options are limited to ski resort fare like nachos and chili. We checked into the retro-cool Alta Lodge. I couldn't help but notice that things get really friendly with the locals. Maybe it was just too soon after Deer Valley, but we parted ways.


Snowbird is a demanding mistress. Photo: Mike Schirf.

Then Snowbird came into my life with a bang. I knew immediately that she would be my third wife. Dangerous like no other ski resort, she took my breath away. (Or maybe that was just the altitude.) I didn't marry Snowbird for her accommodations or her restaurants, though we had one hell of a brunch with a view at The Aerie.

No, I was in it for the adventure, all double-black diamonds with the occasional blue run. There's no messing around on Snowbird; I'm always on my toes. One day when I wasn't careful, she boxed me into a corner with nowhere to go but down a double black. I stood on the precipice and I had to take a leap of faith and just let go — like any good relationship. I jumped off what felt like a vertical slope and floated through soft powder, bouncing off moguls. I was terrified. I'm not going to lie — she pushed me to the edge of my abilities.

But Snowbird made me a better skier and taught me that I could handle whatever came my way and to live dangerously. She changed me for the better.


A good day at Snowbird. Photo: Kevin Winzeler.

But the best thing about skiing around Salt Lake City is there's no need to commit to one ski resort. You're in Utah. You can marry them all.


Fly: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is 30 miles from Park City, and all the resorts and mountains mentioned in this story are within a close driving distance. You'll go from airport to slopes in no time.

Getting around: The mountains in the area are connected by resort-owned and public shuttles, and Park City has a free city-wide bus service. You can get route info and maps from the Utah Transit Authority. There are many car and taxi services in town, so it's easy to get around without renting a car, though a car always affords more flexibility.


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We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.