Snow, Skis And Screenings: Do Sundance Like The Stars
By Heather Corcoran
There is a lot more to Utah than Mormons and mountains. The summer months may bring R.V.s and campers, but all year long the state offers a variety of accommodation to satisfy even the most demanding traveller.
Visit Utah in January and you might just find yourself mingling with the many movie buffs, industry folk and hangers-on that descend on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival. Since 1978, Hollywood has been making the annual pilgrimage to the Great Salt Lake for 10 days of screenings and schmoozing.
The former mining hub all but shut down until the 1980s, when tourism revived it as one of the state’s top two resort towns, lured in part by the Wild West charm. And now, movie premiers aren’t the only draw for Utah in the wintertime. The state recently started a new campaign to lure tourists looking for luxe out of the city and into the area’s spas, resorts and fine restaurants.
These “urban escapists” want to experience the great out doors without missing out on the conveniences of the city. “The outdoor escapist still likes his or her iPod. They like to rough it during the day and still have their nice amenities,” said Tracie Cayford, deputy director of the Utah Office of Tourism.
There are plenty of ways to rough it in style at the Stein Eriksen Lodge and Deer Valley Resort in Park City. The hotel was named for a Norwegian gold medalist, so it’s not surprising that the resort offers challenging ski runs. Intrepid skiers can be lifted more than 14,000 vertical feet in a helicopter or driven up at 10,000-foot-tall peak to ski the 17 slopes – without ever having to step foot on a ski lift.
Even on the ground, the hotel provides luxury transportation. Guests can be driven around Park City and the surrounding area in a Lexus or opt to take the scenic route with dog sleds, snow mobile rides, and horse-drawn carriages. The allure of winter sports does come at a price though; nightly winter rates for deluxe suites start at $2,145, up from summer’s $305.
After a hard day on the slopes, guests can relax at the spa or reenergize with the hearty food of served in one of the two restaurants. If the extensive wine list is intimidating, wine seminars can be arranged through the concierge. Sommelier Cara Schwindt, explains wine basics and nuances in the extensive 10,000-bottle wine cellar – with or without tasting.
Around the film festival, finding a hotel in Park City is nearly impossible, according to Cayford, so it’s important to book early and have a backup plan. The 54-suite Hotel Park City is a good alternative for travelers seeking a more intimate lodging. The penthouse and presidential suites will set you back $3,000 per night (double the off-season rate), but the Sleigh Restaurant has cheap eats, with dinner entrees all under $35.
In the base of the Wasatch Mountains, guests at the Hotel Park City are within minutes of three ski resorts, with a free shuttle for the ride. Among the neighboring ski and snowboarding resorts are the world-class sites used in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Serious skiers can drop off their skis for overnight tuning before heading to the spa for a 50-minute Skier’s Massage designed to undo and damage done on the slopes. For skiers so fanatical they’d rather spend time in the snow than at the spa, nearby Salt Lake County has deeper powder and a longer season.
In Salt Lake City, guests in deluxe rooms can view the Wasatch Mountains from their windows while staying at the Grand American Hotel for $339 per night. The resort combines the best of the city and the slopes, though visitors may prefer the shopping to the Salt Lake City Library, one of the town’s (limited) points of interest. Shopoholics can get a serious shopping fix at the nearby Trolley Square and in the five-diamond-rated hotel’s boutique.
For families, cultural sites like This Is the Place National Park are a way to distract kids too little for skis and to sneak in a lesson in the history of the “Crossroads of the West.” The hotel is less than a mile away from the sprawling 35 acre Temple Square, the center of the Mormon faith, if you want to pick up an extra wife or two. For those left unimpressed by downtown Salt Lake, the Grand American’s three-story spa might inspire awe. It has a full-sized pool and a host of options just for men.
Don’t worry if you missed out on Sundance this time. It’s not too early to start planning for next year.