WHITE MAGIC

Park City has small-town charm, great ski­ing and Aussie-style flat whites

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - DESTINATION US - ROWENA RYAN

My ski in­struc­tor, Alex Fleet, says “Just be con­fi­dent”. We’re stand­ing at the top of Ninety-nine 90 (named for its el­e­va­tion at 9990m), on a ridge over­look­ing a bowl filled with dou­ble black di­a­mond runs set to warm my legs. “Don’t for­get to breathe,” says Fleet as he drops off into the white magic be­low.

Wel­come to Park City Moun­tain Re­sort, Utah – the largest ski re­sort in the US. A for­mer western min­ing town, Park City is known for its an­nual starstud­ded Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val but it has an im­pres­sive list of other ac­co­lades. It held the 2002 Win­ter Olympics and is on the bucket-list of die-hard skiers and snow­board­ers for its famed Utah pow­der. But prob­a­bly the best-sell­ing point of ski­ing in Park City is its ac­cess. It’s a 35-minute drive from Salt Lake City and, af­ter a long­haul flight from Aus­tralia, the short­haul up to the moun­tains is a re­lief.

One of the most ex­cit­ing parts of vis­it­ing a new des­ti­na­tion is see­ing it out of the plane win­dow for the first time. Fly­ing into Salt Lake City is, in one word, spec­tac­u­lar. The golden colours of the desert be­low sud­denly meet the ma­jes­tic snow-capped moun­tains sur­round­ing the city and Mor­mon Salt Lake Tem­ple. BUT BACK TO THE WHITE STUFF …

THE HILL

When Vail Re­sorts bought Park City in 2014 they com­bined the two ski ar­eas – Park City Moun­tain Re­sort and its neigh­bour Canyons – in­vest­ing more than $US50 mil­lion ($A66 mil­lion) into the hill to make it the big­gest re­sort in the US, with nearly 30sq km of ski­able ter­rain.

What it hasn’t lost, how­ever, is its small-town charm, with its rich min­ing his­tory pre­ciously pre­served. Silver was first dis­cov­ered in the area in 1869 and it be­came one of the rich­est silver-min­ing op­er­a­tions in the coun­try. Ski runs named Quick­sil­ver, Pay­Day, Wi­d­ow­maker and Prospec­tor are an ode to its her­itage. Aban­doned min­ing build­ings still dot the moun­tain and you’ll ski past the orig­i­nal town safe where the city’s for­tunes were once kept. You can learn more on a free guided moun­tain his­tory tour.

I spend the next four days rip­ping around the two moun­tains, now linked by the new Quik­sil­ver Gon­dola, that of­fer two very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences. At Canyons you’ll ski past mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar homes of the rich and fa­mous, in­clud­ing Will Smith’s hum­ble abode, and over and un­der bridges, and if tree runs are your thing, you’ll find some awe­some glade ski­ing.

Park City Moun­tain is more about the long wide groomers but the up­per parts of the hill have mul­ti­ple bowls and gladed ar­eas for ad­vanced skiers. McCon­key’s Bowl – named af­ter lo­cal ski­ing le­gend Jim McCon­key, the fa­ther of the late big-moun­tain hero Shane McCon­key – soon be­comes a favourite, rais­ing my heart rate and even­tu­ally my love of bumps.

For four days my ski in­struc­tor, Fleet, has been build­ing up my skills for a run he says is “like no other” – Ca­nis Lupis.

Tucked away be­tween trees on the far side of Canyons, it’s a chute with lit­tle space to prac­tise my turns and I find my­self duck­ing trees and nav­i­gat­ing rollers be­cause once you’re in­side there’s no get­ting out. But noth­ing beats the sense of ela­tion of shoot­ing out the other end and the sat­is­fac­tion to still be on two skis. “Shall we do it again?” he asks.

THE AUSSIE CON­NEC­TION

There’s no deny­ing it, Aus­tralia’s ob­ses­sion with cof­fee is defin­ing our hol­i­days.

So when some Aussie Park City ski­ing reg­u­lars re­alised the Amer­i­can brew wasn’t go­ing to cut it, they brought the good stuff them­selves to the slopes. There are now three Aus­tralian-owned cafes in Park City where lines out of the doors speak vol­umes for their caf­feine­in­fused rep­u­ta­tion.

Cam­pos Cof­fee, at the base of Park City Moun­tain, opened in De­cem­ber last year with flat whites, Vegemite jaf­fles and the oh-so-Aussie smashed av­o­cado. Or try Har­vest for more “real” cof­fee and a se­ri­ously good Bud­dha bowl. And then there’s Five5eeds owned by an­other Aus­tralian cou­ple who even flew their head chef back to their home town of Mel­bourne for in­spi­ra­tion – the hot cakes are al­most too beau­ti­ful to eat.

YOU’LL SKI PAST THE ORIG­I­NAL TOWN SAFE WHERE THE CITY’S FOR­TUNES WERE ONCE KEPT

DON’T SKI?

I’ll ad­mit it, I was scep­ti­cal about our evening planned in a Vik­ing Yurt, at the top of Park City Moun­tain, but it turns out to be a highly en­ter­tain­ing af­fair. An open-air sleigh takes guests up the hill above the twin­kling lights of Park City be­low. Rugged up with blan­kets, bean­ies and mit­tens you’ll ar­rive at the yurt to be greeted with a glass of hot Nor­we­gian glogg fol­lowed by a six-course Nordic meal .

If stay­ing at ground level is more your thing head to the High West Dis­tillery at Blue Sky Ranch. The build­ing it­self is worth a visit with spec­tac­u­lar views over the Uinta Moun­tains. I’m not ac­tu­ally a whiskey drinker, but when a flight of High West’s best whiskey is pre­sented with a char­cu­terie board wor­thy of In­sta­gram posts – I am con­verted.

THE TOWN

The his­toric Main St is where you’ll find all the ac­tion – start with apres at No Name Sa­loon & Grill. Sur­rounded by fairy­lights and ski para­pher­na­lia, it’s ca­sual and cosy and has typ­i­cal western charm.

You’ll find your­self strik­ing up a con­ver­sa­tion with fel­low fresh track chasers in no time.

Note: You’ll need to take your pass­port out for ID, in­ter­na­tional driv­ers li­cences are not ac­cepted. Dine at Robert Red­ford’s Zoom – get the mac’n’cheese. And stroll the shops in­clud­ing Sock City, which is lit­er­ally heaven for your feet.

THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF VAIL RE­SORTS.

PIC­TURE: VAIL RE­SORTS

Views of Utah’s fa­mous pow­der await.

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