Snowy winters make it a stellar destination for skiers, but autumn adventures abound at Park City’s premier resort.
When I think of Deer Valley, the iconic ski area in Park City, Utah, I envision snow-enveloped slopes speckled with skeletal aspens and a population bundled up in Patagonia jackets. I’ve only been to the legendary skiing locale during the winter months, when the surrounding Wasatch Mountain Range is packed with ivory-colored powder. But this time, I’m here in early autumn, and the resort’s mountainous terrain is freckled with foliage that’s just starting to turn from lush green to vibrant auburn and umber.
I’m mostly excited to ride the chairlift in a light sweater without skis strapped to my feet, but Deer Valley has so much more to offer in the fall, from a thriving foodie scene to outdoor adventures like fly-fishing and mountain biking. Deer Valley is a winter wonderland during ski season, but fall is a green- and orange-tinged dreamscape.
My sojourn starts at Stein Eriksen Lodge (7700 Stein Way, Park City, 435-649-3700, steinlodge.com), named after the Olympic gold medal skier. It’s Utah’s first and longest-standing hotel to receive Forbes five-star status, and a recent $14 million expansion added an array of amenities including a family-focused swimming pool, an après ski area with fire pits and the Champions Club, a 3,500-square-foot entertainment center featuring a slew of free arcade games.
The lodge possesses a refreshing polarity – it’s swanky without being pretentious, and is both serene and bustling. There’s a wedding taking place during my stay, and the bridal party is buzzing around the expansive courtyard, taking pictures and talking excitedly. I take a picture of my own, on the deck overlooking the Deer Valley mountains, to post on Instagram. No filter needed.
My ski-less chairlift dreams come true when I embark on a mountain biking excursion at Deer Valley Resort (2250 Deer Valley Dr. S., Park City, 435-649-1000, deervalley.com). During the summer and fall, the ski trails transform into biking trails facilitated by three lifts. Deer Valley’s fleet of full-suspension mountain bikes makes exploring the 70-mile range of rocky landscape easy – if you know what you’re doing. Turns out skippering a mountain bike isn’t as simple as tooling around on a beach cruiser, the kind of easy-going biking I’m used to. Equipped with a helmet, gloves and elbow- and kneepads, I manage to navigate the trails with an apprehensiveness that I’m sure looks ridiculous to the scores of seasoned bikers that maneuver around the mountain with effortless finesse. Mountain biking is an art that I haven’t quite mastered, but it sure is exhilarating.
Speaking of things I haven’t mastered, fly-fishing on the Provo River (about 25 minutes from Deer Valley) is a popular year-round activity in Utah. It’s a fine art that requires equal parts patience and skill – and stylish heavy-duty overalls called waders. The repetitive motion of whipping the pole upstream is relaxing, and I get little spurts of excitement when I feel a tug, only to find that my hook has lodged under a rock at the bottom of the river. But on my last cast of the day, I get a bite and my helpful instructor, Jayce of Wasatch Guide Service (877-947-8824, wasatchguideservice.com), helps me reel in a brown trout. I gleefully pose for pictures holding my prize before gently releasing the fish back into the river.
I may not be a veteran fisherman or pro mountain biker, but I am an avid hiker, and the 2.5-mile trek to the top of Bald Mountain, Deer Valley’s highest lift-served peak, is right up my alley.
Amble through a grove of towering aspens, rambling meadows and a meandering trail filled with wildflowers before arriving at a set of challenging switchbacks that leads to the summit. The view from the top is worth the labored breathing and aching muscles, plus hikers get a complimentary lift ride down with prime leaf-peeping opportunities.
If sitting on some grass and simply taking in your surroundings is more your speed, Deer Valley hosts an annual concert series at Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater from June to September. The venue, nestled at the base of the Deer Valley mountains, provides a stunning backdrop for acts like Jenny Lewis, Thievery Corporation and Squeeze. Concertgoers can bring their own food and drinks – including beer and wine! – or pre-order a gourmet picnic.
Take a shuttle into downtown Park City, where quaint homes built during the mining boom in the early 1900s mingle with charming shops, galleries, bars and restaurants. Make a stop at Atticus Coffee, Books & Teahouse (738 Lower Main St., Park City, 435-214-7241, atticustea.com) to sip on loose-leaf teas and creative coffee drinks while browsing used books and local goods or pop into the Park City Museum (528 Main St., Park City, 435-649-7457, parkcityhistory.org) to learn about the town’s storied history as a silver-mining metropolis.
If you’re staying at Stein Eriksen, you don’t need to leave the lodge for good grub. Troll Hallen Lounge is a worthy option for a light, laid-back lunch. I opt for the Caesar salad with shrimp, studded with scrumptious asiago croutons and paired with a piquant puttanesca relish. At Glitretind Restaurant, Stein’s award-winning fine dining destination, I find a delightful seasonal menu full of fresh, locally sourced fare like the mouthwatering Farmer Jones’ Greens Salad, a medley of juicy Utah peaches, house-made ricotta, almonds and a tangy honey-wine vinaigrette on a bed of fresh lettuce. I have a penchant for seafood, so the Maine sea scallops with purple potatoes and sea beans – beans that grow on the beach! – are my pick for the main course. For dessert: possibly the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had. I also hear that Glitretind has a famous Sunday brunch buffet featuring fresh crêpes and crab claws. Next time.
Although I didn’t get to try Glitretind’s elaborate brunch, I’m just as happy with a mocha and a granola bowl from Deer Valley Grocery~Café (1375 Deer Valley Dr., 435-615-2400, deervalley.com). Peruse the shop’s selection of local gourmet goodies like jam, maple syrup and vinaigrettes, and then snag a seat on the deck for sweeping views of the Deer Valley Ponds.
Park City also has a burgeoning culinary scene anchored by a small coterie of stellar restaurants. Vegans will love the chicken-fried portobello and other veggie-centric dishes at Twisted Fern (1300 Snow Creek Dr., 435-731-8238, twistedfern.com), a bright, trendy café with creative, chef-driven cuisine.
I’m not sure if it was when I was scarfing down scallops, daringly plunging downhill on a mountain bike or holding a live fish in my bare hands, but my perception of Deer Valley is no longer limited to skiing snow-capped mountains. In fact, fall might be even more fun.
Unwind after a long day of outdoor escapades with these relaxing indoor activities.
Montage Après Lounge
This luxury yurt serves Veuve Clicquot Champagne, along with a glut of gourmet hors d’oeuvres like caviar, charcuterie and smoked salmon, in rustic-chic environs. À votre santé. 9100 Marsac Ave., Park City, 435-604-1300, montagehotels.com
The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge
Utah’s only five-star spa includes a sauna, steam room and hot and cold plunge baths. Soothe sore muscles and alleviate altitude sickness with one of Stein’s signature treatments. 7700 Stein Way, Park City, 844-448-8772, steinlodge.com/spa
High West Distillery & saloon
Take a tour of the distillery, try a dangerously drinkable whiskey flight or choose from more than two dozen bourbon cocktails at this saloon-style watering hole housed in a historical livery stable. 703 Park Ave., Park City, 435-649-8300, highwest.com