Park City, A Town For All Seasons

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You never know who you’ll bump into while hiking in Park City. Thomas Bricker photos.

Park City in the Springtime

By Cathie Arquilla
Senior Writer

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Capturing views was on our hiking agenda

Being at a ski resort in early May is a bit like going to a party after it’s over.

But, sometimes it’s nice to have peace and quiet – the place to yourself. And that’s what it felt like to be at Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah the first week of May.

Located 15 minutes from historic Park City Main Street, Canyons is a great option any time of year for just about every sport.

You don’t have to get in your car to access things you need, there’s a convenience grocery store, bars, and restaurants (from casual to fine dining) – Drafts Burger Bar to Kita Japanese Steakhouse.

Utah Food and Views

After the lifts stop, there is still plenty to do. Food and views were on our schedule, and Park City delivered! The food was easy enough (more on that later), but we wanted an epic hike, stress-free, memorable, and picture-worthy.

One that gave us a taste of Park City outdoors and its history as a mining town. For that, we needed a guide and White Pines Adventure hooked us up with Victoria Ritzinger.

As a resident of Park City for the past 30 years and a guide for White Pines for 11 years, Victoria knows her way around. Our hike was between Park City and Deer Valley Ski Resort. We were slated to go on a day that was a 30-degree mixture of sleet and snow, despite the fact that it was May.

Victoria had checked in with us the day before to assess our fitness level and ask if we had any requests. I had her number, so I called to see if we could push our hike to the following day. She accommodated, and when it came time for our hike, we were greeted by a glorious bluebird sky. All this is to say that White Pines isn’t so big an operation that you are locked into something you can’t switch up.

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On the trail between Park City Ski Resort and Deer Valley Ski Resort

We Adjust To You

Victoria explained, “Most of our tours are private tours, we adjust to you, to your group, or family. Sometimes it’s just one person, and we try to give you the best experience to have a good time and enjoy nature.” We were going for a two-hour hike and a baby moose joined us along the way!

Be A Tree Hugger

Apparently, it is accepted wisdom that if a moose charges, one should hide behind a tree. Victoria told us that if they feel threatened, they may charge. Fortunately, their eyesight isn’t very good, so hikers can evade a dangerous situation by – you guessed it – tree-hugging! (I had to wonder, what if there were no trees!?)

I’m not sure we would have noticed this 500+ pound moose if Victoria hadn’t pointed him (or her?) out. Darwinian-like, the moose blended in.

If there’s a baby, there’s probably a mom nearby. We were seeing droppings and tracks, again, thanks to Victoria. We walked past the baby cautiously, senses alert, and carried on our way, except once the trail traversed back, the moose was right on the trail, stalwart, not budging.

When A Guide Guides

I felt scared and excited. Victoria seemed confident and at ease. In a sing-song nursery rhyme voice, she pleaded with the baby to move off the trail. My daughter Isabella suggested in a high voice of concern, “Is there another trail down?” Sensing our nervousness, Victoria guided us off the trail for a bit, and down an incline, coaching us to, “Step sideways and wedge your foot in,” until we reached the next trail. It was all very heady, and fodder for good storytelling.

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Silver King Mine was one of the most profitable mines of its time.

There’s Silver In Them Thar Hills

Our adventure also included seeing the Silver King Mine in operation from 1892 to 1953. It is considered one of the “Big Three” mines in Park City. About 1,200 miles of mining tunnels snake beneath the ski runs, hiking trails, and mounting bike paths of Park City’s ski resorts.

Inside Silver King, we saw an old rusted car circa the 1940s. Victoria explained that teenagers love to come party and take videos inside the ruin. There’s a big dilapidated water tank attached to the structure and all manner of engineering stuff. Recognizable to me were stairs, levies, and pulleys. It had to be quite the silver, lead, zinc, (and gold) getting operation way back when…

Relax And Let Go (With A Guide)

If you want an adventure; rock climb, fly fish, mountain bike, cross country ski, snowshoe or hike. BUT you’re a bit nervous. You don’t know where to go, or how to do it. Will you run into a bear, wolf, or moose? A White Pine guide, or any professional guide for that matter, is there to mentor you through the experience with expert-level instruction, and guidance (like a GPS that actually knows the best route because they are human).

Most importantly, Victoria says, “You can relax, you don’t have to stress, is this trail the wrong one? Am I going to go the wrong way, am I going to end up walking into a moose, what do I do?! If you twist your ankle the guide has the equipment to help you. You feel safer and it takes you to a level of relaxation. It’s all about memories in life and we try to help you relax so you can create them.”

Victoria is also connected with Park City Yoga Adventures. They offer a yoga class on paddleboards at The Homestead Crater in Heber Valley. This is a geothermal hot spring inside a 55-foot dome of limestone rock. Temps are a soothing 90-95 degrees year-round. The stand-up paddle (SUP) class can be part of a full-day adventure that includes hiking or snowshoeing.

The Best Season Is Any Season

Victoria, who was born and raised in Buenos Aires, vacations in big cities to recharge. She explained that during the busy seasons, she’ll sometimes guide two groups into the mountains in a day.

So when I asked her what her favorite time of year to hike in Park City was, she said, “Fall, because the colors of the fall are very very amazing here with changes,” without hesitation. Although, she quickly added, “They’re all beautiful, June and end of July – August, depending on the altitude, you can go to some trails that are absolutely beautiful, the wildflowers. To really see the flowers and everything you have to give it enough time for the snow to melt.”

She pointed out a trail as we were ending our hike that we could have gone on, but in early May it was too snowy and muddy. She explained, “In winter it’s a different experience because you really go in the middle of nature, nothing else.”

I think she was trying to describe the feeling of being deep in nature, tree bathing, communing with the elements, we’ve all felt it. You don’t have to be Walt Whitman to appreciate a walk in the woods.

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Riverhorse Cafe’s Cowboy Ribeye, Ace-high!

Dining (Or Getting Grub) In Park City

Our special occasion dinner was at Riverhorse Cafe. My son James was graduating from the University of Utah and we were ready to celebrate!

Located in the heart of downtown Park City on the second floor, Riverhorse’s balcony overlooks Main Street. I imagine on warmer nights and for cocktails, it’s fun to be on Main Street overlooking the eclectic crowd that visits and lives in Park City.

Riverhorse has all the creds a restaurant of its caliber deserves. Courchevel Bistro is another Main Street fine dining Park City choice, but it was closed, as were several restaurants the first two weeks of May. Note to reader: check for hours of operation. Call first! website

Risotto Done Different

The decor of Riverhorse was a bit spartan for my taste. However, the food was creative. My favorite dish? Scallop and Shrimp Tom Kha with Saffron Risotto.

The shrimp had this lovely, crusty, sweet-spicy glaze. The risotto, cooked with lemongrass coconut cream was beyond!! Coconut creamy with a hint of earthy mustard and mint. Perhaps that’s the mixture of saffron and lemongrass?

Cowboy Fare

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Cognac marshmallow floats in a lobster bisque.

And who doesn’t want to add a cowboy feature to their dining experience when in Utah?! We did that with the Hand-Cut Buffalo Tartare. Made with few surprises – Dijonnaise, fresh horseradish, egg yolk, and capers, it was a classic tartare, but being buffalo instead of beef, it had a full-bodied taste, to use a wine term. Other appetizers included Lobster Bisque with a cognac marshmallow floating in the middle – now THAT’s different

and Poached Pear with Creamy Burrata. That’s not so different, but actually, it was! Add to the burrata, dates, baby greens, local honey, and figs, it was a playful dish that I loved. My son had the Cowboy Ribeye for his entree that was on point. His side was scalloped potatoes, which we all tasted too enthusiastically for James’s liking.

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O’Shucks that’s a decent beer!

From Fine Dining to Dive Bar Drinking

Post dinner, we saddled up to a bar. O’Shucks was the name and awe shucks was it perfect. Ski, booze, and cowboy paraphernalia were strewn hither and yon.

Country-rock was playing. And coming from New York City, the drinks were laughably cheap. A family that can go from fine dining to dive bar drinking in hours has got something special.

A Few Other Yummy Park City Establishments

Five5eeds: Our hiking guide Victoria explained that it was a local favorite with really fresh food providing a healthy twist on classics. She was right! We got the impression that “the locals” were a pretty groovy (and fit) bunch.

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Breakfast all day long, Bloody Marys too!

The Eating Establishment: Breakfast for dinner, or any time? And perhaps a bloody mary with that? That’s reason enough to go to the Eating Establishment, and also Modern Family dad, Ty Burrell is the owner.

Our waiter was super gregarious and fun. I wonder if they hire their staff based on their ability to help guests lighten up sit-com style. Really good pancakes too!

A Store That Takes You There

Shopping or just browsing at Gorsuch transports you to a luxury resort. Yet, it’s homey, like your really cool best friend invited you to their Alpine Villa in Courchevel (which happens to be Park City’s sister city).

The buyers for this store just get it right! From the tablescapes to the sheepskin vest I tried, to the whimsical Zimmerman dresses, it’s dreamy, pure escapism.

Gorsuch, for a fun shopping escape.
Gorsuch, for a fun shopping escape.

Gorsuch is a family-run company with stores in Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek, and Park City. In Park City, it takes up several storefronts in a row. With both men’s and women’s, ski gear and an incredible display of houseware, it’s the curation that really makes this place special. Just go in, whether you can afford it or not! It’s a toe-dip into a luxury ski or sun vacation.

Park City, Any Time Of Year

Naturally, there are tons of stores, art galleries, and restaurants lining Main Street. If you can dedicate a half-day to checking it out, you’ll get a chic, western vibe with notes of a historic mining town thrown in.

Once you’ve decided what you want to do, from leaf-peeping to snowshoeing, to fat-tire biking, (or maybe nothing at all!) let that be what drives your decision of when to visit Park City. I was there for graduation in early May, just past ski season, and still, the great outdoors welcomed us, as did a baby moose.

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Strolling Park City’s Main Street after the ski season, and after hours.

Find out more at Visit Park City

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