There’s been lots of news coming out of Park City over the past few years, from the much-contested One Wasatch proposal, which would connect many of Utah’s resorts by chairlifts or gondolas, to Vail’s 2014 purchase of Park City Mountain Resort and its ultra-long-term lease of The Canyons next door—a nearly $500 million investment. All this money has blown into town. A big fat cloud of it. So Park City must be radically different now, right? This just can’t be same charming, authentic place it’s always been, can it?
Actually it can. To be sure, the town smelled of luxury before Vail got involved. Want to tip heavily? Check into The St. Regis. Or The Waldorf Astoria. Or The Montage. The joint is lousy with hot stones and eucalyptus. But the best thing about Park City is still (and always has been) its roots. The town’s pretty, dirty past is still present. High West Distillery & Saloon, for example, was carved out of a 19th-century livery and serves some of the town’s best lunches and dinners. Plus it’s the world’s only ski-in, ski-out distillery, which has obvious perils. Sober up on the slow, fixed-grip Town lift, just two ski lengths from High West.
Walk historic Main Street—which, mercifully, has bounced back from a near-fatal T-shirt shop/real estate office/antler-art takeover—to browse world-class art galleries (Gallery Mar, Terzian Galleries, and the Meyer Gallery), glam restaurants (Silver, Fletcher’s), and a booming music scene at the brand-new O.P. Rockwell.
The truth is, Park City’s roots run so deep, it’ll take more than Vail’s influence to shake things up. Need proof? Belly up to the bar at the No Name Saloon, where there’s a party seven nights a week and the same 10 guys have been sitting on the same 10 barstools for the last 30 years. And don’t miss the Egyptian Theater, the classic mining-era entertainment emporium that now hosts hilariously decent local theater. It’s a robust, year-round community that keeps Main Street real. But Park City locals know there are others who help things along. Like the PIBs—the “People in Black” who up the town’s cool factor when they invade with the Sundance Film Festival for a fortnight in mid-January. Great movies, great parties, Redford sightings...and empty runs. During Sundance, the pistes look like the Long Island Expressway during Passover.
Local grumbling about gentrification aside, all admit it’s still beautiful in Park City— the closeness of the canyons, the three amazing ski resorts, and the 400 miles of hiking and biking trails in the lovely summer season. The next few years will be interesting as Vail goes from polite new house guest to complacent local, but we’d wager it’ll be nothing that resilient Park City can’t handle.
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