Once a year, Hollywood (or a portable version of it) descends on Park City, Utah for 10 days of film screenings, Q&As, live music and movie stars strutting in winter parkas. Highlights at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which runs 19-29 January, include the premieres of Beatriz at Dinner (Salma Hayek’s character gets stranded at the most awkward party ever), The Polka King (Jack Black takes on a Polish pastime), and The Discovery (Sundance founder Robert Redford stars in a sci-fi about the afterlife). Additionally, expect inventive food, full-service boutique digs and a healthy amount of locally-distilled whiskey. If you’re heading to Park City, whether for the festival or a trip later in the year, here are five things to keep in mind…
1 Sundance is the best time to hit the slopes.
Ask any local and they’ll tell you the same: the typical Sundance visitor doesn’t alpine, freestyle or shred. In fact, the festival crowd tends to steer clear of the slopes completely, which makes those 10 days the best time to avoid lift lines. Within the former mining town, there are two ski resorts: Park City and Deer Valley. Park City – which is the largest ski resort in the US with over 300 trails and almost 40 lifts – welcomes skiers and snowboarders alike. Deer Valley, on the other hand, is reserved for skiers only.
2 You can stay at a B&B&B (bed and breakfast and booze).
It’s not uncommon to score some eggs and bacon with a hotel stay. However, at Washington School House, a 19th-century school that’s been converted into a boutique hotel, your room also includes made-to-order cocktails. Order a martini to your room or enjoy a signature old fashioned by the lounge fireplace – all drinks are covered. There are also complimentary après-ski snacks – a charcuterie tray, soup and homemade sweets – served daily. Equally indulgent, the hotel has an outdoor, year-round heated pool and Jacuzzi.
3 Cauliflower is huge…
Think beyond typical lodge fare (burgers, pizza, chili, etc). Park City’s dining scene is focused on seasonal menus and local produce, including the king of the crudité platter – cauliflower. At Handle, just off Main Street at 136 Heber Avenue, Chef Briar Handly creates buffalo-style cauliflower with hot sauce and blue cheese. While you’re there, also try the butternut squash with a black garlic emulsion, and the short rib tostada. Over at High West Distillery, the cauliflower comes as a gratin, with cheddar cheese sauce and roasted peppers.
4 …but whiskey is even bigger.
And speaking of High West, you can’t visit Park City without sampling this distillery’s award-winning spirits. Founded in 2006, High West is the first legal distillery in the state since 1870 (fun fact: back in those days unmarried miners weren’t allowed to live downtown because there were too many “pleasures” nearby). The label’s saloon at 703 Park Avenue sits at the bottom of a ski run, which makes it the only ski-in gastro-distillery in the world. Sip bourbon outside by the fire, or head inside for chicken schnitzel, deviled eggs with candied bacon, pan fried trout and more.
5 Summer here is just as epic.
Sure, there’s no film festival come June, but there’s still plenty to do in Park City. Take a gondola ride up to the Mid-Mountain Trail at Canyons Village for a scenic hike, go fly-fishing on the Provo River, kayak down the Weber River, or take a soak in the Homestead Crater – a geothermal spring within a 55-foot-tall limestone rock. And yes, whiskey tastes just as good when the weather’s warm.