In the tiny Utah settlement of Wanship (population: 400), The Lodge at Blue Sky, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection,is a place for dudes and dudettes to saddle up: on this 3,500-acre ranch, fellow guests include rescue horses, meandering moose and falcons soaring through the skies. A creek (not a river) runs through it, and more references to Robert Redford can be found on the activity programme, which includes fly-fishing. You’ll also be able to wander over to the whiskey distillery next door, pop down to Park City for the powder and admire just how artistically the architecture blends in with its spectacular mountain backdrop.
Get this when you book through us:
A resort credit of US$100, to be put towards meals, excursions or spa treatments
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability and a varying charge. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £1466.35 ($1,822), including tax at 21.52 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast (from $30–50 a person). Access to the fitness centre, pool and relaxation areas are all included in your stay, as well as regular yoga and meditation classes (offered a few times a week) and evening activities.
If you thought you were well versed in yoga practice, you might reconsider after a quick glance at the programme here: vertical vinyasa, snowshoe ’n’ yoga, adventure yoga and heli-yoga (we’re not sure either) are as run of the mill as your average downward dog at this lodge. There are also meditation classes for rehearsing those oms.
At the hotel
Valet parking, yoga yurt, gym, kids’ club, stables, farm, laundry service, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: air-conditioning, free bottled water, kettle, Nespresso machine, TV, DVD player and Auberge bath products.
Our favourite rooms
For the most seclusion, couples should opt for an adults-only Creek House, which are (unsurprisingly) on the banks of the Alexander Creek. Fly fishers will also love these rooms, since they come with their own rods and tackle. Families will enjoy the Two-Bedroom Signature Suites in the main lodge, which have so much space, you (probably) won’t get on each others’ nerves.
There are two, including an infinity-edge, hot-tub-enhanced heated one with a stellar view of the local landscape. The second one’s in the Edge Spa; it’s also heated and outdoors, but this time adults only, too.
The Edge Spa is named for its only slightly hairy setting at the edge of a precipice overlooking Alexander Creek. There’s a sauna, hammam and five treatment rooms for relaxing rituals that use natural ingredients, some of which have been grown on the ranch. Treatments can be taken in-room if you prefer.
You’ll need some saddle-friendly styling, sturdy, suitable-for-ranch-roaming footwear and layers for those nippy desert nights. If you’re planning on hitting the Park City piste, don’t forget the salopettes.
The lodge’s communal areas are all accessible for wheelchair users, and some rooms have been specially adapted.
All ages are welcome, and there are lots of mini-Smith-approved activities. There are two-bedroom suites and some connecting options available, but Creek Houses are for adults only. Babysitting is available with a few hours’ notice.
Babies and up.
There are two-bedroom suites and some connecting options available, but Creek Houses are for adults only.
The Little Vaqueros kids' club is suitable for children aged between five and 12, and is open from the middle of September to the very start of December. Morning sessions are 9am to 11am; the afternoon slot is 1pm to 3pm. All of the programmes focus on learning about the Lodge's Utah landscape, history and culture. The programme themes are subject to change within 48 hours, depending on how many kids have enrolled.
There are lots of mini-Smith-approved activities, including horse-grooming (with added mane-braiding), back-country-shelter building, learning fire-starting skills, pottery classes and tours of the farm that span collecting eggs from the chickens, seeing how the honey is made and feeding the animals.
Kids are welcome in the restaurant, which has a special menu.
Babysitting is available with a few hours’ notice.
There’s a farm onsite, from where much of the produce is sourced (organic eggs, greens, herbs, wildflowers and honey) – everything else comes from neighbouring farms and artisanal local suppliers. Recycling is taken seriously, too.
The corner booths near the window have the best views, but if you want to watch the chefs at work, opt for a table near the pass.
If you’ve always wanted to be one of those people who can pull off cowboy boots, now’s a good time to start.
Yuta (see what they did there?) serves up a seasonal, modern American menu, with dishes dreamt up based on what’s growing on Gracie’s Farm and the surrounding smallholdings. Chef Galen Zamarra looked to the cultures that shaped Utah: the Chinese, Irish and Spanish all played a part in the state’s history and came from both coasts with the railroad. Sounds like a pretty delicious mix to us; expect cactus, chilli, aioli and, er, ephedra tea. Star dishes include clay-pot pigeon with sage and mushrooms, and corn soup with seared scallops. Breakfast is a made-to-order choice of dishes like pastry baskets, French or avocado toast, and pancakes. Guests can also head over to the Refectory at the High West Distillery, which is on the estate and open for lunch Wednesday to Saturday, for brunch on Sunday and for rousing supper clubs with live music every Thursday.
Swap stories of banditry and bank robbery (we’re kidding) after days out in the mountains over homegrown-herb-garnished whiskey cocktails (made using the distillery-next-door’s finest) and craft Utah beers. There’s live music here at weekends (and possibly some line-dancing if you ask nicely).
Breakfast hours are 7am to 11am (brunch on the weekends is 11am to 2pm); lunch is served from 11am to 3pm; and dinner is 5pm to 9pm. The bar calls time at 11pm.
Meals can be served in your room if you’d like, and room service is available from 7am to 9.30pm daily.
The Lodge at Blue Sky is a remote, natural-beauty spot in the western American state of Utah, north of Park City and east of Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City International Airport is the closest to the lodge; the 40-mile drive should take 45 minutes. Hotel transfers start from US$199 each way.
This is the Wild West and the distances are vast: it’s definitely worth hiring a car at the airport for road-tripping ease. The drive to Park City and its ski slopes shouldn’t take longer than 25 minutes. Allow 40 minutes to reach the centre of Salt Lake City. There’s free valet parking once you reach the lodge.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s a whole 3,500-acre ranch out there for the lassoing: ride horseback through the sagebrush-lined trails, channel Robert Redford and get fly-fishing in those mountain streams, ride a mountain bike, set off on one of the hiking trails or shoot some sporting clays. As if there wasn’t enough to keep you happily ensconced at the ranch, the lodge is also close to the Park City Mountain Resort, a vast ski area that has some impressive vital statistics: more than 7,300 acres, 348 trails and 41 lifts make this the biggest ski and snowboard resort in the whole of the US. The hotel can also arrange cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, along with canvas-painting classes and geocaching. For more Robert-Redford-film mimicry, sign up for a lesson in horsemanship – you’ll be a horse whisperer in no time. Further afield, hike the two and a half miles to the Fifth Water Hot Springs – a two-hour drive south from the lodge (a hop, in America) – to be rewarded with thermal pools, waterfalls and forest.
There’s nothing for miles, until you hit Park City, where Five Seedson Snow Creek Drive looks Down Under for its brunch inspiration: expect avo on toast, hotcakes and chia puddings, with – of course – excellent coffee. On Thursdays, the High West Distillery, on the same Wanship estate as the lodge, keeps its barrels open late to host a convivial supper club with whiskey pairings; you'll also be able to learn how every self-respecting cowboy’s favourite drink is made on a tour throughout the week. At Twisted Fern, back in Park City, you can enjoy all-American dishes, such as Utah elk with red potatoes, asparagus and roast-carrot purée, and blackened octopus with blue-corn grits and green-tomato relish. For flame-grilled fare, head to Firewood, where dishes are cooked mostly on a wood fire (get it?), including lamb shank with aubergine, mustard spätzle and chimichurri; chicken with kale, braised fennel and summer corn; striped bass with shrimp, mint, caper and olive.
Admire the exceptionally neat selection of spirits on display at White Horse in Park City – before requesting which one you want pulled down and made into a craft cocktail, obviously.
Driving from Salt Lake City to Wanship, Utah, 19 miles outside of Park City proper, doesn’t sound like an adventure. But the day I made the journey was momentous. First off, my trip coincided with the local Gwyneth Paltrow bunny-hill, ski-and-run trial that had a stranglehold on my social media feeds and my group texts. And then there was the fact that I was driving toward not just a media storm but an actual one.
Given that this was the snowiest season the area had seen in at least 49 years, I was ready for flakes. But perhaps the natives were knee-deep in the courthouse drama just like I was because the snow squall that swept across the canyons seemed to surprise everyone, and the flurry of activity, literal and figurative, made arriving at the Lodge at Blue Sky even more of a respite.
As we pulled into the circle drive after creeping along I-80, you could probably see my shoulders relax. While Mr Smith and I checked in, the staff whisked our bags upstairs and parked our (blessedly four-wheel-drive) car without a word and greeted us with steamy teas in handmade ceramic mugs. The thought of not leaving for the rest of the weekend absolutely crossed my mind, and that was before we made it up to our room.
With a bed piled with the greatest pillows my head had encountered in a long while, the Sky Suite had a wall of windows framing the sort of mountain views that hotels’ websites often promise but rarely deliver.
The walls were covered in pale wood and stone, and a bouclé couch was so inviting that it upended our plans to eat breakfast at Yuta, the downstairs restaurant run by Chef Jason Franey, previously of Eleven Madison Park in NYC and Canlis in Seattle. It was too hard to pass up room service (the ricotta pancakes and English muffin sandwich, specifically) in robes.
Pairing morning coffee with a reading from the room’s copy of John Muir’s Wilderness Essays is optional but highly recommended. One titled ‘A Great Storm in Utah’ was so apropos that it made us feel like the hotel had thought of absolutely everything, even our weekend’s weather report.
Speaking of, I assumed that 450 inches of snowfall would make use of the outdoor pool laughable, and I didn’t pack a swimsuit. What a dummy I was. This one, plenty big enough for lap swimming, was heated to 87 degrees, and you better believe Mr Smith took advantage of it and the heated towels waiting nearby without me.
One of our favorite activities of the weekend required just barely leaving the hotel for a tour of High West Distillery. The home base of the buzzy whiskey brand, founded in the notoriously liquor-shy state in 2006, is a mile down the road. Even if you aren’t up for the full 45-minute blending-to-bottling journey, you can grab lunch – or a three-course supper club dinner on Wednesday nights – and a tasting flight. Do me a favor and be sure to order a shot of my personal favorite, the punnily named Midwinter Night’s Dram, a limited release that’s aged in port barrels and makes for especially good post-meal sipping.
As cozy as we were with the fireplace in the hotel lobby and a soaking tub in our room, we came to take advantage of the skiing and the ‘The Greatest Snow on Earth’, as Utah’s slogan goes. (It’s not just a motto: The powder here is fluffier because of low moisture content thanks to dry conditions, high altitude, the Great Salt Lake, and science.)
For me, the just-removed proximity to the slopes was ideal – more ski retreat than ski trip. We could get in our runs at Deer Valley (including extra careful turns down Bandana where GP had her run-in).
We could bop around Park City’s Main Street and check out the merino-rich gear by the local indie darling We Norwegians. We could catch an early dinner at the (over-21) lounge at Firewood, where just about everything on the menu is flame-licked, and we could make it back to the hotel with ample time for a nightcap, a movie, or (if I’m being honest) an early bedtime. Oh, and I almost forgot the real highlight of a dusk return: we could spy the deer, horses, cows, and even elk munching on their dinner and posing for glamour shots.
I can’t imagine the surroundings being any more scenic than they were during my stay when everything was powder-sugar-coated, but checking out, I learned that summer is the Lodge at Blue Sky’s high season.
There’s hiking around the 3,500-acre property – each room has a backpack, walking stick, and map at the ready. There’s fly fishing, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Fourth of July brings a slew of programming, including axe-throwing, BBQs, and live music, and every August, there’s meteor-shower-watching as the Perseids put on an hourly show that sounds even more electrifying than the winter-wonderland viewing party I experienced. Something tells me the drive is lower-key, too.