Plans to spend every waking hour on the slopes may be thwarted by all the cushy features at Park City’s Washington School House hotel, a 19th century school that’s been converted into a dreamy ski chalet. The 12 rooms are filled with gilded antiques, crystal chandeliers and enough white marble to make even a presidential bust blush. Then there’s the outdoor heated pool – take a dip, whether you visit in January or July.
Get this when you book through us:
A fruit plate on arrival and daily breakfast; in winter, free ski shuttle, valet and aprés-ski service; in summer, a hiking guide and picnic basket
11am; check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, depending on availability.
Double rooms from $430.00, excluding tax at 13.17 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, afternoon snacks and a 24-hour beverage service. Order tea, coffee, soda, juice, wine, beer or cocktails anytime.
With so much more than run-of-the-mill sundries, the on-site shop next to the ski lounge stocks exclusive goods, like silk scarves by New York designer Jonathan Cohen. Pick up a mini oil painting of Mr Washington himself, or grab an organic cotton tee with the hotel’s favourite saying: ‘Old School is the New Cool.’
Seasonally, 20 April to 20 May 2015 and 18 October to 18 November 2015
At the hotel
Heated outdoor pool and spa, outdoor fire pit, onsite parking, free valet, laundry, packing and unpacking service, and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: a flatscreen TV, DVD player (on request), Tivoli clock/radio with iPod dock, air conditioning, Pratesi bed linens, hooded bathrobes, slippers and Molton Brown bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Ever lived in Switzerland? Have you called the French Alps home? No bother. Staying in the School House’s apartment-style Lofted One-Bedroom Suite – with its first-floor seating area and upstairs boudoir – will give you a taste for residing near a posh piste, if only for a few days.
The heated outdoor pool, which cuts into the hillside below towering blue spruce and aspen trees, is open year-round. There’s also a hot tub to soothe weary muscles after a day spent snowshoeing in the winter or mountain biking in the summer. But what alpine aficionados might appreciate most is the nearby fire pit, which is actually a steel Olympic torch from the 2002 games in Park City.
Leave iPads and iPods at home. The School House has both (loaded with movies and music, respectively) for you to borrow. Anyway, you’ll need the extra space in your carry-on for ski goggles and mittens.
No need to lace up your boots and trudge to a spa. Guests staying in one of the suites can book an in-room massage.
Pint-size skiers are welcome. Kids 13 and up are considered adults in terms of booking rates. For little ones, there are Pack ‘n’ Plays, safety gates and baby cots free to borrow. Also, the ski lounge has board games, video games and DVDs for kids.
Can’t get enough of that crisp mountain air? Enjoy your après-ski snacks by the pool. Or, lovebirds can head to their room to nibble on a charcuterie plate.
Take a cue from the stars at Sundance, where parkas paired with dark shades and statement fur trapper hats reign supreme.
There’s no restaurant, but the School House serves up a hearty mountain breakfast in its living room each morning. Pancakes, omelettes, bacon, granola and more should provide ample fuel for the start of the day. As for lunch and dinner, there is a private chef for hire. Create a custom menu and incorporate fresh-from-the-market fare.
Reserved for guests only, there’s a lower-level ski lounge with a roaring fireplace, cosy couches, a TV and a regal portrait of America’s most famous founding father (plus the hotel’s namesake). Order up hot buttered rum, white Russians and Irish coffees to your liking. After all, cocktails are included in the hotel’s 24-hour beverage service.
Breakfast ends at 10:30am.
Though there’s no room service, the hotel does dish out après-ski snacks gratis. From 4:30pm to 6pm each afternoon, expect treats like cheese, cured meats, soups during winter and home-made sweets.
Set in the centre of Park City, Washington School House is a charming stroll to restaurants, bar, boutiques, galleries on Main Street and two blocks from the town ski lift.
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is a 45-minute drive from the hotel. There are direct flights from major US cities and connecting flights from international destinations. Private jets fly into Herber City Municipal Airport (36U) just a 25-minute drive from the hotel.
If planning to explore beyond town, having wheels to get around these wide open spaces is essential. There are several car-hire desks at the airport and valet is free at the hotel. Be sure to check the hotel’s website before plugging coordinates in the GPS: directions to the hotel differ slightly in summer and winter.
Worth getting out of bed for
A one-time silver boomtown, Park City is no longer in the mining business but it still draws adventure-seeking crowds west for its rich natural beauty. Best known as a winter wonderland, Park City in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains is home to one the world’s premier ski retreats and the training centre for the US Ski Team. The town lift for Park City Mountain is just two blocks from the hotel, so grab your skis or snowboards and pound the powder on 50 groomed trails or travel off-piste for a heli-skiing excursion. Explore the snow-flocked surroundings on cross-country skis, snowshoes or in a dog-led or horse-drawn sleigh. Zip down the mountain at high speeds on a bobsled ride at Utah Olympic Park or glide through aspen glades on the Alpine Coaster, a two-person toboggan on an elevated track.
In both summer and winter, embark on guided mountain tours to learn about the town’s silver-plated past, cast lines for fish in area rivers and streams and hike the limestone Homestead Crater for a soak in a natural hot spring. Once the snow has melted, swap skis for rock climbing gear, mountain bike area trails or paddle down a river in a kayak or raft over mild rapids. There are also several golf courses all with jaw-dropping mountain views.
If you want to show a teacher a good time, it may seem like a sick joke to ask her to spend a weekend in a schoolhouse. But if said schoolhouse has cushy rooms, a year-round heated pool, and unlimited hot toddies served by a roaring fire, well, that’s another story entirely. My sister, a middle school teacher with three kids of her own (all under five) had been run ragged by small people and was desperate for a getaway. I knew Washington School House was just the place to breathe new life – and pump a little whiskey – into her.
True, when I first mentioned our destination I purposely mumbled through the second part of the name (‘WASHINGTON Sch.....hmmm…’). There was no point in alarming her before we had our feet firmly planted on ice-white marble (the hotel’s bathrooms are covered in it). But when she finally broke me down two weeks before the trip and I had to explain my choice – after all, she wanted to get away from reminders of her daily life – I told her to think of it as the hotel equivalent of setting your alarm clock for 6am on a Saturday morning just so you can swat it off with overwhelming satisfaction and declare, ‘Not today!’ The schoolhouse setting would only remind her of all the responsibility she didn’t have to deal with… and all the pancakes smothered in berries and hot maple syrup (all included with our stay, by the way) that she did have to devour.
My sister agreed and soon enough we were bundled in our most pristine puffer coats and walking up the hotel’s snow-covered path. Almost instantly we discovered a curious side effect of sleeping in a former school: you will likely revert back to a child-like version of yourself, in the absolute best way possible. At least that was our experience. When we saw our room, the Two Queen, we dropped our bags immediately and jumped on the beds, bouncing in abandon like two balls of Park City hail ricocheting against the pavement. We then made our way downstairs to the first-floor lounge, where there was a fire blazing beneath a chandler cut from antlers and dripping in crystals. We were just in time to see the daily après-ski spread placed on a nearby table. ‘SNACKS!’ we both squealed. There was salami etna, drunken goat cheese, pickled pears and bowls of steaming chicken chili verde soup – all noshes provided for the guests daily and included with the room rate.
After we had properly bloated our bellies with enough apps to constitute a meal, I suggested we explore the outdoor, heated pool. ‘What’s the rule?’ my sister asked. ‘Shouldn’t you wait an hour after eating to swim?’ ‘No rules!’ I declared, and with that we were off to change into our swimsuits and then beeline for the open-air water.
When anyone says ‘heated pool’ you’re always a little leery about just what heated means. Are we talking brisk summer evening heated? Or dead of January in a mountain town heated? Amazingly, the pool at Washington School House is the latter and we were able to comfortably take a dip. In fact, we got such a kick out of swimming in the off-season, that we enjoyed a few rounds of jumping out of the pool to flop into a nearby snowbank – bare skin against the elements – and quickly making a snow angel before jumping back into the pool to warm our bones again. At one point, I swear I saw a child (an actual kid) peering out from his room window, cheering us on.
The next day, we hit the slopes, which meant ski school for me and snowboarding class for my sister. We were model students, arriving exactly on time, thanks to hotel staff who personally drove us to the lifts and handed us water bottles as we got out of the car. At the end of the day, the same staff member swung by to pick us up and brought us each a granola bar to tide us over until we could get back to the School House for our après smorgasborg. I haven’t delighted in that kind of attentive treatment since I was 12 years old and my mom would pick me up from ballet class.
The most truly ‘adult’ thing we did all weekend was to eat dinner at Handle – an experience I wholeheartedly recommend. The produce-centric restaurant, just up the street from Washington School House, is big on locally-sourced ingredients and has a menu that changes daily. When we visited, there was buffalo-style cauliflower with blue cheese on offer that forever changed the way I’ll think of the brainy-looking florets. I paired that with a squab entrée (with smoked parsnips and chestnut apple butter) and a cocktail called the Rattlesnake – local double rye topped with an egg-white froth. It was a glorious way to eat my veggies.
The morning my sister and I had to check out, we wrapped ourselves in the hotel’s plush bathrobes and laid in bed watching TV for hours. For my sister, whose days start at 6am with one screaming child or another, it was the most indulgent thing she could imagine. We waited till the absolute last moment to get ready and then she said to me, ‘I don’t wanna leave school today.’ I rolled over in my nest of white linens and told her, ‘Just five more minutes…’
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