Salt Lake City locals are under the impression that they’ve got the greatest snow on earth -- as light as fairy dust and masses of it -- to enjoy on skis or snowboard. But there’s a lot more to Salt Lake City (SLC) than going downhill. New bars and restaurants have morphed the city into a surprisingly cosmopolitan hub where the folks are friendly, getting around is a snap thanks to a grid street system, and the drinks are plentiful.
5…So many ski runs, so little time
Places like Deer Valley Resort with its amenities and amazingly groomed runs have made Park City the primary destination for most out-of-town skiers. But bottom-line: If you want to ski like the locals, head to either Little Cottonwood Canyon or Big Cottonwood Canyon for the deepest snow without the crowds and super-hefty price tag.
Alta Resort is a skier’s paradise -- no snowboarders allowed. The lifts aren’t shiny and new, but they’ll take you to some of the most beautiful and varied runs in Little Cottonwood Canyon. In Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude Resort is where you’ll want to go if you snowboard, since the wide groomed runs have plenty of space for snow lovers of both equipment inclinations. The resort’s hotels create an ersatz alpine village, complete with restaurants and bars -- ideal if you want a self-contained ski holiday. If downhill speed isn’t your thing, Solitude’s Nordic Center lets you take in all the scenic wonder on snowshoe or cross-country ski. It’s how you’ll have to get to dinner if you have reservation at The Yurt ($100, five courses). Trek one easy mile to the Mongolian yurt and the chef who prepares everything before your eyes.
There are plenty of locals who enjoy a little tipple -- so much so that they’ve taken a liking to creating their own. If you’re up in Park City, definitely check out High West Distillery & Saloon (703 Park Avenue, Park City). There are daily tours of the historic building that houses the micro distillery and the sister restaurant. The gigantic Austrian copper still produces whiskeys like Rendezvous Rye that have already earned international awards -- sip them all during a tasting or complement them with server-recommend food and cheese pairings.
Craft beer brewing thrives in SLC. Squatters Pub Brewery main hub is located downtown, near many hotels and serves up thirst-quenching Full Suspension Pale Ale along with an eclectic menu of ahi fish tacos and burgers. Epic Brewing Company specializes in stronger (higher alcohol content) beer and is the newest kid on the block and though they don’t have a food menu or counter service, they’re the place to head if you want to tour a craft brewery in action. For the best cup of coffee in town, visit Caffe d’Bolla (249 E. 400 South) for a flight of coffee tastings from the siphon brewer-- a science experiment-like contraption that makes the smoothest, clearest cup of joe.
3…Sex on rice and crack for dessert
About a decade ago Utah’s state legislature officially named Jell-O the state’s official snack, but lucky you, the foodstuff isn’t mandatory on Salt Lake menus.
Instead, expect casual places that focus on good ingredients. The food at Copper Onion (111 E. Broadway) is reasonably priced, rich, yet approachable with dishes like ricotta dumplings, the thick house burger, beef stroganoff, and wild mushrooms with fried haystack potatoes and fried egg (good for brunch, lunch, or dinner). Forage (370 E. 900 South) offers something a bit more formal and refined, but no less enjoyable. Its signature dish is a simple egg, soft scrambled served in its own shell and topped with sherry vinegar mousse and maple syrup – like breakfast for dinner.
If sushi is your thing, even this land-locked city has access to some of the freshest fish and impressive knife skills around at Takashi (18 W. Market Street.) Torched sablefish nigiri is addictive --regulars call is “sex on rice.” For the ultimate snack, head to Les Madeleines Patisserie (215 E. 500 South) where the frites are crunchy (served with “Utah aioli” – i.e. fry sauce, a local beloved concoction of mayo and ketchup) and the pastries are all made-from-scratch, including the irresistible kouing aman that fans endearingly call “crack.”
2… Rest your head
You have all sorts of options here-- everything from corporate to boutique chic. Hotel Monaco (15 W. 200 South) is convenient for its central location to all of SLC’s dining and nightlife, a short commute from the airport and about 40 minutes from the ski slopes. Not to mention the refurbished bar and restaurant are sufficient on their own for an entertaining evening and if all else fails, the luxurious bath robes and room service can heal any sport soreness. For something outrageously luxurious, the St. Regis Deer Crest Resort is your place. To get there, you have to ride a funicular (imagine if Bentley built a slow roller coaster) to the hotel where guests have personal butlers and along with the public, access to J&G Grill – the latest restaurant outpost by star New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Sip one of the house Bloody Mary’s while taking in the view. You’ll thank me later.
1… Nightlife, SLC-style
From dive bars to chic lounges, SLC has pretty much something for any sort of night owl. Hog Wallow (3200 Big Cottonwood Canyon Road) is a favorite of locals. Expect live music, lots of beer, and a fire pit for a rockin’ sort of après-ski night. The Spur Bar & Grill (352 Main Street, Park City) has great live music and specialty drinks including the Dirty Spur, the house version of a dirty martini with High West Distillery’s 360’ Vodka. If you’re a martini-lover and if you’re in SLC, The Red Door (57 W. 200 South) is sort of like heaven – lots of specialty drinks, hip, slightly kitsch atmosphere, and only a door away from the Hotel Monaco. The latest lounge on the scene is Bar-X (155 E. 200 South) -- an old dive bar gentrified into something sleek enough for Pabst Blue Ribbon-loving hipsters and their cocktail loving-friends. Lovers of fine spirits will find plenty to imbibe and enjoy, too.