When the sun dips behind the Wasatch, the groomers come out to play—and those beloved beacons of the powder day ahead are hardly the only cats out and about. Park City at night is downright magical: it’s a time to chase adventure, to cheer, and to raise a glass. Invigoratingly cool and ridiculously fun, evening is the time to marvel at the world’s best somersaulting skiers, to dine like there’s no tomorrow, to step out into glittering snowscapes, to ride along in a snowcat or horse-drawn sleigh, or to get lost in fireworks and torch-lit slopes. And best yet, Park City night owls can still catch the early bird’s first chair.
High-flying antics transform a typically quiet Deer Valley Resort (435.649.1000, deervalley.com) into a cowbell-chiming, music-thumping, and adrenaline-pumping gathering of elite athletes and thousands of fans for the annual VISA Freestyle International World Cup. Single and dual moguls competitors battle it out on the course—one of the steepest and longest on the circuit and the site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games moguls competition—and aerialists flip, twist, and soar through the night sky under the lights.
“The Super Bowl of freestyle skiing,” according to US Ski and Snowboard Association spokesperson Tom Kelly, this World Cup event has boasted many native stars, ranging from hometown hero Nate “Nate-Dog” Roberts (2007 freestyle moguls champ) and the late Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, who set the still-standing world-record aerials score (268.70), to outstanding performances by Olympians Shannon Bahrke and Hannah Kearney. The cheers are not limited to the US crowd, however, with the world’s best freestylers coming to town each year.
This year’s event takes place January 30 to February 2 , 2013, and is free to the public. Factor in the 15-minute hike up to Champion run, dress warmly (thermals, hat, gloves, ski pants, and jacket), and pack a thermos. Concessions (Deer Valley’s famed cookies, turkey chili, and hot cocoa) are available for purchase. Fans can splurge on “Freestyle Feast” tickets (VIP catered dinner tent and chairlift access) by calling 435.645.6510.This is not merely a night of acrobatic showmanship and speed. For the athlete, a top score here could mean a spot on World Championship or Olympic teams. For the fans, it’s a rockin’, white-hot good time—no matter how cold the night, including music, food, awards presentations, and fireworks.
Pairing dinner and a sleigh ride is like stepping right into a holiday card for the evening. Several on-the-mountain eateries have spun this wintry tradition into an exceptional culinary experience.
Shabu (shabuparkcity.com) From 10 p.m. to midnight, this “Asian freestyle” restaurant offers scrumptious late-night eats.For 13 years, guests have propped cozy blankets on their laps, gently journeyed uphill aboard a sleigh, and raised steaming pewter mugs of glogg upon arrival at The Viking Yurt (435.615.9878, thevikingyurt.com). Located at Park City Mountain Resort, this epicurean jaunt begins with a 23-minute, snowcat-driven sleigh ride and snow globe–like views of twinkling Old Town below. The yurt itself is more regal than the name “Viking” would imply: a modern version of a domelike yurt favored by Mongolian nomads of yore, this particular structure has a pianist tickling the ivories of a baby grand while the chef presents dishes like aquavit-cured salmon salad and braised short ribs. It’s a leisurely five-course affair with sorbet served on hand-carved Norwegian stones and a cheese course laid out on a slice of aspen wood. Reservations are necessary. Cost is $125 per person, and the evening lasts four to five hours.
Yee-haw! A gen-u-ine cowboy—sometimes a famous rodeo champ or even a cowboy poet—takes the reins as your guide at The Snowed Inn Sleigh Company’s (435.647.3310, snowedinnsleigh.com) half-hour ride up the lower slopes of Park City Mountain Resort. With bells jingling and Wild West tales cutting through the frosty air, a team of Clydesdales expertly hauls the sleigh to the mountainside lodge. Then, guests mosey up to one of the crackling fireplaces before tucking into some hearty gourmet grub—Utah trout, prime rib, mesquite chicken, or the fan favorite: chili. Tots and kids-at-heart may get up to dance alongside the guitar-strumming entertainer. And, yes, this rough-sawn timber lodge glittering with strings of lights is the ideal spot to step out in a Stetson or cowboy boots. Sleighs depart for three dinner seatings nightly. Cost is $79 per adult and $49 for children (ages 3 to 12).
Fireside Dining (435.645.6632, deervalley.com) at Deer Valley Resort’s Empire Lodge has all of the elements of a decadent feast—heaps of melted raclette, stews, roasts, and dessert fondue. Chefs dressed in crisp whites ladle steaming delicacies directly from four fireplaces, as the ski-lodge-by-day morphs into an Alpine-style eatery by night. An optional 20-minute sleigh ride up Deer Valley’s ski slopes offers respite from the hearth-to-hearth merriment. Open Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Cost is $58 per adult ($28 for children 11 and younger). Sleigh ride is $30.
On the Prowl
In the near-silence of a nighttime snowshoe excursion, the entire landscape sparkles with a hint of mystery. Moon shadows, the hoot of an owl, and the rustle of others’ muffled steps—or paws—add to the intrigue.
For a glimpse of towering Mount Timpanogos at night, Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort (801.223.4170, sundanceresort.com) offers self-guided full-moon snowshoeing and cross-country skiing (headlamps are recommended) on its Nordic Center’s 10 kilometers of wooded trails. Resort guides lead night-owling snowshoe excursions once a month. Along the trail, participants call for owls and learn about the birds from wildlife experts.The Swaner Nature Preserve & EcoCenter (435.649.1767, swanerecocenter.org) offers occasional full-moon snowshoe outings to its members and donors. The staff-led excursions begin with hot cocoa, treats, and naturalist chat in the LEED-certified EcoCenter. Then, the group meanders through part of the 1,200-acre preserve as their guide talks about animal adaptations, points out tracks, and discusses the preserve’s history, conservation efforts, and watershed issues. In the moonlight, snowshoers may come across moose, elk, or deer, which traverse the preserve as winter range. Guests often also see evidence of hawks, bald eagles, foxes, and coyotes. Tours typically last an hour and a half. Membership (which covers an array of events) is $35 for individuals, $100 for families. Weekly daytime snowshoe tours are open to the public for a fee; no charge for members.
Fire & Ice
“Carrying a torch” takes on literal meaning at our mountain resorts during the holidays. It’s tradition. Synchronized skiers light up both Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and Deer Valley Resort every December. On Christmas Eve, a torch-carrying ensemble of ski and snowboard instructors weaves its way down PCMR’s Pay Day run, ultimately forming two columns and lighting the path for a skiing Santa Claus. On December 30, Deer Valley’s 50-member synchronized ski team dresses up in Christmas lights and carries torches for its version of torchlight parade magic on Big Stick run; the resort’s mascots—Quincy the bear, Bucky the deer, Silver the eagle, and Ruby the raccoon—also join in the fun. Both resorts serve complimentary hot chocolate and treats to spectators for the free festivities.
While Canyons doesn’t partake in parading and torches, the resort lights up the night sky with a dazzling display every New Year’s Eve. Fireworks and music (either a DJ or a live band) set the tone for a festive resort village with folks of all ages gathering at fire pits and restaurants to ring in the New Year.