Summit Stories

Meet the fixer, the altruist, and the eternal optimist.

By Lisa Antonucci and Kristen Gould Case January 1, 2016 Published in the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of Park City Magazine

Summit stories 1 yba1hh

Image: Jeff Swinger

The Eternal Optimist Jen Mihal

Antonucci! I took your mom fishing! Here. Her picture is on my website.” And sure enough, there’s my 70-plus-year-old mother proudly holding a 12" German brown trout. And the girl holding the phone: Jen Mihal, all Texas twang, sun-kissed blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a proud smile.

Mihal owns Park City on the Fly, along with her husband, Ken, but also works as a server at Butcher’s Chop House and Bar, where I have worked as a host during the winter high season since 2013. A night shortly after Mihal showed me my mom’s mug on her company website, I see a party of 27 on the books. Mihal appears out of nowhere at the host station and says directly in my ear: “That 27 is mine. I took them fishing today.”

Her blond ponytail makes an upside-down windshield-wiper motion as she walks away toward the dining room.

Who is this woman?

“It’s ‘never quit’ with her,” says Ken. “She had four wrist surgeries on her casting hand before her brain tumor. It’s been a crazy five years.”

Mihal provides the details: “I shattered my right wrist when I fell on the stairs while serving [on Main Street]. I have two plates and 14 pins and still deal with nerve damage. I like to think of it as a friendly reminder I’m still alive.”

And then on August 17, 2011, she found out what a meningioma is. Though nonmalignant, Mihal’s brain tumor was encasing one of her optic nerves, a factor her doctors didn’t figure out for eight months. During that time, Mihal had two spinal taps and five MRIs. Surgeons were able to remove most of the tumor, but to this day, she still suffers from chronic migraines and double vision. 

But watching her take care of that bachelor party of 27—laughing it up while making sure every glass stays full and every plate is delivered hot—you’d never know it.

When asked about the philosophy behind both her company and life in general, Mihal says, “It’s really about making memories. I spent the first year learning how to fish completely tangled up and never caught a fish,” she admits. “We’re all human; no one’s perfect. Patience is really important. We may be out here to learn, but at the same time, you can’t take it too seriously. It isn’t brain surgery.”  

Summit jody oiewdz

The Altruist Jody Gross

Jody Gross laughs that she was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school “because I haven’t made more than $60,000 in my lifetime! I’ve happily volunteered my life away.” But ask almost any one of the 1,000 Summit County women she helped rally to give $1,000 each to the Park City Foundation to seed the million-dollar Women’s Giving Fund endowment, and they’d likely say she’s fulfilled that adolescent prophecy and then some. “Community service is in my DNA,” she says. “It was simply expected of us. My parents didn’t always have a lot, but they always found a way to give.”

Gross was born and raised in the Kansas City, Kansas, area and met her husband at a shopping center convention. They lived in Arizona and Florida before alighting in Park City 11 years ago. Along the way, she ran the South Florida Women’s Business Conference, served on the board of the Tucson Association for Child Care, and is currently on the National Board of the United Jewish Federation of North America. So why did this midwestern belle choose Utah? “I wanted to live in a smaller town where my [four] kids had to be accountable for their actions,” she says. 

“I pretty much appointed myself to chair the Women’s Giving Fund because I was a board member of Park City Foundation and knew that it couldn’t be accomplished in one year without a chairperson,” Gross adds. “The best thing about the project was the relationships I made with women in the community along the way. We now have more than 1,200 members. It’s incredible how many young women, who never dreamt they could donate that much, participated and were able to give $84 a month.

“Society is tough on girls right now,” Gross continues. “Through the foundation’s mentoring program, outstanding women in different fields speak to middle school–age girls about their experiences and how important it is to believe in themselves. It’s good to hear it from these mentors and not just their own mothers.

“I volunteer to thank the world for all the luck I’ve enjoyed,” she says. “Anytime I’ve been involved with something I’ve given my all to, it comes back to me, either in things I’ve learned from other people or about myself.”

Jill murwin 230 2 to3ikx

The Fixer Jill Murwin

The pretty blonde rides a vintage bicycle, wearing both a perma-grin and high heels, even in winter.

“I always ride an old bike. Like my 1963 Schwinn with the basket,” says Jill Murwin. “Lyon [France, where she’s lived half time for 27 years now] has 365 bike stations. You pay $25 for unlimited use of any bike for a year. Now that’s a bike-friendly town.”

The Midwest native landed in Park City in 1987 after a college skiing scholarship brought her west. She worked at (now closed) Mileti’s as a prep cook and waited tables “at a tiny place called Curly’s Café [also no longer in business]. Curly was, of course, bald.” She was a ski host at Park City Ski Area and then assistant to the vice president. Then Murwin’s life went international. 

She went to work for the US Postal Pro Cycling Team in 1996, recruiting riders to build a strong enough group to compete in the Tour de France in 1997. “Behind every great athlete is a great support team,” she says. During her time with the team (spanning 10 Tour de France events), Murwin started a VIP sponsorship program, worked as a media liaison, helped collect prize money, and generally took care of the riders. “They called me ‘Mom,’” she says. 

Once she returned stateside, Murwin co-ran a bicycle touring company for 11 years. Now she’s owner and operator of her own travel company, Chasing Atlas, named after her 14-year-old daughter. “She needs to know that no matter how busy I am, she’s the center of my life,” she says, although she still manages to design 25 customized trips a year. “I keep it hands-on. I’m known for cycling, but I always try to talk people into other experiences, too.” Like cooking with Carlos Gaytan, a finalist on Top Chef and chef at a Michelin-starred Chicago eatery, or shopping in Paris complete with lunch at her Vogue executive friend’s flat.

Filed under
Show Comments