Sleigh ride up to The Viking Yurt — Photo courtesy of The Viking Yurt
How many times have you ridden a sleigh to dinner? Exactly. Meet other folks at the base of the Park City Mountain Resort (6 o'clock sharp, they warn), get bundled in a blanket (or be one of the few that get to ride inside the warmth of the heated cab on the Sno-Cat) with 40 other soon-to-be close friends and enjoy the view. With the stars above and the city lights below, it's a beautiful (albeit chilly) 23-minute ride to dinner. Then suddenly, through the aspen trees, the magical glow of the Yurt appears. The Viking Yurt — Photo courtesy of The Viking Yurt
The Viking Yurt was the brainstorm of Joy and Geir Vik 15 years ago. Geir, a transplanted Norwegian, and Joy, a native Utahn, met in college at the University of Utah in nearby Salt Lake City, and after she won him over with her skiing abilities, she fell for her Viking.
After living abroad, they came back to Park City and acted upon a crazy idea brought up at a friend's get-together, to build a yurt. Combining their love of entertaining with business, The Viking Yurt was born. Sure, yurts are usually associated with central Asia. But hey, let's go with the flow here. You'll forget all that when, after your chilly ride up the mountain, you're greeted with candlelight, soft piano music and a warm mug of Glogg.
After living in her husband's native country of Norway and learning to speak fluently herself, owner Joy says it's easy for her to be the Norwegian Ambassador, "cause it comes from the heart." And a lot of heart must have gone into this endeavor of starting a restaurant up on the highest mountain in Park City. How did they get that baby grand in there, anyway?
Waiters not only have to be competent in fine dining service, but also be able to drive a snowmobile in the dark, sometimes in blizzard conditions! The same applies to the chef, whose food for the evening must all arrive in the same fashion. As can be expected, this is a seasonal restaurant (December to March), so make reservations long in advance. Birthday fun at The Yurt — Photo courtesy of The Viking Yurt
Keep this in mind, as you begin your six-course experience introduced by the chef: this is not a rush job. There is only one seating for the entire evening, and it is a social affair with long tables, encouraging all to make new friends. This may make it seem not-so-romantic, but many a proposal and even weddings have occurred here at The Viking Yurt, not to mention the many anniversary dinners. Intimate interior of The Yurt — Photo courtesy of The Viking Yurt
Each course of the meal has imaginative presentation. The sorbet is even served in hollowed out rocks that the owners brought back from Norway. (Joy likes to note that Geir was against the rock dishes but now smiles when people compliment them. He takes credit for muscling the heavy suitcases on the plane). The heavy pewter dinner dishes also really lend the Nordic touch. Joy says that during the start up time for The Yurt, she is going a bit crazy trying to test recipes and make improvements, but it must be a labor of love. Her husband - who has started yet another business - faithfully continues to do maintenance and other honey-do items on her list. (Or would that be Viking-do?)
Some of her favorite memories involve the people who come to dine at The Yurt. During the Olympic Games in 2002 (Some of the events took place right here.), not only medal winners from Norway stopped in, but the King himself! Medal winners from the U.S. and other countries also stopped in. Other favorites of Joy's include guests who have spontaneously gotten up to sing. One private party even included musical talent from all over the world. Oh, to have been there that night!
When visiting The Yurt, you'll get the true sense of family and understand why, at age 93, that a special lady named Lucy, Joy's longtime employee and now great friend, is so loyal. Wearing her "Hi, I'm Lucy, the Yurt Flirt" button, she's still helping load guests today into the sleigh that will carry them up to The Viking Yurt. Jack the Viking Dog — Photo courtesy of The Viking Yurt