The ski lifts are eerily empty, but the trails at Deer Valley Resort, whether hiking or biking, are rife for exploration — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
June weather in Salt Lake City is not as predictable as folks unfamiliar with this city might assume. Just a day before I headed up to Park City, the sky looked grey and wet – as though soggy snow could fall at any moment (a quick drive away at Alta ski area, in fact, it was doing just that) and the high, no joke, was 70 degrees.
“How is this June?!” I asked a Utah native, who laughed and told me she was counting the days to her trip to Southern California. “Yeah. This is June. Tomorrow it might be 100 with a dust haze.”
Lucky for me, the moody weather gods were merciful the next day. It was all cloudless, blazing-blue Utah skies and a breezy 80 degrees.
I reveled in cool, pranayama-like breaths from the open Jeep as it traced the sultry curves of the Wasatch Range going east on I-80. Temps dropped as altitude climbed. I delighted in the deer grazing at the green carpet of the highway shoulder.
Soon, I’d be walking in the Wasatch.
Hiking is just one of the summer pursuits in this town known primarily for skiing. And the cool part is that the summer body beneath those sexy, white snow drifts is built for just this sort of pleasure.
Once parked at the tony Deer Valley Resort – alive with new construction – I made my way out to a lift where the double-black diamond NCS Downhill sign amused me.
Not today, I thought, unaware it was a sign for mountain bikers and not a ski-season relic left to fade in the summer sun.
Park City is an absolute haven for this crowd. And while there are many trails that welcome both wheels and walkers, I don’t recommend hiking where these particular wild things are.
Horses, though, are another story and I ran into three riders while navigating the Sultan Trail. They would be the only people I’d see.
A ridge view from the Sultan Trail. Off-season hiking here is quiet and beautiful — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Beautiful alpine forest with soaring, rich-green pines loom, parting like benevolent watchmen for the ski runs. At roughly 8,000 feet, there were still sad little patches of snow lingering, but most of the winter dressing had already fed the explosive wildflowers along the trails, not to mention the vast snow “pond” below – views of which are beautiful.
You can walk this trail as a loop or an out-and-back, but either way you’ll want to stop at the overlook deck for a spell. It’s a scenic halfway point for lunch or a snack – plus chairs! Opting for new terrain, I went with the loop.
My hiking partner dubbed it “heartbreak hill” before too long – once we crossed below the Sultan Express chairlift, it was a solid, steady climb up the Sultan Connection ski run (a dirt road this time of year) back to the Silver Lake base area where we’d began.
The bonus? Fueled appetites.
Down on Main Street
Patio culture. Many of the restaurants on Main Street offer al fresco seating. A few, like Flanagan's, have created space where none existed with decks that expand into the street — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Dining options abound on this touristy-but-charming main drag which melds a stylish, resort aesthetic with something of a rootin’, tootin’ Western-town sensibility (makes sense; it was originally settled as a mining town in the mid-19th century).
Upscale Japanese (Oishi Sushi Bar & Grill, for example), Southwestern (try Chimayo), new American (350 Main) options and more are mixed in with coffee shops, sandwich joints and pubs. Weather being what it was, al fresco seemed the order of the day. Deck and rooftop options abound, as well.
At Flanagan’s on Main, I was toying with the idea of a post-hike margarita from the summer drink special menu. Thankfully, my partner reminded me we were in Utah – land of the uber-regulated pour. I opted instead for a cold, frosty Uinta Monkshine Belgian-style Blonde Ale paired with an ample kale & quinoa salad.
As a customary fridge magnet was required, shops were explored, but the shopping here runs far and away above dollar-store-level purchases. Upscale galleries and boutiques are common amid the T-shirt emporiums – featuring fine art, clothing and accessories.
Some performing arts venues go dark in Park City's off-season. Not so of the Egyptian. Its space is alive with film, music, theater and other events all year long — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
And speaking of art, the intangible sort is also an option. Main Street’s Egyptian Theatre, for example, books programming year-round, from live music to musical theater, stand-up comedy to contemporary dance and more. The venue opened on Christmas Day in 1926, its name influenced by the recent discovery of King Tut’s tomb. This summer’s upcoming programming includes Cabaret, John Mayall, and Mary Wilson of the Supremes.
Utah Olympic Park may be a "winter" sports venue, but summer visitor options include hiking, swimming, sliding, zip-lining and experiencing the Comet Bobsled Ride! — Photo courtesy of Liji Jinaraj
It was built for the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic Games, but the fun sticks around even when the snow doesn’t. Case in point: Slip n’ Soar – the steepest slip ‘n slide in the United States.
That’s because it’s actually an Olympic ski jump. Which means, yeah, you go careening down at super-high speeds and then go soaring off the edge into the pool. You fly! Well, close. And then you fall. But it’s all good, since you’re falling into the 1,000,000-gallon Spence Eccles Olympic Freestyle Pool.
Only one of the three summer dates is left in 2017 – the Summer Send-Off – which is coming up on August 19. Tickets are $65/person and still available. 13 and older to slide.