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Adventures in Park City, Utah

The outdoor pool at the St. Regis in Park City.

Photo: Ball & Albanese

“No, I was just looking for him.”

“He’s a rock guy. He made that bench out front.”

“I heard,” I said.

“Well, he’s out but I can let you know when he’s back.”

“That would be great,” I said, relieved.

We shook hands.

“Lemme get your P.O. box,” he said.

I was beginning to lose faith I would ever find The Hack. My nights filled up quickly with meals—a succulent seared elk carpaccio at the Riverhorse on Main stands out—and an after-hours gallery crawl, which happens the last Friday of every month. One evening I went to the Sidecar to see the Motherlode Canyon Band. The mayor was on electric guitar. By 10 p.m., the dance floor was full of white people with no rhythm screaming along to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.”

I also thought I should sample some of the other new hotel options, and chose the St. Regis Deer Valley, which also houses the Jean Georges restaurant. I couldn’t help thinking that if Caesar were alive, he would have loved the place: a sprawling spa, stone pillars, and a fleet of bellhops referred to as “butlers.” The only thing missing was the vomitorium. But the best thing about the St. Regis was that I could literally step outside and be on the slope, a third of the way up the mountain.

One day I met up with a friend, Deer Valley ski patrolman Matt Davy, and a two-time Olympic freestyle mogul skier, Jillian Vogtli. The entire Park City area is a bit of a jock town, with what must be more Olympic residents than any other city in the country. This is at least partly due to the new $22 million state-of-the-art Olympic training facility, where many of them work out year-round.

It had dumped about half a foot of snow, and we wanted to head over to Lady Morgan Bowl, but the weather had temporarily knocked out the lifts there. We stayed instead on the western side, Bald Mountain. Unlike at many other resorts in America, the peaks are not forest-service land but privately owned, and hulking houses line some of the cruiser runs, including, I’d heard but couldn’t confirm, those of Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and basketball legend Michael Jordan.

The snow was phenomenal and I didn’t bother to mention to my posse that I grew up in Colorado. There’s no easier way to start an argument than by claiming one side of the Utah-Colorado Rockies has better skiing. Of course, it changes every season, every day. But as I blasted through the powder on Stein’s Way, I gave a nod to nucleation, the “lake effect” from nearby Salt Lake, and Utah’s dry air, all of which give the snow a fluffier feel.

Stein’s Way was named for Stein Eriksen, 1952 Olympic champion and king of Deer Valley. He was the director of skiing for real estate developer Edgar Stern, who founded the Deer Valley Resort in 1981 with the idea of making it North America’s first service-oriented ski mountain. When you drive up, valets will unload your skis from your car. Free guides will show you around the mountain. For the past four years straight, Ski magazine’s readers have voted it the best ski resort in America.

Stern died in 2008. But I found Eriksen with no problem. He still saunters around his luxury rustic European-style mountainside hotel—the namesake Stein Eriksen Lodge—as if he’s about to enter the starting gate: snow pants; Lycra turtleneck plastered with equipment-sponsor patches. For a fee, you can even ski with him. But after a nasty wipeout in 2007, he’s not on the piste as often. After all, he’s 83.

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