New Jerseyites Steven and Tomoko Schlag and their three children spent an idyllic week in Park City in February of 2001. Seven months later disaster hit: Steven, a bond broker and partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, was one of the World Trade Center victims. When it came time to pick themselves up and start over, Tomoko and the kids decided to return to Park City—permanently. Here’s what they love about their adopted town.
Why this place has it all
Park City got its start in the 19th century as a silver-mining camp—"you can see evidence of that in the Western-style buildings on Main Street," says Tomoko—and it’s still very much a small town. But it has big attractions: three of the country’s best ski resorts (all with ski schools that the Schlags recommend), the annual Sundance Film Festival, and the Utah Olympic Park (3000 Bear Hollow Dr.; 435/658-4200), where you can watch top athletes train on the aerial jumps and bobsled courses used in the 2002 games. Plus, the town is incredibly beautiful. And the weather’s great, notes Dakota: "In the winter it’s either sunny or blizzarding." The Nevada desert dries out the snow, making it the lightest powder on earth.
How to get around
You don’t need a car here: the town’s buses go to all the resorts, have ski racks, and are free. "The drivers are really nice," Garrett says. "In the summer they’ll help you put your bikes on the rack." And they point out sights, like the old miners’ hospital, now a community center in City Park.
The big three
Of the area’s ski resorts, the Canyons (435/649-5400; thecanyons.com; adults $75, children $42) is the largest—its plaza at the base of the mountain is a year-round hub, with free concerts in the summer. "There’s tons of backcountry access here and more advanced terrain than at the other two resorts," Dakota says. The fanciest is Deer Valley (800/424-3337; deervalley.com; adults $77, children $45), which Ski Magazine voted No. 1 in North America in 2005. It’s known for groomed trails, a no-snowboarding policy, "awesome lodge food," according to Dakota, and a daily ticket quota that keeps the slopes from getting too mobbed.
Where do the Schlags ski?At Park City Mountain (435/649-8111; pcski.com; adults $77, children $45), along with most of the other locals—the Town Lift from Main Street takes you straight to the action. PC has four nationally ranked terrain parks and the largest half-pipe in the country. Keep your eyes out: you might spot Olympic gold-medal snowboarder Shaun White throwing a 1080.
The family meal plan
For breakfast, head to the Eating Establishment (317 Main St.; 435/649-8284; breakfast for four $35) for the "hungry miner": potatoes, cheddar, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, ham, and poached eggs served in a skillet. Baja Cantina (1284 Empire Ave.; 435/649-2252; lunch for four $40) is right under the Town Lift, which means you can bomb down, have a quick taco or burrito, then get right back on the mountain. For local game, Grub Steak (2200 Sidewinder Dr.; 435/649-8060; dinner for four $85) is your place: try the skewers of elk, sirloin, wild boar sausage, and caribou—"kids might prefer the lamb kebabs," advises Sierra, who for dessert recommends ice cream from Cows (402 Main St.; 435/647-7711), especially the blue bubblegum.
Fifteen minutes from downtown, Gorgoza Park (3863 Kilby Rd.; 435/658-2648; gorgozapark.com) is tubing central and has kid-size snowmobiles, and a yurt-style warming hut. The family goes snowshoeing at McPolin Farm (3000 Hwy. 224; 435/649 -8710). "There’s a big white barn and open fields," Garrett says, "but it’s really our mother’s thing."
Snow isn’t the only ticket in town. Check out the Kimball Art Center (638 Park Ave.; 435/649-8882; kimballartcenter.org), housed in a converted auto repair shop, and see who’s on at the Eccles Center (1750 Kearns Blvd.; 435/655-3114; ecclescenter.org), which attracts everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Bill Cosby. Come January, the entire town is taken over by the Sundance Film Festival for 10 days (Jan. 18–28 in 2007; sundance.org). Movie-star types—or PIB’s, People in Black, as they’re known here—pour in. "There are all these assistants from L.A. in miniskirts and strappy sandals traipsing around in the snow," says Tomoko, who’s a festival volunteer. Hotels and restaurants are booked solid, Main Street is packed, and it can be tough to get around. But the crowd-watching is fantastic, and besides, according to Dakota, "most festival-goers don’t ski, so it’s a great time to hit the slopes."