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Tales from the City

Tales from the City

Park City, UT, is not only the country's best ski resort but it has become a preferred summer destination as well.

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Park City, UT, tucked in the mountains of north central Utah, is a little blue island in an otherwise very red state. This liberal enclave is known for some of the best skiing in the country, with huge amounts of powder falling every winter. The dry desert conditions, abundant snowfall and seemingly endless miles of runs of all levels would alone make for perfect skiing. But add to this a very high level of personable, professional service, surprisingly sophisticated ski lodge cuisine, and plush resorts opening left and right and you have one of the best and most under appreciated ski areas in the U.S.

If cold weather holidays aren't your thing, wait till the warmer months and enjoy a remarkably different Park City experience. Starting in June and extending to September, Park Silly, as its affectionately known to many locals, offers all manner of outdoor activities, events and cultural opportunities not to mention super high-end accommodations at rock-bottom prices. These fancy resorts have to stay in business in the quieter off season and roll out the red carpet.

As for your pink dollar, you can feel good knowing you are supporting a destination that extends a warm invitation to gay and lesbian visitors. While you won't find a hopping gay nightlife (head to nearby Salt Lake City for that), you will find a warm welcome throughout the area as well as plenty of same-sex couples at most of the gay resorts.

WHERE TO STAY
You will find a huge array of lodging options from fairly basic to super opulent. During high season, there's almost no escaping the fact that prices can be high and you may find minimum-stay requirements. However, if you come with a group, you can often easily accommodate four, eight or even more travelers in a suite, which will bring the per-person price down considerably.

And suites are often buffed out with comfortable pull-out sofas, full kitchens, and at some of the nicer properties, Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces on balconies where you can enjoy a romantic moment or just watch the stars overhead.

You can opt to stay right in the heart of downtown, or "Old Town," at The Sky Lodge, a luxury boutique hotel property with stunning views and a wide array of upscale amenities spacious suites, great dining options and the Sky Club, a sophisticated bar lounge where you often find other gay guests.

For slope-side accommodations, there are almost too many good options to choose from, all of which are ski-in, ski-out, meaning you just head out the door, jump on your skis or snowboard (in certain ski areas) and down the mountain you go. If you drive in, some of the resorts offer ski valets who help you move your equipment from you car.

The grand dame of ski resorts, the Stein Eriksen Lodge, offer traditional ski lodge look (picture roaring fires and lots of exposed time) with arguably the best service in town. The Sunday Brunch is justifiably legendary with a stunning array of food items amid the sound of a live band.

The Hotel Park City, with its stylish lodge d?cor, offers fireplaces, three-headed showers and Bose stereo systems in all units. Their heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi are open all year round. Don't worry, though, the walkways are heated too. Just cover up with a robe in the winter!

At the high end of the hotel spectrum, check into the luxe Dakota Mountain Lodge, a Waldorf Astoria property with a cosmopolitan, sophisticated look. Clean lines dominate but the feeling is still warm. The furniture comes from openly gay furniture maker Mitchell Gold. The Golden Door spa is one of the best in town -- a true sanctuary offering cutting edge therapies and exercise programs, like the Kinesis and Pilates rooms.

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WHERE TO EAT
At the Dakota Mountain Lodge, sophisticated Spruce restaurant has won 'best of' dining awards and features both casual and fine-dining options.

Besides its to-die-for brunch, Stein Eriksen's Four-Star Glitretind Restaurant is open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be sure to have a drink at the Troll Hallen Lounge, known for its apr?s-ski.

Tiny Main Street in this city of only 9,000 year-round residents over 1,000 miles from the coast boasts no fewer than four delicious sushi restaurants. Try Yuki Arashi for innovative sushi rolls. It's the only restaurant on Main Street with a woman chef at the helm.

WHAT TO DO
Though you could easily while away the time eating and drinking, tt's really all about the outdoors in Park City no matter what season you visit.

Ski at one of the three principal resorts accessibly easily from anywhere in town, including Park City Mountain, The Canyons and Deer Valley Resort, consistently voted as best ski resort in the country by travel and ski magazines.

A unique feature of Park City is the Utah Olympic Park and Museum, a legacy of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games where Olympic athletes train and lucky visitors get to watch world-class feats of sporting prowess and to participate in breathtaking activities. In the summer, the Flying Aces aerial ski show, unique in the world, allows spectators to watch ski jumpers perform airborne acrobatics flying off ski jumps into the pool below.

Feel your own personal rush as you speed down the Olympic track in a 4-person bobsled. A trained pilot takes up to 3 passengers through 15 curves, reaching speeds up to 70 mph, and pulling close to 4 G's of force. The "Comet" bobsled ride is not for the faint of heart.

There are plenty of cultural activities to enjoy all year round. In the summer, order a gourmet picnic and tickets for one of the outdoor concerts at the Snow Park natural, outdoor amphitheater at Deer Valley Resort. Bring warmclothes though. When the sun sinks beneath the mountains the temperature can plummet.

Another popular outdoor activity is hiking. There are over 400 miles of trails and all new developments are required to include links to existing trails. In the winter, trade in your hiking boots for snowshoes and have at it.

Beginner mountain biking in Park City is considered intermediate anywhere else. Before setting out, get a lesson at Deer Valley Resort then head up the lift and down the mountain.

Note that Park City is at a very high elevation compared to the coasts. At 7,500 feet your lungs aren't as strong as they are at sea level. It takes a while to acclimate to the altitude. Drink plenty of fluids and go easy at first.

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WHERE TO PLAY/MEET
Except for apr?s-ski lounges and a few mostly straight bars along Main Street, Park City is not really a party destination, especially for gay and lesbian travelers, though there are some notable exceptions, including Harry O?s in winter which is just jumping throughout ski season and very welcoming to gay and lesbian visitors. Also because of conservative state laws, shot size, alcohol content and number of drinks per person are strictly limited. A beer purchased in one venue may have half the alcoholic content as a beer purchased elsewhere.

So, before or after your visit, get your gay on in Salt Lake City. Most visitors are shocked at how hot the nightlife is especially considering that the abstemious, conservative Church of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormons, are the predominant religious group in the state.

Have a drink at any of the bars on Main Sreet and you'll have a great time and possibly meet other queer travelers. Of special note are the lounge at the Sky Lodge and Downstairs Park City, a bar with an intimate performance space and occasionally internationally known performers.

WHERE TO SHOP, FIND CULTURE
Stroll up and down Main Street and enjoy all the local, unique boutiques, art galleries and, of course, sporting goods stores. The stores are small and the number of chain stores is limited so you're sure to find something unique for yourself or for the friends and family who are going to be so jealous of your trip to Park City.

In the summer, from mid June through late September check out the fabulously hippy and fun Park Silly Sunday Market where only goods that are biodegradable, sustainable, recyclable and otherwise good for mother earth are sold.

The only weekend Park Silly doesn't occur is during the Kimball Art Festival weekend, which brings great art, food and drink to Main Street for a very full two days.

The mother of all events -- and inarguably the gayest -- is of course is Sundance Film Festival with its huge repertoire of gay-and-lesbian oriented films, gay and lesbian film makers and the famous Queer Lounge. It really is a great time to see what's cutting edge in the world of film, rub shoulders with famous celebrities and if you want to enjoy Park City skiing on empty slopes, it's the perfect time to plan a ski trip, while most of the locals are catching movies.

Hers's our story from last year's Sundance festival.

IN A WORD
Park City is an under-appreciated gem which has in recent years been adding rooms, restaurants and events to what's already one of the most beautiful areas in the country along with some of the best skiing. It's not the gayest of destinations but just grab your honey or your posse, limber up those leg muscles and plan on some serious outdoor and indoor fun.

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