June 1, 2023 | 12:11
While Park City has a fun, western vibe, Heber Valley has its own alpine charm, with Swiss-influenced architecture and restaurants.
If you like skiing more than driving, the locals of Utah’s Heber Valley have a secret.
The Wasatch County destination’s back roads lead to Deer Valley Resort’s Jordanelle Gondola much faster than from Park City and with little to no traffic. Some distance from the resort’s main entrance, you’ll also skip the long lines and get up the mountain faster, though there are no easy green runs from the gondola, and those taking ski lessons still need to meet their instructors at the base of the resort. snowpark. Introduce.
With a record 700 inches of snow in Utah, the state typically receives 500 inches of snow per season, ski resorts like Deer Valley have extended their ski season by a week.
Some ski fans say this year, there could even be ski days through July 4 at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and through at least April at other resorts, including Alta Ski Area, Brighton, Snowbasin and Brian Head Resort in the southern utah.
From our perch at the Zermatt Utah Resort & Spa, both the Deer Valley Resort and Sundance Mountain Resort, the Robert Redford property that was the original setting for the Sundance Film Festival, which opened in 1978, were equally accessible.
While Park City has a fun, western vibe, the Heber Valley has its own alpine charm, with Swiss-influenced architecture and cuisine, thanks to its original Swiss settlers from the 1860s and 1870s. In winter, the streets are lit up at night like a perfect Hallmark card.
Heber Valley also boasts its own health and wellness wild card. Utah Crater at Midway, across the street from Zermatt, is located within the grounds of the Homestead Resort.
The crater, which took more than 10,000 years to form, is a therapeutic geothermal hot spring hidden within a 55-foot-tall limestone rock. You can tour it, swim, snorkel and even dive.
The waters are always between 90 and 96 degrees and 65 feet deep, making it the only warm diving destination in the continental US, according to its website. There is a hole at the top of the rock that brings in fresh air and light, without taking away from the heat of the mineral water.
Nothing here is fancy, even bringing your own towel is recommended, and that’s part of the charm.
For yoga buffs, Park City Yoga Adventures will also host private stand-up paddleboard yoga lessons inside the crater, where you can practice your practice or learn from scratch, knowing that falling into the healing water while doing your full wheel is just part of the deal. deal. . You can take a sunrise or night hike through a forest to the crater, according to their website.
The crater was formed when snowmelt from the Wasatch Mountains seeped into the earth and heated up, then rose back to the surface to create the crater. The warm, healing water contrasted with the thick snow outside, making it feel even more magical.
Foodies also love the valley’s seasonally focused, locally sourced restaurants, helmed by chefs like Tamara Stanger at The Lakehouse at Deer Creek and chef John Platt’s Midway Mercantile, where a vegan menu is also in play. .
To mix it up off the slopes, we also snowshoeed one night for dinner in a yurt at Soldier Hollow in Wasatch Mountain State Park. We started when the sun went down and walked back under the moonlight.
For those who really enjoy a challenge off the slopes, the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center even trains athletes in biathlon, an Olympic sport since 1924 that’s a cross between cross-country skiing and shooting. with rifles In a race. Oh really. In the middle of the competition, the athletes stop to fire a .22 caliber rifle. If they fail, their time is taken away, and sometimes they have to ski penalty laps.
We decided to stick with snowshoeing.
There’s also snowmobiling, sledding, and even ice fishing, where people wait all day to nibble on trout and other fish at Deer Creek State Park and Reservoir, Strawberry Reservoir, and Jordanelle State Park Reservoir.
Along the way, don’t be surprised to see moose and elk, as well as deer. Then get ready to do it all over again.