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Park City is a winter destination hiding some delicious secrets

It’s coming from a restaurant, aptly named Firewood, which is one of the hottest dining destinations in town. It’s built entirely around the concept of warmth, not just because it’s a necessity on a frosty mid-winter night, but because everything about the cosy atmosphere is designed to ignite the senses.

All of the food served here is cooked over an open flame. The kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant, behind a wall of rustic windows, allowing diners to enjoy the flickering light and the bustle of activity. 

Park City is best known as a ski town. The snow is so good that Park City Mountain Resort actually tried to trademark the phrase, “Greatest Snow On Earth”, to protect its bragging rights over the famously fluffy powder. It’s located in Utah and it’s home to the largest ski resort in North America, with 324 runs spread over 7300 acres of accessible terrain, and it’s incredibly well-integrated with the town. In fact, the Town Lift takes skiers directly to the slopes from a plaza between Main Street and Park Avenue.

Great slopes and food? What more can a snow-lover want?

However, it’s also making a name for itself as a foodie haven. It’s home to a permanent population of just 7800 people, but its dining scene punches well above its weight, with more than 150 restaurants serving modern American-style dishes to visitors from all over the world.

Australian brew

Andrew Percy, a property developer from Melbourne, owns one of them. As he walks into his cafe and takes a seat, it’s immediately obvious that he’s Australian – but it’s not the affable smile that gives him away. It’s the fact that it’s -3 degrees outside and he’s just come in wearing a heavy coat teamed with gym shorts and runners. He shrugs and simply says he’s, “used to it”, before ordering a flat white.

Percy and his wife Tiffany are the brains behind five5eeds. It’s a cafe tucked into an unassuming strip mall on Snow Creek Drive that serves classic Australian breakfasts and genuinely good coffee. They moved to Utah in 2015 so their five children could pursue elite winter sports training, and since they were missing the cafe scene from home, they decided to bring it with them. 

The bright, industrial-chic venue wouldn’t be out of place in Brunswick or Surry Hills, and Percy explains he flew the chef to Australia to research the cafe culture before developing the menu.

Savory waffles with crumbed chicken at Five5eeds.

Savory waffles with crumbed chicken at Five5eeds.

“It’s definitely one of those things you have to experience for yourself,” he says. “We wanted to create a place where people could bring their family and friends and just enjoy a good breakfast.”

It’s been a resounding success. The fresh, highly-instagrammable dishes – which include unique twists on Australian favourites, such as smashed avo, and American classics, like chicken and waffles – are so popular they had to purchase the FedEx office next door in order to expand the dining space.

It seems Park City has developed a taste for Australian coffee, because they’re not alone. 

You can also get a good flat white just across town, on Park Avenue, at Harvest. Fellow Australian Emma Worsley, who also moved to Utah to support her ski-racing children, opened her stylish coffee shop with a simple focus on “food, coffee, [and] people”. Meanwhile, Sydney coffee roaster Campos has opened a cafe on Lowell Avenue. Neither disappoints, especially on a frosty rest day off the slopes.

Delish goodness at Harvest.

Delish goodness at Harvest.

Olympic dreams

The main attraction at Park City is, of course, the towering terrain. Stuart Kerr, a ski instructor and mountain guide from Wollongong, has been working at the resort since 2004.

“It’s pretty good, isn’t it?” he says, grinning from ear to ear as he gestures to the rolling intermediate run below the chairlift. It’s a bluebird day. To the right is a mogul field and a sunny terrain park; to the left are some steep, tree-lined black runs. Kerr lives locally, and even after so many years, his excitement at being on the slopes is palpable. “Really, it’s got it all,” he says, as he lifts the bar and prepares to unload.

Park City Mountain Resort used to be two ski fields, Park City and Canyons, until they merged in 2015. The terrain is well-signed and there is a gondola connecting the two sides, but there is a lot to explore. Hiring a guide is the best way to make the most of what’s on offer. (Speaking from experience, it also helps when your legs have turned to jelly and you’re looking for the easiest way down.)

However, it’s definitely worth planning a rest day as part of your trip.

There is plenty to do off-mountain, starting with the Winter Bobsled Experience. The town hosted many events at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics – including the bobsled, luge and skeleton – and the original track is now open to the public. The eye-watering ride takes just over 20 seconds, hurtling through five turns at breakneck speed, but it’s enough to gain a whole new appreciation of the sport. 

The towering terrain at Park City.

The towering terrain at Park City.

Siren call

If adrenaline is not your thing, and you want to take a break from sliding downhill, there are lots of galleries, ski outlets, high-end craft stores and souvenir shops to explore on Main Street. 

The Burns Cowboy Shop is a must-visit, offering intricate cowboy boots, leather goods, and handmade hats that are beaten in shape in front of your eyes. So too are the three Banksy artworks tucked away off Main Street: the Cameraman and Flower outside the Java Cow cafe, the Praying Boy on the wall of a parking garage just around the corner, and the Dirty Rat on the stage door of the Egyptian Theatre.

The facades reflect the town’s Wild West roots. At night, the entire street twinkles with fairy lights, and if you’re dining at a spot like Riverhorse on Main – which is ranked as one of the top dining destinations in all of North America – you’ll hear the town’s siren sound at 10pm. It’s a tradition dating back to 1905, when Park City was a bustling silver mining town and a curfew was imposed on the young people.

Across the road, you can enjoy a night out at No-Name Saloon & Grill, which is best known for the miscellaneous paraphernalia hanging from its ceiling. There is certainly no shortage of conversational ice breakers when you’re sitting underneath a toilet bowl, old wooden skis and a dented brass bugle. Try the local bison burger, order a round of drinks and challenge someone to a game of shuffleboard.

Every food lovers dream.

Every food lovers dream.

Delicious secrets

The faint scent of smoke, that was noticeable on the first day, follows you everywhere in Park City. It creates a welcome feeling of warmth and comfort, even when the temperature drops well below zero.

You can enjoy it when you’re chewing on perfectly smoked brisket or deliciously smoked chicken at Tombstone BBQ, the hottest new on-mountain lunch spot. You can be surprised by it when you’ve skied-in to sample a flight of local whiskeys at High West Distillery Saloon and you take your first sip of the peaty Campfire blend. You’ll be delighted by it when you step into a bar and find a roaring fire.

One thing is for sure: Park City’s delicious secrets won’t stay that way for long.

After all, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there’s fire, there’s food.

See also:

Why this resort is skiers’ No.1

Star powder in America’s largest ski resort

Learning to ski at Deer Valley

The secret to skiing at Sundance film festival

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