PARK CITY, Utah - My hands clutched the bars tightly with great trepidation as I lifted up into the blue skies, my hair blowing freely against the soothing wind, a relief on this hot summer day. I must have been several hundred feet above the ground by now. The only comfort was the cushioning of the greenery that appeared to wrap around me as my chairlift reached the top of the mountain. This was nothing compared to the task ahead, when I was positioned in a canvas seat attached to a cable line with my knees bent and my feet flat against a door.
My heart started to pound and a rush of excitement overcame me as the door quickly opened. I sped 50 mph on one of the world's steepest ziplines at Utah's Olympic Park. That was probably the longest minute that I have ever experienced. I must say that my fears were somewhat allayed when I saw several children and free-spirited seniors gleefully zoom down the mountain before me.
|HILLSIDE HOMES - Founded as a silver-mining town in 1869, Park City, Utah, now boasts three world-class mountain resorts. CNS Photo courtesy of the Park City Chamber/Visitors Bureau. |
|LOOK MA, NO HANDS - The Xtreme Zip goes 50 mph on one of the world's steepest ziplines. The ride is available during the summer months at the Olympic Park. CNS Photo courtesy of Mark Maziarz. |
Now that I earned my stripes, I decided to go for another run on the zipline, but this time I lost my momentum and got stuck toward the end of the run, suspended in midair. I waited patiently until I was hooked in with a long pole, similar to the theater when they pull in the performer who was just heckled by the audience.
This is just one of several exhilarating rides available for visitors during the summer months at Olympic Park. Another thriller is the Quick Silver Alpine Slide positioned on a steel track, the first of its kind in North America. Unfortunately, I didn't get to experience this one. For those a bit more daring, there is the bobsled ride that goes up to 70 mph, the equivalent of a 40-story drop in just over a minute.
You don't have to zoom down a mountain to enjoy Park City, though some of the best snowboarding and skiing can be experienced here in the winter. There are also plenty of other activities for people who want to stay on terra firma. Once an old mining town 100 years ago, Park City is now posh and hip, and offers 365 miles of hiking and biking trails to be enjoyed during the warmer months.
My first day in Park City, after acclimating to the change of altitude, I enjoyed a hike along the Historic Rail Trail passing purple Indian paint brush and open fields with free-standing sculptures made from scraps of metal and wood by local artist Kranny. The hike also consisted of a treasure hunt using two GPS monitors to guide us to the hidden box, which we found two hours later.
Carol Potter, my consummate hike leader from the Mountain Trails Foundation, a non-profit organization involved in building and preserving trails, was passionate about her life and work in Park City. Carol's daughter, who passed away two years ago, was very active in the community and was a major influence in Carol coming here from Michigan. However, Carol never left Park City because of the wealth of activities, her job and the friendliness of the people who keep her tied to the town.
"It is a real town, with a real sense of community," she said. "We have 167 non-profits with a population of 7,000 people within the city perimeter."
She further affirmed the environmental consciousness of the people.
"Any new development must have public trails for biking and hiking," she said.
Though a great place to visit during the summer, it can get quite hot during midday. However, such activities as boating on the Jodancele or Echo Reservoir can be a great way to combat the heat.
It's difficult to visit Park City without being active, but there are diversions for the voyeur or those who prefer being an observer versus a participant, from museums and gallery hopping to music and film screenings. Yes, there is time to relax. One can also get some R&R with many of the spas available throughout the town.
At Olympic Park, visitors can take in the weekly Saturday aerial freestyle show, where skiers and snowboarders soar, spin and somersault 60 feet into the air in a choreographed spectacular. These athletes held me spellbound as they performed acrobatic feats before landing into a 750,000-gallon splash pool.
After viewing this memorable performance, I visited the adjacent ski and Olympic Museums, where I saw a documentary on the travails of one of the Olympic athletes who competed here in the Winter Olympics of 2002. His saga of perseverance and fortitude was quite inspiring and gave me an insider's view on what it takes to be a world-class competitor. The winners' medals, trophies and photographs were also on display upstairs.
For art lovers, Aug. 5 and 6 is the annual Kimball Arts Festival. Main Street becomes strewn with local artisans showcasing their wares from jewelry to pottery, paintings and sculptures. Also, the last Friday of each month features gallery strolls amid some of the 23 local galleries, while sipping a glass of wine along the art route.
One of the activities that I most enjoyed was sitting stargazed outside in the fresh mountain air listening to the Utah Symphony at Opera's Deer Valley Music Festival, held on the scenic slopes of Deer Valley, just a short ride from the town center in the Rocky Mountain's Wasatch Range. The monthlong event showcases the classics to the pops, featuring such talents as Natalie Cole, Etta James and George Benson.
The night I was there, I heard clarinetist Kenny G in concert accompanied by a full orchestra under a sculptured, white, tentlike stage, creating a dramatic, futuristic setting in the midst of nature's backdrop.
I also experienced one of the best gourmet picnic meals, created by Deer Valley Resort. Note that these delectable dishes can be ordered 72 hours in advance. Lodging is also available in the area at hotels and private homes throughout Deer Valley and its surroundings.
On my second night, I arrived just in time to see a free film sponsored by the Sundance Film Festival, projected on a big screen at the gazebo in the city park. Families with young children and couples were seated on comfy blankets and lounge chairs enjoying the outdoor event.
Apart from all the cultural and physical activities available during the summer in Park City, I savored exceptional cuisine at some world-class restaurants, one of which was Wahso, the creation of mega-restaurateur Bill White. With an artistically presented Asian fusion menu, Wahso goes over the top in creativity and flavors that linger on the palate, bringing the customer to pure ecstasy. The crispy Kurabuto pork with Yuzu peaches, the Asian green salad and a melt-in-your-mouth ahi tuna tartare were memorable selections. Wahso was recently selected as one of Fodor's 10 best restaurants in the world. For Italian food, Grappa's is a winner, as is Chenez for outstanding French cuisine. Chenez's specialties include a braised rabbit with Dijon and thyme and a roasted quail with black current, and port and red wine sauce. Reservations are requested. This pricey establishment lives up to its reputation.
Even dogs live in luxury and receive TLC in Park City, aka Bark City. There is everything from canine massage to chiropractic and holistic care for one's precious pooch. Cloud 10's Lorine Hoffer, a massage therapist for both people and pets, recognizes a growing need here for her canine services.
"This is without a doubt a dog-friendly town, and people love to pamper their pets since they are an integral part of the family," Hoffer said.
Whether one is a four-legged or two-legged creature, Park City provides a fun-filled and relaxing weekend or week's getaway during the summer months, and then some.
Beverly Mann is a freelance travel writer. © Copley News Service
Location: Park City is located 36 miles from Salt Lake International Airport. Information: Visit www.parkcityinfo.com.
Deer Valley Resort reservations and information: Call 435-649-1000.
Park City fine dining:
Wahso: 577 Main St., 435-615-0300.
Grappa: 151 Main St., 435-645-0626.
Chenez: 710 Lower Main St., 435-940-1909.
Hearty breakfasts: The Eating Establishment: 317 Main St., 435-649-8284.