Shoulder Season in Park City

Some people call it shoulder season. Others call it mud season. Park City locals call it “we finally have our town back” season. And Wasatch Front locals call it “get great hotel and restaurant deals, and avoid the crowds” season.

Way back when I was a kid, I remember my family heading up to Park City in the fall. We’d check out the Autumn Aloft, and then head over to Main Street to walk around and absorb the sights and smells of fall in the mountains. Leaves changing colors and crisp air combined to make it a magical time.

Now, even though I’m a little bit older, fall in Park City holds the same special feeling. And best of all, the summer crowds have gone back to work and school, and the winter ski crowds haven’t yet arrived. It’s a chance for local restauranteurs to catch their breath, take some time off, and enjoy the city without having the accelerator pedal jammed all of the way to the floor.

For locals on the Wasatch Front, the shoulder seasons are a great opportunity to find hotels at a great discount (some priced 25-50% lower than their winter rates). Many restaurants also offer locals deals during this time in order to keep their tables full. Tupelo, for example, offers a five course tasting menu for a bargain price of $49. Optional wine pairing is an additional $25. You don’t see that kind of deal during the ski season.

On a recent weekend, we stayed a couple days at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. This hotel is ideally located at the base of the Silver Lake and Sterling Express lifts, providing easy access for those adventure seekers who aren’t too interested in riding bikes or hiking uphill. Not interested in taking a lift? No problem. There is easy access to dozens of public hiking/biking trails that will take you all over the mountains if you wish. One of my personal favorites is the Mid Mountain trail, which will take you all the way over to the Canyons resort if you are looking for a big adventure. Being on the trails in the fall with the leaves changing colors is really something special, and one of the reasons I love Utah so much.

Of course, one of the reasons it’s called the “mud season” is that you have to be prepared for all types of weather. It is Utah in the mountains, after all. Our hiking and biking plans were quickly derailed when the mountain received about eight inches of snow during our weekend stay. No problem–we fired up the in-room fireplace, headed off to the hot tub, took a dip in the pool, and relaxed in the room.

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Then off to Sunday brunch at the Glitretind we went, which was absolutely phenomenal. Fellow diners and our servers were so good to our little baby, and the buffet offers something for everyone. Seafood, salads, chicken, prime rib, crèpes, waffles, eggs benedict–you name it, and it was probably there. And their dessert table is ridiculous, and featured an aspen tree centerpiece made out of chocolate.

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For dinner, we hopped down off the mountain and headed into a small strip mall next to The Market at Park City. I was thrilled to discover that one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Tarahumara, has opened a second location in Park City. The original Tarahumara in Midway is always packed, but I think that the Park City Tarahumara may still be a hidden gem, because it was not very busy. The carne asada, carnitas, and enchiladas were all excellent. And of course they have their famous salsa bar with what must be 30+ different delicious salsas.

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So if you’re crunched on time, budget, or just want a quick getaway, I’d suggest taking a look at a Park City/Deer Valley vacation. You can enjoy Main Street without the crowds, fill your belly with delicious food at a reasonable price, and perhaps upgrade your hotel accommodations from what you normally budget for. It’s a delicious and affordable getaway.

I was an invited guest of Stein Eriksen Lodge and the Glitretind restaurant. Opinions are my own.