Good luck charms adorn this mountain house at Deer Valley Resort.

Good luck charms adorn this mountain house at Deer Valley Resort.

Honey popcorn enjoyed at the "Bear" house.

Honey popcorn enjoyed at the “Bear” house.

Bear-ly enough room for everybody.

Bear-ly enough room for everybody.

The "Raccoon" house

The “Raccoon” house

Moose sightings are a common occurrence driving on the highway through Parley’s Canyon from Salt Lake City to Park City. The giant mammals roam freely through golf courses, residential neighborhoods and up and down Main Street.

On my first day, I saw a hungry fellow grazing on exposed sagebrush while riding one of the Deer Valley ski lifts. A local Park City resident that rode the lift with me lamented that the marauding creatures are quite destructive. “They feast on my backyard garden causing untold damage every summer!”

Most locals agree that they would much rather see moose in the same form as these whimsical sculptures – lifeless. The Last Chance run is gaining popularity for these lucky “kitschy art” charms that do little else than entertain. Skiers, including me, stop to take photos of the free-spirited bears, mountain goats and raccoons mounted to multimillion dollar homes.

What’s the sentimental appeal of these characters? No denying, they are cute and cajole plenty of smiles but this is Deer Valley, not Disney World. The owners weren’t around to ask but the fanciful art collection is proliferating with neighboring homes taking up the trend.


Deer Valley’s newest avalanche dog: Rooster

by Sonja Stark on March 25, 2015

What makes for the perfect avalanche dog? Rooster has a combination of the ideal characteristics: intelligence, trainability and compact size.  Rooster with his handler Mark Chytka.

What makes for the perfect avalanche dog? Rooster has a combination of the ideal characteristics: intelligence, trainability and compact size. Rooster with his handler Mark Chytka.

Rooster 2

Rooster 3

When I picture a mountain rescue dog, I envision the traditional image of a burly St. Bernard slogging through blizzard-like conditions in the Alps with the apocryphal “brandy barrel” tied around his neck. But the fact is, St. Bernards have not been used for rescues since 1955. Instead, Border Collies, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are the more common breed.

Deer Valley Resort of Park City, Utah, were happy to debut their newest avalanche candidate by the name of Rooster. Ski Patrol Supervisor and Dog Handler Mark Chytka named the small pooch for his distinctive chestnut markings on his eye and ear. Rooster came from Furburbia, a no-kill rescue and rehabilitation ranch in Salt Lake City.

It took only five days for Chytka to determine that Rooster has both the temperament and social skills needed to earn his employment as an “avy dog” in the Wasatch Range.

Mentoring will take another 18 months but when all is said and done, Rooster will be the youngest of four canines; Izzy, Ninga and Pipper, trained to detect human scent under layers of snow, ultimately improving a skier’s chances of survival.


Blue-Collar Guide to Park City (part 2)

by Sonja Stark on March 21, 2015

Guests and visitors are whisked from the welcoming lower lobby area by funicular to the St. Regis's main lobby, restaurants and bars.

Guests and visitors are whisked from the welcoming lower lobby area by funicular to the St. Regis’s main lobby, restaurants and bars.

I’m not going to sugarcoat the obvious. Deals and discounts in a prosperous mountain town, where the median price of a home is currently listed at $1.25 million and rentals are $2,600/month, are few and far between. But, for dining options, you can eat like a king in Park City.

7452 Mary

After a poolside dip at Silver Baron lodge, I was suggested après-ski at a gilded gem called the St. Regis at Deer Valley. The original was built in New York over a century ago. There are now dozens around the world. I whizzed up the mountain on a funicular arriving at beautiful outdoor deck slightly late for the daily, 5:30p sunset champagne saber toasts. I lucked out with an outdoor table next to a gas fireplace overlooking Deer Valley. My server complimented my famed 7452 Bloody Mary with a flute of bubbles.

The St. Regis staff are quick to claim the signature drink their own citing a bartender working at the lavish St. Regis hotel in Paris (circa 1920s) as the first to perfect the tomato and vodka cocktail. The piece de resistance is the glass is topped with a frothy mix of pureed lime, celery, green apple, salt and wasabi and served at 7,452 feet above sea level (hence the name).

The creamy, thick head reminded me of a craft beer on nitro. It’s topped off with the proverbial cayenne pepper and equal parts Worcester and tabasco. The glass is rimmed with black lava salt paying homage to the region’s silver mining history. Last by not least, a small plastic dispenser is filled with pepper sauce for extra heat. Squeeze at your own risk!

A starter plate at Zoom restaurant of Duck Confit tacos with mole, jicama and radish salad splashed with queso fresco.

A starter plate at Zoom restaurant of Duck Confit tacos with mole, jicama and radish salad splashed with queso fresco.

Next stop, a free shuttle ride courtesy of lodging at the Silver Baron. Their easy-to-use texting service is as convenient as you can get. If you’re not bunking at D.V., the Park City trolley and bus transit system are free too.

Next up, a sampling of apps at Zoom, a Robert Redford-owned staple at the bottom of Main Street. It sits in the original 1886 Union Pacific train depot that delivered daily loads of freight, baggage and passengers during the glory days. During the Sundance Film Festival, in late January, the waiting list extends all the way to the PCMR lifts.

Cheaper alternatives for entrees and dessert await you off Main. Try any of the following (I can vouch for the first two):
1. Boneyard Saloon and Wine Dive – Chef Jerry Garcia whips up a mean mushroom stroganoff burger on the custom-built, wood-fired charcoal grill for $13. Listen to his radio interviews on Fridays on local NPR affiliate KPCW.
2. Windy Ridge Cafe: Trendy comfort food with extensive patio seating for a bowl of their signature Southwestern Corn Chowder made famous by Rachael Ray of $40/Day show on the Food Network.
3. 350 Main
4. 412 Bistro
6. Flanigans Irish Pub
7. Handle
8. Blind Dog
9. Cafe Terigo
10. Chimayo

Executive Chef Jerry Garcia  of the Boneyard can't carry a tune very well but he can cook up dishes that sing.

Executive Chef Jerry Garcia of the Boneyard can’t carry a tune very well but he can cook up dishes that sing.

Unless you’re a resident of Utah or in the military, saving while shredding on the Greatest Snow on Earth® is no easy feat. Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons are one of the snowiest places in the world, with Alta averaging 551 inches of snow annually. For the average visitor, it’s a matter of constantly reviewing the specials, promotions and hot deals provided by the Park City Chamber and Visitors Bureau website and the Ski Utah website. Here are two links to savings on lift tickets:


No matter the hotel, resort, condo or house, staying one night (let alone the standard three night minimum) in Park City is wildly expensive. If you can secure an overnight for less than $300, it was probably a typo. So, sadly, this is where my research for upholding the ‘blue-collar budget’ sort-of falls apart. The next best option would be to review the options provided by each resort (Deer Valley, PCMR and Canyons) and consult the Park City Chamber and Visitor Bureau and Ski Utah websites for discounts during the off-peak season.

I can tell you that ‘Value Season’ at Deer Valley typically runs the first and last weeks of the season. Next year it will be Dec 5-10 and Mar 28-Apr 10. The lowest rate will be $345 for a hotel room, however the Early/Late Value Package would provide an additional 25% discount on stays of three nights or more with a minimum lift ticket purchase of four adult tickets. As mentioned above, three nights is the lowest minimum length of stay during the winter.


My Blue-Collar Guide to Park City (part 1)

by Sonja Stark on March 19, 2015

Transit Operations Team Leader, Destry Pollard, is happy to help store your bags under the bus and get you to your drop-off point on time.

Transit Operations Team Leader, Destry Pollard, is happy to help store your bags under the bus and get you to your drop-off point on time.


UTA Bus 2

Skiing in Park City is a rich experience but the cost doesn’t have to be. While most of the mountains are made up of trust-fund babies and 1%-ers, that doesn’t mean the average, coupon-cutting, blue-collar, schlep isn’t welcome.

Inevitably, a little more pre-planning and preparation goes into staying frugal but it’s worth it.

So, how do you stretch your hard-earned, middle-income dollar in a posh ski town like Park City? Well, the most important rule of thumb is to take advantage of mass transportation.

While riding chairlifts, I overhead conversations by people lamenting how much they paid for their last minute shuttle service between the SLC airport and Park City. Prices ranged from $75 to a whopping $350.

Now for the good news. That same 37-mile trip cost me less than the cost of a Grande expresso beverage at Starbucks: only $4.50!

Utah’s super, super, cheap public transportation system is the state’s best kept secret. Other than a few day laborers and ski bums, most of the locals aren’t aware of how little the road trip costs.

Like I said, if you plan your trip accordingly, you can board the UTA TRAX for $2.50 to downtown Salt Lake City (I suggest the City Creek stop), walk one block south to the intersection of 200 South & Main and then hop aboard the 902 for an additional $2.

My 70-minute ride was clean, comfortable and the big bus windows offered the greatest views of Parley’s Canyon.

My driver was also happy to accommodate a drop-off request at the entrance of the Silver Baron lodge at Deer Valley (it was part of his route) but typically the bus has designated stops. Yes, there are roughly 10-15 stops in total, depending on occupancy, but for the dismal expense it allowed me to use what was left of my daily per diem on that ‘overpriced’ Chai Latte at Starbucks.

The 902 leaves twice in the early morning and twice in the late evening (see schedule).

If the schedule doesn’t work out in your favor, the next best method is a shuttle service offered by Canyon Transportation.

In part 2 of my Blue-Collar Guide in Park City, I find a way to enjoy the high-minded restaurants of Main Street without breaking the bank. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog.


Spring skiing at Deer Valley Resort

by Sonja Stark on March 19, 2015

Deer Valley Bald Mt

Tears of joy streamed down my face skiing groomers and bumps today at Deer Valley. It wasn’t my allergies, that were on high alert, but, rather, the beauty and serenity of being back in the Wasatch mountains that stirred the emotions. And, thanks to a guy by the name of Bob Wells, I had an ample supply of soft tissues in select lift lines to wipe my face.

If you’re going to ski Deer Valley Resort, it’s not necessary that you know who the icons of the ski industry are, however, it sure helps to appreciate why this one is so special.

While spring skiing with Deer Valley Communications Coordinator, Lara Brucker, I noticed several flags flying at half-mast at the base of Snow Park Lodge.

Bob WellsTurns out that Deer Valley lost one of their own this week – the much admired Vice President, Bob Wells. At age 72, Wells succumbed to cancer on Sunday. He began his legacy in 1981, shaping the resort into a world-class destination, by designing ski trails, lodging and countless services and amenities.

The Deer Valley website lists some of Well’s touches: providing ski valets to carry guests’ ski gear from their cars to the slopes, providing free parking lot shuttles, designing magnificent lodges in the vein of National Park buildings, creating a state-licensed childcare facility on site and offering complimentary ski storage overnight.

While throngs of people will probably fail to notice, or even question the flags, Wells will be remembered by staff and Park City locals for countless more on and off-piste comforts established for his guests.


A cautious walk through Temple Square in SLC

by Sonja Stark on March 16, 2015

LDS Church 3

LDS Church 1


Visitors from around the world are drawn to Salt Lake City for many unique landmarks and attractions. From hiking the Wasatch to learning about dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum to feeding feathered friends at the Tracy Aviary, there’s no shortage of things to do.

However, Mormon or not, many come to Salt Lake City to do exactly what I did on Saturday – wander the peaceful, tranquil grounds of Temple Square. In fact, it’s Utah’s most visited attraction with tours available in 40 languages.

I’m in the Beehive State until Wednesday on assignment at the Convention Center, one block from the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church or Mormons). After finishing up for the day, I found myself drawn to Temple Square for photos.

Personally, I think Mormonism is a vexing religion. Are they Christians or not? Do they think Joseph Smith or Brigham Young are gods or not? Is it really sinful to drink a draft pint of Polygamy Porter with only 4% ABV or not? Most importantly, it is scandalous for a curious, non-believer to enter the Temple grounds with her camera?

After roaming freely for 30 minutes, my uneasiness began to vacillate. There would be no bolt of lighting striking my soul today. 35 acres of manicured perfection welcomes people of all faiths (or no faith), backgrounds and opinions, at no cost.

The unseasonably warm weekend prompts others to swell around garden beds of fragrant tulips, trillium and purple crocuses. Immense infinity pools, waterfalls and terraced streams dazzle the eye and enchant the imagination. A venerable castle-like building, casted yellow by the melting sun, is the hallmark of the south visitors side. Surrounding the building is the Tabernacle with it’s world-famous acoustics, the Assembly Hall and the Visitors Center.

Whether people come to pray, play or proselytize, this shining showpiece of Mormon history and cultural stories aims to inspire and provoke questions.


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