“The Broad’s Fork area did the seemingly impossible: it removed from me the fear-based thinking cycle that I had been sucked into — and reminded me of all the things I have to be grateful for.”
The subject line read “Broads Fork/Park City New Years Eve?” It was nine months before the holiday season, and my entire face lit up. While I’ve spent time in southern Utah and its sprawling deserts, I had yet to explore the Broad’s Fork Twin Peaks area, which is the highest peak in Utah and home to the surrounding famous ski resorts of Snowbird, Alta, Deer Valley, Park City, and Canyons Village. And as a life-long avid skier, collecting new ski resort experiences is my idea of heaven. I eagerly accepted the invitation.
The months that passed brought the normal ups and downs. But, by December, my year of good luck started to crumble. My company sustained massive salary cuts and I was emotionally raw from a recent breakup. Most devastating of all, my dog Alfie passed away unexpectedly, fifteen days before Christmas. What’s more, I came down with a stomach flu Christmas morning, effectively canceling holiday plans for my entire family.
For the first time, I was not excited about acquiring a new ski experience or exploring a new area, even with the promise of being surrounded by six of my best friends. Instead of feeling hopeful about closing out the year, the prospect of starting fresh suddenly seemed exhausting.
What I couldn’t have known then, as I sat in my grief, was that Broad’s Fork Twin Peaks (more commonly known as Broad’s Fork) and Park City would help to reignite my dissipated joy. That the area would be so filled with contagious happiness, even the saddest of holiday visitors falls under its spell.
For those looking to catch the feels and magic of this state park and its huddle of ski towns, one doesn’t have to wait long. Flying into Salt Lake City is basically flying into a state park. Masterfully nestled between the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountain Range, the airport is a mere twenty minutes by highway from the mountains. Broad’s Fork sits a little south of downtown proper. But with a staggering elevation of 11,329 feet, it feels omnipresent.
The quick ninety-minute Uber ride to our Park City AirBnB was filled with anecdotes and endless facts about the area from our local driver. He, like every person we met, was incredibly friendly. The highway snakes up and around the Wasatch Mountains before veering right and burrowing into what suddenly becomes Park City.
I dropped my suitcase, pushed sadness and a creeping anxiety to the back of my mind, and set out to explore. I was charmed almost immediately.
Park City is shockingly unpretentious, almost oblivious to its own charm and surrounding beauty. It doesn’t spend time trying to be a luxury ski retreat, or exclusive only to the world’s elite. This is doubly surprising, as it’s home to the internationally famous Sundance Film Festival every February.
But there’s no indication of that fanfare in December; Park City and its residents treat its visitors, comprised of friends and families alike, with equal warmth. The town is a small yet narrow grid, sitting along a slight hill, with its Main Street running along the hill from the bottom to top. It’s a slow burn as you walk up Main Street, the hub of ski shops, restaurants, boutiques, bars and traditional saloons. Lamp posts line both sides, with fairy lights criss-crossing back and forth across them, blanketing the street. There are even naturally heated benches along the way, providing much needed relief (if only temporary) from the often frigid temperatures and winds. But this long sloping hill is nothing compared to the surrounding mountains.
At all times, you’re in the foothills of snow-covered slopes, dotted with glistening lights, skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, lifts and gondolas in every direction, all capped by rocky peaks. Yet unlike many other ski towns, you don’t feel submerged while in town, or as if you’re sitting at the bottom of anything. Instead, the town feels up amongst the peaks – an almost urbanized state park. To add to this illusion, the access point to Park City Mountain’s main gondola, Town Lift, sits in the middle of Main Street, providing immediate access to the slopes.
Our group of seven took full advantage of the nightlife and town. As we live scattered amongst East Coast cities, it’s clearly our mission to enjoy every moment of being together – preferably, when possible, with cocktails. The ability to quite literally wake up, roll out of bed, don our ski gear, and casually walk up to Town Lift – all within an hour – made our mission of enjoyment fully possible.
Park City was full of good eats, which we tried to balance with homemade meals. But we very quickly became regulars at two separate bars — No Name Saloon and High West Distillery. Both felt unique to the town, balancing tourists with locals, and facilitated some of the best laughs we had throughout our trip.
As a skier, I was determined to make my way up to Town Lift every morning – no matter how many laughs I had at No Name the night before. The Broad’s Fork region is notorious for its dry snow, which creates near-perfect powder conditions and lessens the end-of-day iciness that usually sets in. But thanks to a recent expansion of the mountain, skiers are now able to take a gondola from Park City Mountain over to Canyons Village and take full advantage of the most unique and fun slopes I’ve ever skied. Canyons had the brilliant idea of building its luxury mountain mansions amongst the actual slopes, making the ski runs essentially a house tour, all while winding across man-made bridges and through actual tunnels.
But not all of our group was able to enjoy the slopes in the same way. Our amazing – and incredibly tolerant – friend had become pregnant before the trip, and unsurprisingly, slope sports were off limits. But Deer Valley, Park City’s glitzy next door neighbor, boasts a St. Regis resort that welcomes all to enjoy their sprawling heated patio, 5-star food and drinks, and unparalleled people-watching – arguably a sport in its own right.
New Years Eve finally rolled around and, despite the silent coaxing from the town, our group decided to stay in. We stockpiled our favorite drinks and cooked a large, multi-course meal. Bundled in our sweaters (paired with chunky gold earrings for good measure), we took turns going around the table to share those things for which we were most grateful. We gave no less than one thousand cheers, which launched into a full-sweat dance party, and saw us jumping in and out of the balcony hot tub a few times. As midnight drew near, we shouted out the seconds, collapsed into hugs and kisses all around, and listened through the balcony door to the shouts and celebrations all around us.
The Broad’s Fork area did the seemingly impossible: it removed from me the month-long anxiety, grief, and fear-based thinking cycle that I had been sucked into. Paired with friends, it gave me peace, injected joy into an otherwise joyless holiday season, and reminded me of all the things I have to be grateful for. Park City will always remind me of twinkling lights and perfect white snow. And in the midst of that, I became grateful for the new year to come, completely hopeful and assured in the exciting knowledge that I’ll be returning as often as I can.
While you’re there, please visit our *newest* Free People store, opening in Park City on August 30th!