I’m going to share a little secret with you. People in Utah live the most ridiculous lifestyle. (I’ll let the “boos” from the locals in the back row die down a bit before proceeding.) You see, for over a century, Utah has appeared to outsiders as far away, far out and far from the mainstream in every respect…and locals like that characterization. Of course, once you’re here, you realize why. (Hint: They want to keep it to themselves.)
Since Mormon pioneers settled throughout Utah in the 19th Century, this outpost between the vast stretch flanked by the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin has offered adventurers and fortune seekers a place to rest, refuel and reexamine what brought them so far home. Staring at the snow-capped peaks, inland and alpine lakes and ancient sedimentary plateaus, many simply stopped and stayed. When the world was invited to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, migration and opportunity accelerated exponentially.
It’s not difficult to understand why. With 15 ski resorts, five national parks, a young and educated population, a fast-growing tech sector, and a newly-expanded international airport, Utah is not only a great getaway but a gateway to culture and commerce. Yet, distinctively, Utah’s “attractions” don’t merely cater to transitory visitors. They highlight the lifestyle that residents embrace and cherish, and few exemplify it like High West Distillery and Saloon.
Founded in Park City in 2006 by former biochemist David Perkins and his wife, Jane, High West represents the oft-heard story of people relocating to Utah to combine their vocational passions with avocations concomitant with mountain living. Fast-forward to today, its premium whiskeys and other spirits have grown with a more extensive portfolio introducing an even wider audience to products and the environment that created them.
High West Saloon is located in Historic Park City steps from the Main Street lift serving Park City Mountain. This means skiers can hike Jupiter Bowl, dive into thigh-deep powder, hit the Saloon for a gourmand-approved lunch (try its modern yet hearty deviled eggs, chicken schnitzel or bison chili) and head back up the mountain for another few powder laps without ever taking off their ski boots.
Suppose you’re staying or enjoying the Edge Spa at The Lodge at Blue Sky, an ultra-luxe Auberge resort. In that case, you can walk to High West’s nearby Distillery and Tasting Room for a guided tour, sample a flight of premium whiskeys, enjoy an indulgent brunch followed by a necessary sojourn on the deck looking out toward the Unita Mountains.
I’d like to tell you that only tourists do this, but I think the term ‘staycation’ was invented in Utah.
If that wasn’t enough, High West popped up at Deer Valley Resort this March. Parking a shimmering Airstream trailer on the Silver Lake ‘ski beach’, the High West Silver Saloon brought new meaning to ‘spring break’ here in Utah. Indeed, “The hills were alive with the sound of music” and laughter with skiers lounging around the campfire sipping a hot toddy, an old fashioned or another famed cocktail from the High West drink menu. Guests also stretched out on Adirondack chairs or curled up on sofas with faux fur throws, watching the kids take laps on Sterling Express. The biggest challenge, to be honest, was remembering to apply sunscreen.
Full of well-heeled visitors? Yes, but many were neighbors, friends and business associates, all out enjoying a sunny, spring day on the mountain. Perhaps, some called in sick with a case of a particularly local affliction, ‘powder flu.’ For others, skiing at the venerable resort was optional. After all, many of us have been shredding for months.
Whatever the activity, when it was time to leave, we all made the quick walk or drive home with enough time to pick up the kids, take them to soccer or ski team practice. Then, we enjoyed a James Beard-nominated or homemade dinner and contemplated plans for the weekend. More skiing, hiking, biking, climbing or just relaxing? It’s a ridiculous lifestyle. Perhaps, we’ll just sit in the hot tub and stare at the mountains or stars across Utah’s Dark Skies for a bit longer to decide.
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