words by Melissa Fields
While most dedicated skiers and riders are well-acquainted with Utah’s more famous winter destinations, few are privy to an area along the Wasatch Mountains’ western flank that could well be Utah ski country’s best-kept secret: the Heber Valley
. There, tucked into the rolling hillsides between the new Mayflower Resort base area and Deer Valley Resort
to the north and Sundance Mountain Resort
to the southwest, you’ll find the charming town of Heber Valley. But beyond a stone’s-throw access to world-class skiing, this alpine area is also bursting with unique and memorable things to do, inspired dining, and a warm, Western hospitality. Following is a 72-hour itinerary highlighting some of the best of what wintertime in the Heber Valley has to offer.
After touching down at the Salt Lake City International Airport
, make the quick 40-minute drive to Black Rock Mountain Resort
, a sleek, new, and luxurious resort where every condo, suite or hotel room features views of either Deer Valley Resort’s ski runs or the Uinta Mountain Range. After settling in, grab a bite and cocktail at the resort’s On the Rocks Bar, booked with live music five nights a week.
Time to rise and glide! After fueling up with the Grand Marnier French toast or a Southwest breakfast burrito at Black Rock’s Overlook Restaurant, hop on the resort’s shuttle to Deer Valley Resort. Get oriented to this premiere ski area’s 103 runs, learn about the Wasatch Mountains’ colorful silver-mining history and be led to hidden snow stashes on a complimentary Mountain Host Tour (for intermediate and advanced skiers, leaving from the top of the Carpenter Express and Homestake Express chairlifts at 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., and 1:30 p.m.)
When it's time to warm up, make your way down the Little Stick run to The St. Regis Deer Valley
. Take a seat in the warm and elegant bar (Punctuated by Philip Buller's mural homage to local history, "In the Mines.") or head outdoors to the Mountain Terrace, where comfy upholstered armchairs surround multiple artistic firepits. Either venue offers a variety of handmade hot drinks, wine, craft cocktails, the St. Regis' new line of custom beers by Salt Fire Brewery, and the St. Regis' most famous sipper: 7452 Bloody Mary
, topped with wasabi foam and served in a black lava salt-rimmed glass. For lunch, cozy up to a steamy bowl of clam chowder or Connecticut-style lobster roll at Rime Seafood & Raw Bar, located in a rustically chic cabin at the top of the Mountaineer Express Lift.
At the end of the day, up the ante on the typical hot tub après-ski soak by booking a stand-up paddleboard yoga session within the Homestead Crater’s 10,000-year-old hot spring, located just 20 minutes away in Midway. Park City Yoga Adventures hosts SUP classes for all abilities and ages inside the crater’s surreal cave, where the mineral-rich hot spring waters hover around a delightful 95 to 98 degrees, year-round.
For dinner, make a reservation at Afterword, an uber-creative restaurant in Heber City that sources most of its food locally including from the owner's own micro-farm in Midway. Afterword also boasts an award-winning wine list and fabulous cocktail menu and features live music on Wednesdays and Saturday nights. Tip: The Second House cocktail and deviled farm eggs appetizer are to die for.
Day 2:Get an early start and head south along Heber City’s Main Street for a homespun and hearty breakfast with a side of down-home culture at Chick’s Café, a Heber City institution since 1954. Note that most of the full breakfasts at Chick’s come with a scone, which in Utah is more akin to frybread. (And is dee-lish!)
After breakfast, hop in your car for the quick 30-minute commute to the iconic Sundance Mountain Resort. A slew of improvements have been rolled out there for the 2021-22 winter season, including the installation of a new high-speed detachable quad accessing the mid-mountain summit, which has not been serviced by a lift in more than 25 years. Not only is the skiing and snowboarding at Sundance superb, but there’s also plenty to do there for the non-skier. Enjoy taking a yoga class at the Sundance Spa; guided fly-fishing on the nearby Blue-Ribbon Provo River; Nordic skiing or snowshoeing; shopping the boutiquey General Store; or simply wandering the elegantly rustic base area’s wooden walkways. We recommend lunching at Sundance’s Foundry Grill or The Lookout, a new modern BBQ restaurant at Creekside. And don’t forget to pay a visit to the Owl Bar, furnished with an 1890s-era, restored bar relocated from a watering hole in Thermopolis, Wyoming where Butch Cassidy once hung out.
For a glimpse of the Heber Valley’s agrarian heritage, schedule a dairy farm tour at Heber Valley Artisan Cheese where you can check out the West’s first automated milking system, allowing the cows to choose when they are milked. Be sure to grab a wedge of Wasatch Back Jack, Vanilla Bean-rubbed Cheddar or Snake Creek 6-Year Sharp (along with many other varieties) from the farm store after your tour.
Put an adventuresome and delicious endcap on the day with a guided snowshoe hike followed by a gourmet-level dinner with Wilderness Access Outfitters. The evening begins with a snowy stroll under a starlit sky to WAO’s private yurt, located deep in Wasatch Mountain State Park. There you’ll be greeted by a crackling campfire before being welcomed inside for an unforgettable meal featuring pinot noir braised short ribs or a portobello mushroom ratatouille. And, for dessert? S’mores, of course, and locally made Auntie Em’s cookies. The evening concludes with a short snowshoe back to your car or shuttle.
Day 3:The third day of a ski or snowboard vacation is usually when your muscles are sore, you don’t have quite as much spring in your step and you’re mentally worn out. In other words, day three should be about doing something away from the slopes. One of the Heber Valley’s most family-friendly outdoor destinations is Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games’ biathlon, Nordic combined and cross-country skiing events. Activities available there now include skate and classic Nordic skiing on groomed-daily tracks, gliding with gravity along 1,200-foot-long snow tubing lanes and snowshoeing. Soldier Hollow also hosts plenty of events; this winter the Ice Castles, an interactive, fairytale landscape made of ice and snow, will be held at Soldier Hollow during January and February 2022.
Another fun option for non-skiing outdoor adventure in the Heber Valley is a snowmobile tour. You’ll go farther into the pristine wilderness just east of Heber City and Midway on these fun snow machines than you ever could under your own steam. Snowmobile tours range from scenic cross-country sojourns along groomed track to plundering the powder in open meadows.
Once you’ve filled your outdoor-fun bucket, you’ll be more than ready to treat yourself to a little TLC. Mountain Elite Massage’s sanctuary of self-care is located conveniently on Heber City’s Main Street. In addition to a full menu of body treatments and facials, this beautiful and super-clean spa also offers meditation and yoga classes, paired with halotherapy or salt therapy sessions—physically and mentally restorative time in the spa’s on-site salt room. (Halotherapy rooms infuse microscopic salt particles into the air and have been used for centuries to alleviate breathing issues, treat allergies, and provide an overall sense of well-being.)
Wrap your day and stay in the Heber Valley with dinner inside an Alpenglobe—beautiful glass and wood dining shelters with panoramic views—at Café Galleria in Midway. These magical (and heated) shelters allow private dining in an intimate setting with views of the stars overhead.
Departure Day:Sadly, all good things must come to an end, including unforgettable winter getaways in Utah’s Heber Valley. If you’re pressed for time before heading back down to the airport, stop into Black Rock’s grab-and-go café, The Market, for an espresso drink, smoothie, pastry, fruit bowl or a bagel. Though winter in the Heber Valley is downright dreamy, when the snow melts in the spring, the area buzzes with a whole new outdoors-facing world of things to do including mountain biking, hiking, golf, fishing and much more.
This content is sponsored by Heber Valley