A magnet for pro and aspiring athletes, Park City, Utah, is all about excellence.
"Growing up in the D.C. area gave me a love of recreation and culture," said Doug Gormley, who came from Reston 17 years ago to downhill race and teach mountain sports skills at Deer Valley Resort. "In Park City, there's not just good biking, good skiing; it's the top place to bike and ski in the world. Love to climb? Trails here are amazing. Symphony, art, ballet? Some of the best on planet," said Gormley, preparing for a full roster of mountain biking lessons. "There's so much to do that I end up eating dinner at 10 o'clock each night!"
Forty minutes from Salt Lake City, the 7,000-foot-high town is surrounded by the dramatic Wasatch Mountains. Founded by silver miners in 1847, its history unfolds in the new Park City Museum's exhibits: an amazing model of the frightening 1,000-foot-deep mine that attracted daredevil fortune-seekers ... the town's dungeon jail ... the underground mining train and lift repurposed, in the 1960s, as the "Skier Subway."
Clever except that skiers emerged frigid and terrified. Red light district in Mormon country? Yes, said walking tour guide Pat Pond. "Love of history and outdoors" lured her here from Annapolis.
Award-winning "freestyle" restaurants, galleries and boutiques fill authentic Old West storefronts on historic Main Street. Newcomers include Sugar Buzz, offering 450 kinds of candies. The Town Lift whisks adventurers between Main Street and peaks, stopping near the new High West Distillery and Saloon.
Utah's first since Prohibition, it occupies a renovated century-old livery and has already won awards for its spirits. Nearby, Amatsu's new Adventure Spa arranges outdoor workouts such as "Yoga in the Sky."
Mayor Dana Williams is frequently seen greeting citizens along Main Street. He cited examples of Park City's eco-commitment -- free citywide biofueled buses, Green Power Community designation. Treasure Mountain Inn recently transformed into a hip, carbon-neutral Green Hotel-certified condo-hotel with therapy spa and organic eatery.
Passionate about conservation, owner Thea Leonard said, "We self-impose an 'Earth tax' of 3 percent."
Locals eagerly point the way to trailheads for the Rail Trail and Farm Trail, where you can pedal or hike amid 360-degree mountain splendor. In this mecca for peak performers, whatever your desired intensity, the views are guaranteed to leave you breathless.