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Rocky Mountain Fourth of July

Park City, Utah, hosted many of the events during Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympic Games and serves as a location to commemorate Team USA. Gold medal-winning athletes continue to train and put on a show throughout the community as they prepare to compete for their next Olympic Games.

A flight to Park City brings Olympic views of the Rocky Mountains and ski resorts that help power a thriving tourism industry.

Heber Valley Airport sits roughly 20 miles southeast of Park City in a valley of the Wasatch Range. The municipally run airport offers aircraft services and accommodations through FBO OK3 Air. Weather in the area can change rapidly, and OK3 offers hangar space for visiting aircraft, though you’ll want to call ahead. Crew cars are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and rental cars from Go Rentals can be reserved in advance. OK3 Air provides maintenance and avionics service on the field. Fuel trucks and self-service pumps are available.

The nontowered airfield has a single runway that is approximately 6,900 feet long and oriented to a heading of 04/22. The heading comes into play as the airport only has one runway and if crosswinds rip across the field it can make flight dangerous in the area. If you’re arriving from the south or departing to the south be advised that Mount Timpanogos rises nearly 12,000 feet and can pose risks.

Soldier Hollow Nordic Center is a 10-minute drive from Heber Valley Airport, and is nestled in the beautiful Wasatch Mountain State Park. The state-of-the-art facility hosted Nordic events for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and currently hosts an array of skiing events in the winter months. Summer temperatures bring biathlon training, golfing in the foothills, and e-bike rentals. The e-bikes are battery-powered mountain bikes to help visitors enjoy the trails without the struggles that come with pedaling uphill.

Pack up from the park and make the 30-minute drive into Park City, where resorts and lodges line the hillside. The route is a scenic wonder as you weave to the other side of the Wasatch Mountains. Be aware as weather can change drastically depending on what side of the mountain you are on. Our crew stayed at Park City’s Peaks Hotel for the week. The hotel was located right next to Park City Mountain and features modern and sleek amenities for guests. The hotel was positioned right on the shuttle line that offers trips to town and ski lodges free of charge for visitors to the area.

Park City Mountain is the largest ski resort in the United States and features two villages on the hillside, Park City Mountain and Canyons Village, where resorts and restaurants surround both communities. Select lifts remain in operation during the summer months for scenic rides compared to hoisting skiers to make the downhill adventure in the winter. An Alpine slide will unleash your inner child as you race down 3,000 feet of luge-like tracks. The slide lives up to the Park City Mountain brand being listed as one of the longest slides in the United States. Ziplines, golf, mountain coasters, and trails will keep any adventure seeker busy during your stay.

If one resort isn’t enough another world-renowned ski resort also makes Park City home: Deer Valley offers luxury hotels, such as the St. Regis, and personal condo rentals. Concerts take center stage at the resort’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater; big-name performers, orchestras, and free events book the summer calendar.

The Flying Ace All-Stars take to the sky in Park City. Photo courtesy of Park City Chamber/Bureau.

Tributes to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games can be seen throughout the community, and you can participate in activities at the historic Utah Olympic Park. From ski jumping to halfpipe and moguls, Park City’s participation in the games was monumental and it remains a hub for winter sports. Despite snow melting in the summer, winter sports athletes continue to train, and many venues are built to accommodate the activities without the white, powdery snow. For example, summer bobsledding has visitors soaring down the Olympic track at speeds faster than 60 miles per hour; reservations book quickly, so plan in advance if you hope to attempt your gold medal run.

The Flying Ace All-Stars rip down ski ramps and twist into a swimming pool at the base of the jumps. Olympians and National Team skiers and snowboarders make up a majority of the team and soar over 60 feet into the air during their beautifully choreographed routines. DJs keep the atmosphere amped and electric throughout the must-see event. Tickets are required and events take place on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer.

Park City is also home to one of the most prestigious festivals in North America—the Sundance Film Festival. The 10-day event features some of the best documentaries and cinematic works throughout the world. Celebrities and filmgoers alike make the pilgrimage to Park City for the festival in January, although the organization provides outdoor screenings of films during the summer.

Unique eats line the entire mountainside and mouthwatering meals are not hard to come by. Elevate your $100 hamburger experience by stopping by No Name Saloon, a local pub that claims to be the reason Park City is famous. The original restaurant is a 21-and-over-only establishment, although if you’re traveling with anyone under age 21, Annex Burger is the restaurant’s family-friendly location offering the same menu right next door.

Step into No Name Saloon and you’ll be backtracking decades to the mining-town days of Park City as antlers hang from the chandeliers and mounted deer and elk heads line the walls. The bar swaps traditional beef hamburger patties in exchange for ground buffalo, and that change makes the burgers worth the trip. Perfectly cooked and bursting with flavor, this burger will surely rank high on your list of $100 hamburgers. The Loaded Taters are a great side or starter to complement your buffalo burger.

The bar scene is big in Park City, but so is fine dining. Chef Bill White traded his Northern Michigan roots for Italian cuisine in the Park City mountainside. After working his way through Europe at top-rated restaurants White moved back to the United States to open his flagship restaurant, Grappa, in 1992. The restaurant focuses on handmade pasta and drink pairings at its historic Main Street location. Book a reservation in advance as the restaurant seldom has room for walk-in guests.

During my visit to Grappa I ordered the Crispy Brussels Sprouts, which were glazed in a balsamic reduction and topped with crushed almonds, to start. I asked our server if they pan fried the Brussels sprouts as they were perfectly crisp, but he let me in on a secret: The trick is to drop them in a deep fryer for a short second to help the sprouts earn their crispy texture. The restaurant is known for its handmade Bolognese, and I had to try what the critics rave about. The decadent lamb and pork ragù delicately glistened over the pasta and earned a stellar review from me.

In the heart of Park City a small coffee shop makes scones and freshly made biscotti treats to pair with a fresh cup of Joe. Atticus, named after a character in Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird, pairs a small bookstore with delectable pastries and drinks. The shop is worth a stop as you dip into and out of stores down historic Main Street.

Outdoor adventure is everywhere in the Wasatch Mountains, and as you depart be sure to take the scenic route. Summer warmth opens drivable trails and adventures that are normally closed due to snow conditions; the drives can vary from short half-hour trips to daylong adventures.

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