In circuslike fashion, the Sundance Film Festival arrives every January, transforming the ski resort hamlet of Park City, Utah, into a snowy white Hollywood. Although the movie screenings and the gifting suites last only10 days, it will still be the height of ski season when the celebrities depart. Extreme-sports fanatics, ski purists and the après-ski crowd will remain to enjoy Park City’s posh resort/spa complexes and alluring shopping, restaurant and gallery scenes.
In recent years, diverse summertime offerings, hiking and mountain biking, as well as events like the Park City Food & Wine Classic have increased the area’s yearround appeal.
Over the past 20 years, Park City’s Jewish community has grown to include full-time residents, vacation homeowners (including Adam and Cindy Bronfman of the Seagram family) and regular visitors. With about 300 member families, Temple Har Shalom (templeharshalom.com), a Reform congregation, has made the most of Park City’s natural beauty and status as one of America’s ski capitals. During the winter ski season, the rabbi leads a Friday afternoon Ski Shul starting at the top of Deer Valley Ski Area at the Sunset Cabin. The run culminates with an après-ski service and oneg Shabbat gathering — and in December, a Chanukah party. During the summer, potluck barbecues also reel in the membership.
"We do a lot of community outreach for visitors," said Joy Erickson, Temple Har Shalom’s membership and volunteer coordinator. "This is a connecting point for people who come here, and we even have had people relocate here from Los Angeles, New York and other cities because of the synagogue."
The Har Shalom building, opened in 2009, was designed by noted German architect and Bauhaus School professor Alfred Jacobi, whose approach to synagogue design focuses on the future and potential of a Jewish community rather than look to past architectural influences. It is all the more impressive an accomplishment when one considers that the Park City Jewish Center (an umbrella organization that includes the shul) had its inauspicious beginnings 20 years ago when a handful of local Jews placed an ad in the newspaper to promote a community Passover seder.
While Temple Har Shalom is Park City’s seat of Jewish life, it gets a bigger spotlight every January during the Sundance Film Festival. Its social hall is transformed into "The Temple Theater," where documentary entries are screened.
Deer Valley Ski Area is the sentimental favorite ski area among Har Shalom members for obvious reasons — plus the fact that snowboarding is prohibited. However, Erickson added that she and her friends love the dining opportunities at the many ski resorts, as well as gourmet restaurants such as Silver 508 and Talisker on Main lighting up Main Street. She also insisted that the Park City Museum, Kimball Art Center and weekly gallery walks are a must any time of year.
Another Jew who has helped increase the community’s presence and Park City’s overall appeal is Jack Bistricer, Talisker Corp. chairman and CEO, whose holdings include the Canyons Resort (canyonsresort.com).
For Zeke Wray, executive chef for all two dozen food and beverage venues under the Canyons umbrella, one of his most interesting challenges was creating Bistro at Canyons, the area’s first certified-kosher restaurant, for the Silverado Lodge.
Before the restaurant, one of Wray’s responsibilities was to create kosher meals for his boss and his family, who keep kosher. His successful interpretations of classic gourmet preparations with kosher ingredients ultimately inspired the menu at Bistro at Canyons.
"It was a compelling challenge to create a product that would not just appeal to customers keeping kosher, but to general diners simply wanting to enjoy a good meal and not realize it is a dairy-free kitchen," Wray said. "However, one advantage was that this was a new restaurant created from scratch, and the kitchen was designed from the beginning to be a kosher kitchen."
Wray went to New York, Toronto, Los Angeles and even the Baron Herzog winery in Oxnard to learn from kosher fine-dining destinations. "A lot of this has not just expanded my concept of kosher dining, but also [made me] realize there are ways to look at kosher food, not as a practice with limitations but a catalyst for a restaurant that can be creative and successful based on selecting the best ingredients in the area," he said.
In addition to the area’s stalwart Stein Eriksen Lodge and The Canyons, there are also extraordinary new five-star destinations under the Montage, St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria banners that are all perfectly appointed for serious winter sports enthusiasts and nonskiers, featuring state-of-the-art spas, event- and wedding-planning departments and a large array of activities.
Although these magnificent complexes also have shuttles leading into the city, as do more moderately priced and family-oriented resorts, those preferring the intimacy of a boutique hotel and proximity to all of the action on Main Street will love the Washington School House (washingtonschoolhouse.com), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The staff takes a customized approach to every visitor’s stay, with such personal touches as breakfasts made to order and different surprises waiting on guests’ pillows every night. The concierge will also help organize activities such as one-on-one yoga classes and hikes.
While post-movie screening nightlife during Sundance is well publicized, the emerging artisanal food and cocktail scene in Park City has added greater depth and dimension to after-dinner entertainment. The Main Street fixture No Name is popular with the college crowd, live-music fans will enjoy Spur, and spirits connoisseurs and comfort-food fans will want to check out the High West Distillery & Saloon. Hollywood boys Chris and Danny Masterson (of "That ’70s Show" fame) have kept the show-biz presence in Park City alive year-round with their establishment Downstairs. Celebrities sipping, performing or DJs spinning there include Ashton Kutcher, Wilmer Valderrama, Susan Sarandon, Adrian Grenier ("Entourage"), DJ Simon Rex and members of the L.A. Lakers.