Every January we stay at Zermatt Resort & Spa to be close to the only place in the world that we want to be: the Sundance Film Festival. Frequently listed amongst the world’s best, it has the advantage of taking place in the scenic heart of the Rocky mountains, always with a photogenic dusting of snow at this time of year.
Most of the Sundance Film Festival takes place at Park City although the best venue is Robert Redford’s own Sundance Mountain Resort about 40 minutes drive away. Exactly half way between the two resort sits the appropriately names Midway, a pretty hamlet that is rapidly growing in stature. Its quiet high street of rustic chalets and twinkling lights is particularly charming, and the resort is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle (and expense) of Park City.
The excellent Zermatt Resort & Spa is our favourite place to stay in the region. Delightfully secluded, it is the perfect spot from which to enjoy the festival – as well as for skiing or a relaxing break at any other time.
Just over an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City, we enter Zermatt Resort & Spa along a cobblestone driveway, past a giant stone-carved bear and a stone colonnade backed by half-timbered buildings, painted with murals of mountain scenes. Pulling up under a portico of giant wooden beams, we step inside a high, wood-panelled lobby that features a stone fireplace, ornately carved statues, a wrought iron chandelier and painted plaques featuring coats of arms from the Swiss Cantons.
One could be forgiven for thinking we are describing a hotel in the heart of the Alps, but we are of course deep in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. This is an area often called “Utah’s Switzerland” because of the dramatic peaks around Mount Timpanagos to the west, and the presence of a large population of Swiss settlers that made their home in Midway during the 1860s and 1870s.
Whilst the veneer of Swiss authenticity is unsurprisingly fairly thin in places, it is of no real consequence as the whole effect is quite delightful. We are happy to be carried along with the illusion, and enjoy the atmosphere whilst not having to try and speak German or struggle with transactions in Swiss Francs.
The ‘European’ style of the Zermatt Resort & Spa is carried through in to the rooms with similar gusto. Ours featured an elegant four poster bed with richly coloured and embroidered fabrics, a stone fireplace with (gas) log fire, gilt-framed historical paintings and reproduction 19th century dark wood furniture.
A big wrought iron mirror, ornate light fittings and a vintage style sink unit put the historic touch on a lovely, modern bathroom. There are quality toiletries and big fluffy robes that can be worn down to the Zermatt Resort’s own spa.
The two restaurants have hearty fare and a strong meat bias with vegetarian options somewhat thin on the ground. Although this isn’t unique to Zermatt Resort & Spa, it would have been good to see some more non-meat and lighter dining choices. ‘European-style’ steak dinners are the main attraction at the smarter of the two, Z’s Steak & Chop Haus, where they boast ‘the finest cuts of prime aged steaks, chops, and seafood’. The Wildfire Smokehaus is more casual with excellent wood-fired pizza and their ‘famous’ homemade pies.
Excellent buffet breakfasts are also served at the Smokehaus although we often selected Zermatt Resort & Spa‘s own Bakery next door. Here you can watch the pastry chefs busily baking their award-winning pastries, fruit tarts and cookies. Espresso coffees, sandwiches, and soups are also served.
Although there is plenty to do here in summer – with lots of active options like hiking, biking and golf – we especially love it here in winter.
It is a very convenient, and lower cost, ‘back door’ in to the exclusive winter sport resorts of Park City & Deer Valley, an easy twenty minutes drive away. These are resorts that are not only very busy but often prohibitively expensive, especially during the Sundance film festival in late January.
Robert Redford’s own Sundance Mountain Resort is of course also a similarly short drive away and a great option for a few days skiing. It is a small and laid back resort with a delightful lunch stop at the Foundry Grill and an apres ski beer at the rustic Owl Bar absolutely de rigeur.
A final added bonus of a stay at Zermatt Resort are the spa and wellness options. The resort has its own full service spa with a great selection of massage, body and facial treatments and packages.
This is also an area of bountiful natural hot springs, known locally as ‘hot pots’, which bubble and steam across the landscape. Adjacent to the resort is the Homestead Crater, a 400-foot wide, 65-foot deep crater, filled with crystal-clear mineral rich water that stays around 90F all year. The warm water flowing from the mineral rich hot swing was instrumental in the resort beginnings as a place where weary miners and travellers could bathe and soak away their aches and pains. Now the ancient, 10,000 year-old hot spring offers year-round warm-water scuba diving in the calm, azure water. You can actually hire scuba gear and dive in to the Homestead Crater, or have a snorkelling lesson, but many people prefer to just bathe in the mineral rich waters, and float/relax in the steaming water.
Afterwards take an instagram ready stroll through a forest of ‘ice castles’ formed by spraying water on to metal frames.
The journey from Salt Lake City airport to Zermatt Resort & Spa is a particularly memorable one. Despite not having the Swiss Alps, a mountain railway and the Matterhorn there are a good many spectacular sights to cram in en route. Our short 45 minute drive from Salt Lake City airport begins with a detour for a view across the world’s largest salt lake and a look at the ‘Great Saltair’ – a hulking, historic lakeside resort – before heading in to the mountains. We pass frozen lakes and enjoy broad vistas of snowy peaks before passing through the pretty village of Midway, where traditional Victorian houses are decorated with a few feet of freshly fallen snow, and street lamps are adorned with fluttering Swiss flags.
For sure nobody can accuse a visit at Zermatt Resort & Spa of lacking variety. Pick your season and activities and you are sure to find your perfect stay.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Zermatt Resort & Spa
Our review of Sundance Mountain Resort