Park City Mountain Resort Transforms its Historic Mid-Mountain Lodge
By Brian E. Clark
In the late 19th Century, Park City was a booming mining center with a population of nearly 10,000. The town’s Silver King Mine was one of the most famous silver mines in the world.
Today, skiers and snowboarders can experience a bit of that mining history by stopping in for a bite and a drink at the Mid-Mountain Lodge, which was built in 1897 as a boarding house and dining hall for miners. In a second life – nearly 80 years later – it became a dorm for members of the U.S. Ski Team.
Originally, the first floor had offices, a kitchen, and a dining room, while the second level contained sleeping quarters. Historical records described it as a handsome, utilitarian building with lathe-turned porch posts and modest trim above the windows and doors. The lodge was part of a dense complex of other buildings, including two additional bunkhouses. They all served the Silver King Mine, but are now all long gone. The Mid-Mountain Lodge remained in use for another half-century by miners, though it was closed in 1953 as the value of silver declined.
It sat empty for nearly two decades and was then renovated in 1973 by the U.S. Ski Team to accommodate up to 120 athletes, according to Sandy Melville, a guide for the resort’s “Silver to Slopes Mining Tour,” which is offered twice a day. Its location on the slopes proved a problem, however, and the team vacated the building in 1975, Melville said.
By 1986, the structure was slated for demolition when Melville said Park City residents David Hampshire, Vince Donile, Harry Reed and resort owner Nick Badami stepped in to save it by moving the large structure 500 vertical feet up the mountain to its present location near McConkey’s Lift.
It happened in September of 1987 when seven bulldozers pushed and pulled the 140-ton building more than half-a-mile to its present location.
Once there, Melville said it was placed on a foundation and “beautifully restored and renovated, keeping most of the exterior original historic elements.” The deck was added later.
Remarkably, Melville noted, the actual move only took about an hour and the structure was moved in one piece. Prior to its relocation from near the Bonanza Lift, Melville said the resort was “bombarded” by suggestions on how to move it, what do with it after it was moved, what colors to paint it, etc. by locals who were interested in historic preservation.”
Park City managers decided to put up a suggestion box for input, only they mounted the suggestion box on the roof of the building at its highest point. According to local lore, only one suggestion made it into the box. It read: “Please move this box to a more convenient location.”
For the next 30 years, the lodge served generations of skiers and then snowboarders. But the resort wasn’t done with its plans for the lodge. After a renovation, it reopened last season, upgrading both the building and its dining options, said Alex Malmborg, the resort’s executive chef.
“In transforming the Mid-Mountain Lodge – which has been satisfying appetites of miners and riders for more than 100 years – our dining team wanted to take ski resort dining to the next level,” he said. “Knowing the rich history of the building, it was important for us to modernize the cuisine and ambiance while staying true to the historic roots of the area and our mining heritage. Ultimately, we wanted to create a setting that was unlike anything you would expect when stopping for lunch or a drink on-mountain.”
He said the exterior of the building was restored to its original white paint color and the spacious deck underwent a full remodel. The deck now features new built-in seating with custom-designed fire pits, tables and chairs draped in locally-sourced sheepskins, offering great views of the Uinta range. It can seat 550 people indoors and on the deck.
He said the interior of the former boarding house also underwent a comprehensive interior renovation that honors the history of the building and embodies a modern take on the Victorian time period.
“Now, when you enter the restaurant, the grand staircase showcases a unique chandelier and custom carpet that flows into the custom upstairs dining area,” he said. “The interior designer incorporated the lodge’s history throughout the building by strategic placement of historical photos as well as an eclectic arrangement of furniture, muted brass finishes, and inlaid glass finishes.”
But the upgrades didn’t stop there. The lodge now features a full-service, ski-in-ski-out bar: The Public House.
“The bar was added as part of the transformation,” Malmborg said. The Public House is a full-service bar featuring beautiful beverage presentations, signature cocktails, carefully selected glassware, fresh herbs and spices, and thoughtful details. The beverage menu is all about utilizing seasonal flavors and creating winter-inspired craft cocktails with fresh ingredients and local spirits. The bar also features an assortment of local, sustainably-packaged full-strength beers and a carefully-selected wine list.
Malmborg said the lodge menu was completely re-imagined as part of the transformation.
“Gone are the traditional burgers and chicken tenders, though you can still find these favorite treats at other lodges on our mountain. Our culinary philosophy at Mid-Mountain is centered on meticulously-designed and consistently-plated dishes with simple and bold flavor combinations. The flame-broiled rotisserie is the showpiece of the kitchen and is highlighted in the production and design in many of our dishes. Signature items include over-the-top sandwiches and hearty grain bowls.”
For his part, Malmborg said his favorite lunch is the tuna poke rice bowl and crispy Brussel sprouts served with pickled ginger aioli.
This is exactly what this writer had when I visited Park City in January – amidst daily dumps of delightful powder – and dined at the spiffed-up Mid-Mountain Lodge. I’m not sure if the miners of old would have appreciated the meal, but I certainly did.
For more information on the lodge, see https://www.parkcitymountain.com/explore-the-resort/during-your-stay/restaurants/mid-mountain-lodge. And for Park City Mountain Resort itself, go to parkcitymountain.com.
Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis. He also writes a weekly travel column for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.