Washington School House Hotel, a block off Main Street in Park City, Utah, manages to mix history, a sense of place, and high design into one enticing package.
Park City certainly has no shortage of lodging options, with three of the top-10 ski resorts in the U.S. located here, but if you want luxury in an intimate setting, with character and personal service, it would be hard to top Washington School House Hotel.
Yes, it is in a building from 1889 that was once a school house, in a prime location one block from Main Street and close enough to the city ski lift to walk there carrying your skis. It’s also about a block from High West Distillery, which you can ski right up to when you are ready to go from ski to après-ski with some local whiskey.
Or you can just have the après experience in the hotel, where at the end of each day the chef prepares a special snack, like a half pear stuffed with wild mushrooms or veggies and home-made red pepper salsa. You nibble while a fireplace keeps the room warm and you sip whatever libation you’re in the mood for. Overhead is a chandelier made of antlers—a common site in the Rocky Mountains—but here it’s painted white to match the subtle designer vibe.
Rarely have I seen such a perfect marraige of old and new in a resort area, with white furniture and sleek lines blending with original school floorboards and window frames. It’s soothing without being pretentious, nodding to the past without pretending we have to stay stuck there.
Delightful little touches keep showing up as you explore the building and then after you’re in your room. Downstairs is a dedicated ski and boot storage room with boot warmers and a casual lounge with lots of board games, a huge flat-screen TV, and a sleek gas fireplace. Out back, with a view of the city and mountains, is a heated pool and a very warm hot tub. (One night I relaxed in there while snow was piled up a few feet away.) At night the poolside fire is in a torch from the 2002 Olympics. Just inside are towels rolled and stacked in triangles of three.
The 12 rooms are in a few different styles, some being duplexes facing front or back, with two levels connected by a spiral staircase, a wall-mounted TV on each floor and shower-only baths with nice Molton Brown toiletries. Others are on one floor, some of these with a larger claw-foot tub bath in addition to the shower. The Penthouse Suite is the “book to impress at Sundance” choice, with its own elevator access, a kitchenette, room for several people to crash, and an extra exit for escaping the groupies. No matter what, you’ll get a comfortable bed with a variety of pillows, a fluffy duvet, and very good housekeepers.
Indicative of the care and thoughtfulness put into the service here, in three nights at Washington School House I found three different turndown treats on my bed. One night, a set of note cards tied up with a pencil. On the second night, warm cookies. On the third, a copy of Henry David Thoreau essays.
An elegant mechanical alarm clock sits next to an iPod dock on the nightstand. The chandelier overhead and sconces on the wall have dimmers, but the bedside lights are plenty bright for reading. Wi-fi is included, naturally, and “Can we get you anything?” feels like a genuine request here, not something uncaring employees are trained to say as a greeting, praying as they say it that you’ll reply with a no.
Partly this is due to the set-up, a few employees who are good at multi-tasking taking care of every detail and knowing you by name and sight. “It’s not my job” would never enter into the lexicon in a hotel like Washington School House, where the person who checked you in might be mixing your cocktail or making sure your ski boots are hung up right. They’re not compartmentalized into a silo. The whole hotel is their silo, a cozy retreat where everything is just right: soft, comfortable, tasty, or pleasant. Not too hip, not too fussy, not too formal.
School was certainly nothing like this…
For more information on Washington School House Hotel in Park City, see the official website, which looks almost as good as the hotel itself. You can book direct there for rates between $395 and $2,250 or check out one of their package deals.
Editor Tim Leffel is a writer and travel destinations expert who grew up skiing in the northeast and was thrilled to hit the Rocky Mountains again. He was hosted by Washington School House Hotel while researching a story for another publication.