The Viking Yurt

There are quite a few things I’m itching to share with you here from the past few months- our first Christmas as a family of four, blissful winter bits…oh! Having a BABY. But I’m jumping ahead to share a magical date night that John and I went on last night. It was that fun!

Let me start by saying that I have been putting “Yurt Dinner” on my Christmas/Birthday Lists for years. YEARS. If you don’t know what a yurt is, it’s a circular, canvas-walled structure with a wooden frame. They’ve been used in Asia for a few thousand years and we stayed in one a few years ago (take a peek!). I’d heard that some resorts around here offer multi-course dinners in yurts, accessible only by snowshoeing or even a sleigh ride. It sounded like such a fun and unique adventure, but John never granted my holiday wish…until my birthday this year!

The Viking Yurt is at Park City Mountain Resort, which is literally 5 minutes from our house. Last night’s weather was not ideal for a 25-minute sleigh ride up the side of a mountain- temps hardly reaching 30 degrees, snow, and a pretty vicious wind! There would be no star-gazing. But, it’s all part of the adventure, so we bundled up in our ski pants and tucked into some warm hats and gloves and headed to the resort.

We hung out in the lobby by the Guest Services Desk, signing a waiver and chatting with other yurt-goers. I met a sweet woman from Virginia whose son had surprised her with the dinner for her birthday the day before. There seemed to be a healthy mix of locals and tourists, less than 50 people in all. A peek into the ski shop and listening to guests at the resort talking reminded me that we live in a place people want to come for vacation! While we waited, John pointed out the ski runs he likes best on the huge trail map on the wall. I spied the Viking Yurt high on the mountain, but had no idea what to expect.

When it was time to go, we trudged out through the snow and wind to the sleigh, adorned with little lanterns and flags. Some people had purchased warm seats enclosed inside the snow cat, but I thought it was fun to sit in the sleigh! We buckled our seatbelts and some of the staff brought cozy blankets that we shared with our bench neighbors. I love these kinds of events because it’s all about meeting other people sharing the same adventure. Strangers become friends. Wouldn’t you know that within minutes of chatting, John and a woman across from us had connected, realizing they were both from the same town and John knew her niece? Small world moment! We all laughed as the gusts of wind blew snow in our faces. We wound up the hill through pine trees and bare aspens and we watched the glowing lights of Park City grow more distant behind us.

By the time we got to the yurt, the wind was really blowing. It was COLD up there! We’d gained 1,800 feet in elevation during our trek up the side of the hill and that cozy yurt, lit from inside and adorned with twinkly lights, was a welcome sight. When we walked inside, shaking snow off of our coats and savoring the warmth, I was slightly overwhelmed by the lovely scene before us.  You could see the wonder in the eyes of the other guests, too! A crackling fire glowed from inside a wood-burning stove. A man played a grand piano off to the side, which had multiple horned Viking helmets sitting on top of it. Five or six candlelit tables were set with beautiful table settings and place cards with our names. We found our table and sat family style with a few other parties. A pewter mug awaited each of us, which we learned contained a warm spiced beverage called glogg. Already the experience was more than I’d imagined and we’d just arrived!

Someone rang a cowbell to get our attention and introduced the staff for the night. We learned about glogg and were offered an alcoholic beet-based shot to pour into it, served to our tables on a “Shot Ski.” We all clinked our mugs and shouted, “Skol!” which is like “cheers” to a Viking. When in Rome…! We spent the evening meeting and chatting with our table mates, none of whom had ever had a yurt dinner experience, either. To my left was a couple who’d just moved to Utah from LA three months ago. We bonded over my LA roots and the fact that we both have 2-year-olds. At the end of the table was another local couple (it was his birthday) and a pair from New Jersey who’d just gotten married nearby on Saturday! To John’s right was an older couple who visits almost annually from Michigan. After the zero-degree temps they’d had at home recently, they laughed and called our weather “balmy.” It was pretty incredible how well the wood stove warmed the small space while the wind whipped just outside the canvas walls!

Despite being at the top of a mountain in a blowing snow storm with no running water, the meal we were served was seriously gourmet. The dinnerware was all heavy pewter. We were offered wine or other beverages. We enjoyed a lobster bisque with salmon chunks and passed around a bag full of warm bread. Next came a beautiful salad with pears and watermelon radish. No course was rushed and the pianist played popular songs like “Sweet Caroline” and various hits from the 80s that prompted guests to sing the lyrics more than once. As the night went on, people got louder and rowdier!

After our salad came a palate-cleansing course of refreshing lemon-tarragon sorbet, served in a rock from Norway. Each rock was different and was engraved with a number underneath. We could look in a book to learn which part of Norway our particular rock came from and learned a little fact about the region. These types of details were just so fun and kept the conversation going at our table. At one point, I braved the elements and ventured outside to find the restrooms. I confess I might have sprinted the 20 feet through that biting wind to get there along a snowy and lighted path! Again, the yurt has no running water, so it was sort of an outhouse situation, but cozy and cutely decorated.

For our main course, we thoroughly enjoyed braised short ribs with Jarlsburg mashed potatoes (John’s in love) and winter root veggies. It was scrumptious! Despite feeling pretty full by then, we dove right into a simply beautiful cheese course, served on a local aspen slab. The staff described everything we were eating, like what types of cheeses were on the plate and where they were from. At some point, the Viking helmets started being passed around, prompting all sorts of laughs and photo opportunities. With John’s full beard, I think the get-up suits him, don’t you?

By the time dessert rolled around, a tasty marzipan/chocolate cake with cardamom ice cream, I needed a cup of coffee. We sang “happy birthday” to the woman I’d met in the lobby and one of our tablemates. What a meal! We’d spent a few hours at the yurt and enjoyed every moment, but the adventure wouldn’t officially end until we took another ride in that sleigh. All 40+ people donned our coats and hats and shuffled in the blustering wind back to the sleigh. Thank goodness for the glogg and wine to make everyone a tad warmer and jovial than when we’d arrived!

Somehow, the ride down the mountain was faster than the ride up. We could almost spy our house from up on that ski run. John and I had our own cozy blanket this time, so we tucked underneath it while the gropple snow pelted our heads. We laughed a lot and took an under-blanket selfie and said multiple times that we can’t wait to visit the Viking Yurt again. By the time we stepped off of the sleigh and headed to the car, it was almost 10pm. We’d be home just in time for this Mama’s bedtime!

Park City Mountain Resort isn’t the only place to offer a dinner event like this, but it sure was a special one. I can’t recommend it enough- and we plan to make it an annual tradition!

More about the Viking Yurt.

More of ME in Park City.

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