PARK CITY, Utah — Talk about a perfect setting. Nestled mid-mountain at the first-class Deer Valley resort is the Goldener Hirsch Inn, an Austrian-style chalet, where surrounding peaks provide the Alpine backdrop for the hotel’s Bavarian charm. Remove your skis, showshoes, or hiking boots, step inside the cozy lounge for cheese fondue and a pint of Austrian beer, and you’ll be transported to another time and place.
Built in 1990 as a small replica of (but no relation to) the Hotel Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg, Austria, the 20-room inn feels authentic without being hokey. Many furnishings and decor were purchased in Austria by the Eccles family, who bought the Goldener Hirsch here (the name means “golden deer”) in 1992 and has operated it since. A rustic elk horn chandelier hangs in the lobby; deer and chamois antlers and alpenhorns (long horn instruments) decorate the walls.
Behind the front desk, room keys on heavy golden fobs hang in cubby holes, a European tradition the inn copied from its Salzburg namesake. According to general manager Kelley Davidson, storing the keys this way — so you have to ask for them — “allows us to have communication with our guests.” The staff aims for a level of Old World service practically nonexistent in today’s hotels.
In the dining room, cushioned chairs have wooden seatbacks, each with a signature deer carving; a hand-painted mural hangs over the fireplace. The dinner menu offers Austrian specialties you would expect, with contemporary touches. The most popular entree is wiener schnitzel: pounded, breaded veal, pan-fried until crisp and served with herb spaetzle (tiny dumplings) and braised red cabbage with a sweet-vinegary zing. Other selections include steelhead trout farmed in central Utah, served with quinoa, caramelized root vegetables, and Green Goddess sauce; tender, rosy duck breast with roasted fingerlings; and beef bavette (sirloin flap cut) accompanied by potato rosti made with bacon and smoked cheddar.
The kitchen is run by executive chef Ryan Burnham, 37, who came to the Goldener Hirsch 18 months ago. “It’s an intimate setting and extremely unique,” he says. He likes the personal connection to guests here, compared with the bustling restaurants on Park City’s historic Main Street, where he cooked for over five years.
The must-have cheese fondue is a creamy, gooey mix of Appenzeller, Emmentaler, Gruyere, and Vacherin, simmered with white wine, a hint of nutmeg, garlic, and cherry brandy. “We start grating cheese two weeks before we open in December,” says Burnham. “It’s hard to keep up.”
Other popular après-ski items include an antipasto of salami and cheeses, a hot-from-the-oven Bavarian-style soft pretzel knot, and poutine, the rich plate of fries, here covered with braised lamb gravy and grated cheese. Add to that European and locally crafted beer or wine.
On Thursdays in ski season (which this year ends April 13), the inn’s lounge, Alpen Stube, turns especially jolly. An accordion player and yodeling singer entertain the happy crowd.
Burnham, an admitted “mushroom nut,” offers a light appetizer of sauteed mushrooms — the assortment varies but might include abalone, nameko, royal trumpet, and maitake, with crispy prosciutto and honey-poached fresh cranberries, which lend a spark of tartness. Two other winners are house-made lamb sausage and Brussels sprouts roasted in bacon fat. For dessert, there’s fondue, of course (it’s chocolate), along with strudel made with chunky apples and walnuts.
When the weather warms, the chef swaps a few of the heavier dishes for more seafood options, salads, a chilled soup, and grilled meats.
But Burnham always offers cheese fondue. In this cozy Alpine setting, whatever the month, it’s never too warm to indulge.