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About Utah: Visit the Waldorf — without leaving Utah

Published: Thursday, Aug. 4 2011 11:50 p.m. MDT

The Waldorf Astoria Park City will never be confused for its namesake hotel in New York.

Lee Benson, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Used to be, if you wanted to stay at the Waldorf Astoria you had to pack a bag and make your way cross-country to New York City.

Now, the trip's not necessary.

You no longer have to go to the Waldorf. The Waldorf has come to you.

Two years ago, The Waldorf Astoria Park City opened its doors at a prime mountain location just below the chairlifts here at Canyons Resort.

Fantasize a little and there's Grand Central Station, Park Avenue, and somebody out front on the sidewalk yelling, "Hey, watch where you're going!"

Well, OK, fantasize a lot.

In reality, other than the sign out front, there aren't a lot of similarities between the iconic Waldorf Astoria in NYC and its brand-name namesake here in PC.

That one has 47 stories, 1,508 rooms and an MTA subway station in the lobby.

This one has four stories, 174 rooms and the nearest MTA subway stop is 2,173 miles away – although there is a fully operating gondola across the parking lot.

That one has had poems written about it ("Arrival at the Waldorf," by Wallace Stevens), songs named for it ("Lounging at the Waldorf," from the musical "Ain't Misbehavin'"), and has been in more movies than Tommy Lee Jones.

This one has books with poems in it, background music in the lobby, and last winter during the Sundance Film Festival it rented a bunch of rooms to people who make movies.

That one has hosted every president of the United States since it opened in 1893.

This one hasn't.

And so forth.

But, actually, that's the whole point, explains Barbara Schmaelzle, director of sales and marketing for Waldorf Astoria Park City.

When Hilton Hotels, owner of the original Waldorf, decided a few years ago to start a line of upscale properties and brand them "Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts," the idea was to make each hotel as unique as the flagship hotel in New York City.

Nothing is replicated, says Barbara, "except of course for the service and the elegant touches."

Nobody has to tell Barbara that the Waldorf in Park City will never be confused for the Waldorf in New York. She grew up in Milford, Conn., just across the border from New York City. She used to walk through the Waldorf in Manhattan when she was a teenager, just for fun.

"The two hotels are nothing at all alike," says Barbara as she looks out the double doors of the lobby at blue skies, spruce trees and rugged mountaintops in the distance.

She smiles and adds, "Mother Nature is far different than New York City."

Barbara moved to Park City "as a lifestyle choice" several years before the Waldorf-PC opened, when she was working for another hotel chain. When she heard about the new Waldorf project she changed companies.

She never dreamed she'd one day get to work at the Waldorf and live in the Rocky Mountains.

Barbara does point out that there are things you can do here that are every bit as authentic as there.

You can go into the restaurant and order a Waldorf salad and get the same concoction of apples, walnuts, celery, grapes and mayonnaise that chef Oscar Tschirky created in the Waldorf kitchen in 1896.

You can go in the lounge and order a Rob Roy, the cocktail that was invented in 1894 at the Waldorf's Bull & Bear bar by a bartender whose name has long been lost to history.

And you can call Waldorf reservations and cross your fingers that they have a room available.

According to Barbara, the Waldorf-PC is a hot property not unlike the Waldorf-NYC. Almost since its opening on Aug. 1, 2009, its occupancy rates have been high. This weekend, for instance, the hotel is sold out. Its first vacancy is Sunday night.

Although they could probably find something for you if you're a U.S. president.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. Email: benson@desnews.com

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