Overview: An upper-midscale “mountain-adjacent” resort property
Strengths: Pool, price point
Weaknesses: Service, trek to get to the mountain, dining
This was my second visit at the Waldorf Astoria Park City. Relative to the price point, this is an OK sort of property. By no measure could this hotel be considered “luxury.” Though my expectations were lowered after my first stay, there were again a number of non-trivial service lapses again during this stay that would give me pause before returning here again.
The hotel is located in a fairly large, lodge-style building, shaped in a nearly complete hexagon. In the middle of the hexagon is a large pool complex. The property includes a mix of hotel rooms, suites and apartment units. I understand some of the units are individually owned, though presumably available in a rental pool for transients when not in use by their owners. I get the sense the guest rooms and suites are on the lower three floors (including two below the lobby) and the ownership units are on the upper two floors.
For this visit, I was hosting a number of colleagues and business associates for a ski retreat. In total, we booked about 15 rooms and suites, all via a Virtuoso agent.
The property is about 40 minutes from Salt Lake City airport and is an easy drive on divided highways pretty much the entire way. We chose Park City due to ease of travel for our guests. Indeed, there are few (if any) quality mountains that are so close to a hub airport. This is a major strength of the area.
Along with one other colleague, I was the last of our party to check in. When we arrived, the front desk was unstaffed. I called out “hello” and someone came out from the back room. The representative at the front desk indicated we were the last two to check in that evening. (It was about 10pm at the time.) I presented my identification and credit card and was given my room key and some materials. Notably, the materials did not include any information about the Virtuoso package nor did the agent mention it. I don’t remember the last Virtuoso or Amex FHR booking where there wasn’t at least a mention of the benefits at check in.
I stayed in a one-bedroom suite. The suite included two full baths and had a pull-out sofabed in the living room. There was a separate dining area and a full kitchen. Both the bedroom and living room had gas fireplaces. The suite had some odd proportions (large dead space in living room, cramped bedroom) but was in good condition.
The suite cost about $750 a night. Regular rooms were about $600 a night.
Despite no mention of Virtuoso at check in, there was a welcome amenity waiting in the room.
There is only one dining venue at the hotel. It is called Powder, and is located off of the lobby. The food was average to perhaps above average. The service, on the other hand, was consistently below average. Though none of my visits found the restaurant full, things always took longer than they should. As one point of reference, I don’t recall one morning where the time from being seated till coffee being served was less than ten minutes.
I ordered room service breakfast one morning. The quality of the food was fine, though I thought the nuts (?) covering the salmon was an unusual preparation. Unlike the Aria SkySuites, at least the food arrived on time.
The property should best be considered “mountain-adjacent,” because it is not “ski-in, ski-out.” Rather, to actually ski, you hike about 50 yards from the front of the hotel across a road to a small gondola. The Gondola used to be called the Waldorf Gondola, but with the opening of a Wyndham hotel next door, the gondola now has a more generic name. You take the former Waldorf Gondola perhaps 750 yards and are then deposited at the base of the mountain. Then you get on a lift or a different gondola and begin entering the ski area. Don’t get me wrong – the setup is not inconvenient, it’s just not convenient, either. The Waldorf compares unfavorably to nearby places like the St. Regis Park City or the Four Seasons Jackson Hole where from the door of the hotel you are directly in the ski area.
The Waldorf was roughly half the price of the nearby St. Regis and Montage properties. With the size of our party, being a smallish business owner that I am, for a savings of $20,000 versus what it would have cost at one of those other properties, I decided we could hoof it across the street. None of our guests complained.
On the fourth floor (one level down from the lobby), there is a ski equipment concierge. In theory, you can store your boots and skis there and arrange equipment rentals. I turned up at 8:30am seeking to rent equipment. It took a few minutes to find an employee. Once I did, I was told they were “short staffed and could not help.” Instead, I was told to take the gondola up to the main mountain and sort out equipment there. Wow!
I really wasn’t sure how to tackle this situation. While I wasn’t pleased, I decided to go with their advice. That turned out to be a bad idea.
On the way out, I stopped at the front desk and shared the feedback that I received. I was at first given, “that’s not part of the hotel, it’s ‘[Mountain Sports].’” I said that was an unacceptable answer – the Waldorf is responsible for all of the services offered at the Waldorf. Period. What appeared to be a supervisor came over and asked what was going on. As I was explaining what transpired, I could see her becoming agitated (with the ski staff). She asked me to stand by for a few minutes while she went to inquire. When she returned, she advised me that indeed they couldn’t help me and asked me to go to the main mountain for rentals.
Of course, when I got to the main mountain rental location, there was quite a queue. It took just less than an hour to get my equipment. I also had to rent a locker to store my street shoes. By the time I was done, my guests were getting off of the gondola, having done the long wait down at the hotel to get their equipment. When I asked, they said had arrived just a few minutes after me at the Waldorf equipment site and that they were not turned away.
This is not what you are bargaining for at a “Waldorf”-flagged property. In fairness, during my prior visit (Q1 2013), the ski services situation wasn’t like this. Even then, however, it wasn’t at the level of what is offered at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole or even Cascade at Vail.
As to the skiing, despite some difficult weather, it was still reasonably good. During our visit to Utah in February 2015, it was quite warm. Each day, the temperature on parts of the mountain reached as high as 55 degrees! Other parts of the mountain were cooler, in the 20s and 30s. Due to this variation, you needed your heavy coat, but at times were quite warm.
I do enjoy the mountain at the Canyons and find it offers a very nice array of intermediate and advanced terrain, with several “off piste” opportunities.
In a center courtyard of the hotel is a very nice pool and hot tub complex. The pool and hot tub were both heated to a comfortable temperature.
For this visit, it was so warm out that people were even relaxing by the pool in their swim suits! Being surrounded by the hotel itself, there is relatively little wind in the area and with the sun baking down, it was quite comfortable.
On my prior visit, when it was actually cold outside (sort of what you want for a ski holiday), the pool was still usable. The hotel kept towels inside by the door where you head out to the pool. You needed to hustle to make it out to the pool without turning into an ice cube, but once you were in the water, it was great. Getting from the pool back to the hotel was another story! Nevertheless, the outdoor pool experience is part of the fun of these ski trips for many.
An indoor-outdoor pool option, similar to the roof at Capella DC, would be a welcome addition!
Rubbish in the Halls and Other Oddities
After the first day of skiing, when I was leaving my room to head out for dinner and drinks (around 6:00pm), there was a large box filled with various waste items in the hallway in front of another guest’s room. The room was quite centrally located and very near the lifts. When I returned, the box was still there. The following morning at 8:30am when I headed out for skiing, that box was still there. While it is unbecoming of a guest to simply leave rubbish in the hallway, for the hotel to allow this box of rubbish to sit in a guest room corridor for over 14 hours is completely unacceptable.
For this rubbish to sit there for so long, it means that either (a) no hotel employee walked on this floor in 14 hours (a low probability) or (b) each hotel employee that walked past the rubbish simply ignored it. Either scenario reflects poorly on management. For a hotel with only a few floors, you’d expect some member of staff to walk through the floors to make sure everything is in order. Either management isn’t doing this, or management hasn’t found staff members which actually care about the property.
The terms of our bookings required prepayment for the rooms/suites. I put all of the charges on my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (notice – no link!), and of course earned 2x points. I did not, however, authorize the hotel to charge my card for incidentals in any of the rooms. Each of my guests was asked to present their own credit card when they checked in. To be clear, we had individual bookings and were not formally a “group.”
I now have an iPhone and signed up for Apple Pay. With this, I get a little blurb on my iPhone advising me of any charges. As we are in the van we hired to take us back to the airport, various charges from the Waldorf kept popping up. It turns out that the hotel put the incidental charges for most, but not all, of the rooms in our party to the credit card that I used to originally pay the room and suite deposits.
Usually, to charge a third-party card for incidentals, a hotel asks for a copy of the credit card and an authorization letter. How they determined to charge my card for some, but not all, of my guests’ incidentals, without my authorization, is not clear.
Further, the Virtuoso credits were generally not processed properly (i.e.: credits not given), and many were even charged for breakfasts. My assistant sorted this out after the fact, but it took her hours. I paid for the expenses beyond what was ultimately covered by Virtuoso.
The Waldorf in Park City is by no means an aspirational hotel. For the price point, compared to some of the other high end competitors, the Waldorf is mostly acceptable. If I were with a small group or solo, I’d nearly certainly pick a different hotel in the area. If I were again absorbing the cost of a 15-person group, however, I suspect I’d return here again.
If I were to visit here again, I’ll connect with the GM beforehand and keep my fingers crossed for a smoother stay.
Waldorf Astoria Park City
Telephone: (435) 647-5500