Park City • Erik Schlopy has the last reservation on the last night of business at Adolph’s Restaurant.
The Olympic skier and Park City resident said on April 30, when the white-tablecloth dining room shuts down for the final time — after nearly 50 years in business — he wants to be there to honor the moment with owner and founder Adolph Imboden.
“As ski racers, we don’t have a lot of American spots to go — like they do in Europe — that really celebrate the sport like Adolph’s does,” Schlopy said. “It is a little fiber of our community being torn out. And it’s sad.”
Imboden founded his namesake restaurant in 1974, and it is believed to be Park City’s oldest fine-dining restaurant. It also has become a nexus for food and sport in this mountain town.
At one time or another, most of the top alpine skiers from around the globe have dined on Adolph’s European cuisine.
Signed photographs of these legendary athletes cover every wall in the restaurant, making it a one-of-a-kind shrine to the winter sport. The photos are a Who’s Who of skiing history from Ted Ligety and Schlopy to Daron Rahlves, Bode Miller, Steven Nyman, Alberto Tomba and Hermann Maier.
Sprinkled among the Olympic and World Cup racers are photographs of bobsledders and ski jumpers, professional golfers and cyclists, Hollywood actors and legendary musicians.
Signed photos of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer hang above “table one,” the most desirable corner in the restaurant, as does a picture of Imboden’s long-time friend and skiing buddy, Stein Eriksen.
And for every photo, there is a story of good food and drink — sometimes a little too much — and camaraderie.
“I’ve been very lucky to have kept a restaurant going this long,” said the 78-year-old Imboden, “but also to have met all these famous people and to be part of the skiing community.”
Since he announced the restaurant’s closing in early April, Imboden has been overwhelmed with the response from long-time customers who are clamoring to get one last taste of Adolph’s Swiss-style raclette; the veal in cream sauce and the signature roast rack of lamb.
And also to wish Imboden well, because even more than the European food, it was the chef/owner — who has a way of making his guests feel at home — that attracted guests.
When Park City resort became a stop on the World Cup tour in the mid-1980s, Adolph’s emerged as a favorite place for international skiers, especially those from Switzerland and Austria, to enjoy the European food, atmosphere and hospitality.
“It was the place to be for ski racers,” said Rahlves, noting that Imboden’s passion for skiing and racing was the draw. “We just wanted to hang with him and enjoy his amazing food. There were times when it felt like everyone in the restaurant knew each other.”
Imboden said he might have continued to operate the restaurant if the new landlord had allowed him to continue signing one-year leases on the building. But, he said, the new property owners — who may eventually redevelop the property — were insistent on a longer agreement.
Neither his daughter, Ashley, nor his son Nils — a brewmaster for Wasatch Brewing Co. — wanted to take over the family business.
“It all happens for a reason,” Imboden said, saying it’s time to hang up his chef’s coat and enjoy his other passions, namely skiing, cycling and scuba diving. Next winter, don’t be surprised if Imboden is catering private dinners in some of the posh homes around Park City.
Before then, the University of Utah has been working with Imboden on making digital copies of all of his photos for its skiing archives. Imboden says he should have time to work on a book that includes the photos, the stories and maybe some of his recipes.
It begins in the Alps
Born and raised in Switzerland, Imboden dreamed of one day becoming an Olympic ski racer, but his mother and step-father — his biological father died when he was 5 — pushed him into the culinary world.
At 16, he became an apprentice at the famed Hotel Palace in Gstaad, his hometown, and eventually got a degree in hotel management. He also was a ski instructor at St. Moritz. His students often included celebrities, royalty and, on one occasion, the Shah of Iran.
Later, Imboden got a green card and moved to the U.S. working in kitchens — and as a ski instructor — in Vermont and then the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer in Vail, Colorado.
In 1971, one of his students at Vail happened to be friends with Edgar Stern, who at the time owned Park City Ski Resort and had recently purchased Deer Valley. One thing led to another, and Stern offered Imboden the job as the food and beverage director at the Park City resort.
Imboden said he accepted the offer, even though he had to ask, “Where is Park City?”
Like many in the food world, Imboden eventually wanted his own place. In 1974, he opened Adolph’s White Haus on Park Avenue. A few years later, it moved to the Park City Golf Course, where it stayed for 20 years. In 1997, Adolph’s relocated to its current spot at 1500 Kearns Boulevard, where it had a larger kitchen but a smaller dining room.
The restaurant was off the beaten path, but it could be easily spotted thanks to its wooden chalet exterior and the colorful flags representing major skiing countries across the globe.
At one time, the U.S. Ski Team office was in the same building, making Adolph’s a regular spot to take out-of-town guests and holiday parties, said Trace Worthington, a freestyle legend and now a commentator on NBC
“I feel like it is the most authentic place we have in Park City,” said Worthington, who has lived in Park City since 1993. “It’s something you can’t get in Connecticut or California.”
Worthington said besides the raclette, the wiener schnitzel and hefeweizen, which are the “real deal,” he loves the “old-school” atmosphere of the restaurant.
“Adolph would always take time to walk around the tables and shake everyone’s hand,” he said, “and next thing you know....he was back in the kitchen cooking.”
It’s unlikely that Park City will have another restaurant or owner quite like Adolph’s or Imboden.
“We have more Olympians than any other town in the world, and Adolph recognized that and appreciated that,” he said. “He appreciated that so much he put it on the wall.”