Park City, Utah, is tucked away in the Wasatch mountains high above Salt Lake City. Park City was the ski venue for the Utah Winter Olympics. The annual Sundance Film Festival was held here just before we arrived in Salt Lake City. Park City Main Street Historic Main Street

Ordinarily we don't visit Park City, since we're not resort-goers, but this time we had a mission. Cousin John has a second cousin who is married to the artist and physicist Alexander Volkov. Knowing that we would be staying near a gallery showing his work, John suggested we might like to take a look.

The freeway winds up a canyon in the Wasatch Front, a north-south range of mountains to the east of Salt Lake City and its neighbors. As we neared the ski areas, chalets and condos spread out over the mountainside, with new developments in the works for the booming ski resort. Even the Albertson's Supermarket and the Burger King were disguised as Swiss chalets. Town Ski Lift Town ski lift

We prepared for Park City on the drive up, by reading an unusual restaurant description from our Auto Club guidebook. This establishment offers a prix fixe $125.00 dinner. Before dinner, guests are escorted in a 20-minute sleigh ride (pulled by a snowmobile, not a horse) up a steep mountain trail to the lodge, where they are greeted with mugs of Norwegian glogg. On this bright February midday, most of the hillsides were brown and bare, and only a few die hard skiers remained on the downhill and cross-country trails. Still the town prayed that the slopes might be covered between now and April.

Despite its name, Main Street was not easily located (if you've been there, you know.) We were amused by the signs to "Historic Main Street," since everything appeared to have been built within the last ten years, and watched a giant yellow crane adding another ski resort to the mix. We felt as though we were standing in a movie set. One chair lift ends in the middle of Main Street, across from Marriott's Summit View Resort. Next door, we were the only customers in the sports bar, which offered up soggy "turkey" chunks in a poor excuse for a Cobb Salad for an exorbitant price. They did have 12 TV sets, all of them tuned to sports channels, but the waitresses weren't watching. Sign listing Stanfield Fine Art artists Replace with short caption

The Stanfield Fine Art Gallery was just across the street. We were impressed by their outdoor sign: They proudly present Rembrandt, Picasso, Chagall, Volkov, Butirskiy, Pino and Cook.

We were even more impressed when we entered. Paintings by Alexander Volkov occupy pride of place in one entire corner of the gallery, close to the entrance. His paintings concentrate on the scenes near his rural New Jersey home -- wintery rivers, an old tractor resting in a field of high fluffy grasses, views from his windows, a simple chair with flowers. Several of them are autumn and winter views, in late afternoons.

We were expected -- John had emailed mentioning that we might visit -- and encouraged to browse. Volkov has an interesting eye for light, and his best works use light to bring out the beauty of his landscapes. The clerk said there's a good market for his pieces. Later we noted that some of the same works were listed online by a San Francisco gallery. Gallery corner showing Volkov works Volkov works

We enjoyed browsing the gallery. There were, as advertised, quite a few etchings and lithographs by Picasso, Chagall and Rembrandt, including one hauntingly attractive work from Picasso's blue period -- a portrait of Madame Canals.

Returning to our motel in Layton, we reflected on the development of certain sports, like skiing and golf. In the beginning, kids in snowy countries slapped barrel staves on their boots and skidded down the wintry slopes; while in Scotland old duffers banged balls around the sandy duneland. In the beginning, both these sports were free, and available to anyone with time and interest. A Volkov landscape A Volkov landscape

As a practical matter, these days, golf and skiing have segued into resort businesses, catering to the very well-heeled. Not too many members of the underclass ever find their way to become regulars at Pebble Beach or Vail (Lee Trevino is a notable counterexample, and he never really migrated from beer to champagne.)

We admit we're not athletes; we prefer our reading and genealogy and surfing the net. Still, if we were athletes, we'd prefer the kind that anyone can do, like basketball or soccer.